BY ALEXIS JONES
“Please don’t let me die here” was all I remember repeating in my mind as my body lay curled up in the fetal position in that converted hostel. It felt appropriate, I guess. Why not die in one of the holiest places in Jerusalem? In my delirium, I figured there could certainly be less reverential locations to kick the can. A week before my overzealous travel bug started biting, reminding me of my insatiable hunger to see the world, experience unique perspectives as well as eat, drink and smell anything strangely foreign, I had gushed to my boyfriend about how Israel was at the top of my list.
My basketball-playing fella was about to be on the road for three games in a row, so either I was going be left in his tiny German town alone or I was taking a flight somewhere awesome. I opted for the latter. My hopping on international flights to far-off countries comes about as naturally as most people’s pit stops at Starbucks. My predilection towards “crazy,” however, was only realized after a stranger on the plane pointed out that I wasn’t “normal.”
That being said, my trip was exquisite. I swam in the Dead Sea (yes, you really do float), explored Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv, walked along the port, took a bus to Jerusalem, stuffed my prayers in the Wailing Wall and walked along the same path Jesus reportedly walked. I ate the best hummus of my life, drank one of the best glasses of wine my lips have ever tasted, swayed to Israeli music during dinner and smoked hookah as I laughed with new friends.
What I hadn’t planned on was getting E. coli three days before my trip ended. I hadn’t planned on having a near-death experience alone in a foreign country, getting rushed to the emergency room the moment I landed back in Germany, then being quarantined and hospitalized for days. But here’s the deal, that’s life. A girlfriend of mine said, “That sucks your trip was ruined; I bet you wish you hadn’t gotten sick.” Well thank you Captain Obvious, but the reality is that I don’t because what I learned about myself in that tiny little hostel changed me. I fought for my life through 72 hours of the most painful experience just to get back to Germany where I knew medical treatment awaited me. I especially fought like hell when they wouldn’t let me on the plane because I looked too sick. I lied and said I was just heartbroken and the female security guard immediately took pity on me by shooing me through.
The point is that life is not some perfect dance, an adventure where we are left with only a highlight reel. Life is messy, magnificent, complicated and painful at times, but effortless and ecstasy-filled on other occasions. We can’t just carve out the parts of life that are rotten and save the rest like we do with avocados or bruised bananas. It’s in the pain and the hurt that we see what we’re made of, that we witness a sixth gear we didn’t know we had, where our capacity for appreciation rises above our sense of entitlement. My trip to Israel, the good, the bad and the really, really sick part were, well, perfect. I had the time of my life and standing on the other side, having literally survived, I feel like a badass.
So, don’t shy away from life when it gets messy because, despite what you think, that’s where the real adventure awaits.
Image courtesy of Dannybeckettjr.com