Packing For A Month In Tel Aviv, Israels

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Packing For A Month In Tel Aviv

“Larry had brought me blue jeans, a red polo shirt, jogging socks, my white Nikes, an extra cross from my suitcase, the silver knives, the Firestar complete with inner pants holster, and the Browning and its shoulder holster. He’d forgotten a bra, but hey, except for that it was perfect.” Laurel K Hamilton

No suitcase in the world is fit to contain the multitude of useless junk I consider bringing on even the shortest trips. I’m a high maintenance traveler. I have a few enviable skills but packing is not one of them. Spending a month in the same place with weekend trips is a packing challenge for me. Its much easier to pack when I’m moving around. How can I survive a month in a city without my black leather fringe boots?

How many t-shirts , socks and underwear do I have to bring if I am actually going to be doing laundry – something I normally avoid on vacation? Do I bring the laundry detergent with me? By not bringing so much underwear, does that give me room to bring even more denim?

I always pack like I’m going to Cuba or Myanmar twenty years ago. I’m a fan of duct tape. You can use it for anything – broken luggage or broken toes. Also zip lock bags. Everything spills. I always bring flip-flops. I live in fear of a disgusting shower floor. I’m a germaphobe and always travel with hand sanitizer. I think every public restroom carries malaria or bubonic plague.

Sexy lingerie? If I think about it enough, it’s going in the suitcase. Workout sneakers? There is a lot of ice cream in Israel. How many purse options should I bring? There are many different ways to carry around credit cards, rumpled cash, gum, eye drops and lip gloss.

It is going to be raining. Do I need the cute red rubber rain boots?  I almost never wear them in Southern California because of the drought. It would make a cool Instagram photo with the old city of Yafo in the background.

What about all those books that I have lying around that I am planning to read? I can bring those for the plane .

This time I have many presents for my god-daughter. I’m bringing an extra suitcase for her gifts. Gift giving practices vary by country so be aware of the customs. She is two and half and doesn’t know the customs yet.

I’m a traveler and I know that packing heavy is a rookie mistake. I spend a lot of time organizing because of this. My packing mantra is less things, more experiences. Sometimes it works.

Ps. Our AiirBnB  is two minutes from the American Embassy. I wonder if they will need help packing.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Act ll – Downsizing in LA

Act ll Downsizing in LA

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” Buddha (This has always been one of my favorite quotes.)

The Latin word for baggage is “impedimenta.” which means things that get in the way of forward movement. Self help books say that we must get rid of our baggage to lighten the way to the new.

I am moving to a smaller house and “downsizing. “Downsizing conjures up an image of a life that is descending. The American dream has trained us to believe that bigger is better.

I no longer have the luxury of a ton of storage space for all my extra stuff.The amount of things you can accumulate after living in one big house for a long time is overwhelming. Daily I sift through photos, memories and keepsakes to see what aspects of my former identity will transfer into my new life. The emotional anxiety of releasing your history is tough. I am definitely leaving a little bit of who I was in this house. I am trying to only bring things that will add real value to my life.

The downsize was not my choice but an unavoidable life change. I can’t ignore the circumstances that brought me here but it is going to be different. I am going to be living in a much smaller house a block from the beach. It is a neighborhood where you can walk to Starbucks and restaurants. I haven’t lived in a walking neighborhood since moving from New York. I am a little excited to be able to walk on the beach every day and become a regular at the cool trendy restaurants popping up nearby.

So I just have to get through this miserable, uncomfortable, painful part of life to move into this cool house I found. Maybe our paths were never meant to be straight and the unexpected places we find ourselves are just where we are supposed to be.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Cleaning Out Stuff With My Kids In Los Angeles

Clearing Out Stuff With My Kids In Los Angeles

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can”. Beryl Markham

I  moved a lot  when i was growing up so I didn’t get to save things.  I wanted my kids to have their stuff and my house was big enough to save it.  Now I am moving and I can’t keep it anymore. I  really don’t want to let go of anything. I want to cram every exam paper, swimming trophy, essay,  dance tape, favorite stuffed animal and birthday invitation into a storage locker. I would know that it would be there if for some incomprehensible reason we would ever need it.

My kids started going through their stuff together. There were years and years of accumulation of things in this house. That is what happens when you have many closets.

