Found some power (the electronic kind, not the physical kind) in Terminal 5 at the London Heathrow airport during my layover before flying home to Vancouver, so thought I would take some time to tap out a reflection on my visit to Tel Aviv, Israel.
It certainly wasn’t long enough, I left on Sunday in Vancouver, and with an 8 hour layover, didn’t arrive in Tel Aviv until 5:30am on Tuesday. The jet-lag could have been an issue, but because I knew my trip was quite short, I wanted to be as awake and focused as possible and did my best to eliminate the effects of jet lag. I hydrated, ate very healthy foods leading up to my trip, skipped all caffiene during the journey, and slept in a very strategic way, then upon arrival, I commmitted to the time zone and stayed awake until 11pm that first night.
During that first day, I built my trials demo course at the venue of Israels consumer bicycle show called Bikes 2010. From the usual conglomerate of pallets, spools, 2×4’s, and beams, I managed to create a course that held enough options to keep myself, and the audience entertained throughout nine shows over three days.
I try not to form too many stereotypes or opinions about a new destinations so as to experience it as authentically as possible. Tel Aviv seemed to exceed all expectations; it is a clean, fast paced city that is stylish and proud with a thriving economy and great opportunities. With a recent conversation of their electrical generation from oil/coal to natural gas, clean and clear drinking water they have their staples met. Their bicycle infrastructure has grown substantially, but many bike lanes are still needed through city streets. However where there are bicycle lanes, they’re fantastic; they are off-the-road, wide, and connect primarily tourist and family oriented destinations. For instance, on Friday evening, I rode with two friends from the bike show venue to the waterfront, about 10km’s through city parks, and didn’t cross a single road. With the political scene seeing the quality-of-life potential through creation of bicycle infrastructure, the future looks good! Hopefully they will develop their public transport system to compliment this.
One of the greatest things about my profession is that whenever I travel abroad, I am always hosted by locals, which means getting taken to the best restraunts, shown the best local riding spots, and given great suggestions of things to do and see. After taking care of some media opportunities to promote the show on Wednesday, I had until about 2pm on Thursday to explore Tel Aviv before the show opened. With some tips from the locals, I took a cab to Carmel Market and had nice meander, bought some dried fruit and nuts, had some fresh squeezed pomagranite juice, and enjoyed soaking in the hustle and bustle. I cruised my way through the streets, stopping for a lunch at Hatachana, the old train station that connected Tel Aviv/Jaffa to Jerusalem, and then walked along the Mediteranean waterfront boardwalk to Old Jaffa. I stopped a number of times to read while soaking up the Holy sun, and strolled in the water on the fine sand beach with my shoes and socks off. It was a very solo, introverted kind of day, which I generally enjoy, but I was quite missing that 2nd person shared experience, I regretted not insisting that Caryn join me. Old Jaffa, the 4000 year old port, was a delightfully renovated tourists stop with galleries and landscaping, for which I didn’t have time to fully explore—I had to find a taxi at this point to get back to the Bikes 2010 venue, and for which it took two taxi’s and random bellboy to figure out where exactly I was trying to go.
I tend to get a good feel for a city by the demeanor of the cab drivers, they were all very friendly, helpful, and understanding of my lack of Hebrew, they seemed to genuinely want to help figure out where I wanted to go, and didn’t ever seem to get frustrated with the traffic despite their often aggressive driving style. I thought it strange that one of the cabbies said I didn’t need to put my seatbelt on!
Tourisms is alive and well in Israel, with a population of 7.5 million, they have 3 million visitors, who haven’t been put-off by the dangerous images the media creates of Israel, pass through the country every year. My time was limited, and I regret not adding an extra day to explore Jerusalem, which is only 45 minutes away. When the locals asked if I had visited, they all got a serious look on their faces, and genuinely expressed “You must go to Jerusalem”, when I asked why, they often couldn’t explain in a way that matched the look of passion in their eyes, it is clear that the experience of the visit, for obvious reasons, is beyond what meets the eye. Next time I suppose…
But what about the people, I talked about the cabbies, but in general, it seems that Tel Avivians are a diciplined, motivated, and passionate people. They have lofty goals and ambitions, and like to work hard and long in the creation of the good life. They value education, and they are proud of their country which is reflected in their mandatory 3 years of army service after high school graduation, then after the army, these youngsters often travel internationally to re-group, focus, and find themselves before settling in to a career and family life. The divorce rate, although high, is not at the high levels of North America, I think partly because they have a very intentional approach to life, and almost philosphical, meaning they don’t rush in to decisions, or get carried away by their emotions (generally speaking of course). They want to know why they are doing things—I experienced this back when two Israeli journalist visited Vancouver for Norco’s 2010 bike launch, they came to my yoga class and had many questions about why I did this, or that and what it meant. They have that evolutinary spark to growth and development, and their quality of life seems to reflect this. One family with three kids told me the reasons why they are raising their kids without television, another about how her philosphical approach is being untilized in the army to help grow and evolve their approaches, wow!
But back to riding bikes, mountain biking is growing in leaps and bouds, it’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and the reason I was visiting was to help promote the new distribution of Norco bikes in Israel with Matzman et Merutz, a the most successful bicycle distrubotor in the country. They have lofty goals, but a passionate market to handle it. My audiences were delightful, fully enthusiastic, and appreciative of my efforts. I had a lot of fun performing and meeting and greeting the fans. Lots of personal photos and autograph signing, each one eliciting my genuine smile and also a feeling of gratitude and appreciation for my role in the industry.
Well, I think I have blabbed long enough. My flight will be leaving soon as long as the snowstorm doesn’t roll in too soon, it’s -2 celcious in London, way below average!