Oh, The Places I’ve Been

My passport is expiring in a couple of months and to be on the safe side in case of emergency I’m renewing shortly. When I was younger I used to admire each stamp in the book as a badge of honor, a symbol that I’ve “been there” and “done that” and the official seal was more meaningful than key chains or cheap t-shirts. Today I’m looking over all the stamps in the past 10 years and remembering where I was not just in terms of geography but even existentially. Who was I? Why did I go to these places? Who was I with at the time? are all questions which keep rushing back, filling my head with pictures as if I’m scrolling through Picasa.

So more for my own personal record than anything else, here’s a summary of my last 10 years of international travel.

  • August 2001 – June 2002 – I actually renewed my passport specifically for this occasion. I spent the year at YU’s Gruss Institute in Bayit Vegan for 3rd year of rabbinical school. Stayed an extra week for my havruta/colleague/friend Rabbi Mordy Friedman’s wedding. Bonus 1: Leaving after all the seminary/yeshivot so we had a clear flight. Bonus 2: Mordy and wife each took a box of books for me on the way back. Score!
  • April 2006 – Having completed smikha, moving out and back from Chicago, and taking up a job in computers I could finally afford to visit my sister in Israel for Pesach. They lived in Modi’in at the time.
  • July 2006 – In one of the crazier weekends in my life, I flew out to London to interview for an Assistant Rabbi position at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue and the community could not have been nicer or more cordial. I took off Friday from work, left Thursday night, took a Sunday plane back to the US and was back at work on Monday. I didn’t “sleep” as much as took intermittent naps and saw most of the West End and major touristy spots at 1:00am on Saturday night courtesy of my most gracious host. Truly a phenomenal experience in a lovely community.
  • April 2007 – Working for JPMorgan now, I was able to make it to Israel again for Pesach, also marked the first time I met my youngest nibling Netanel Moshe. I bought 3 kilos of Marzipan rugelach, one of which went to my boss – or more specifically, my boss’ wife. This is the closest you can get to scoring literal “brownie points.”
  • July 2009 – My first real “vacation” from the shul, back to Israel and more fun with the niblings.
  • May 2010 – An amazing adventure to visit the Jews of Medellin, Colombia
  • November 2010 – In Israel once again for nibling Eli’s Bar Mitzvah. I even remember playing with him and Hadassah right before I left for Gruss almost 10 years ago.

So I guess this travelogue isn’t as long or as exciting as many others out there. As I’ve said in the past, I’ve either had time or money to travel; as a student I had time but no money, as a techie I had money but no time. These days I actually have neither.

At any rate, it’s been a nice trip down memory lane. Who knows were the next 10 years will take me…

And Esther, if you’re reading this: My name is my passport. Verify me? :-)

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