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Extreme Travelling for Dummies

from the arctic to desert in a week

By Oneg In The ArcticPublished 9 months ago 10 min read
Extreme Travelling for Dummies
Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

In the last week my wife and I managed to travel from arctic Canada to Israel which is on the other side of the world. Are we insane? Definitely. Jet lagged? Yup. Sweating consistently? You bet.

See, my wife and I live and work on an island in the arctic, in Northwest Territories Canada. We absolutely love it. The cold, the land, the culture, it’s an unparalleled experience.

As a teacher, I’m thankful to get July and August “off” and as the COVID pandemic has dwindled (and has been politically buried), we decided it’s time to visit my family after 5 long years. My side of the family happens to live a tad far away though… in Israel.

We had just travelled from Northern Canada to Toronto (over 2 days and three connecting flights), and we were now getting ready for the journey to Israel. So while sweating profusely, and adjusting to the humidity and not-great air quality in Toronto, my wife and I did all the little things needed before our trip.

That included: renewing my drivers license and health card at the last minute possible. Driving the cat to a friend’s house. Driving the dog to a different friend’s workplace. Buying some much needed undergarments, because in our little home in the arctic, we don’t really have much selection in the two stores that exist. Getting haircuts. Trying to unpack. Trying to repack. Trying to not get sweatstroke- if that’s even a thing. Finding a lotion for my wife that’ll actually help with her allergies to, well, Canada.

And do it all over the Canada Day long weekend, meaning, having 3 days to really do it all because everything was closed on the weekend.

Lovely! (Not.)

But that’s fine.

We managed to get it all done and get to our next flight to Israel, with lots of time ahead in case we get stuck at security.

We got stuck big time.

At the luggage check in, and at the airport in general. Why?

Because our lovely airline, Air Canada, SUCKS.

By Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

Dummy Tip #1: make sure you arrive at least 3 hours ahead for international flights. We arrived 3.5 hours, thankfully (maybe).

First off, the flight is 10.5 hours, a nonstop flight. That means it will be a big plane; filled with lots of families that are either going home, or going for the summer to visit their old homes. Lots of kids, even more suitcases. Luckily we had only one for the two of us, as we were only travelling for two weeks.

But they also only had two people working the check-in counters. So this line moved at a snail’s pace. (No offence to snails, ya know I love ya)

Luckily security went quickly, and that was a miracle of its own.

Dummy Tip #2: Always pre-pack your liquids in one designated backpack so you don’t go looking everywhere to see where you left some tube of toothpaste or sunscreen. It makes it easier when going through security.

By Oliur on Unsplash

So finally we make it to the gate and we actually board the plane. And I say actually because shit will hit the fan in about a paragraph and a half.

We got lucky sitting just the two of us near the back, and we settled in. Then they told us that there was an issue with the plane so it would be another fifteen minutes. No problem.

But then fifteen turned into fifty, and they did the genius thing of- turning the plane on and off again. Did it work? Nope.

Instead, we got off the plane.

And waited. And waited. And gate change. And waited. And every two hours or so, they would announce another delay.

I also have to note here, that I so wonderfully got my period.

Dummy Tip #3: Always come prepared with products you might need in your carry-on. Thankfully I had my menstrual cup in, you can read more about that here and here.

By Oana Cristina on Unsplash

A lot of stress, too many false boarding calls, and 11 hours of waiting later- we finally boarded the plane at 1am.

That’s right, 11 hours in delays, and then a 10.5 hour flight. Did I almost cancel our tickets? Yup. Was the return flight non-refundable? Yup. Did we make it to Israel the next day? Thankfully!

And were we greeted by a heatwave and got some heatstroke? Definitely.

Dummy Tip #4: Don’t fly to the desert in July. That’s just dumb. Seriously.

By Juli Kosolapova on Unsplash

While I’m choosing to skip the insane (and some traumatizing) family moments that occurred, I’ll highlight some of the places we went to.

To start off, we took a tour to the Dead Sea at 6am. It was a three and a half hour drive, and we saw some camels on the way!

Dummy Tip #5: Always book your own tours so you don’t end up with a group of only-Russian speakers, when neither you or your wife speak Russian.

Image of Dead Sea, Judean Desert by Author (July 2023)

The Dead Sea is the lowest body of water in the world. It lies 400 metres below sea level and is in the bordered by Jordan on the East, and Israel and the West Bank on the other side. This salt lake is also in the Judean Desert so it’s quite a feat when you drive through sand and suddenly reach this “oasis”- though I wouldn’t drink the water! People come from all over to bathe in the healing mineral mud and also float in the sea. But you’re warned not to stay in more than 15-20 minutes or it’s dangerous.

The next place we went to was the beach in Tel Aviv with my cousin and his boyfriend who is adorable. (He’ll love that I said that!)

Dummy Tip #6: If you think you put on enough sunscreen, you didn’t. Put more. And then more. And then some.

Image of the beach in Tel Aviv by Author (July 2023)

What was great about this beach was that it was divided up into “sections”. You had the Regular part, the Pride beach, the Dog beach, the Religious beach, etc. etc.

Now if you don’t know, Israel is a mostly orthodox Jewish state, not all are religious, but majority follow orthodox law to some degree. Also, almost shuts down Friday afternoon until Sunday evening for the Shabbat (the holy day). So if the whole country closes down, then religion is pretty prominent. Along with Judaism, there are a lot of Muslims and a fair amount of Christians.

