New York City’s Top Ten Traveler

 

An image of Moshe, the Top Ten Travel Writer

Who is the Top Ten Traveler?

“I’m a 37-year-old guy named Moshe Huberman. Originally from Israel, I’ve lived in New York City for the last four-and-a-half years and have been happily married to my wonderful husband for almost five. He is the best partner I could have ever asked for in everything we do, including traveling. We have a beautiful seven-year-old mixed-Labrador Retriever, and we live a vegan lifestyle together.”

When did you begin traveling?  

“The first time I got on a plane was at the age of ten with my parents. We were on our way to Paris, France. We landed late at night, and everything was closed — even in the airport! The streets were incredibly dark and far too quiet, so my first impression was a bit traumatic. The next morning, when we woke up to our first day in Paris, however, I felt astounded and extremely charmed by everything. I still remember it so vividly. I learned the metro lines by heart after one day and I led all the conversations in English (not my native language). To boot, I even learned a few words in French from the people at the hotel’s front desk. I developed traveler skills at a wonderfully young age.

An image of New York City from a pier, provided by the Top Ten Travel writer

After that, I traveled a few more times in Europe and in the US with my family. When I finished my service in the IDF at the age of 21, I packed my bag and flew to Australia, then New Zealand, for three months. That trip was my first big trip as an independent traveler.”

What started your travel bug?

“I guess it was the first trip to Paris with my parents. Ever since I was a young kid I was a big fan of the world’s countries and cultures. I memorized the world’s capitals and flags. Plus, I read all the volumes of the Geographical Encyclopedia. My older siblings’ Atlas was my favorite book. I always felt excited to watch the Olympics’ opening ceremony just for the Parade of Nations. I had, and still have, the world’s map on my bedroom wall.

An image of New York City from the River, provided by the Top Ten Travel writer

So, the moment I could leave my country for the first time to start seeing and experiencing the things I had only been reading about, was mind-blowing. From there, I just had to see more.”

Why do you like traveling?

“I always felt fascinated by diversity. I grew up in Israel. It’s a small country, but it has an amazing mixture of cultures. The Jews in Israel came from all over the world, bringing their unique traditions, stories, and foods. Even my family’s roots are from both Syria and Poland, which I always liked to explore with my grandparents — where did they come from? What was their childhood like? Etc. For me, traveling is the ability to take this exploration one step further and get to know the diversity of the entire world. I want to know and see how other people live, what their history is, what language they speak, what religion they practice, and, of course, what food they eat.”

Why are you The Top Ten Traveler?

“After I graduated from university and started my first real job, I realized that I could not travel three to four months out of a year anymore. My trips now must align with the vacation days I receive and with my work responsibilities. It changed my perception:  more short trips in a year, rather than one exceptionally long. Now, when taking shorter trips, your time is limited. You need to know well in advance what you want to see and do. This is where the top ten come in. Ten is a magical number; if there are not ten things to see or do in a place, it’s not worth going. If there are more, I really tried to focus on the top ten things I could not miss.

When I started The Top Ten Traveler, I did it for two main reasons. First, to share my experiences and to re-experience them through writing. Secondly, to give people an easy summary of the main ten things to see and do in each destination. I think listing the top ten things is easier to read, easier to remember, and easier to execute when you travel.”

What is the best trip you have taken in the last five years and why?

“I would say my trip to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, Mexico. On one hand, it was the first trip in which I have learned how to relax on the beach for a few hours without becoming bored. On the other hand, we traveled and learned about the interesting history of the Mayan culture in sites like Chichen Itza and the ruins of Tulum. Plus, the Mexican food was amazing. It was the perfect combination of exploration, relaxation, shopping, and partying.”

An image of Moshe, the Top Ten Travel writer, at a Mayan ruin.

If you had one place to recommend to someone who has never traveled before what would it be?

“That is an easy one:  Argentina. It is an amazing country for travelers (but not for living, unfortunately). It is huge and has everything to offer from glaciers to deserts, from mountains to beaches, from awesome cities to a beautiful countryside. The people are some of the nicest and warmest in the world. It is one of the safest countries in South America (though you always need to keep your eyes open when you travel, all over the world) and it is relatively cheap, so you can get more with your foreign currency. Therefore, for a first-time traveler, this is the ideal place.”

Which place do you want to visit the most but haven’t had the chance yet?

“There are so many places in the world that I want to visit, each for its own unique reasons. However, if I need to choose only one, it would be Syria. Although not the country you would think about for traveling, I feel really intrigued to see where my family came from. More than that, I follow other people who traveled in Syria and they always fall in love with this country. The food is said to be one of the best in the world (which I grew up on, so I can definitely relate to that). They also have many historical and archaeological sites, like Palmyra, which dates back to over 3,000 years ago, and the old city of Aleppo, which has now been partially destroyed after the war.”

You live in New York City — Is this by choice or for work?

