I write this blog post from a coffee shop just down the hill from my apartment in Jerusalem. A beautiful day is unfolding outside of the crystal clear, high-ceiling window panes. There is a sort of urgent calm in the air as locals and foreigners gather to enjoy early afternoon coffee and company.
To my left a table of friends orders their meal in Hebrew. Behind me a charming young couple catches up on life, telling stories in rapid-fire Hebrew and broken English, dropping F’bombs intermittently throughout their conversation in a cadence that seems oddly American. A few tables down a woman and her husband pick at their meal, complaining about the surprisingly poor service. While the service isn’t 5-star by any means, I have found a certain magic in this present moment, and am content to overlook these minor offenses.
I sit perched in my corner of the coffee shop feeling the gentle hum of energy among the busy bustle of the day. I am happy. Overcome with the feeling you get when your heart desperately wants to freeze a moment, but your mind knows full-well that you can’t, so instead you do your best to memorize sounds, search for the strongest scents, and savor the taste and texture of each bite.
It can be difficult uprooting your life and moving to a different country, surrounded by new languages and cultures. This is often referred to as "culture shock" and boy-oh-boy is it real, but in the midst of your new surroundings I encourage you to find the magical moments in the ordinary. Moments that ground you in the present, even if for only a moment.
1. BE WHERE YOU ARE.
Go to a local coffee shop. Sit on a bench overlooking the park. No matter where you find yourself, be there. Take a few breathes. Settle in and expect to see.
2. FIND THE MAGIC.
This is one of my favorite steps. There is no right or wrong way to do this, simply look around you and see how others are living in their present moment. Do you see a couple smiling? Do you hear children playing? Are the leaves blowing in a certain pattern? Are there ants building a hill or carrying a meal. No matter what you find...see it and consider it.
3. REFLECT AND RECORD.
Now that you've observed your surroundings, reflect on the ordinary events that are similar to your day-to-day life at home. Then, reflect on the things that are different. The most shocking thing is that the similarities typically outnumber the differences. If you can, write these things down.
Living abroad is teaching me more about the beauty of life, the depth of love, and the reality of how similar we all really are.
As I write this piece, a tall Israeli soldier with an AK47 strapped to his side kindly volunteers to take a picture of an older couple to my left. Just moments before the same couple had been struggling to take a selfie on their cell phone, but with a gentle smile (and enough ammo in that gun to blow us all to bits) this kind Israeli solider generously helped them capture a beautiful moment in time.
No matter where in the world we travel to, finding the magic in the ordinary moments of life can give us a new perspective, and help us feel a little bit more at home.