by Miranda Levingston, from Philadelphia, PA.
My ravkav (Travel fare card) and I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve been to the ravkav offices on 3 different occasions to issue a new card, because I’m always losing it for some reason. I also happen to look homeless and confused in my ravkav ID photo, because the last time I got a new card, the apathetic employee didn’t clearly indicate when the picture was being taken, and where I was supposed to be looking. But, I love my ravkav nonetheless.
I love my ravkav because it’s an essential tool to adventure. No matter where you want to go, you usually need some kind of public transportation to get you there. Riding the bus is an essential part of living in a different country, any gap year kid will tell you that. And, while public transportation can seem like a major inconvenience, it’s actually taught me a lot about my surroundings and myself. So, here are the 3 things I’ve learned this year from the bus.
Lesson one: Be present. Be present because every second of your life is an experience, good or bad, and its up to you to make the most out of it. Your adventure begins the minute you leave the apartment, not when you arrive at your final destination. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been on the bus on our way to some weekend excursion. For however long your bus ride is, your life is at a thrilling halt. There you are, hurdling forward down the highway, while also stopping time.
And that’s kind of like this year. We’ve hit the pause button of the western education system, and this year feels like it’s flown by. On Aardvark, feeling present extends further then just bus rides. Last month, we took a giant Aardvark camping trip in honor of Julia’s birthday. It was open invite and so many awesome people showed up. For 2 whole days on the shores of the Kinneret, our mornings began when the sun came up, and the only thing on our to-do-lists was to chill. I got to know so many people on a deeper level because everyone had one thing in common-we were all present, not just physically, but also mentally. Everybody brought such a genuine energy to the campsite that weekend, and it was beautiful to be a part of it.
Even when we don’t go all the way to the Kinneret to chill, we preserved that mentally-present quality of our down time in Jerusalem. One of my favorite activities this semester has been Saturday afternoons at the park, playing sports, music, and Cards Against Humanity. Those are the times when we are all collectively present. We are all focused on living in the moment, and it’s so much fun to be part of such an authentic and joyful group of people.
Lesson Two: Say yes to adventure. I love riding the bus with my roommates, planning on going to the shuk or something, and then ending up somewhere else just because we passed by somewhere cool and impulsively decided to get off.
Saying yes to adventure means being open to exploring the world around you at any moment. Saying yes to adventure means being ready to take risks, in pursuit of a potentially wonderful experience. Saying yes to adventure means to welcome the feeling of leaving your comfort zone in honor of the magic and authenticity that comes with spontaneity.
This year, I’ve found that stepping outside your comfort zone is the best way to experience not only the world around you, but also your true self. It’s in the moments when you’re genuinely excited, seriously scared, and full of energy that you learn the most about who you are and what you are truly capable of.
And, it’s safe to say; we’ve all made a habit out of going on random adventures and taking unplanned detours. I’ve loved exploring and living in two of the most interesting and diverse cities in the whole world. I’ve learned from impulsively going to cities near and far and roaming around. I’ve relished having out-of-body experiences when jumping into different bodies of water, and sleeping tent-less under the stars. All of these experiences have taught me something about the world around me, and brought me closer to myself.
Lesson three: Everything is better when shared with people you love. Even when there aren’t any seats on the egged and you have to sit on the floor for six hours, it becomes an adventure and a bonding experience, rather then a burden. At every twist and turn this year, I’ve been so grateful for the family that all of us have created. For the highs and the lows, we’ve become an unbreakable net of support that ebbs and flows to meet each-others needs.
When experiences are shared, they become better. Hard times strengthen relationships. Ordinary things become great. Great things become extraordinary.
This gap year was an incredible adventure, and it was largely because of the positive, creative, hilarious, and kind people I was surrounded with.
I want to end this speech with a quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.
“How wonderful it is to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
To learn more about Aardvark Gap Year Program, click here.