What I’m saying is, is that being an out and queer couple is more… uncommon than not. There are a lot more places than not there, where I wouldn’t hold my wife’s hand. While Israel has Pride Parades, and recognizes same sex marriages (only if they were officiated outside of Israel), there’s still a lot of… judgement.

But here, in Tel Aviv, the modern and free capital, there’s a Pride beach. And more importantly, a DOG BEACH! Which we didn’t go to. But… I was very excited about both. And laughing at the fact that the religious beach is right next to it and they have a great view should they choose to… turn the other cheek.

Anyways, it was really nice to be able to hold my wife’s hand and kiss at the beach and hope the quite strong waves. We felt like we didn’t have to hide ourselves and could just enjoy the day. And afterwards, we went to the best restaurant ever for lunch. Their hummus with ground beef- to die for!

Dummy Tip #7: Trust your cousins when it comes to finding good food. He had found this restaurant while he was absolutely smashed after a party.

By Ludovic Avice on Unsplash

Now onto the next and last place (because to be honest, we couldn’t make every place on the agenda due to stress, sweat, and indigestion).


Image of the alleyway in the old city of Jerusalem taken by the author (July 2023)

One of the oldest cities, and known as the holy place of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Some say it is where the Abrahamic religions all began. Some say it is where God resides. Some say it is the Center of the world.

I say, it has my favorite restaurant ever in the downtown part. Ishtabach, a restaurant that specializes in Kurdish-Syrian meat pastries that are slowly cooked in a stone oven. It only took 4.5 years of being with my wife for me to finally take her there! I’ll talk more about this place later.

Image of beef tongue shamburak at Ishtabach in Jerusalem taken by author (July 2023)

Remember Dummy Tip #5? Well I booked a private tour guide for my wife, my uncle and his wife, and I. And that was the best choice. Shout out to Amy for her amazing informational tour. She led us through the Old City of Jerusalem, through the Kotel/Western Wall, to Al Aqsa and Temple Mount (my favorite), the Muslim quarter, the Holy Church of Sepulchre, and more. Though it was incredibly hot, we really enjoyed all the sights. My favorite was definitely going up to Al Aqsa and seeing the Golden Dome.

The air, the feeling, it’s unparalleled. Even if you aren’t a religious person like me, you can still feel the spirituality and peace there. And while it is a very politically and religious charged and contested place, it’s also beautiful.

The Golden Dome at Temple Mount in Al Aqsa, taken by author (July 2023)

We finished with a tour of the tunnels under the Western Wall, where it was much cooler too. There they showed the Great Stone, one of the largest building blocks in the whole world (it really is massive, at about 44 feet long!). There you could really see how Jerusalem is a city built on top of a city, built on top of a city!

Dummy Tip #8: Don’t be afraid to call it a day and go take a nap. We were exhausted after such a busy day, and the hotel bedsheets were so damn soft.

By Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

We took a much needed nap at our hotel and then headed out for dinner at my favorite restaurant Ishtabach. Remember how I said that Israel shuts down on Friday afternoon until Saturday?

Well that means that the day to go out and party is Thursday night. Which was the exact day and time that we went out! Downtown Jerusalem was PACKED! But luckily we didn’t have to wait to long to be seated and served.

Shoutout to the Finnish dude who we met there who had no one to sit with. Funny enough, we were quite the international group eating dinner; a Canadian, Mexican, and a Finnish walk into a bar… I mean restaurant… And eat the food so fast because it’s so good!

Dummy Tip #9: Make friends, introduce yourself to people, you never know what stories you’ll hear and what new ones you’ll create.

By Haley Truong on Unsplash

Overall the trip to Israel was jam packed with many emotions, epic sights, great food, and lots of heat.

On the last day, I got to go visit my great grandma’s grave with my cousin, and that was all I needed. I told her all about my life, my love, and how everything will be okay.

And everything will be okay.

We’re back in Toronto now, and will head back home to the arctic in a few weeks. We can’t wait to get back home, but for now we’re enjoying our dose of civilization and UberEats!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip, and maybe these Dummy Tips might help you out too one day.

Last but not least,

Dummy Tip #10: Be flexible. Be open to change. Flow like the water. And lastly, be kind.

Image of the beach in Bat Yam by author (July 2023)

travel advicetravel tipslgbt travelfemale travelfeatureculture

About the Creator

Oneg In The Arctic

A storyteller and poet of arctic adventures, good food, identity, mental health, and more.

Co-founder of Queer Vocal Voices

Some other rad writers to check out:

James ❄️ TheDaniWriter ❄️ Melissa

RiverJoy ❄️ J. Delaney-Howe ❄️

Water is Life ✊

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock9 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this, Oneg. I truly enjoyed every last bit of it, even the brutal delays in Toronto. As someone who has never been further from the U. S. than Tiajuana, Mexico & the southern provinces of Canada, this was a real treat.

  • Mariann Carroll9 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your trip experience. So if everything is shut down Friday to Sunday, how do find food ? Does the hotel fallow the religious belief as well? 🥰💓

  • Excellent...!!! Every line was a fun ride of reading with humor around every corner.

  • James U. Rizzi9 months ago

    This was astounding really it had everything humor, information, and a unique and rare perspective that caressed you with a gentle touch I enjoyed that throughly

  • Melissa Ingoldsby9 months ago

    Loved this about your trip! So fun and I love your narrative

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