By Natalie Friedman
I recently attended a JCC (Jewish Community Center) event in Los Gatos, titled “Jewbilee.” My favorite part was the keynote presentation. The principal, Rabbi Darren Kleinberg of Kehillah Jewish High School was interviewed by Rabbi High Seid-Valencia about his new book, Hybrid Judaism. I left this talk feeling empowered and reminded of the version of myself when I was in studying abroad in Denmark one month before.
Rabbi Darren Kleinberg gave the audience valuable advice. He explained, “before you meet anyone, I need you to remember three things:”
- That person is infinitely valuable.
- That person is unique.
- That person is equal.
This advice resonated with me. Last quarter, when I traveled to Lyon, Paris, Edinburgh, Florence, Rome, Barcelona, Geneva, and London I met many new people from different cultures. I believed in these three qualities both naturally and often. My belief in these things stemmed from my excitement and curiosity about undiscovered boundaries. Rabbi Darren Kleinberg mentioned a feeling of openness that is evoked when you keep these qualities in mind about each and every person that you meet. This idea was not necessarily remembered because the physical place that I was in – although the places I got to go were pretty special – but really it was my attitude about the people.
A month after I returned from Denmark, I missed the feelings that accompanied the entire adventure. This keynote prompted me to write this list of both tips and perks about traveling alone with openness.
- Immerse yourself in what you love about traveling
For me, it’s art. The Rodin sculptures at Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon were so emotional and real.
- Feel Beautiful
For me, I like to add some extra lipstick, or wear a nice pair of sunglasses, dress up for you and only you.
- Feel all you can
You are in control of how you are feeling. Traveling alone often consists of short interactions with people, and you are on your way. Tip: Try not to listen to sad music about being alone. I made this mistake. While traveling alone can be empowering, it can also be lonely, so don’t prompt that loneliness with negative media about the topic.
- Everything is up to you!
Your schedule is free! Every stop that you make in that boutique is a grand adventure. If you were with someone else, you may not have stopped in.
- Be Brave, Commit, Stay Open
All of these things are intertwined. To commit, you must be brave. Once you have committed, you must stay open.
- Smile at a stranger, especially the cute babies.
- Talk to a stranger
Offer to take a photo for that couple, learn about where they came from. You likely won’t see them again, but how great is it that an encounter like that could happen? When else will you meet someone from Bulgaria?
- Draw interesting looking things, if that’s your thing!
Draw every detail! You have all the time in the world, no one is waiting for you (I drew all the people in view from the spanish steps in Rome).
- Observe the culture: the contrasts, the similarities
The common yet charming mistakes that the locales make in english, the common desserts, the common christmas decorations or lack thereof, etc.
There is a fabulous Ted X talk titled “Owning Alone” by Teresa Rodriguez. I watched this video while I was in Denmark and it had a great effect on me. I had planned to go on my first trip, alone to Florence and I was slightly nervous about it. This video includes a woman who had gone through a man telling her that they were no longer getting married through a letter. After a lot of therapy that didn’t seem to work, she decides to go on a trip to London. She explains, “Yes, I was alone, but I was alone in London!” It is at this point that she understood, that being alone is not necessarily a bad thing. In the context of traveling alone or not being in a relationship for some people, being alone implies that there must be something wrong with you if you if you haven’t partnered up yet.
She goes on to say that “One of the best ways to heal a broken child is to go back to that place of discovery, that place of toddlerhood, where we look at things in a new light with new verve and new excitement. And I was there on High street and for the first time in a long time, I was alive. I was living in the now… It’s so rare that we go into that delicious now.” This theme was especially important to me when I was in Denmark. I took a class on Existentialism and Søren Kierkegaard. In this class, we spoke about the often impossible yet ideal notion of living in the now. While taking this class, I started to acknowledge every time I noticed that I could feel the present moment. This was the first step. By noticing when it was happening, I felt I could begin to prompt this feeling as well.
In the Ted talk, Teresa Rodriguez quotes Debussy, “It is the space between the notes that makes the music” By getting out of a comfort zone, one can create a space and gain a new view. It is in these spaces that one can change and turn into something beautiful.