Dreams Take Flight
By: Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, Bowen Island, Canada
2006 Travel and Transitions travel story contest participant
We met at the designated spot: the lobby of
the Hotel David in Jerusalem, where the movie stars, literary VIP'
s, and political heads of state stay when the city isn' t reeling
from explosions and gun fire (which are actually rare in Jerusalem,
even during the war with Lebanon - not that you' d know this from
the media reports). I wasn' t staying at the Hotel David and neither
was he, but it somehow seemed appropriate for our first time.
When I asked how we' d recognize each other, he
said, “We' ll know.”
I was 29 years old; I think he was in his early
fifties. He wasn' t as handsome as my mother described and I imagined;
I suppose two decades in Israel (or anywhere) can affect one' s
appearance for better or worse. His belly was hefty, which surprised
me - all the Israelis I saw on television, particularly the soldiers,
were lean and strong-looking. He was short, like me, and had dark
brown curly hair, like me. He sported my nose, my eyes and my small
He' s my dad.
I traveled from Edmonton, Canada, to Jerusalem,
Israel to meet him for the first time. He hadn' t invited me; in
fact, in our last phone conversation three years earlier he deflected
my suggestion that I visit, saying the time wasn' t right. This
time I was ready (more or less) regardless of the agreeability of
time or his opinion.
Though I believe timing is everything I also know
that sometimes goals and dreams need to be pursued immediately because
the time will almost never be perfect. There are places
to visit, people to meet, dreams to pursue; if you' re waiting for
work, family, friends, money - everything, anything - to fall into
place before your adventure can take flight, your wait could outlast
Looking back on meeting my dad in Jerusalem, I see
how I faced my fears headfirst just because I was tired of
As soon as the idea flickered I sent out feelers
for open doors. Instead of calling, this time I sent my father a
letter saying I' d be in Israel at a specific time. I' d love
to meet you, but I understand if you have a family, making it hard
for you to have contact with me. I' ll call you when I get
to Jerusalem. I wanted to give him advance warning, time to
think about his response. I researched the history, culture, and
current political situation in Israel - and received the green light
from the Canadian Embassy. When looking into flights, I discovered
I could stop off in Italy for free for as long as I wanted; I planned
a two week layover in Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre on my way
to Jerusalem. I also discovered it was possible and inexpensive
to fly from Rome to Cairo, Egypt and take the bus to Jerusalem,
so I did just that. To allay my trepidation about traveling alone,
I talked with a couple of women who had fantastic holidays traveling
solo, and recalled my own wonderful and exciting experiences hitchhiking
alone through the United Kingdom and parts of Europe (granted, I
was a reckless eighteen year old at the time). I' d traveled enough
to know that people are friendly and welcoming to a single woman
journeying solo. I also took various safety precautions (e.g. wedding
band on my left hand, baggy nondescript clothes, photocopied passport
and traveler' s cheques receipts in strategic places) - so I wasn'
t afraid of that aspect of the trip.
The scariest part was the unknown. I wasn' t sure
if my dad would even meet me - the ultimate rejection - so I gave
myself time and space to work up to calling him. The side trips
to Italy and Egypt were my rewards for having the courage to reach
out to him (in this case the reward came before the chore). I didn'
t know if I could even communicate with him, as he spoke halting
English and I didn' t speak Hebrew. I didn' t know if he had a traditional
Jewish wife who would give me - his illegitimate daughter from Canada
- the evil eye or some ancient Jewish curse. I didn' t know how
many children he had, or if he had any siblings. I gave myself time
to mentally and emotionally prepare by moving slowly, one step at
a time closer to my goal and the real reason I went to Jerusalem.
I talked about my plans and my fears. In my hostel
in the Old City in Jerusalem, I met a fellow traveler - a single
Dutch woman whose sense of fun, strength, and adventure gave me
courage (ever notice the word encourage ”means to “fill
with courage? If you find people who will encourage you, and you'
ll have little choice but to chase your dreams). Every morning at
breakfast, my friend would ask if I called my father yet. Every
morning I replied, Not yet. I will later today or maybe tomorrow.
”At the beginning, I didn' t call because
naturally I wanted to explore the Holy Land, and her ancient history
and religion. After a week, I didn' t call because I was far too
busy enjoying the company of a sexy, interesting, smart guy from
Australia who lived in Jerusalem. After two weeks, I realized I
only had one week left in Jerusalem, and, more importantly, I was
afraid to call my dad. That fear dwarfed all the others, such as
traveling alone, taking alternate bus routes due to bomb threats,
or watching Israeli soldiers walk around with machine guns casually
slung over their shoulders.
But then I did it. I simply forced myself to make
the call - one that I started dialing several times before but hung
up each time, telling myself I would call tomorrow.
“Why did you wait to phone me
You were here almost three weeks already! was the
first thing my dad said to me when I called him. When can we meet?”
was the second. He had been waiting for me, all the time I was in
Italy, Egypt, and his home town - he was waiting to meet me.
None of my fears were realized: his wife was a fantastic
Canadian woman, from my own birth city, Vancouver, and with whom
I connected immediately (she wasn' t familiar with any ancient Jewish
curses). They insisted I stay with them for the remainder of my
trip, and protested at how little time I had left. His daughters
and son were stunned to learn of my existence, but welcoming and
friendly nonetheless. His childhood friend, who held me as a baby
right after I was born in Vancouver, brought his Canadian wife over
for dinner; they became mainstays in my Israeli life.
I asked my dad why he didn' t want me to visit him
when I first suggested it three years ago, and he said that his
mother was dying and it was a terrible time for the family. He thought
it would be too stressful for me to visit then. For me, it was a
childhood dream deferred, but not forgotten.
What dreams bubble up inside you when you' re driving
to work, talking with friends, or vacuuming your living room? Do
you dream of going on safari in Africa, taking an extreme vacation
in the mountains, or volunteering to build a house in Mexico? Whatever
it is - it' s time to get moving, a step at a time! Start by sending
out feelers and doing a little research. Turn off the computer and
television, let yourself feel your fear and reluctance, and confide
in your friends. Know that the scariest part of the journey is the
unknown - which is likely brimming over with friendly people, fulfilling
experiences, and exciting adventures. If I can seek out my dad in
one of the most volatile, unpredictable areas in the world - then
you, too, can help your dreams take flight.