“My workplace relocated me from Israel to New York City at the end of 2015. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live abroad, so we jumped on it. After all, exploration is at the heart of the Top Ten Traveler. I didn’t know how the move would affect my husband and I as a young couple, but after experiencing the New York City way of life, we liked it and decided to stay. New York City is amazing and it never ceases to surprise me. I still don’t think I know all of its hidden gems.”

An image of a New York City bridge, provided by the Top Ten Travel Writer

What would you recommend to do if someone only had a day to visit New York City?

“Explore the city by foot. The streets and avenues of the city are amazing and different. Fifth Avenue is nothing like Ninth Avenue and is nothing like the streets of Soho, Financial District, or other neighborhoods. So strolling between them, you can catch all the important landmarks of the city while also enjoying the unique charm of each area or neighborhood. I once had a 12-hour layover in the city on my way from Israel to Argentina. To kill some time, I walked from Central Park to Battery Park, just to see the statue of Liberty. It was so much fun, and on the second flight, I slept like a baby. For a lunch or dinner break, I’d recommend trying one of my favorite vegan restaurants in the city, as described in my Top 10 Vegan Restaurants in New York City post.”

What would you recommend a frequent traveler to do in New York City?

“Many people come to New York City to watch a show on Broadway. I have watched a few and I really love the theater, but there are crazier and more special theatrical experiences than Broadway. One that comes to mind is Sleep No More. It’s an interactive show performed in a five-story building designed to look like an old hotel. You can follow the actors and move from one scene to another whenever you want. Two tips: come in your sneakers and walk alone.”

by Moshe Huberman

Visit Moshe’s website, The Top Ten Traveler, to find the top ten best sites to visit on your next travel destination! 

 

Moving Abroad While Pursuing My Dream

 

Au Pair Madrid Spain Amanda WhittenAmanda Whitten has been a writer for Dreams Abroad since September 2017. During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown in Madrid, Spain, she had plenty of time on her hands after moving abroad and living there for several years. She has given teach abroad interviews before, but we wanted to share her experiences moving abroad while pursuing her dreams, too. Amanda is from Oklahoma and has been abroad in Madrid since 2016. She is currently a language and culture assistant at a school in a town called Leganés and is pursuing her dream of living abroad in a different country. 

She was asked similar questions that we ask our first-year teachers but we are still excited to hear about her experience!

When did you arrive in Madrid?

“I first arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in mid-September 2016. I’ve been here for about three-and-a-half years.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad in Spain?

“I chose to teach abroad in Spain for a number of reasons. First, Spanish was the language that I had chosen to learn by default — my high school only offered Spanish. The university I attended offered several languages, but Spanish was the only one with a full major. Because of that, I knew that I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country. I studied abroad during 2012 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I became aware that they offered teach abroad programs around the world. Since I had already been to South America, I decided against applying to teach in Chile. I came to the decision that my destiny lied ins Spain.”

Had you ever taught before? 

best memory at EAFIT

“Technically, I had taught one or two classes when I completed my practicum after earning my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Other than that, I was wildly inexperienced and clueless.”

If not, what were you doing before you decided on moving abroad?  

“I had known for the latter part of my teens and my twenties that I wanted to go somewhere special like Spain to teach English. My best friend’s parents had mentioned it to me in passing when I was in college around the time I was 18 or 19. They explained that I could go practically anywhere in the world to do so and get paid for it. I felt intrigued, and the idea stuck to my brain ever since.

I knew for a long time that I wanted to try moving abroad. From 18 until 28, and until I finally accomplished The Dream, I worked in everything from pizza to retail to social services. It finally dawned on me when I turned 26 or 27 that I was going to be 30 soon and that I somehow had to make it all happen. Hello, extra credit card debt! It’s hard to save up for something that feels like an unattainable goal. That being said, before I left, I did manage to save up a little bit for expenses. Now, I fortunately have everything paid off. It was a good investment.”

What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching? 

“I had very vague ideas about everything. I have to admit that I didn’t actually do a lot of research about Spain. In college, I wrote practically all of my essays and papers about Argentina. I had this very broad, ideal notion that moving abroad would be very dreamy and poetic and that all the men would act and look like young Antonio Banderas, which I think I mentioned in another one of my articles.

When one of my friends suggested that I save up, take a vacation, and go to Spain first to see how I liked it, I felt flabbergasted. I mean, how could I obviously not fall in love with Spain? It was, like, in Europe?!?! All I could imagine was the running with the bulls (which I am now ironically staunchly against), afternoon siestas, lots of walking (which wasn’t far off base haha!), and street-side cafes with terraces and outdoor seating.”

How did you prepare for your teaching abroad job? What steps did you take? 

“I prepared by getting my TEFL a couple of years ahead of time. When actually packing my suitcases, I brought some things from home to show the students (like a yearbook and US dollars). I think planning a bit more would have been a good thing. Nonetheless, the whole venture was so overwhelming and exciting, that I basically just winged everything.”

teaching abroad

What are your perceptions of Madrid?

“My perceptions have evolved somewhat over time. I’m in quarantine now because of the Coronavirus. Something that gave me a sense of pride and belonging happened when people started clapping and cheering outside their windows and doors as a sign of respect and support for healthcare workers every night at 8:00pm. The solidarity is amazing and I have a new-found respect for this city.

