I don’t know what it is about the 4th of July that scratches my insatiable travel itch but I have my suspicions.
Perhaps a dose of nostalgia?
Or the undeniable truth that I have a deep-seated passion for global adventures.
I long to explore untraveled parts of the world in order to connect with locals, to communicate in unfamiliar languages, to discover new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and to collect incredible stories along the way to share with friends and family.
One of my favorite 4th of July travel memories dates back to the summer of 2000. I willingly agreed to join my dear friend Jesica in Israel en route to a volunteer job on a small kibbutz in the beautiful Negev desert.
Our assignment: Harvesting the world’s most plump, succulent, mouthwatering dates.
We connected at Ben Gurion airport in the wee hours of the night, completely jet lagged, yet buzzing with anticipation of the mysterious adventure that lie ahead of us. Our unairconditioned room was sparsely decorated and I specifically recall sleeping with the overhead light on to deter the scurrying cockroaches in search of a cooler oasis. Little did I know this wouldn’t be the last time I’d be sleeping with the lights on; The volunteer housing I would call home for the next 3 months had similarly sparse and buggy decor! Yikes!
The following morning, volunteer assignment in hand and typical overpacked backpack & acoustic guitar in tow, we traveled 4.5 hours south to our home away from home, a charming hilltop kibbutz named Grofit. Located in the Aravah valley of the Negev desert, this place would serve as a classroom of sorts, rewarding us with the kind of life lessons that only stepping out of your comfort zone provides.
A kibbutz is essentially a commune of people sharing land, resources, and the desire to enjoy a family friendly, relaxed lifestyle. Today, kibbutz residents represent only 2.5% of Israel’s total population and while current modes of operation are far from the pioneering days, they continue to attract tourists as well as locals seeking a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
What I cherished most from my experience was the daily community fellowship, the meals enjoyed together prepared by loving hands, and above all, the opportunity to experience multiple cultures, languages, and rich conversations daily. It was a chance to serve the needs of the kibbutz and in exchange we received the freedom to embark on once-in-a -lifetime adventures including an overnight hike up Mt. Sinai, lead by a team of Bedouins and camels, snorkeling in the Red Sea in Dahab, and the thrill of meeting a local Jordanian family thanks to our taxi driver who insisted we stop in for a visit at 11:45pm to meet his relatives! I will never forget that night!
Each day, I shared 10 hours with migrant workers from India & Thailand, as well as volunteers from Belgium, Poland, France, Denmark, and South Africa! Talk about the learning opportunities!
At dawn, our team drove into the date fields, feeling the coolness of night before the sun rose to the east over the Jordanian mountains.
The work was physical, the heat oppressive.
At times, I pondered the social injustices of the world as I placed nets around the unripened date fruits high in the sky. I marveled at the agility and fearlessness of my Thai and Indian teammates, and admired their fortitude despite the dire circumstances which brought them thousands of miles away from loved ones in order to make a living.
Freedom to travel is a gift.
Service to others is a gift.
Relationships are a gift.
Learning is a gift.
Curiosity is a gift.
and gifts….. well……
Gifts are meant to be shared with the world. Thank you for allowing me the gift and freedom of sharing this story with you!
What is your favorite 4th of July memory? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Until next time friends,
Stand In Love, Jen xo
Jennifer Miller is a Las Vegas-based dōTERRA Wellness Advocate and Community Partner volunteer for global nonprofit BeadforLife and Street Business School whose mission is to provide entrepreneurial training to 1 million impoverished people globally by 2027. Click here for a listing of upcoming events, or Follow her on Instagram or Facebook @standinlovejen . To begin your natural health and wellness journey today with essential oils, click here .