Roller Skating Solo Across Israel

On Thursday, November 30, 2017, I strapped on my brand new roller skates to begin a rather different form of exploring a country on my own: skating from the border of Lebanon and Israel to the border of Gaza. (You read that right – roller skates!) Carrying a water pack on my back, I squeezed in an extra change of exercise attire, under garments, toiletries, and pepper spray just in case.

Lacking the Arabic and Hebrew language, I depended on Google Translate and a combination of face and hand gestures to communicate with friendly new faces throughout my journey. Instead of mapping out my route ahead of time, I chose to roughly use Google Maps, and predominately gauge my path via advice from people along the way. Anticipating that it would be hard to find hotels, and with a tight budget (this was month 6 of consecutively traveling solo in multiple countries), I set a goal to connect with people who could help me find a safe place to sleep each night. With only one friend in Israel at the start of my adventure, I also set out to meet people to call friends.

Although each day never mirrored the previous, there were a few magical correlations throughout the journey. The different people I connected with each brought me a familiar sense of safety, security, and even a feeling of home. Each pillow generously given to rest my head, and each new face accompanied by a warm hug, gave me a pure sense of love and connection so different from typical day to day interactions in my home country.

 

As I skated up, down, and around rolling hills in the heat of the day, countless passing cars brought something to my trip. If they weren’t honking, smiling, and waving me on, they were pulling over to ask if I needed help, handing me bottles of water and encouraging me to stay hydrated throughout the day.

With each day’s sunset, my daily skating endeavor would wind down and my new mission would begin: to find a home for the night. I developed a tactic of slowing my roll down each street, pausing to listen for any home that “called” out to me. Don’t ask me what I was looking for in particular; it was more of an inviting intuition I would get when I rolled past the right house. Sometimes this inviting feeling would jump out at me right away, while other times I had to roll around a few blocks until the “perfect” house jumped out to me.

 

Each time I approached a home, I used a similar script for beginning a conversation with a new friendly face. I would start by introducing myself, saying my home country, and then talking about my journey to roller skate across Israel on my own. Then I would go on to say that I did not know anyone in this particular region of Israel, and asked if they knew of anyone who could host me for the night. This conversation was easy if the person spoke English. But in many cases, I had to type and translate everything using my phone.

 

Not only did every person welcome me without hesitation into their home, they all insisted that I join their family for an evening meal. I was always given instant access to a warm shower to rinse away the dirt and sweat on my body, along with a washing machine to remove the same from my clothes.

Although the days were long, and the winding roads required my body to work overtime, my exhaustion never mattered in the midst of these once in a lifetime experiences sitting and talking with people from all religions and corners of the world. Despite language barriers, I bonded with every new set of eyes I locked mine with, and I found new beauty in every shared smile. Sitting with new friends each evening, I was reminded that not only is love blind, but it knows no language. Love is pure and unconditional, all around us. The bonding of friendship is limitless in this lifetime and can be quite instantly formed. I was treated beyond well by every single person, as each night I was given a bed to rest my body. Some nights, kids would even give up their bed to sleep on the floor for me, an unexpected offer that meant the world to me.

 

As I gathered and packed my limited belongings each morning, it was always insisted that I have one last meal with each family. The goodbyes were never easy following the meal. Each family member would sign their names on my skates while photos were taken, hugs were given, contact information was exchanged, and wonderful, sincere goodbyes were shared with my new friends.

It took me 14 days to roller skate across Israel. Every door knocked on let me in. Every person I talked with was an absolute gem. I felt safe and loved throughout every moment. Although I was only able to offer a smile and a genuine heart in return for the hospitality, I was able to exceed my goal to simply find a place to sleep each night, finding instead a home full of friends. The memories of my solo roller skating trip will always be in my mind, and the people I met along the way each have a place in my heart forever.

Written by Becca Rolon

Photos provided by Becca Rolon

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