Norway, India, Nepal 1982 – 1983

Boundless Horizons: Norway India Nepal – A Vagabond Journey

Preserving Memories: A Journey Through Time and Technology

After completing the mandatory three-year military service, traveling vagabond-style is a rite of passage for many young Israelis, and I was no exception. I was low on funds but had plenty of time, so my trip lasted nearly two years. It was a response to an internal call to go out, experience freedom, and explore the world and myself. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

As I look back on my travels through the photos I took, I am struck by how digital technology has changed the way we approach photography. Gone are the days of expensive film and the need to have a dark room to develop prints. Now, with the click of a button, we can capture and preserve our memories for posterity.

But as I reflect on these photos, I am also reminded of the famous quote by Ansel Adams, “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” When I took these photos in 1982 and 1983, I wasn’t trying to create great art or express my feelings through the lens. I was simply trying to freeze a moment in time, a memory of the wonders I experienced during my travels.

Now, as I look back on those memories, I realize that while the photos bring up general impressions of my journey, they don’t always evoke specific details. But that’s okay. The fact that these photos are in such good condition is a testament to the importance of documenting our lives, regardless of our level of skill or artistic aspirations. I am grateful to have these photos, these glimpses into my past, and the memories they evoke. They remind me of the freedom and adventure of my travels and the person I was during that time.


My Creative Dream in Amsterdam

I spent my days in Amsterdam living a creative dream. I worked for a funky, low-priced hostel; the proprietor was an older gentleman with many parrots in his living quarters. We would sit at his kitchen table, him stroking the colorful feathers and me soaking up his wisdom. The scheme was for me to hunt young travelers looking for inexpensive lodging. I spent part of the day at the train station, spotting backpackers, and the rest of the time painting and visiting the Van Gogh Museum, so inspired by Vincent. I was living the artist’s life, far removed from mundane reality.

As I rode my bike around Amsterdam, I was astounded by the city’s duality. By day, the streets were conservative and ordinary, but when the sun set, the city seemed to come alive. Drugs and sex were tolerated, and people from all walks of life peacefully coexisted in a way that I wish the whole world could emulate.

As I strolled the streets of Amsterdam, I was captivated by the joyous chanting and drumming of the Hare Krishna devotees dressed in light orange robes and sporting shaved heads. Who were these people? Had they been brainwashed? What drew them to this particular path?

Curiosity led me to the Hare Krishna temple, where I was welcomed with a free feast of delicious vegetarian dishes. But first, I had to attend the ceremony – an endless repetition of one phrase. Despite my initial skepticism, the celebratory and joyous atmosphere of the ritual touched me. It was my first taste of Indian cooking, and it was delicious. But the experience was more than just the food.

I was 22 years old, far from any spiritual practice, yet something about the encounter resonated with me. I realized that there are many paths to prayer, each of which is an invitation to a mysterious journey. I also learned that no one path is superior, and mutual respect should be an integral part of the journey.

As I watched the Hare Krishnas, I felt my plans to travel to India solidify. I didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a spiritual shift for me.



Midnight Sun Odyssey: My Summers on Sørøya Island, Norway

For two summers in 1982 and 1983, I had the opportunity to live and work in the small village of Sørvær on Sørøya Island in Norway. During my time there, I was lucky to witness the incredible phenomenon of the midnight sun: the sun barely grazes the horizon before it begins to rise again. This natural wonder made a deep impression on me and filled me with a sense of awe each day. It was an incredible experience, the way the sun first appears to set but then doesn’t.

Standing in the middle of one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, Sørøya Island is an Arctic Sea paradise. Its rocky mountains are open and practically free of trees. It has a beautiful landscape to hike in, with many good fishing lakes. There are three villages on the island with a total of 1000 inhabitants, most of them involved in fishing or fish processing.

Hasvik, on the south side of the island, is the largest of the three, and Sørvær, on the western tip, is a picturesque little village with wooden houses painted in red, yellow, and white. The largest structure in the village is the fish processing factory. The sea is a dark shade of grey, almost violet, and the sky above is just as dark.

There is no bridge or tunnel to access the island, and the only way to get there is by ferry from Hammerfest. It’s a place of immense beauty, and I’m so lucky to experience it.

The shape of Norway is long and narrow, and the road to its northern part is no exception. We drove through stunning fjords, ferry crossings, mountains, and forests – interspersed with the occasional inhabited area. As we got closer to our destination, we saw more and more fish processing factories in the small villages scattered along the coast.

I couldn’t believe it – after hitchhiking from Amsterdam, my friend Danny and I had made it all the way to Hammerfest, the world’s northern-most arctic city. We had traveled a staggering 2,145 miles (3,450 km) from Amsterdam, and it had taken us over two weeks. We had experienced some incredible adventures along the way, like the night we broke into a campground, only to be woken up the following morning by the camp inspector! Apparently, it was time to inspect the cabins before the season’s opening. We said, “Hi, good morning,” and continued on our way as if as if nothing had happened.

