Local Travel Joys from 2012 and Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Sunset Photos


2012 was a hallmark year for me. Personally, it was the catalyst of several major decisions and experiences, such as submitting my final assignment to my university and becoming not-a-student for the first time in 6 years. Of course, I did taken 4 courses in this first non-student semester and I’m tempted to take 2 or more courses, so I might be having a bit of a withdrawal issue.


Photos in this post are from my 2011 trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the US state of Colorado


How Does Comparing Help, Really?

However, at times, this year doesn’t feel big. I made the mistake of comparing it to 2011, the queen of years, at least travel-wise. After a year-long planning and dreaming, which was the culmination of 16 years of dreams, I boarded that plane in late 2011 and traveled through Argentina and the US, with a short stop in Brazil. It was spectacular, and travel wise, very challenging to top.



My initial intention was to post the sunset photos you see in this post, from Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which I took in that 2011 trip – and let the year fade out.



Then, as I sat down to write my gratitudes for 2012 and acknowledge myself for every tiny act of courage during this past year, I realized life isn’t about comparing. For many of us, the big, gigantic moments – like hiking on a glacier – will stand out when we think of the best experiences we had. Yet if we stop and pay attention to the little moments, to those everyday opportunities and possibilities, life immediately becomes happier, fuller and more exciting.




12 Travel Joys from 2012

All the travel joys I share with you today – in no particular order – happened right here, in Israel. Most of them even happened within an hour or less of my home. In writing this post, I choose to see 2012 as an inspiration for 2013 – to discover my own “backyard”, to indulge in the joys of the everyday with a traveler’s heart…. and a camera, of course.



1) Studying somewhere pretty

This year I finally left the home and libraries environment and experimented studying somewhere really pretty – on a promenade with grass, birds and an up close and personal view of the Mediterranean Sea. I even got to see a guy fold his parachute after traveling through the sky!



2) Paying attention to spring blossom

Traveling down the same route time and again for years can be draining – unless you open up your eyes. This year, I paid extra close attention to the gifts winter left behind as it traveled south in Planet Earth and vacated its place for spring.



3) Letting the dance of rain on the pavement whisk me away from sickness to smiles

Recently, I had to make my way to a clinic while feeling…. not so great physically. It was pouring rain outside, and I know that could have brought some people down even more. For me, I loved every minute of it.

As I waited for the light to change so I could cross the street, my eyes drifted to the road, to the pavement, which were now filled with water. Rain drops kept pouring, creating shapes in the water, dancing.



4) Walking through the Tel-Aviv University campus, with eyes wide open and a traveler’s heart

…. and submitting the final assignment of my degree. The campus – surely small by some other countries’ proportions – was my place to practice everyday travel for four years. I loved discovering new places to eat, to study, to hang out with friends or on my own. I loved rejoicing and re-discovering places I already enjoyed.

I loved breathing in the air of the place every time I walked in, and I loved the upside down world map in one of the buildings. “What if Columbus had come from Africa?” asked the map. The graphics answered the question – South America, Africa and Oceania would have been drawn at the top.



5) Seeing the sea turning pink

I hurried to get to the beach in time for sunset. I hoped there would still be light, yet I wanted to see the sunset.

I came right as the sun started its grand performance for the evening. Even the sea seemed pink.



6) Catching the peak of a sunset on an everyday walk

Another day I reached the same spot on everyday walk. I figured that if I live close to the water, I might as well take advantage of it and do my walk there. I saw the colors of the sky from afar, yet figured it would be a better idea to wait until I got closer for a better picture.

Good thing I didn’t listen to my own advice. Zooming in, I caught a big ball of seemingly burning light between trees, a pink sky in the background. By the time I got closer, it almost disappeared.



7) Catching a paragliding fiesta in the sky on an everyday walk

Another everyday walk to the same place led to an unexpected surprise. I knew there could be the occasional paragliding person, yet more often than not – no such person happened to travel the sky while I was around.

This time, I saw two. Then another one, and another one, and another few. I couldn’t believe I made a last minute decision to leave my better camera at home, yet I was grateful I could photograph at all. The walk prolonged way more than expected, as more and more colorful parachutes dotted the sky. Gotta love happy surprises.



8 ) My first (mini) mountain climb

Thanks to my friends, I got to spend some time climbing my first mountain! It was a mini mountain accessible by public transportation with beautiful views from the top. This is a highly recommended way of spending a little time outside of Haifa.



9) Celebrating Passover at an Israel kibbutz

Given that my twin brother not only lives in a kibbutz, but played his guitar during the kibbutz’s Passover ceremony and dinner, my family and I went up there to celebrate.