“Here is your pile.” says my son.  I don’t need a pile. “It’s my college diploma, bar mitzvah stuff, first birthday invitations and all my baby pictures. Don’t you want  to keep that?“ I replied “Don’t you?” He said “I have no room for it so you keep it. Don’t you want memories of me?” Yes I think to myself.  I want to hold on to you both as kids forever. I want  very much to have all the pieces of our past.

He reads aloud his speech from when he ran for seventh grade president. “I remember that being a much better speech,” he said. The sorting continues.

“I need this, I’m keeping this, I can’t get rid of this, I must have this, oh wow look at this – all my Nintendo games. I have to get a Nintendo player.” His pile gets bigger and  bigger.

I once read that you are supposed to ask a question with each item. Does this bring me joy? If not, toss it. His reply is that ‘Maybe someone will make a documentary about me some day and they wont have any information about my past. We need to keep this stuff.”

My daughter finds something that belongs to him. “Here pass that to the ‘A Beautiful Mind’  pile” she says.”Look I found dad’s Bar Mitzvah invitation.” It was clearly something his mother had kept.  “Give it to me”, I say, “Are you going to give it to him?” “No.” I answer. They look horrified and snatch it back. I was going to save it for future grandchildren but I did not tell them that. 

My son starts taking pictures of things and posting to his friends. His friend replies “Great, send that to me in another ten years when you go through your boxes again.”

My daughter isn’t doing that much better. I start to pull out some of her discarded clothes to save for my god-daughter. “Why are you saving stuff for  her and not me?” “Did you want to save stuff? I ask.  “I didn’t know that we could. “Now she starts making a pile of things she wants to save and not take.

I pull out one coat I took when my mom died a few years ago. “Have you ever worn that coat?” she asks. She tries it on. “I would wear it today. You have never worn it.” I put it on. ”Uh, it looks like a bathrobe on you. It looks so much better on me. “ Now that is all true and probably why I have never worn it.  It is one of the few articles of clothing that  I took from my mom so it is hard for me to part with it. 

My daughter takes a lot of boxes out of the storage room and leaves them in the garage. Can’t we do this one by one I ask? I don’t want boxes all over. She says that she has to leave now. My son says quietly,“I agree with you but I’m not siding with you publicly against her.“

There are about twenty boxes unopened from our old house that no one has looked at in sixteen years. They are filled with their elementary school things. They carry all the pieces of my children that I was trying to hold onto. It was the same way I took things from my mom’s house after she died to hold on to her and her past. I realized that whatever was in those boxes, I hadn’t seen in all that time. I remembered their childhood without ever accessing the boxes. I didn’t need them and they probably don’t either. 

I know now that I will remember things or I won’t but I don’t need a storage locker filled with stuff. It is difficult to distinguish between possessions and memories.  The possessions do trigger the memories for me. The emotional cost of letting go of their childhood is high. These things connect me to a happier time in my life.

We are more than our  possessions.  Our memories are inside us and maybe writing my story is a way to remember. The most sentimental things aren’t things at all, but stories of the people and places we love, and how we spend our time.

Fly safe,

JAZ

What Do I Really Need? Packing Up My Life In Los Angeles

What Do I Really Need? Packing Up My Life In Los Angeles

“You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened… or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.” Tupac Shakur

I’m a traveler so I pack all the time but the process of moving out of a house you have lived in for a long time seems insurmountable. It keeps you constantly focused and in the present of what is important. What is the most beautiful or most practical? How many clothes do I actually need? And why do I have so many other versions of almost the same thing? How many books do I really love? Do I need a suitcase collection?

I felt lucky to have boxes of memories of happy moments and remembrances of people who have died or passed through my life. I’m more of a hoarder than a minimilst when it comes to stuff. It is interesting to see the randomness of things we hold on to. The more stuff you have, the more resources and energy you spend taking care of them. I notice that there are a lot of things that are just taking up space in my life.

The problem with being the person left in the house is that you are the one to deal with all the accumulated memories.  I have cleaned out the garage once and the surfboards bicycles, skiing and camping equipment, musical instruments and some suitcases are long gone. It is a lot of memories for one lifetime.

