Why I Left the U.S. to Live in the Middle East

It was a cold, grey day in late October and the severe Midwestern winter had already descended upon my college town. I was sitting at one of the stools in the shabby apartment my roommates and I lived in, and my hand hesitated over my computer’s keyboard. I stared out the window and saw the snow whirling outside, dreading the moment later in the day when I would have to make the trek across campus to my environmental studies class.
I thought about how next year I had the opportunity to trade this dreary Midwestern winter weather for Middle Eastern sunshine and warmth. The thought brought me a momentary surge of desire, and I pressed “send” with a simple click.
The email contained my acceptance of a teaching job in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the following year after my graduation in May. For the rest of that day and following week I went about my life in a daze, my decision to move to the Middle East come summertime not quite fully sinking in yet.
My family and friends were really happy and excited for me, however there was the occasional person who would hear about my plans and ask, puzzled, “So…WHY are you doing that? Why Israel?” At first, this question annoyed me; it seemed impossible to me to briefly discuss with someone my reasons for making such a big, life-changing decision. This frequent question allowed me to fully reflect on my reasons for making this big move at my young age, and why I had been able to make the decision pretty easily.
Maddy Wolfe
My life thus far had been so linear; I knew the direction I was going and never questioned what would happen when I arrived at my supposed destination, which I presumed was my college graduation. However, as the date loomed closer and closer, I started to realize how my graduation wasn’t the end of my story, but rather just the beginning of it.
I developed a pull towards travel that started on my first international trip to Germany with my family when I was 5 and led to my two study abroad programs in Ghana and England. My eyes were opened to the huge world that was out there for me to explore, and I realized that I had only seen a fraction of it. I loved school and loved being a student, however I longed for a time when I wasn’t confined to a classroom and could explore the world to my heart’s content.
Then the job in Israel became an option for me, and I started processing how this was an opportunity that would allow me to do what I had previously only had a brief taste of: traveling and experiencing the world, while living in a foreign country surrounded by a very foreign culture.
Maddy in Israel
The end of my many years of schooling left me feeling directionless, but I thought of nothing better than to lose myself to the discomfort and thrill that travel had to offer.
I was not oblivious to the distance that would separate me from my family and friends, however the tug that was pulling me towards travel was greater than the desire to fall back into the pattern that had been laid out for me thus far. I couldn’t help but think that now, post-graduation, was the perfect time to start this journey; I was free of expectations, academic plans, and a life that had been so linear for so long.
I reminded myself that the career fields I thought I might be interested in would always be available, but what wouldn’t always be available was the opportunity to live abroad and learn more about myself and the huge, fascinating world around me. And so, thinking back on that moment in October when I sent that confirmation email, I marvel at how much of the world I have seen since then, the amazing people I’ve met, but most importantly how travel has changed me into the person I have become.
By Maddy Wolfe
Listen to Maddy’s story on The Budget-Minded Traveler podcast: Part 1 before her big move and Part 2 now that she lives in Israel.