In Search of a Summer Job in Norway’s Thriving Fish Industry

A rumor circulated among backpackers that there is a demand for labor in Norway’s fish industry in the summertime because Norwegians take long vacations in warm southern European countries. It was an opportunity to earn unbelievably good amounts of money for a young unskilled laborer like myself who wanted to travel the world.

So, my friend Danny and I packed our backpacks and ventured on the journey. We had no idea how to find that coveted job, but we knew that we needed to get up to Norway’s far north side. Once in the north, we inquired at post offices, searched telephone books, and made calls from a public phone booth.

One place we called said: “right now, we are down because all workers are on strike, but come on up; once the strike is over, we could use you.” Taking the ferry, we arrived at Sørvær on Sørøya Island, ready to begin our adventure.

Each day, hours before sunrise, Sørvær’s fishermen go out to the ocean to catch cod. The best season is January to April, when the codfish return from the Barents Sea to breed, and the fjords around Sørøya Island are teeming with fish.

The boats are small, with a maximum length of 50 feet (15 m), and operated by one or two people – it’s a small business affair, usually family-owned. They deliver the fish no more than two hours after the catch, so it is incredibly fresh.

This fishing area is one of only two in the world, along with Iceland, where cod shoals are in good health because of the strict sustainable fishing regulations. Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats, and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

A Journey from Boat to Supermarket: My Experience in the Fish Industry.

Working at the fish processing factory was a physically demanding experience but one that I found fulfilling. My fast-cutting technique caught the attention of my Norwegian colleagues, who would often invite me to join their teams.

I remember the boats arriving at the dock, with crane lifting white, cubic buckets filled with cod. The buckets were as big as a jacuzzi bathtub, and we had to work closely together as a team of five. Dressed in warm, water-resistant overalls and gloves, we were armed with only our sharp knives for gutting and decapitating the fish. The process was a silent, fast-paced dance, each movement in sync with the next. Our pay was tied to the weight of the fish we processed, making speed a crucial factor.

From round fish to filleted, breaded slices packaged in colorful boxes, the cod underwent a transformation that involved a mixture of machinery and manual labor. And soon, the final product would be shipped to supermarkets across Europe.

The Harsh Winter Climate and the Delicacy of Stockfish

Sørøya Island is famous for producing the delicacy of stockfish or dry fish. The process of making it is truly captivating. After gutting and removing the head, each cod is paired with another of equal size. Their tails are tied together with a cotton string and hung on wooden racks to dry in the cold winter air. This process can take anywhere from two to three months, depending on the weather conditions and the size of the fish. It’s important to hang the stockfish at just the right distance to allow for proper air circulation. The harsh winter climate plays a crucial role in the drying process, making each stockfish unique in its own way.

The Fascinating Habits and Lifestyle of Norwegians

Norwegians are diverse, defying the stereotype of tall, blonde people. Despite this, underlying cultural conformity is felt rather than expressed. Norway values uniformity and cohesiveness, which is reflected in the Norwegian saying, “Conform to the customs or flee the country.” Despite this, Norwegians are known for their tolerance and inclusiveness towards foreigners. Religion is not a major issue in the country, but Norwegians strongly dislike Sweden, stemming from historical events. English is widely spoken in Norway, making communication with foreigners easy.

The high cost of alcohol in Norway can make it difficult to obtain. On Sørøya Island, there was no local liquor store, and alcohol had to be ordered from the government store on the mainland in Hammerfest and arrived by ferry in time for the weekends. This resulted in an interesting dynamic at work, where my reserved and quiet colleagues suddenly became my closest friends during weekend social events. At the time, I found it charming yet strange. Decades later, with more life experience, I recognize that this is not a unique experience in Norway.

Coffee holds a significant place in Norway’s culture and economy. Known as kokekaffe, the coffee is made by boiling water and steeping the grounds for a few minutes. It is lighter in flavor than what many people are used to, and Norwegians drink coffee multiple times a day, including at breakfast and dinner. This habit can be traced back to the prohibition of alcohol in Norway between 1917 and 1927, which led to the adoption of coffee as a popular social drink.

Although the prohibition has since ended, the high cost of alcohol has maintained coffee’s popularity. I adopted some Norwegian coffee habits, not in consumption quantities but in learning to love the roasted-bitter taste with no added sugar. I am grateful for this healthy habit that has stuck with me ever since.

When Destiny is Written in the Stars

The journey I took to Norway was life-altering, as it led me to meet and fall in love with Dalit. She arrived on the island with friends from her kibbutz in Israel, who had worked in Sørvær before. I couldn’t help but think that our meeting was meant to be, that if we journey as far as the Arctic Sea, it must have been written in the stars to align and to bring us together.

Together, we embarked on a journey of discovery and adventure, traveling to India and Nepal, then returning to Norway to pick strawberries and build a home, first in Israel and later in Los Angeles. Together we created one unique masterpiece – our son Tomer. We divorced after 28 years together.