What do I really need? For such a long time I have lived my life for other people.  It is a scary but liberating question. What is right for me? When you claw back some space from the overwhelming demands of other people in your life, you start to think about your own needs. I need to feel safe. I need light and walls to hang my art. I need to hear and be heard, love and be loved. I need to be able to travel.

Eventually I will pack up the whole house. There is always a sadness about packing up a house. I expect to hear music when something big is happening- an overture that takes you to the next step in your life. But  after the chaos, the real change always happens quietly.

How good it will feel to have it all in one place, all I really need. Then I can move ahead. When you are packing, you see how much stuff you have accumulated in your life that is unimportant. Im learning what is important is the moments that the people who loved you and you loved are together. Not stuff, but memories that you take with you, wherever you may go.

Fly safe,

JAZ

More Packing Tips

More Packing Tips

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

My son is brilliant and creative  Unfortunately, he was  packingly challenged. The suitcases used to be at my house so he always needed to come home to pack for a trip when he was in school. He has figured it out by now.

Here was how the scenario went:

11:30 PM:  My son enters the house and  begins to empty his car bringing in almost his entire wardrobe. It doesn’t matter if he is going for a week or a month. He hasn’t decided  what to take yet so he brings everything. I am trying to travel with less and less and feel it is my job to impart this wisdom. Thus began the negotiation.

Mom:  Why are you taking so many sweaters? (Substitute any and every article of clothing here. Several answers ensue. Pick your favorite.)

Son: This one looks good on me. My girlfriend likes this one.  It’s my lucky sweater. I gained/lost weight. I always wear this one.

Mom: It is going to be ninety degrees. Did you check the weather?

Son:  No I haven’t had time. What is it that you think I do all day?  I’ll just take these two.

Mom:  But they are wool sweaters.

Son:  I always bring these. They look good on me, my girlfriend likes them etc,  ( We’ve heard these before) Ok fine. Just tell me what you think I should take. (Mom picks a few things) Those, not these? Don’t you think these look better? Not take my lucky sweater? I just checked the weather. It’s going to rain for half the time so I need two different wardrobes.

12:15 AM  As it gets later, he starts to not care so much about what he is bringing.

Son: How many shirts should I bring?

Mom: Four.

Son: Four? Last time I brought six.

This goes on for every item except sox and underwear. Our family doesn’t wash clothes on vacation. We always bring a lot. We have different rules for the cleanliness of our clothes  also. You can always wear something with a little stain on it when you are traveling as long as it doesn’t smell. My son has adopted these rules when traveling as well. I get this.

12:45 AM: ‘”Mom, I’m really tired. Do you think that you could just fold my shirts?”, he asks. No mom likes to hear that their kids  are really tired – no matter how old they are. I’m not  sure which one of us  is handicapped at this point. I proceed to pack. Folding the shirts properly and putting them in a packing case takes the longest. He knows this.

1:15 AM: Now he is packing his toilet articles. The son is not someone who believes in the 3 oz bottle rule or travel sizes. He brings everything from his bathroom that he needs no matter how big it is and puts it in his suitcase.Next he pulls out four books to bring with him. Obviously he is also someone who doesn’t care about the weight requirement of luggage. He begins carefully perusing them to see which he really wants to bring . He settles on two.

I have this theory about the creative brain. It just doesn’t function well when it comes to the mundane dealings of everyday life-like packing. That is why so many people in the movie business have personal assistants even if they don’t seem important enough to need them. Or perhaps he just didn’t inherit the packing gene.

!:40 AM: He closes the suitcase. “I have stuff to do before I leave and I will sleep on the plane.“  I didn’t inherit the sleeping on the plane gene.  I know my son will be asleep as soon as the plane takes off. At some point the person next to him, will give up trying to push his head off their shoulder and he will wake up as the plane is landing.

Fly Safe

JAZ

Traveler’s Block

Traveler’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

Today I have nothing.

