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Israel: Just a Skype Call Away

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06/03/2013

Israel: Just a Skype Call Away photo

Masada, Israel

The other day, a friend brought up something a little out of the ordinary about her brother’s Birthright trip. Just prior to her brother’s group climbing Masada, there was an opportunity for the group participants to place a Skype call with all of their parents at home, who were awaiting their virtual arrival at a predetermined meeting place.

Imagine ... waking up at 3 a.m. or so in the morning Israel time, saying hi to Mom, Dad and whoever felt like joining in, and then proceeding to climb a mountain, oh, just a few millennia old with incredible religious significance.

Let me tell you, the story made me feel as old as Masada (not quite). That being said, I’m not really here to judge; it’s just so much different than my experience a few short years ago. Two-year-olds have iPads now. It’s a funny world out there.

Way back in 2008 when I went on a Shorashim Birthright trip to Israel, I couldn’t even imagine communication like that taking place. Hopping off the plane, I was handed a standard cell phone I’d ordered in advance before leaving Chicago. Smart phone? It was more akin to a car phone (remember those?) in size and in functionality. But that didn’t matter. I saw this form of communication merely as a lifeline should I get stranded in the wilderness of Israel—getting lost is one of my specialties. Even in a big tour group, you never know what can happen. Always be prepared.

Now I admit I can be sort of a travel Luddite. In my visits to Israel, France and other countries or cities in Europe and the U.S., I’ve been the last person to take out my camera. I’m the last person to post something travel/vacation related on Facebook. Am I too busy contemplating my experience? Am I lazy? I think the answer falls somewhere squarely in between. Coming back from a myriad of trips, I’m astounded at how boring the pictures are that I actually made the effort to take: mostly of scenery and mostly out of focus. Or some weird sign that I liked, or some poster of food I thought looked strange.

But a group Skype session with everyone back home in the midst of a 10-day trip? Something about that seems after my time, a little beyond my grasp. It’s instances like this, or when I hear that kids are writing posts for their trip’s Birthright blog during the duration of the trip, that make me feel the depth of the disconnect between my mid-20s self and current college kids.

I took a few New Media classes in college, and a generation of “digital natives” was often discussed. It’s common knowledge that 20-somethings are relatively computer savvy in comparison to their parents and older generations, but this sort of revolution in which all life events are inherently social is incredibly new and very interesting. The era of constant connection, even while taking part in a very active experience thousands of miles away, speaks to me, a humble observer and someone whose job it is to blog and edit all day long.

For one thing...how incredibly savvy! I think it’s seriously smart for a non-profit to show and not tell when it comes to an unreal experience such as Taglit Birthright trips. It’s quite an accomplishment to capture the spirit of the trip while it is happening, through blog posts and other methods of social media engagement. Social media engagement … perhaps that’s too strong a term; it’s jargon, buzz-word speech. But being able to tap into that social market in an honest, authentic way is interesting to think about. Maybe it’s a little much. But it’s certainly an interesting avenue to take.

So, would I Skype with parents on an international trip while right in action (aka just before I’m about to climb a mountain at 3 in the morning)? The thought never would have crossed my mind. But as the world of social media evolves and technology keeps advancing at breakneck speed, I’m interested to see how traveling and travel writing evolves as well. Here’s to feeling old at age 26—but trying my best to keep up with the times. 

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