I left America to move to Tel Aviv, Israel when I was twenty-four years old. I was a recent college graduate, without a clue of what I wanted to do with my life. I had just gotten out of a three-year relationship and the only thing I knew was that I longed for a change.
I didn't have a plan when I decided to move to Israel by myself. I've always been a big believer that you'll find your way in life once you reach your destination. I've also been told that I have "shiny object syndrome" and automatically do things without considering the consequences.
I spent four years total living in Israel. Most of my life took place in Tel Aviv, a miraculous city that taught me lessons about myself that I never would have learned elsewhere. The path I ended up taking allowed me to gain Israeli citizenship, earn my M.A., start my career and fall in love. I eventually returned to America - San Francisco - much stronger than I was before setting out for my big adventure.
Here are four life lessons I learned while living in Israel:
#1. How To Adapt To New Environments
I knew about three people in Israel when I first arrived. Yet when I left, it felt like I was leaving behind the entire country. Moving across the world by myself taught me a very valuable life lesson - I can easily adapt to almost any environment.
When I first moved to Israel, I lived in a small dorm in Haifa with three other girls. I was the only American, another girl was from Argentina and the others were from Russia. Speaking English with everyone else was a challenge, but I quickly learned the importance of speaking slow and enunciating. I also found great benefits in Skyping with my family regularly. On top of overcoming the language barrier, I learned how to squeegee a shower and clean a toilet.
By the time I moved to Tel Aviv, I had mastered the art of communicating with people from different countries and I had acquired new cleaning skills. Most importantly, I learned how to throw myself into different social circles and make new friends. I also learned just how important friends are when you don't have your own family to spend time with.
When I moved to San Francisco, I wasn't worried that I didn't have a job lined up or a place to live. I wasn't concerned that I knew only one person in a city that I had never even visited before. Living in Israel provided me with the confidence and courage that I needed to make my next big, impulsive move. I knew how to put myself in uncomfortable situations, I learned how to live within small city spaces and I had gained career experience.
#2. How To Speak My Mind
I remember one day I was in the grocery store in Tel Aviv. I had a few items in my cart and headed over to the checkout. When it was my turn to pay, however, the cashier decided to close the register. Confused, I asked her why she would close when I had already been in line waiting. She glanced down at her watch, looked back up at me and said, "I have a doctor's appointment now." I was shocked. I had about three items in my basket, I had spent almost ten minutes waiting in line to checkout and then, when it's finally my turn, the cashier decides to drop everything and walk away.
So what did I do? I slammed my groceries down on the counter, told the lady she had some real chutzpah and left the store.
This is just one of the many instances where I've been in a situation that required me to really tell someone how I felt. While I haven't had too many experiences with poor customer service in San Francisco, I'm still not afraid to speak my mind if someone is treating me unfairly. People spend too much time being afraid to call others out, but this only results in bad experiences and unnecessary treatment. Fortunately, living in Tel Aviv taught me to stand my ground.
#3. How To Strive For More
Spending four years in Israel helped me build myself. After earning my M.A. from Tel Aviv University, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue next. I ended up accepting a content marketing position with a tech startup based in Tel Aviv. My writing career flourished. I learned all about Israeli technology, I met incredible people at networking events and I was told that nothing in life could ever hold me back as long as I possessed the motivation to achieve more.
I experienced my first war in Israel in the summer of 2012. I was scared, yet I reassured myself that the country would be okay. I wanted to gain that sense of bravery that the Israelis were born with. I didn't want to think that it was time to go home. I started learning more about life, different cultures and how to succeed both professionally and personally. I never once felt defeated when I lived in Israel. Even when I moved back to the States, I carried my strong sense of accomplishment with me.
#4. How To Live Life To The Fullest
Most importantly, living in Israel taught me how to make the most out of life. I remember my sister came to visit me from Dallas, Texas. We went out to a popular nightclub one summer evening. We were standing by a gate and all of a sudden we heard a loud "boom" and dust was blown into our faces. My sister jumped and grabbed my arm. While I was startled, I wasn't as scared as she was. It turned out the loud noise and smoke only came from a smoke machine.
It's instances like these, however, where I am reminded that you never know what will happen in life. I remember looking at my sister and thinking, "Now is the time we should just forget about everything and have fun." Experiencing travel, food, different cultures, meeting new people, etc. are all a part of living life to the max. In Israel, I really learned that I have to take advantage of all the beautiful aspects life has to offer.
The Start of a Journey
I can honestly say that I never would have been able to make the move to San Francisco if I hadn't already started my journey in Israel. I would have been too unsure and inexperienced otherwise.
The four years I spent abroad in Tel Aviv has ultimately allowed me to become a mentally strong woman. I learned how to stand up for myself and express my opinions. I become a chameleon and easily adapted to new environments, while always striving for more. Finally, I learned the real value of living life to the fullest. These lessons have all helped me become who I am today.