I have written about packing and not packing, carry on luggage, check in luggage, travel clothes, travel companions,  souvenirs, my bracelet collection, my Starbucks collection, my good luck charms, LA – where I live, Manhattan and Brooklyn where I am from, places I love, places I hate, my mother, my dog, people who have died, animals that have been killed, airports, airplanes, stewardesses, airport security, things I’ve learned from traveling and not traveling, hotel rooms and things Ive left behind in them, travel addiction, people who think they are black, superstitions, proverbs and quotes from around the world, movies, books, children’s books and songs that have inspired me to travel, food, restaurants, turkey burgers, acting like a tourist, not acting like a tourist, tourist traps, tourist attractions, holidays, traveling alone,eating alone, random photos, being a godmother, travel etiquette, third world countries, countries that have changed names, countries not to travel to, misspelled countries, auto-correct, photography, art, urban art, music, world affairs terrorists and should you blame your parents if you are one,  philosophy, spirituality, religion, prejudice, meditation, things to say and not say to a world traveler, places I haven’t been to, bucket lists, top ten everything, travel problems, imaginary places, movie locations, trip planning, weddings, World Cup, Olympics, first world problems, blogging, Nellie Bly, touching strangers, things i like, things I dislike, the 100th monkey, coffee, sunrises, how to avoid the paparazzi, travel tv shows and people in the world.

I don’t know why they call it writer’s block. I have idea block. I could start reblogging pieces, post other writers, post more instagram photos, read more books and think about writing. I could hope that this is only a temporary setback, go out and do something and then write about it – like move to Spain, go to a wedding in Africa or perhaps the new Broad Museum in LA.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Vomit Down And Other Things I Have Learned From Traveling

Vomit Down And Other Things I Have Learned From Traveling

“I had an inheritance from my father, It was the moon and the sun. And though I roam all over the world, The spending of it’s never done,” Ernest Hemingway

Friends and traveling companions will appear along the way when you are traveling alone. With the magic of fb and instagram you will always know what they are having for lunch. (Japan)

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Scan your credit cards and IDs and send them to yourself. They will be easy to replace when lost.

You will sometimes run into travelers who will give their country a bad name . If it is one that you have not been to before, know that there are always others who will restore your faith in that country. (Turkey)

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There are a lot of McDonald’s in the world. If you are in a McDonalds country they are probably not fighting a war. there is a correlation between peace and the golden arches. (Russia)

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Traveling helps you find out what you are capable of. Whether it is flying on a tiny plane, going in a squat toilet that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in…..ever, eating fried bugs, picking coffee beans with the branches smacking every part of your body or eating in a restaurant alone. (Mexico “chapulinas”  fried crickets)

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I am shocked at the level of corruption in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of those who control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many countries.

Pack as light as you can. I am a work in progress.. (Finland)

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It is the twenty-first century and most people in the world are living in it. You can visit a tribe in the jungle or mountains to have an “authentic” experience. But cultures have always changed as new ideas, religions, technologies sprang up and different cultures mingled and traded with each other. Today is no different. (Panama Embera tribe)

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When on a boat in rough water, vomit down. (Tasmania, Australia)

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People of the world do not seem to hate Americans – even in countries where you think they might. They may hate our government and our politics but they are as curious about Americans as I am about them. (Myanmar)

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When they tell you not to drink the water in a country – don’t do it. This includes ice, and washing fruits and vegetables. (Thailand)

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The hype of a destination can sometimes set you up for disappointment. Go anyway but I find it is the surprise places that I didn’t know too much about that I remember – except Machu Picchu – that lives up to the hype. (Peru Machu Picchu)

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Remember to call your bank and credit card companies before you leave.

Usually the American media portrays things as much worse than they are. The media makes us scared of the world and we shouldn’t be. Be cautious if you are going somewhere that is in the news but chances are that by the time you get there it will be over and they will still be reporting it. Always check the BBC they are much calmer. This has happened to me in Budapest, Bangkok, Myanmar, Colombia, Cuba and Cancun. So far it has been fine when I got there. (Cuba)

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Traveling with friends and family make amazing memories, traveling on a tour is safe and you learn a lot, but traveling alone is more eye-opening and you have adventures. (Viet Nam)

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It’s ok to be a tourist sometimes. There are some tourist attractions that you should see.(China, Great Wall)

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You can find the internet almost anywhere. I have watched them laying internet cables high in the mountains of Argentina. I have used it in Myanmar before they were supposed to actually have it. I have seen remote villagers holding their cell phones in the air for a signal. (Tibet- photo Helen Mackinnon)

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Most people you meet in the world have a  desire to travel. There are finances, fears and excuses but everyone I meet tells me unasked about a place they hope to visit one day. I think the wish to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience. (Colombia)

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Fly safe,

JAZ