Tel Aviv bus station should go into the Guinness book of records for being the most effective thing for confusing naive English girls in the history of everything.
There are 6 floors of coach bays … 6 opportunities to gaze, open mouthed at row upon row of buses, wondering if your parents will be informed of your demise after tourists discover your wasted corpse with a sign saying, ‘I only wanted to travel!’
Since leaving mum and dad waving from the sanctity of Heathrow I had endured a lot of universal interference. It was almost as if the powers that be didn't want me to go.
The hours waiting for the airplane to actually leave the ground, the missing of my connecting flight, the strip search, the genially smiling guard emptying my backpack all over the floor, the relentless South African gentleman wooing me throughout … I was beginning feel that it was all a big conspiracy.
It was my own fault, really. I had decided to follow a very ill chosen boyfriend out to Israel, without really asking. The initial idea had been met with a decidedly lukewarm reception and I had taken the lack of a vigorous ‘NO’ as being a strong ‘YES’ and acted accordingly.
Flights were booked, arrangements made and, due to it being 1998, messages relayed through actual hand written letters. **gasps ... I know, right!**
Meeting points were agreed upon and ill chosen boyfriend acquiesced to wait for me before heading into Egypt.
This had worked out great, until the universe chose my exact travel day to ask me if I was really sure about everything.
It must have been unnerving for my parents to receive a long distance call from their 18 year old daughter, many hours after she was supposed to be at her destination, in tears, wailing that she was stuck in a random hotel in Athens.
A flurry of activity ensued to ensure that boyfriend waited for me as planned … after all, I was going to be a full day late and with no mobile phones or way to contact him, it came down to a weird chain of mothers calling mothers, calling sons, calling friends who eventually managed to get the message over.
I got a call back from my mum, late that evening, telling me that he had said he would wait for me. Exhausted from terror and from avoiding South African style wooing, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.
Fast forward a day and you will find me turning bewilderedly around and around in the monstrous Tel Aviv central bus station, trying not to die from being lost ...
Tel Aviv is an incredible city! It is modern, bustling and filled with wonderful people! On this fateful day, I met one of the kindest men I have ever met whilst traveling. I have met many angels in disguise over the years of travel but he was my first.
He was a young guy with dark hair and large brown eyes that a girl could just fall into. Handsome and tall, he tested my faithfulness to my boyfriend with his gentle accent and smiling lips.
Not only did he help me buy my ticket (the ticket machine being all in Hebrew), he took me to my bus departure point and waited for 3 hours with me until I got onto the bus. When I asked him what he wanted for helping me in this way, he simply smiled and said 'I just didn't want to leave you alone here' ... my pants literally burst into flames. We talked about my life in England and his life in Tel Aviv. It turns out he was a soldier going home on leave (pants begun smouldering again) and had seen me looking pale and terrified at the entrance to the bus station and decided to take pity on me!
I'm so grateful for all the people I have met on my travels. Some have taught me that there are actual assholes walking around in people suits and others (most of them) have been pure, wonderful people. If I had a coin for every person who had stepped in and helped me when I've been at my most vulnerable, I would be a rich woman. I truly believe that people are inherently good and my experiences whilst travelling have only served to compound that belief. Perhaps if we feared less and trusted more, we would find the world to be a safer place than we could have ever imagined.
My traveling time is not over but it has definitely calmed down somewhat over the last couple of years. As I grow older, I find myself craving more security and even a 'home' environment. So even if now, I'm starting to slow down a bit. It doesn't mean that my angels will cease to exist ... it simply means that as my memory of them fades, new ones will begin to spring up and take their place. Perhaps ones that I will know for more that 3 hours!
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