2015 Jerusalem Marathon
Lifestyle,Travel & Adventure

Traveling Israel Part III: 15 Non-Political, Non-Religious, Non-Historical Things I Learned

And finally, the last post to fill in the final gaps of my adventures while traveling Israel earlier this month. It was quite a challenge to figure out the best way to summarize it all. When I first came home I was in the clouds over it all and it took well over a week for me to feel even somewhat grounded again. As one friend pointed with a puzzled look on her face “you haven’t even been gone that long!?” I realized she was right. It was only a week. Why did I feel so disconnected? The trip had almost felt like another life. The terrain, the food, the people, the schedule, the history, the sights, the lifestyle — it was all so different from my day-to-day routine, that time seemed to slow down and somehow one short week felt so much, much longer…

I boiled my journey to the Middle East into three posts, and welcome to the final story!

I’d be willing to bet that no other city has more historical sites and stories to share than Jerusalem and no other country has lived through more religious and political turmoil than Israel. Over the course of 4000 years, they have been at the heart and root of most political and religious discussions. And in case you haven’t noticed, I personally, am not. I am not a historian, nor do I share my religious or political views publicly. So I won’t speak out of turn here and try to provide you with any formal or debatable Israeli history or lessons learned.

But I’m super stoked to share with you a few of the random, interesting and potentially useful things I learned on my Israeli adventure! Here they are in absolutely no particular order:

1. The tap water in Israel is quite good. In fact, according to our guide, it’s number two in the world (or something like that). What a relief, as I had packed my trusty water bottle and was happy to be able to fill it up throughout the trip. Running a marathon in the desert can leave one feeling a little nervous about hydration, so the fact that access to water was not an issue was a huge relief!

travel tips

I can now add Israel to my water bottle’s passport.

2. T-Mobile seems to have the best plans for international travelers. I was forced to rely on wi-fi as Sprint does not offer a good international data plan. While it worked, and I was able to get a fair amount of posts up on Instagram and chat with some friends from home once in a while, it was not ideal. Most of my travel mates that were enjoying daily facetime with their families seemed to have T-Mobile.

And the wi-fi in Jerusalem was not very good.

And the wi-fi in Jerusalem (at least at our hotel) was not very good.

3. I will never stop being amazed at how quickly strangers can become friends. Seventeen “strangers” met up early in the week and parted as great friends just six short days later. It amazes me how we can bond so quickly and continue to make room in our hearts and our lives for more people.

Israel Travel

17 Strangers + 6 days of travel + 1 marathon = Great Friends and lots of funny stories! Photo Credit goes to Stephen from Youth Runner Magazine.

4. Beware of what looks like instant coffee. Little packages were in both hotel rooms and our race packs. They look just like instant coffee, but unless you like to chew your undissolved coffee grinds, be sure to pack your own. I was glad I had picked up my Starbucks Via at the airport on the way over. I still wonder about this one…seriously, there were no coffee filters in the rooms, I have no idea what or how we were supposed to use that product.

Pardon the terrible photo quality and local beer, this was the only picture I had of the suspicious coffee.

Pardon the terrible photo quality and local beer, this was the only picture I had of the suspicious coffee product.

5. VAT tax refunds are awesome! I’ve seen these booths at airports in the past but did not realize that if you spend over a certain amount of money on souvenirs (in this case $100) at one shop, you get to recollect your tax dollars when you leave the country. In Israel, it was 18% so I picked up nearly $40 at the airport. Super awesome bonus.

the dead sea

This is what I spent money on…several hundreds dollars on deliciously high-end skin care products made from minerals from the dead sea.

6. Even though I have good balance, it turns out I do not enjoy the Segway. Who knew? Not me! But I absolutely hated every minute of our hairpined tour along the outskirts of Jerusalem on the Segway. I’m not sure if it was the fear falling off the cliff or the windchill the day before the marathon, but if I had any do-over from this trip it would be to skip the Segway tour. Don’t necessarily take my advice here, everybody else (minus one French girl) loved it.

jerusalem segway

The gloves are covering up my white knuckles here but I think the discomfort shows in my face. And this was before we even got started…

7. There is a big difference between a converter and an adapter when it comes to plugs. I’m pretty sure I already knew this and I was really just looking for an excuse to buy a new flat iron and rock crazy hair all week long. But just because it fits, does not mean you should plug it in. Voltage is a big deal.

israel travel

This was the lovely hair-do I got to rock all week long and this is Heather from Dietitian on the Run. Clearly a stellar bus mate!

8. I have little patience for being hungry, cold, tired or in need of a bathroom. It turns out I’m like a toddler when these basic needs are not met. As a self-employed adult, I’m usually in control of when I eat, sleep, put on a jacket and go to the bathroom. When I’m not, my patience runs pretty thin. This was the only downside of a 100% guided tour.

group 2

While these stories are facinating, they become much more difficult to enjoy when you are cold, hungry, tired or have to pee.

