On a bike trip across the US and Canada, there are so many ways to measure the time. The number of cities we have stopped in. Places we have given speeches. Amazing meals we have eaten. But I’m beginning to realize there are other moments that stand out more to me. The number of “firsts” and the romantic love stories. I am having a lot of “firsts” on this trip- basically meaning the first time I have done something.
Beginning in Toronto two weeks ago, all the way to where we are now in Providence, Rhode Island, I’ve never been to any of these cities before. Niagara Falls, Syracuse, Albany, Boston – all new. Each time we get to a new place I am so excited. You see the difference in people, in architecture, in history. But it’s weird because, of the six of us, I am the only American. America is so big, it’s not like Israel, where no matter where you are from, you know the entire country backwards and forwards. I’m from the other side of the country: pretty Los Angeles. Even though I went to college in Manhattan, the rest of this is foreign to me- but I love it.
When we drove to Toronto from New Jersey, there were seven of us in the car. Each with a suitcase, personal backpack, and other supplies. Three guitars. Seven sleeping bags. Four bikes. I had never traveled so uncomfortably as I did during that 10 hour drive. But it was a new experience. We had breakfast in New Jersey, lunch in Pennsylvania, and dinner in Toronto. And it was exciting.
Most Israelis learn to be tough in the army. When they finish, they travel alone or sometimes with friends, on big trips around the world. But I never had this experience. This is the first time I’ve ever traveled to a new city every day. The only trip I’ve done that I can compare, is when I went to China to train in the Shaolin Temple and receive my black belt. There, I traveled with new people in a new place, but it was much shorter and we stayed in hotels. Here, there are no hotels. A motel once. But besides that, we have stayed in peoples homes- wonderful, loving people who have hosted us all along the way. One family didn’t even meet us in person. They heard about us from a reporter who shared our story, and they had her give us keys to their house. We were all very touched by this act of love and trust. Parts of this trip, I felt like I was on a Chabad tour. We went from Chabad to Chabad, in each city. One of the rabbis wrote about Bike For The Fight in the Chabad news site, making us Chabad celebs, welcome everywhere.
Tonight I am writing from the JCC in Providence. We are staying in this huge building. The six of us and our four bicycles, on sleeping bags on the floor. I walked around a little- saw the pool, the Holocaust museum, the preschool. Another first. I don’t think I have ever slept in a place like this. So here I am. In a brand new city. Sleeping out of my comfortable bed in my comfortable home. Far away from my friends and family. Usually I don’t even go to sleep without my dog next to me. What I am learning is that it is outside of our comfort zones that we are able to grow most. With each of these firsts, I might get scared, but I become a little bit stronger. And I am here because I believe in this mission. When we follow our hearts to something we believe in, we find extra strength. Bike For The Fight has two missions- to raise money to find a cure for cancer and to inspire people to take the negative situations in their lives and use this energy to make a positive impact in the world. Tikkun Olam. Healing ourselves and the world around us.
So about the romantic love stories. Don’t get too excited. None of them are about me. This trip is strictly business. But I am hearing everyone else’s. One of the amazing things about being hosted by these families, is when we arrive in a city, we are not strangers. It feels as if we have our own family there, welcoming us in. Usually when you meet new people, there is a certain distance kept between you. But not here. Each mother we meet becomes the official BFF team mother. Each house feels like home. And each couple shares with us their personal stories. My favorite is always how they met. It’s refreshing to remember that there isn’t one fairytale guideline to the perfect love. Love finds us everywhere. Bringing people from all walks of life together. And I’ve watched these couples, how they interact and share their lives. It helped me understand love. My parents met the first day of college, when my mom was 17. I always thought that was the only recipe for true love. But it’s nice to know that people of all ages meet in all kinds of ways, and the important part is not where they were when they met, but the life they create together. I am so thankful for the truly inspirational couples we have met. Who have taught us about how important it is to welcome people into their homes, because they care about Israel and they care about our cause. In 20 years I want to remember to stop what I am busy doing with my life, and to open my home to people traveling on journeys of passion and mitzvahs.
Even these stories and feelings I have shared, are so tiny compared to the amount of people and experiences we have had the honor of encountering. And it is just the beginning. We aren’t even half way through the trip yet. Our next big cities include NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and finally DC. If you know anyone who wants to host us, or have us share our inspirational story in a school or community along the way, let me know! Every person is a whole world, I am so looking forward to the many more amazing people I know we will meet.
This trip is a perfect ending to the Jewish year and a great beginning to the next one. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy sweet new year. See you soon in Israel! Follow Bike For The Fight on facebook and contribute to the project here.