Note: I started writing this when I returned to Seattle. It's taken me a month to figure out how to say what I'm thinking.


Sitting in a corner of a cafe in Seattle's trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, sipping a cup of coffee while the bass of some hip-hop music bounces around the room, I am observing my culture after a short seven-day journey in Israel.

The barista calls out a soy macchiato. A bearded guy with an ironic band t-shirt claims a gluten-free bagel at the counter. Sunlight streams in through the large windows, remnants of an old warehouse building that has been remodeled into a modern apartment complex.

A middle-aged woman in a Pendleton jacket asks for the wi-fi password. A student flips open a MacBook Pro. Everyone within a twelve block radius taps away at their iPhones, checking their Tindr prospects, Amazon orders and Facebook feeds.

The double date to my left is focused on dinner plans, the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey and some sort of 80s Zombie-themed Thriller party that one of the women apparently can't convince her partner to attend. She sighs, and looks out onto the street where a bicycle glides by.

Life is hard.

Reverse culture shock is a thing, and it's something that I've experienced before. Seeing a different place makes you acutely aware of so many things. Seeing Israel and Palestine was eye-opening. Amidst a seemingly unsolvable situation, people still live their lives. Israelis wake up, go to work, eat lunch and go home at night despite tensions that feel as though they may bubble over at any given moment. Palestinians go get their morning coffee, buy their groceries and pick their kids up from school, even if they have no idea when their homes will be raided because of "increased security measures." Jewish people in the north go to work in the Kibbutzim, just kilometers from the U.N. patrolled wall dividing Syria from Israel. In the South, people still drive along Highway 90, despite the close proximity to the Jordanian border and the threat of ISIS.

After a week in Israel, I am back in the Pacific Northwest, with its coffee shops and thrift stores, tech jobs and clean water. And I feel weird about it.

Weird is good, I guess. I remember some advice someone once said: Don't travel if you want to stay comfortable.

Kyoto. Buenos Aires. Jerusalem. Seoul. New York City. For years, I have travelled all over the world and left a bit of my heart in every city that I've visited. But traveling has never made me feel as though I have found that one perfect culture. On the contrary, I have realized that there are problems in every country, every culture and every people group. The solution isn't to ignore these issues. Instead, I hope that traveling can increase my awareness and lead me to learn more. To love more.

Traveling isn't going to be the solution to the worlds' problems. It just makes me more aware of what's important.

Photo credit: @TheFAlife


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