Blog Post #5 – The Lowest Point on Earth

TEL AVIV, Israel – I hit rock bottom, and in the best way possible.I hit rock bottom as I went to Earth’s lowest elevation on land, the Dead Sea earlier this week. 

Me along the sea line of the Dead Sea representing my alma mater, West Virginia University.
 A magnificent feature to the world and so strange at the same time.

The best way I can describe it is that while in the Dead Sea, you feel as if you’re in space – you just float around. 

One may say I’m loving life these days.
 Like you’re on a lounge chair, except you’re in an extremely salty body of water – nearly 10 times more salty than the ocean – with Israel on one side and Jordan on the other, which is pretty cool if you ask me. 

The Dead Sea looking toward Jordan.
 And on top of it all, to not have one living organism in the sea is remarkable in itself.

As the day moved along and my body felt rejuvenated with my skin feeling so smooth from the natural spa treatment that the sea gives you from the fourth-most saltiest body of water in the world, the time came to begin the journey up… and up. 

Looking down at the Dead Sea from Masada.
 From the lowest point on land in the world at -400 meters below sea level, we ventured up to Masada, situated on top of an isolated rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea and Jordan on one side and the Israeli desert and mountains on the other – something simply priceless. 

On the other side of Masada you see the Israeli desert.
 Going to a structure that was founded in 1st century BC is awe-inspiring.

Although the views from atop of Masada were incomparable to much that I’ve seen in the past, for me, it was what Masada itself actually had to offer. It’s simply remarkable how a structure that is so ancient could have functioned in such a high-end way as Masada did. The ancient fortification held numerous leaders in power from many different cultures throughout its time in use and to think how difficult and complex building and maintaining this structure with the tools used in the BC era just seems unfathomable. 

 This was the first time I was in a desert and let me say that it did not disappoint at all.

My day in southern Israel was one for the books. 

 Thanks to all reading and talk to you soon,

Anthony

Blog Post #4 – The Holy City

TEL AVIV, Israel – Thousands upon thousands of years of history, and I was fortunate enough to walk the stone streets of those from BC.

Jerusalem, a city of history in an array of ways: religion, structures, what’s left of structures, the people and the countless different governments and rulers that have held power at one time or another over the Holy City.Each time period in history since BC and in the 2015 years since has made its mark on Jerusalem.  

  But before arriving, as Ron was starting his car for us to leave for Jerusalem, the car, well, didn’t want to cooperate. Then, we see that a light was left on in the car from the day before – a case of a dead battery. 

 After a 90-minute delay to our trip and a mechanic riding his bike over to replace the battery, we were on our way.

Soon after arriving in Jerusalem, we made our way to a church, not knowing what I was about to walk into.

For someone who grew up in a catholic family, the place we walked into is the exact place where Jesus Christ was believed to be crucified, resurrected and is buried is something that reading about cannot prepare you for. 

The place where the Tomb of Jesus is believed to be.
 It’s more than moving, it’s emotional to the nth degree.

I stood there, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre really not knowing what to do, and I was fine with that. Religious or not, it’s not everyday where you’re at the site of – in my opinion – the most powerful death of all time, and the site where a person is believed to be that currently more than one billion people – a sixth of the entire world – worships. 

Where it is believed that Jesus resurrected from.
 So, besides going to where Jesus is believed to be, I also saw what is considered the holiest Jewish site in the world, the Western Wall. 

The Western Wall behind me.
 Seeing many Jews praying on a wall that was first built in 19 BCE is remarkable and a true testament to the power of religion for some people.

That’s a lot to see in less than an hours time, but oh so powerful and moving.

Besides the extraordinary sites of both Christianity and Judaism that I stumbled upon, just the narrow, stone-filled streets you walk through throughout the Holy City add to the authenticity of the beautiful city that is Jerusalem. 

 It’s a place that I highly recommend because there isn’t just one reason to visit the city. You could spend days there or a day there such as I did and you’re bound to see places that have such a powerful meaning in and on the world we live in till this day.

Talk to you soon,

Anthony

Blog Post #3 – Israel, I made it

TEL AVIV, Israel – Wow, what a start to my trip, literally.Before I even boarded the plane from Newark to Tel Aviv the challenges began.

I was at my gate with 90 minutes to spare before boarding began, and as I handed my passport and boarding pass to the El Al Airlines staff member when it was time to board, the trouble started. 

To put it simply, they didn’t believe I was traveling to Israel to just visit my friend and then backpack Europe with just a backpack, but literally, that’s all there is to it.

After an hour of being asked questions and having everything in my backpack being inspected in a private room as I was scared not knowing what was going to happen, I was cleared and was the final person to board the plane – two minutes before takeoff.

So that’s one way to start the trip, by not even knowing if you’re going to be allowed on the plane.

However, I appreciate the safety precautions they took. After all, I’m not the most typical person that usually travels to Israel, and just with a backpack for two months. So I rather have that safety be taken than letting just anyone on the plane.

Then, after a smooth 10-hour plane ride, I arrived in Tel Aviv, as we flew over the Mediterranean Sea and then there he was, my best friend, Ron, waiting for me.

We didn’t waste a second once I dropped my backpack off at his apartment and changed into my bathing suite – away we went to live it up. 

  
First stop: an authentic hummus breakfast. Holy cow, this was some good stuff. Hummus with oil, tahini sauce, a hard boiled egg and beans to be eaten up by fresh, hot pita bread. After a meal like that and a walk through a beautiful market filled with an array of food delicacies, I knew I made it – my adventure has begun. 

