My kind of Foodie

Up until this point, I have explained my love for travel quite clearly. But my other great passion in life is food. I LOVE food. Food is the only art to touch every one of the human senses. Even if that moment of actually eating is short and fleeting, it has the power to excite, to comfort, to seduce and to create powerful memories that will last a lifetime.

Today, it has become really trendy to refer to one’s self as a “foodie”. For those that don’t know, a foodie is someone that loves food and (claims to?) knows a lot about food. Around the world there is a growing culture of food fans that worship famous chefs like sports fans worship championship athletes. In big cities like New York and London, “foodies” pour out big bucks to get the chance to eat dishes made my superstar chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Eric Riper. And given the chance, I would join them.

High end foodie party

But there is another aspect about the culinary experience that these big city, local foodies are missing out on. Besides delighting all the senses, food has one more gift to offer, if you are willing to take it. Food holds the keys to thousands of cultures across the planet. Cultures vary from country to country, province to province, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood. The best and most enjoyable way to learn about these varying cultures is via your pallet. In my opinion, when traveling, having an open mind and an empty stomach is almost as important as having a passport.

foodie map
Foodie map of the world

Some of my best travel experiences revolve around eating local dishes. I will never forget the wonderful taste of bistecca fiorentina in Florence, or of bun bo Hue in Hue, or of pork miso ramen in Tokyo.

Bistecca Fiorentina in Florence


Whenever possible, I avoid the restaurants that are designed for tourists and try and find where the locals eat. This practice has two advantages. First you will generally find the best tasting and most authentic food this way. Second, it is often the cheaper way to eat. And it is an exciting adventure. A number of times, I have walked into local eateries in a country that I don’t speak the language and when the server asked me what I wanted, I simply pointed at a dish I saw someone else eating. It almost never fails to satisfy.

IMG_4036 (1)
Bun Bo Hue being sold on the street side in Hue

I am sure someone from a city like New York will read this and think to themselves that they live in a city that has food from all over the world and that they have any culinary experiences available with a simple call and a take out menu. But sadly they would only be getting the tiniest part of the experiences.

Firstly, while all kinds of foods are available in major cosmopolitan cities, the choices are extremely minimal. Sure you can find the classic Vietnamese “phở” in New York, but could you find any of the amazing dishes from the central and northern regions of Vietnam? Not really. And even if you could, the experience of paying $15 for a bowl of mediocre “phở” in some restaurant in New York, will never come close to the experience of siting on a small stool, in a tinny street shop in Hanoi, eating freshly cooked “phở” that only costs $2, while watching the city go by.

Eating on the street
Eating on the street in Vietnam

So to all the food lovers out there, make sure you have your passports. If you really want to experiences the best food the world has to offer, much of it is far away, in amazingly exotic destinations. And to all you travel lovers out there, make sure you go with an open mind and an empty stomach. If you are one of those travelers that goes to Florence and eats at McDonalds, I promise you that you are missing out on some the best experiences out there.

Spice map
Spice map of the world




The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned

I recently had a conversation with an elderly family member back in the US, in which they said to me, “at my age you never know how much time you have left, so I can’t waste time on things that aren’t important. You are young and can’t understand, but you will someday”. What this person failed to understand is that I, more than most, very much do understand that thought and feeling. It was only a short 3 years ago, on September 15th, 20012, that that point was shoved down my throat in the most violent way possible.

On that afternoon, I was walking with my parents and their good friends, when an out of control car went up on the sidewalk and ran us over. My parents were killed and me and their friends were left badly injured. It is hard to grasp that one can learn something positive from such a tragedy, but I have. And it just so happens, that the lesson learned was one my father used to try share often.

My Parents
My Parents

My father was a very hard worker, working long days and was always at the top of his field. BUT, when he had time off, he always made it count. Probably my parent’s favorite things to do when my dad had time off from work, was to travel. Sometimes they would travel just the two of them and sometimes the whole family. Some of my favorite family memories were from these family trips, be it a local road trip to Washington DC, or a trip across the ocean to Copenhagen.

Some of my parent’s more frugal friends used to say to them, “We wish we could travel like you, but we don’t want to spend the money”. My father used jokingly reply, “are you planning on being buried with that money? What are you saving it for?” While my parents were alive, most people did not understand this lesson and just thought my father was just being hyperbolous. But one evening, after I had recovered enough to leave the US, one of my parents close friends took me aside and said, “I always thought your father was joking when he asked me if I wanted to be buried with my money. But he was right and I wish I had learned this lesson sooner.”

One thing I do not think I will ever get over, is the randomness of the accident. If this random driver had not been so irresponsible, if we had walked slower, or faster, or someone stopped to tie their shoes, the accident would not have happened. This scared me for sometime, but I quickly realized that randomness and mortality are part of life and I cannot let it paralyze me, because if I did, what kind of life would I be living? Instead, I remembered my father’s lesson and use this to drive me forward. Many people like to use the term “carpe diem” (seize the day). The slang “YOLO” (you only live once) is common and overused. But how many people actually understand the weight of such statements? How many people really seize the opportunities before them? How many people really try and find their path to happiness? I hope, someone out there will read this post, and it will help push them in the direction of happiness. I also hope that this explains to people why I choose to live the way that I do.

Live for today

My Life’s Passion 

In American culture, people’s careers are an extremely important part of who they are as a person in society. People often define themselves and others by their career. When someone meets a new person, one of the first questions they will usually ask is, “What do you do?” Many Americans will spend most of their lives chasing their career goals. They dream of reaching higher positions in their company and gaining a well deserved reputation as one of the best in their fields. For many Americans, their job is their life.