It was the second time we went and it still felt new, so completely different than celebrating it at home. Definitely worth exploring if you’re in Israel for a visit during a holiday.



10) Interacting with kangaroos for the first time

While I wish I could interact with kangaroos in the Australian wild, this last spring I got to interact with them in an Australian zoo in northern Israel. I’m always ambivalent about visiting zoos, yet it was a special experience for me to get to feed animals I never saw in person before.



11) Watching fish jump up and down in the Hertzeliya harbor

I traveled to the other ends of the earth to see dolphins and whales play in oceans. While the whales simply picked my way, I saw hundreds of dolphins playing together, swimming alongside “my” boat.

Yet it was during a spontaneous walk with a friend through the Hertzeliya harbor, a bit north of Tel-Aviv, that I saw groups of fish jump up and down out of nowhere – at the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. There was no tour, they were not an attraction. They were doing their thing, and we were fortunate witnesses.



12) Eating chocolate first, lunch as dessert

Despite my great love for chocolate, I admit I was hesitant when my friend suggested we turn the tables on the rules. Not because I like rules for the sake of rules, but because eating food before dessert actually makes sense.

Yet I didn’t stay in hesitation for long. Eating chocolate first, lunch as dessert might not be recommended as a regular habit, yet it surely is a tasty, fun experience to try.



Turns out my 2012 was spectacular after all. How about yours? How are you traveling in your everyday?



  1. I really love to come to pass by the sunset in the beach. These are very lovely and I am happy to see those photos. By the way thanks a lot for sharing this to us.
    Donna Spears recently posted..Interior Designing with Timber DoorsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Donna! Passing by a beach sunset on a regular walk makes the walk all that sweeter.

  2. I love that you had so many great travel moments right in your own country. Of course, your country is one of the most exciting on earth, so it’s understandable you were able to find some amazing moments there. Your photos are beautiful, and I love that you enjoyed walking in the rain, even though you were feeling sick. Rain is such a peaceful, melancholy event.
    Sabina recently posted..A Very Sweet Middle Eastern Holiday – Eid al AdhaMy Profile

    • I love how you see Israel and rain, Sabina 🙂 Rain has a magical feel to it, and I’ve been enjoying the re-discovery of this country very much.

  3. You’ve had quite a memorable year with a lot of great changes and personal growth. I also love that your travel joys are close to home. Most of us need to be reminded every so often that some best hidden gems are in our own backyard. These are some spectacular sunset photos. We’ll bet at Great Sand Dunes in a couple of weeks so I hope to see these same stunning sunsets. Wishing you the best in 2013!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Viewing the 2013 Rose Parade Floats Up CloseMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mary! It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s far away and foreign, yet it’s certainly made my year richer focusing on what’s closer to home. Can’t wait to do more of this in 2013. Hope you do get a spectacular sunset, this park is a lot of fun. Joyous 2013 🙂

  4. Happy New Year! Sounds like an amazing 2012 for you – wishing you many more wonderful adventures this year =) Last year was not the best for us but we’re confident 2013 will be a great one…
    Andrea recently posted..Found Along Portobello Road (Photo Essay)My Profile

    • Thanks, Andrea! I didn’t think much of my 2012 at first, until I started paying attention to what I really did and what 2012 really gave me. Wishing you tons of fun and excitement for 2013 🙂

  5. Thanks, Shaiful. I think I’ve had enough of mountains for the time-being (and altitude sickness!). Next adventure is a week-long drive right through the desert of central Australia, from Darwin to Adelaide, with detour to Uluru.

    • Sounds like a lot of fun – hope you have a great time!

  6. Beautiful post! Sometimes (or maybe most of the times) I’m guilty of not appreciating the little things around me that are equally beautiful compare to the other places that I’ve been to. A great reminder that we all live in a beautiful place and if we just look closely and pay attention to it, we might not need to even go far.
    flip recently posted..Top 15 Philippine Travel Blogs for 2013My Profile

    • Thanks! You know, for some years I only want to travel far. Then, when I joined my relative on a New Zealand trip, a local woman told her that, in New Zealand, they’re taught to explore their own country first before they travel elsewhere. And I thought – yeah, because you live in spectacular New Zealand. Yet then I took another look at my own “backyard” and re-discovering it has been a wonderful joy.

  7. Wow! You seem to have experienced a lot now and you look very happy! 🙂 Thank You for sharing these to us; by the way your pictures are lovely! 🙂

    • Thanks, Izy! Doing my best to celebrate the everyday 🙂

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