This Israeli Cut Her Pastoral India Trip Short to Make It Home for the Holidays

Departures / Arrivals: Traveling alone is a joy at any age, according to these two backpackers. But there's no place like home.

Dana and Nehama Golomb.
Tomer Appelbaum

Dana Golomb, 23, and Nehama Golomb, 53, live in Kfar Sava; Dana is arriving from New Delhi

Dana: Okay, just send it.

Nehama: I’m sending it! My WhatsApp disappeared.

Dana: Didn’t they figure out you went to the airport?

Nehama: Here it is. The “Golombiada” group.

Hey, can I ask what’s going on?

Dana: My family don’t know that I cut my trip short and came back.

Nehama: I’ve just sent a photo of us from the airport, but no one understood a thing.

Dana: What did you write?

Nehama: “Regards from Pushkar.”

Dana: Because before coming here, I sent them a photo of Pushkar and wrote that I was going there. 

How long did you go for?

Dana: A month and a half.

Not long. Did you manage to get to many places?

Dana: I was in Bala, Manali, Rishikesh, Dharamsala, Manali again, Parvati and Agra. Pretty good, no?

Tomer (the photographer): Usually you get stuck for a month and a half in just one of those places.

Dana: My India was more treks and less photos, but there were moments when I got stuck.

Nehama: The month and a half was enough for me.

Were you stressed, Nehama?

Nehama: Yes. It was very hard that she didn’t go with someone.

Dana: Fine, we’ve been through the army already and we’ve coped with challenges. I’m not 18.

Nehama: All of life is challenges, and there’s a bigger challenge every time.

Dana: You have to challenge parents a little, too.

Nehama: In the end we learn how to let go. At first we’re hysterical. But now we need to recover.

You traveled alone, Dana?

Dana: I did, but I wasn’t alone for a second. You find people, you connect and go along with everything. For some people it’s not so good, but for me it all flowed. I had good luck on this trip, overall.

Nehama: The photos were amazing.

Dana: One day I’ll persuade her to come with me. It’s not like I didn’t ask her. 

So why didn’t you go with her?

Nehama: I’m more a Europe and U.S. person.

Dana: She didn’t go with the flow with me because of you.

What do we have to do with it?

Dana: The media usually shows crowded, hard-core places like Delhi and Mumbai, and then people like my mom don’t want to go – but that isn’t necessarily India. It’s not that there aren’t cows in the street, but there’s this stigma. India is also pastoral.

So why did you cut the trip short?

Dana: I wanted to stay another 10 days, and I planned to spend the holiday [Rosh Hashanah] in Pushkar, but my mother and sister started to manipulate me.

Nehama: That’s not true!

Dana: Well, it wasn’t really manipulation. I felt obliged to return.

Nehama: Two days ago she sent me a WhatsApp message saying that if I found her a [plane] ticket, she’d come back early.

And you found a ticket.

Nehama: Obviously! Mom found a ticket within an hour.

Dana: And then she informed me that she had one, and suddenly I realized that these were my last 20 hours in India. It was a bit of a shock. I didn’t do everything, and I’ll probably go back.

Nehama: And now we’ll have terrific desserts for the holiday. Dana is in charge of desserts.

What do you make for dessert, Dana?

Dana: Something different every time. It’s funny: I was afraid of food poisoning the whole time I was away, and at the end I came down with something. I wanted to go back to home cooking, all the things I missed: kibbeh and ratatouille.

Do you visit your parents a lot?

Dana: I still live at home. I’m studying physiotherapy, which is difficult and demanding.

Nehama: She’s not the only one still at home. My married daughter also came back, and now I also have a grandson in the house.

Isn’t it crowded?

Nehama: Absolutely not. Let them all stay, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe when they turn 30 I’ll give them the boot.

Stefan Leu.
Tomer Appelbaum

Stefan Leu, 48, lives in Zurich and flying there

Hello, can I ask why you came to Israel?

I’m interested in history and world politics, so Israel is obviously a destination for me. But I think I just like to travel. I’ve been to many countries – about 100, in fact.

Wow, how did you manage that?

I started to travel years ago, when I was a student. I grew up in a rural region, where it wasn’t necessarily so common to go abroad. But then a few slightly older friends quit work and went on an extended trip. They came back with fascinating stories and so in 1991, during my second year of university, I took my first trip. It was to Thailand and it was great. After graduating, I really got into it.

Recommendations?

I’ve been to most of the countries in Asia. In your region I’ve visited Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and Egypt twice. I liked Burma and Indonesia best – every island there is different. Tanzania is good, and Uganda is also a very nice country – the place is beautiful and it’s easy to get around, because English is an official language.

What about America, Europe?

The salt flats in Bolivia are very beautiful, and people still live there in tribes. But I liked India best of all – it’s fantastic. I’ve been there a few times. It’s so big that I visited a different region every time, and each place is completely different.

Europe must be banal for you.

I like Italy but it’s not so simple, because I’m not the only one who likes Italy. It’s packed with tourists. Besides, in Europe the people resemble one another, and in India it’s a whole different world. I met a lot of Israelis in India. I think Israelis like to travel, too.

Do you travel alone?

I’ll be going on my next trip – to Costa Rica – with a friend, but generally I travel only with the “Lonely Planet” guidebook. I’m not married, I have no children, and I’m used to traveling like that.

You don’t feel lonely?

Not really, because I usually sleep in hostels. It’s true that I’m not the age of your average backpacker, and if everyone in the hostel is 25 I feel a bit uncomfortable – but generally it doesn’t bother me. There are wonderful places in Israel, such as the Abraham Hostel [in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv], and there were people my age, too.

Don’t you ever have to work?

I work as a risk manager for medicinal firms. I analyze information, and because that involves finances, you have to wait for the year to end and the books to be closed. You can’t analyze the information and write your report for management until the end of January, so at the moment I have time to travel. And I always have a long list of countries I want to visit.

Which countries are still on your list?

I want to go back to Brazil because it’s huge and I only did the southern part. I’ve also only seen part of Africa and want to return there – maybe to South Africa, though the situation there is problematic right now.

Have you ever had trouble?

One time, 16 years ago, I was “hunted” in Havana.

What do you mean?

I went out in the evening and met some local people. I paid for their drinks and thought we were friends. But then, at 2 A.M., the pub closed and they invited me to a private place. I went with them. I was pretty drunk, and they robbed me.

Scary.

Besides money, they took my eyeglasses – and that was annoying. But it was my fault. I was young and dumb. Since then I’ve been careful. It’s not a problem for me not to go into a certain area at night, or not to go out at all at night – it’s not like I go out every night when I’m home.

Did you ever think of moving to one of the places you’ve visited?

Not really. I could live somewhere for a year or two, but I love Switzerland. It’s in the middle of Europe and it’s easy to get to other places from. I think I was lucky to have been born in Switzerland. Our economic situation is really good.