Vietnamese culture is quite different. Here people tend not to define themselves by their careers. There could be a number of reasons for this difference. One such reason is that Vietnam is still 80% a rural society. Many people are born into their family business, be it a family owned food stand, or a family owned farm. Even in the city, it is extremely common to walk into local stares and find multiple generations of the same family running the shop. Of course as Vietnam develops, more and more people are getting “urban jobs” in fields of their interest. But even in such cases, people tend to see their jobs as a way to pay for their life, and less as actual an goal in their life. This is one of the difference I associate most with in Vietnamese society.

I recently was talking to someone back in the US, and they asked why I seem to not have a goal, or a passion driving my life. They asked me, “don’t you want to build a successful business like your father? Don’t you have something you want to achieve, something to drive you?” I assured them that I do have passions and goals, but that I wasn’t going to explain it to them, because I knew they wouldn’t understand. But, I will attempt to explain it now.

fly everywhere

My passion in life is to travel. One of my goals in life is to travel to, and experience as many different places as possible. Too many people this sounds “childish” and “immature”. But I disagree. Life is to be experienced. While some might dream of one day being 70 years old and telling people how they were a CEO of a company, I dream of being 70 years old and telling people how I visited 200 countries. Some want to be able to show others the awards they won for being top of their field. I want to be able to share thousands of pictures, of hundreds of places that I have been.

Others see travel as something to do later in life, when one has finished their career and retired. I often hear, “one day, when I am retired, I want to see the world”. My response to them would be, what if tomorrow never comes? I have learned the hard way that life can suddenly come to a halt at any moment. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So what are we waiting for?


Of course I also must live in reality. There are bills to pay and responsibilities that need to be taken care of. And of course, travel cost money. So obviously I need to work. In fact, I will start training for a new job as an English teacher in the next couple of months. Some have told me, “oh that is such a boring, and common job. So many expats here work in that field. It isn’t interesting.” But I see it differently. It is a good job, that I will be qualified to do, and it pays well. For me, my job isn’t what makes my life interesting, it is the tool to pay for the experiences that makes my life interesting.

I know there are people that will read this post and think to themselves that I am wasting my life. I understand where they are coming from, because I used to think the same way. I used to dream of a lofty career in academia, or the foreign service and couldn’t understand people with different objectives. I used to think that people that think like I currently do, were flakes. But my experiences have taken me in a different direction. And there are people that will read this post and think that I am saying one way is better than the other. That is not at all what I am saying. I strongly believe that every person should pursue their own unique path to happiness, because no two people are the same.

One goal of this blog is to share stories from my travels, and to share the happiness that travel brings me. I hope this post helps my readers understand where I am coming from, and will entice you all to keep on reading.

Writers note: I am aware that my descriptions of American and Vietnamese society are generalisations. If you are an American or Vietnamese person reading this, and you feel differently, please don’t be offended. Sometimes when writing, a writer must generalise. Thanks for being mature adults and understanding.

(What countries have I traveled to so far? Can’t wait for future posts to find out? Click this link, or the link at the bottom of this page for a complete map)

So why Vietnam?

That is a question that I am asked quite often. Its a pretty fair question. While it is not unheard of for an American to come and live here, it is also not common. There is a decent sized community of expats peppered around Vietnam. But most of them came here because of a job of some sorts. Their reasons are quite practical and easy to explain. My reasons for moving to Vietnam will not be found on any resume. My story more closely resembles a love story.

My initial interest in Vietnam began when I was researching a topic for my MA thesis. At the time, I wanted to research military history and I wanted a topic with which no one else in my university was dealing. My thesis advisor recommended I start looking into the Vietnam War.

So I started to read, and read, and read some more. I was very interested, but two things constantly frustrated me. First, all the sources that were easily accessible only ever showed the American perspective of the war. Second, I was reading all these Vietnamese names, and I had no idea if I was pronouncing them correctly. So I set 2 goals for myself. I was going to to find out more about the Vietnamese perspective, and I was going to learn how to pronounce the Vietnamese names and places that I was reading about.

So I set out to find whatever sources I could in English on the Vietnamese side of the war and I pestered the staff of the Vietnamese embassy in Tel Aviv, begging them to help me find someone to teach me some basic Vietnamese. Both efforts payed off. I learned a great deal about Vietnam, both through new books, and from my new friends from the embassy, who not only taught me, but welcomed me into their home on many occasions.

Then came the summer of 2011, I decided I was going to go spend a month in Hanoi, studying and traveling. This is when everything changed.

I know many people do not believe in love at first site, but my experience coming to Vietnam for the first time is evidence that it is in fact real. Almost as soon as I arrived, my connection to Vietnam went from an academic interest, to love. I had never visited a place like Vietnam before and I was swept off my feet. It was exotic and unique, yet comfortable and approachable. It fused old and new, local culture with foreign influence, country side, with modern metropolis. And even though I was only around for five weeks, I managed to meet amazing people and make new, close friends that I am still close with to this day.

toi yeu viet nam
I love Vietnam

When it came time to leave and return to Israel, I was extremely sad. I knew that I wanted to spend more time in Vietnam. I knew that this wonderful country had much to offer and to discover. I decided that once I was done with my graduate studies, I would return to Hanoi to study, research and experience as much as possible.

Then the accident happened that left my parents killed, and me badly injured. My life seemed to be shattered. I remember lying in the hospital, feeling scared, depressed and not knowing how I was going to continue. And than it hit me; I was going to go somewhere I was happy, far from my old broken life. I was going to go to a place that offered me options for a future and I was going to start my life anew. I decided I was going to move to Vietnam.

This was the goal that I focused on throughout my four months in the hospital and through all the physical therapy and surgeries. I kept saying to myself, the sooner I get better, the sooner I can pack up and live my dream. Finally, in April of 2013, I arrived at my new home in Hanoi, Vietnam and I can’t remember ever being happier.