Aside from that, Madrid is fast-paced. They are not as generous with their tapas and tap water as other cities such as Granada. The air often has a lot of contamination. It is a multicultural metropolis with an amazing history, jaw-dropping architecture, and a lot to do. Rent is high, but groceries are cheap. There are bad people here, like in any place, but I also feel very safe and secure here. I’m glad to be here, but I definitely am looking forward to possibly changing regions in exchange for a slower pace of life and new, rich experiences.”

What are your goals while you are abroad? How have they changed over the years?

“In the beginning, I thought that I would spend a year abroad, and that would be that. I would move back to the US, buy a house, and adopt a dog. I still have those illusions, but a year has become nearly four, and I don’t really know what is going to happen next. If Bernie Sanders wins somehow and Medicare-for-all gets passed, I might really move back home.

As it is, I have become accustomed to having my taxes count for something that tangibly affects me in a very positive way. I’m also in love with the easy, cheaper travel and the lifestyle that I lead here. It’s really nice, and I don’t have to worry about the disaster waiting for me around every corner. This is not to say that I don’t love the United States. I do, but for right now, all of this is better for me personally.”

Update: Welp. That idea is out the window (concerning Bernie Sanders). Is there still any hope at all out there for a single-payer healthcare system for the US?

What has been the most difficult since you arrived? 

Amanda Whitten art“I would say that navigating the unspoken, unwritten rules of Spanish society and culture that are a given to anyone actually from here has been the most challenging. Example: If you don’t greet every single person that you come across at the school or if every time you enter or exit a room you don’t give a general Hola/Buenos dias/Hasta luego, you will come across as a cold, rude person. This was a mistake that I made constantly for the first year that I was here and even after I learned. I continued to make this error because it’s hard to change a lifetime of little habits.

Second example: I didn’t know that as a new person, I would have to try to ingratiate myself into the lives of Spaniards. I was accustomed to living within a culture where people make an effort to include the new person, where the responsibility does not lie with them, but the veterans of whatever place that they are new to. My advice to newcomers moving abroad is to bring treats like little croissants or pastries to the break room. Make conversation and put yourself out there! Spanish people are so very friendly, but we have to navigate their norms. We are in their country, after all. 

Life Under Quarantine

Another challenge has been enduring quarantine while in Madrid. It’s a big city so it’s taking us longer than other places to return to a more normal life. If I were at home in Oklahoma, I’d be able to go outside into the woods. A positive from this uncertain time is that it’s given me a chance to reestablish good habits and to start new projects. I’ve been making art projects and investing time in myself.

For example, I finally dusted off my old watercolor paints from college, started painting with them. I made a Facebook album titled “Quarantine Art” that I’ve filled up with paintings. One of my favorites is an elephant that I think perfectly captures the melancholy that I was feeling at the time. It’s simultaneously pretty to look at, if I do say so myself.  In addition to that, I made an album called “Quarantine Rainbows” because I noticed during this long stay-cation that I seem to see a lot of rainbows from the window of my room. It kinda makes me happy to randomly look up and see an unexpected rainbow there. I wanted to share that feeling with other people. Therefore, I’ve included a couple of photos in this blog for you to see, as well.”

What has been the best experience?

“Before the quarantine began, I would have had to choose between scuba diving in Malta or navigating the island of Tenerife solo. But the applause and solidarity that I mentioned above happened in a moment of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. It may not have just been the best experience that I’ve had in Spain, but perhaps in my entire life. I’ve never felt something so grand — something that was so much bigger than myself — in my life. It encompassed all of the experiences that I’ve had in Spain as well as a few in my life before. Before this, I had never quite felt at home in Madrid or that I fit in quite as well as I’d wanted, but now it really feels like home.”

How do you feel about the culture so far? Do you feel like you have immersed yourself into the culture?

“I speak English almost every day at high school and I live with people who are originally from Ecuador. I would say that I immersed myself most when I was an au pair for a short time in 2017, where I learned a lot about Spanish culture and the lifestyle of the mid- to high-rollers. It would be very beneficial for my Spanish speaking skills to work for a while as a waitress or at a supermarket, but I have to admit that I am afraid to do that.

I’m afraid of making customers or coworkers upset by fumbling my Spanish or not understanding them correctly. I already worked in customer service in the US, and it was horrible!!! I can’t imagine doing it through my second language. But, I’m getting a little off track. No, I don’t feel like I’ve truly immersed myself. Nonetheless, I’m living the life that I want, and I get to experience a little bit of everything. That’s much more than enough for me.”

Wrap Up of Moving Abroad While Pursuing My Dream

Amanda is waiting to hear if she will continue her role as a language and culture assistant. She has applied for a different location in the Canary Islands as her first choice. The placement letter will inform her as to if her location has been changed or not. If it’s not the region she prefers, she will reject it and try to work with an academy, or perhaps teach online classes — or both. She is anxiously waiting to hear back so that she can plan for her future living abroad in Spain. 

by Leesa Truesdell