9. Jerusalem in not just hilly, it’s simply not flat. It’s built on a hillside and if you’re not going up it, your coming down it. You can read more about the “unique topography” in my Jerusalem Marathon Recap. When and if you go, be prepared with very sturdy walking shoes and a Fitbit because it’s really fun to watch the steps rack up!

Jerusalem hills

These hills actually play an important role in Jerusalem’s history. I could try to explain it, but Google will do such a better job ūüėČ

10. Jet lag is no joke and it’s pretty tough to avoid. I thought I was Houdini there for a minute. I followed the rules on the way out. Adjusted my sleep schedule on the plane to match local time then stayed up in a disastrously-dizzy-daze my first day there. Popped a Tylenol PM the first night and slept 7 hours straight. I then proceeded to sleep 7 hours every night, at the right times, for the duration of the trip. Yahoo! #Ibeatjetlag is what I thought…until I got home. Yikes! I slept for 14 hours a day for several days my first week back. It was BIZARRE and the exact opposite of my insomnia jet lag from my last trip abroad to the Philippines. I welcome any advice, tips or strategies you have found to work here.

jet lag

It was just about 8,000 miles to get there and it took about 20 hours. This is a recipe for jet lag for sure.

11. The Dead Sea is ~30% salt concentration. If I recall correctly, the Pacific is somewhere between 1-2%. This makes it really fun to float in and really awful to get in your eyes and mouth. There are many precautions to take that include not shaving your legs or popping any post marathon blisters before you get in. You’re also not supposed to swim, just float, as to avoid getting it in your mouth or eyes.

floating in the dead sea

Floating in the Dead Sea. I’m a pretty good floater anyway, but this is like nothing else. ~30% salt concentration compared to like 1-2% in the oceans we’re used to.

12. Beth over at Shut Up + Run is bionic. And not just because she ran 26.2 with a few short weeks of training, she really can pull out all the stops and nothing really seems to slow her down. Example: our final night in Tel Aviv, we had a few extra celebratory drinks at the bar. We had made plans for her to join me at 7:30 am for coffee on my little porch that had a view of the Mediterranean. When I woke up at 7:24, I was certain to expect a text or something to indicate I’d just see her at breakfast. At 7:29 I heard a knock at the door. I will be forever impressed by her.

the dead sea mud

After this, clearly we’re bonded for life.

13. I eat more than the average bear. Which sounds funny coming from the “adventures of a skinny traveler.” But I was surprised to find that I eat even more than my athletic and fitness minded counterparts. We would sit down for meals where the food did not seem to stop and somehow, I could fit it all in. Only a few times did I eat past the point of comfort. I am incredibly disciplined at home (for the most part) and truly love food. So when I travel, I see little point in passing on the unique food and desserts. I think this may be why I run and have a regular detox schedule.

Israeli fruit stand

I absolutely love this picture of this Israeli fruit stand. In fact, I’m inspired to paint it. And start a new detox.

14. You don’t actually get to roll around in the mud at the Dead Sea (at least where we were). It’s actually just a few large vats of rocky mud you get to rub all over yourself, let dry then wash off with the saltiest of water from the nearby showers. It’s still fun, but I had imagined rolling around like a mud wrestler or like a little piggy, so I was a little disappointed.

the dead sea mineral mud

Just a couple of dudes, slathering themselves with dead sea mineral mud. Just like any old day at the beach ūüôā

15. I am indeed a crazy cat lady. And not just over Sam and Sophie (my lovable fat cats). I snapped pics of the healthy street kitties all over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There weren’t too many, but they were all so peaceful…and skinny.

Skinny kitty off one of the main drags in the Old City. I am also inspired to try and paint this one.

Skinny kitty off one of the main drags in the Old City. I am also inspired to try and paint this one.

I’m sure I’m forgetting at least 19 more fun facts, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at that.

What’s the oddest thing you learned on one of your foreign adventures? 

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  • runwiki

    Isn’t travel mind expanding? I could read about peoples experience overseas all day long. I’m kind of sad that this is your last post- it’s been so great going along this ride with you. xoxo

    • Teresa

      I love that you have followed the entire journey. I’m sad too that it’s all in the past. But throwing it out into the universe that I want to do these little adventure much, much more frequently!

  • Heather @ Dietitian on the Run

    Loved this approach to a recap of the trip – it more accurately portrays how 15+ random strangers came together and learned a lot about a fascinating country, but even more about ourselves! I loved that even the seasoned travelers were baffled by a few new things, such as suspicious coffee products, surprisingly fresh tap water and ALL THE FOOD COURSES. I like to think that if half of those had been more veg/fish-friendly, I would have kept up with you, gal ūüėČ xo

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