Kibbutz Kalya Israel volunteer
Kibbutz Kalya Israel

I think it started back in 1995, at least that’s when it happened, that is: the travel bug bit me, and hard.

In my early high school years, I did fairly well. It wasn’t until the 11th grade that, to put it bluntly, I got bored. I was constantly looking out the window and basically not paying much attention to what the teacher was saying. I guess I was wondering if perhaps there wasn’t more to life than just sitting in a classroom and then several times a year regurgitating what you ‘learned’ onto an exam paper. Everyone, especially my teachers all thought I could do it, that I could move onto my final year of high school, and pass it. Thing is, I believed them, I just didn’t see the point, not for me anyway.

So what would have been my 12th and final year of high school, I moved from delivering pizza part-time to full time delivery of pizza at a local Pizza Hut near Durban, South Africa. At the tender, green, naive age of just 17, if I wasn’t out delivering, I was sitting in the delivery office, one phone cradled on my shoulder while 3 other lines rang simultaneously. 11 drivers / riders and about 150 orders on a single Friday night shift, it was great.

Sadly though, in early 1995, we had to close down as a another Pizza Hut opened at a new mall about 20 km away. Those who wanted could transfer their employment to the new branch, but it was a bit far from home for me, so I found work closer, but it was only part time, so I ended up spending more time on the couch watching TV, until one day my dad says to me: Why don’t you go work on a kibbutz? I had no idea what a kibbutz was, but just out of curiosity I went to a local agent that organises volunteers. 6 weeks later I was on an El-Al Airlines flight to Israel.

Kibbutz Hahotrim Volunteer Bananas Israel
40kg bunch of bananas, Kibbutz Hahotrim, Israel

Kibbutz volunteering – How it changed my life

Now 18 years old, born and raised in Apartheid South Africa, I was going to volunteer in what was to me a very, very foreign place. I had never been outside South Africa until now. Apartheid had only just been abolished and South Africans were now free to travel the world. You must also know that we knew little about the rest of the world, we were cut off from it for many long years, but now the doors were thrown wide open, and so I was off, to experience first hand some of the things I had heard about and that most people will only ever dream about.

Ruins Masada Dead Sea Valley Israel Jordan
Masada National Park, Dead Sea Valley, Israel

Was I being irresponsible? A lot of people still think so when I tell them my story. I should have finished high school, got a degree in something, doesn’t matter what, but you must just have one. Then get a job, 8-5, blah, blah, blah. I know I don’t have much to show in the way of qualifications, on paper, or lots of money in the bank. But what I do think I have is some pretty fantastic life experience. Have I made stupid mistakes? Absolutely. Like this one time, at band camp……I had to sleep on the beach in Tel-Aviv because I ran out of money, completely. I found a group of travellers who were in a similar position to me and we made sort of a sleeping circle. We just had to wake up and move early when the sweeping machine came to clean the beach. What lesson did I learn? Don’t run out of money in a foreign country, make sure you have a backup plan. Spend less money than you have / can earn.

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively ~ Bob Marley.

I came back from Israel 5 months later a new man, or rather, a new boy. Have I grown up since then? I hope not. Have I grown wiser? I hope so.

Kibbutz Yehiam work Israel
Happy work day, Kibbutz Yehiam, Israel

So for me, my trip to Israel, 20 years ago now as I write this article, was one of my life’s most significant turning points. I guess it was then that I was guided / pushed in the direction that I was supposed to go in. Since then I have travelled to 35 countries, and have spent months in most of them, either working for pay, food and lodging, or volunteering. I only spent 1 day in Monaco, and a few hours in Vatican City and Lichtenstein respectively, for reasons I hope are obvious.

Kibbutz Yehiam dishwashing Work Israel
Much happier work day, Kibbutz Yehiam, Israel

If you’re not living good, travel wide, you gotta travel wide ~ Soul Rebel, Bob Marley

In future articles I intend to elaborate on the things I have done and in the process I hope to inspire you to maybe be open to trying something else, unless you are content where you are. But only you can know what you have to loose and if it’s worth the risk to pack up and move on.

So, what was a significant milestone / event in your life that you believe put you on the course you are currently on? It seems like I have been on the same course for the last 20 years. Will it ever change? Who knows

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