Approximately one week before Pesach my husband and I decided to take our family to Australia for the holiday. We quickly booked our one-way tickets and figured we’d plan the rest of our trip while abroad. We had four days to buy everything we needed, pack; tie up loose ends from work, volunteering and household duties. My sister’s engagement party the night before our flight didn’t exactly ease the rush we were in. However, Thursday afternoon we were off on the first leg of our trip – to sunny California.
For Shabbat, we stayed in Lomita, California; a small city with seemingly little to do or see. However, with two little kids on a long Shabbat afternoon, resting was not on the agenda. We set out on a short walk around the area. We found flowers and plants in countless colors; we watched people hard at work tending to their gardens and even saw apple, lemon and orange trees. We observed spider webs (my son pointed out that spiders build their home with no tools), spotted several cats and waved to some dogs and their owners. We listened intently to the sounds of the wind chimes and the birds singing in the trees. It turned out Lomita was a place with things to see. Immediately after Shabbat we rushed to the airport to board our long flight to Melbourne, Australia.
We landed in Melbourne on Erev Pesach. Having no time to sightsee or walk around the city, our first experiences were with its people. In shul everyone came over to say hello, ask us our names and several even invited us over for meals. The warmth in the community was palpable and I saw a different side of beauty in Melbourne, one not often expressed in travel magazines.
We went to a beautiful wildlife center on Chol Hamoed. There were many new animals to see and the kangaroos and wallabies hopping around freely captivated us. With no connection to the world (we opted not to activate our cell phones the entire trip), we sat with our children among the animals for several hours. We fed the wallabies and kangaroos and watched with fascination as they ate. Several let us pet them and we basked in the serenity of it all; it felt like it was just us and the animals. “Kinderlach, Hashem created such a beautiful world,” I found myself saying over and over. Right before heading back to Melbourne for Shabbat, we got to pet and hug a koala bear, an absolutely adorable creature.
Another highlight of our trip was magnificent Sydney, Australia. We experienced it several ways, including riding a double decker hop-and-stop bus. We sat atop the bus seeing some of the most beautiful sights, as well as the amazing ease in which people there go about their day. No one honked, no one seemed to be in a rush, everyone seemed to be basking in the amazing beauty that surrounded them. We took a speed boat under the picturesque Harbor Bridge and by the world famous Sydney Opera House; the views were breathtaking.
We traveled through Singapore so as not cross the dateline. We stayed for two days – from the malls to the trains, everything was beautiful, modern and immaculate. We went to the Royal Gardens and saw some breathtaking plants and flowers. Later, we again road atop a double decker bus learning about the history, culture and lifestyle of the city. Lunch and dinner at the kosher restaurant was a big treat as kosher restaurants are often hard to find on our travels, and with a 19-hour flight ahead, it sure beat the plane meals! As a final treat, we went to Singapore’s night safari where we got to watch many animals, including hyenas, fox, otters and bats that thrive after dark.
When we touched ground in New York I felt a knot in my stomach, I did not want our trip to end. Our travels were filled with beauty and inspiration, some obvious and some not, but all equally magnificent.
On this journey, called life, I will make sure to take loads and loads of luggage filled with the beautiful memories, insights and inspirations I’ve collected throughout my travels. I hope to carry over the lessons of this trip – of seeing the beauty in everything, even in my day-to-day life. Hashem created a beautiful world with some amazing inhabitants, we just have to open our eyes and see it.