 As one of Ron’s friends said to me, Tel Aviv can be best described as a combination of Italy and Miami – it’s an extremely modern city, with a huge European feel, with palm trees everywhere you look and a huge getaway for many Americans. 

 Then came day two: Jerusalem. I’ll be posting a blog about my amazing time in the Holy City shortly.
Talk to you soon,

Anthony

Blog Post #2 – Departure Day

NEW YORK – Today is the day.

In just hours from now I’ll be in the skies over the Atlantic Ocean and then over Europe in route to Tel Aviv, Israel, to begin my 65-day world adventure, which will be bringing me 12 countries, along with countless memories along the way through my 18,000 mile backpacking trip. 

 To say I’m excited would be an understatement, but to be honest, I truly don’t know what I’m feeling right now… besides by back aching already from the monsoon of a backpack that I’m taking with me… the only thing I’m taking with me for 65 days…

It’s weird: I’m leaving for more than two months with many flights and hostels booked, but that’s about it. I really don’t know what I’ll be doing on a daily basis while I explore these cities awaiting me; it’s all going to be an experience every day with many unknowns, which makes me all that much more excited for lies ahead.

For the past couple of months when I told myself I’m just going to go ahead with the trip and don’t look back with any regrets, my mind has been set on today – July 21 – as my motivation for basically everything I’ve been doing to be prepared for Israel, as I visit my best friend, Ron, for 10 days that I know I will never forget.

However, what hasn’t been on my mind is that there isn’t just Israel that awaits me, but 11 more countries after Israel, literally spanning thousands of miles around Europe – pretty crazy if you ask me.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Anthony Bourdain, who is one of my biggest role models in life and someone I attempt to emulate as best I can because I feel that Bourdain sure knows how to live his life – something I do my best to do each and every day.

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

Simply put: I am 22, I am physically fit and I’m hungry, very hungry to see what the world has to offer.

Talk to you soon from Israel my friends,

Anthony

Blog Post #1 – Pre-Departure

NEW YORK – As this is my inaugural post on my blog, I want to first start off by thanking you for taking the time to read whatever it is I have to say.

Over the course of the next two-plus months, I will be embarking on a trip of a lifetime. As someone who has a profound love for writing and traveling, I will be sharing my experiences as much as I can with others, I will be taking full advantage of blogging as i make my way throughout countless adventures that lie just days ahead of me.

It will just be my backpack and I making this trek from New York to 12 countries and countless life experiences along the way. Though, I won’t be alone for the entirety of the trip.

The original idea of this trip did not come from me, but rather one of the most adventurous people I’ve been blessed to have met and become very good friends with, Chris Badenhoop. A University of Kansas alum, I met Chris while studying abroad in Italy about two and half years ago. From the first time we were able to travel on our abroad experience, Chris and I clicked and it’s never a dull moment with him by my side as we conquer one city at a time. He called me back in March to say he booked a one-way ticket to Moscow and wanted to know if I wanted to join him on an Eastern European adventure – he had me locked in from the point on.

Chris and I will be traveling together from Aug. 15-Aug. 30 as we continue our quest throughout Europe.

From that moment on, I put my planning cap on and somehow it has led me to a two-plus month experience that will kick off in less than two weeks.

Once Chris leaves me and finishes up his adventure by venturing to Morocco and flying back to the states to start his big boy job in Chicago, I will have the next month of just me, myself and I going to Greece, Italy and Ireland.

In addition to traveling with Chris, I will begin my trip by landing in Tel Aviv and meeting up with my best friend, Ron Schneider. Ron and I have known each other for a number of years, but after we graduated high school four years ago, he joined to Israeli Defense Forces and after three years in their army, he began his schooling at the Tel Aviv University this past fall. Although I’ve only seen him minimally over the past four years, we have never been better friends and I know we are both absolutely ecstatic for me to come visit him in the heart of the city in his new apartment and for him to bring me to every spot there is in Tel Aviv in the 10 days that I will be there.

Below is my full itinerary and be sure to look for my next blog post, which will be posted on my departure day, Tuesday, July 21, as I make my way to Tel Aviv from Newark Airport.

 

Itinerary:

July 21-Aug. 1: Tel Aviv, Israel

Aug. 1-Aug. 4: Prague, Czech Republic

Aug. 4-Aug. 7: Budapest, Hungary

Aug. 7-Aug. 11: Copenhagen, Denmark

Aug. 11-Aug. 14: Oslo, Norway

Aug. 14-Aug. 17: Riga, Latvia

Aug. 17-Aug. 20: Warsaw, Poland

Aug. 20-Aug. 24: Istanbul, Turkey

Aug. 26-Aug. 30: Dubrovnik & Split, Croatia

Aug. 30-Sept. 7: Catania & Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Sept. 7-Sept. 10: Santorini, Greece

Sept. 10-Sept. 12: Naples, Italy

Sept. 12-Sept. 14: Siena, Italy

Sept. 14-Sept. 17: Cinque Terre, Italy

Sept. 17-Sept. 20: Venice & Paderno del Grappa, Italy

Sept. 20-Sept. 22: Sardinia, Italy

Sept. 22-Sept. 25: Dublin

Sept. 25: New York bound

Let’s get this adventure on the road, as I hope you will be there to read as I get to – simply put – embark on places and sites that simply cannot have a price tag attached to them.

Talk to you soon,

Anthony