Written by: Jennifer Yael Green, HMI’s Chief Engagement and Program Officer
After 2+ years of ho-hum WFH, predictable weekend plans, and way too many days in our favorite sweatpants, there is nothing more exhilarating than hopping on a plane to a faraway place. Even better if that faraway place is Israel – a country vibrant with color, culture, and rich history – on a trip where you get to connect with your beloved and your Honeymoon Israel cohort with 38 new friends!
So how to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime journey? After traveling on over a dozen HMI trips, I’ve got a few tips and tricks to make a great trip even more meaningful and memorable.
Feed Your Anticipation, Grow Your Excitement:
When you’re approaching a place with over 6,000 years of history, housing over 9 million people and three of the most major religions in the world, there’s going to be a whole lot to take in during a mere week and a half. At HMI, we always hope you’ll leave your trip with more questions than answers, but there’s room to start exploring before you’ve even pulled your suitcase from the closet.
- Learn a few basic Hebrew phrases so you can say good morning to your tour guide, order a coffee at a funky café in Tel Aviv, or attempt to barter in one of the bustling shuks (markets).
- Purchase a book or two by an Israeli author, or download a podcast to learn a little more about the country you’ll be traveling through.
- Catch up on Israeli news, sans the American lens. Check out left-leaning Haartez, center/right-leaning The Jerusalem Post, or center/left-leaning The Times of Israel.
There’s a reason Forbes declared Israel the country with the world’s best restaurant scene a few years back: celebrity chefs abound, there’s always a new and exciting spot opening, and the freshness of everything (spices, veggies, artisanal cocktail ingredients) is unmatched. The exploding culinary scene also offers a gateway into a tapestry of Jewish cultures – everything from traditional hummus to Iraqi sabich, Yemenite jachnun, and Tunisian shakshuka. Salivating yet?
- Do a little research and make a restaurant reservation for one of your free nights. Insider’s tip: make the reservation for 6 or 8 people! You’ll get to invite along a few HMI couples and spend the evening sharing dishes and a totally delicious experience.
- Make time for breakfast. You’ll be jet-lagged, sure, but Israeli breakfasts are legendary and the hotel buffets are the stuff of food fantasies. Think a dizzying array of smoked fish, cheeses, dips, fruit, and platters of bread and baked goods. Don’t miss out.
Disconnect to More Deeply Connect:
We live in a fast-paced, wildly productive world. I know it’s difficult to put your phone on airplane mode, or delete your email app for a week – but if you can do it, I promise you the reward will be more quality time with your partner, deeper friendships with the folks in your cohort, and more vivid memories of your time in Israel.
- Tie up loose ends before you leave, so you don’t have tasks hanging over your head. Then you can spend your time at the breakfast buffet getting to know the cool couple that lives 6 blocks from you, instead of scrolling through work emails.
- Set a few intentions with your partner for the trip: what are you each hoping to get out of this experience?
- Bonus points: bring a journal. Each day is such a whirlwind, and spending even 5 minutes in the evening recounting the day or jotting something down will mean you have lots to look back on when you get home.
Bring an Open Heart & Open Mind:
The trip will go by in a flash, and you are going to experience so many different people, perspectives, and places. Approach it all with a sense of curiosity and wonder.
- Whether you majored in Middle Eastern Studies or you could barely find Israel on a map before this trip, bring your ‘beginner’s mind’ – looking at every situation as if it’s your first time, with fresh eyes. This will relieve you of preconceived notions or expectations, and open up a world of possibilities.
- Allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions on this trip: joy, awe, sadness, confusion, empathy. You’ll have the chance to strengthen your bond with your partner and build bonds with new friends. It’s so rare to have this kind of time away from “real life” in our 20s and 30s, so take advantage of it and bring your full self to the experience.