"We travel not to escape our life, but to stop life from escaping us"
When you're thinking about a holiday destination lets all be honest, relaxing with a coffee at Stars and Bucks (the West Bank version of Starbucks) doesn't usually come up, but it should. So here are my 5 reasons to visit the West Bank and Palestine sooner rather than later.
1. Whatever you think you, you’re wrong
We all think we know what going on in the West Bank and have our preconceptions of what it’s like. I did, I’m not afraid to say that I was even a little apprehensive traveling there with my wife and young children. How wrong I was. Spending even a little time in the West Bank is enlighten, saddening, uplifting, and educational all at the same time. There are so many facets to this place it’s hard to process everything but I can guarantee you that you will still be thinking and talking about your visit there long after you’ve left.
2. Palestinian's can’t wait to meet you
Palestinian people literally can’t wait to meet you. A smile and a welcome from nearly everyone we pass. They are a warm and friendly people, happy to sit and tell their story. My girls played dolls with the daughter of our host and then ran out to play football in the street with some local kids while we ate an amazing lunch and chatted about life, the world and social media. When we had to leave all Lucy wanted to know was when they could come back and play.
3. You get a bang for you buck.
Because the tourist industry is still building up you’ll see a lot for your money. Especially if you can spend a few days with the same guide. From lunches with locals to hidden gems the money you pay to travel in Palestine will give you more experience than you can ever think of.
4. The guides are passionate
I’ve been on a lot of tours in a lot of countries and sometimes you can see they are just going through the motions, especially in place with a fully developed tourist industry. However Palestine is different, the tourist industry is still building. This means that the guides still talk with verdant enthusiasm about the place they live, the history, the culture and the life they live. They aren’t reeling off lines from a script they are educating tourists with a passion that I love when I’m seeing a new part of the world. (If you are looking for a guide contact Muhanned, he is a great local guide)
5. It’s disappearing
Although it shouldn’t be, the Palestinian area of the West Bank is shrinking. With the building of the separation wall and new Israel settlement being developed every year its making it harder and harder for people to justify staying. In reality if you are planning to visit Palestine in 5-10 years time you may have missed the boat (although I hope this isn’t so). We visited one area now called the ghost town in Hebron where a once thriving market street now has only three Palestinian families living there and nothing but closed store fronts. So the best thing to do. Book now and book with a local.
Tilley in one arm and Lucy on my shoulders. I step up to Indian immigration with papers in hand. The officer eyes our little rabble and looks at the paper work. He thumbs through the passports and visa, looking up from them at us from behind the desk comparing our pictures. Lastly, out of the crisp manila envelop, he pulls the letter that confirms Sheena (my wife) knows we are traveling. A few stamps later and we are off on our adventure, ready to start exploring.
So today I though I would write about a few things you can do to make traveling alone with your kids, through a international boarder crossing a little less stressful. Firstly, if you are traveling alone with your kids as mentioned above a notarized letter signed by you and their other parent is gold to an immigration officer. We pulled a template of a letter from the web and rewrote it to suit us. After that we took it to the local notary and after signing in front of him he stamped it and we were good to go. Now when I say this is gold to an immigration officer I mean it makes their life much easier. Having an official document, sign by both parents and notarized by a credible source means they can make a fairly quick and easy decision about weather you traveling legitimately with your kids or up to no good.
Next, there is nothing worse for you or the person behind the desk at the boarder than someone who arrives still digging out their documents and papers. Have your travel documents organized and out ready to show or at least together and easily accessible This will also mean that you can hand it all over quickly then concentrate on keeping the kids together are calm while the officer looks at everything.
Lastly, probably the biggest things that will easy the pain of going through immigration, prepare your kids. We start early, making sure they eat some snacks and use the bathroom. I'm also never above bribing my kids. It's surprising what the promise of a chocolate bar or ice cream can do to keep my kids subdued while passing through immigration. The more prep you can do the better. Keep your kids happy through the process is the key to passing through an international boarder happily and efficiently.