Etched in Memory: A Personal Account of Arriving in New Delhi

We left gloomy London and flew to New Delhi, India, with the Russian airline Aeroflot. Back then, there were no formal relations between Russia and Israel, nor between India and Israel; a certain uneasiness was a sure thing. The overnight stop in Tashkent, nowadays Uzbekistan’s capital city, was surreal. A security guard was sitting outside our hotel room. 

Upon landing at New Delhi Airport, I was pale and confused. I remember wearing a white shirt; my hair was long. I looked around, trying to figure out the lay of the ground, and I guess I looked just as confused as I felt.

By my side, Dalit stood calmly, a striking contrast to the chaos around us. Her radiant, gorgeous-looking petite figure was like a bomb crater amid the small terminal. Her dark blue Elizabeth Taylor eyes would make anyone pause.

A Sikh gentleman, I guess an official, approached us and gently escorted us through the terminal, the customs check, and out to the street. I felt like an angel held our hands. Those first moments in India are forever etched in my memory.

The shock of the initial encounter with India is unavoidable. The three-wheeled taxi drivers, the smiling crowd, the chaos, the vibrant colors, and of course, the cows – all wanted a piece of us. Welcome to India, I thought.

We found our way to the New Delhi Market, got situated, and started our venture. The hotel receptionist immediately asked if we had a Whisky bottle, a pack of cigarettes, or a camera to sell. In those days, these were hard commodities to obtain in India. We had it all prepared and ready.

A couple of days later, after roaming the streets and encountering many more cows, Dalit announced, “I want to go home; I can not take it.” I looked at her; I understood what she was dealing with as she was not alone and said, “Sorry, my dear, I paid for your ticket. I have no money to send you back. You are staying here with me!”

What became clear was that we needed to get out of the big metropolitan’s hectic vibe and start our journey up to the Himalayas, and so we did. This marked the beginning of a pattern that has continued in all my trips to India since then. The allure of the big city is followed by an irresistible pull toward the mountains and the country’s natural beauty.

Pearls of wisdom learned in India

We spent six months roaming the Indian subcontinent, busy ourselves with the activities that vagabond travelers do. Only years later, after immersing myself in studying, reading, and introspection, I realized how a few Pearls of Wisdom weaved into my consciousness during that first visit to India. These pearls of wisdom are still growing, expanding, and sometimes blooming in me. I don’t ever expect to understand them fully. I accept that life’s journey is about making progress, not reaching perfection.

Defy the Crowd: Drawing a Line for Healthy Boundaries

There are about a billion people in this country, and sometimes everyone seems to go with you everywhere. There is no choice but to maintain a personal space boundary. Such decisive defiance is necessary for a reasonable quality of life in India and elsewhere.

The Power of Kindness: Learning to Trust in India

India is a place where people are not afraid to make straight eye contact with you; they even enjoy it. Wherever you look, you can pick up a pair of eyes that will look back at you with full confidence. It seems that everywhere there are curious Indians who want to help you. Even when they do not know anything, they still want to lend you a helping hand. Thus, in her beautiful way, India taught me about kindness and compassion. India had always asked me to be present with all my strength and not to be afraid to give my trust in other people’s kindness.

Let things happen rather than trying to control them all the time

India forces you to deal with the masses, chaos, delays, unsanitary conditions, cultural shock, giant insects, small insects, diseases, and unwanted attention. But from all of this, I learned that in the end, everything is going to be all right. Things don’t always go as planned, but it’s okay – it’s often better that way. There’s no need to worry or try to control every little thing. This is India’s magic formula. Even if it feels like nothing is going right, sometimes it’s just our perspective that’s limiting us.

As I ponder the concept of acceptance, I’m reminded of the events in Rohinton Mistry’s novel, A Fine Balance. During India’s “Emergency” period (1975-1977), the lives of four characters were intertwined amidst a backdrop of political turmoil. These strangers, whose paths would never have crossed if not for the unfortunate circumstances, had their opportunities hindered by caste, gender, government corruption, and greed. It’s a story that reminds me of the saying, “Acceptance is the answer.” The characters who found a way to accept and be generous and helpful to each other – lived; those who could not – were doomed to tragedy.

There is something to be learned from everything

In India, the sense of time is eroded and only defined by the stomach. Because of this, I found myself thinking quite a bit, looking for new directions for thought. Thus, I met the next great teacher. He was revealed at different moments inside me, gave me his blessing, and directed me on my way. There were times when he disguised himself as a tree, a dog, and even a butterfly. He made me realize that one could learn something from everything.


A Wild Night in Pokhara, Nepal: A Tale of Psychedelic Exploration

In Pokhara, for the first and only time to date, I experimented with Magic Mushrooms, a plant containing a psychedelic component that alters the ordinary conscious experience. We mixed the mushrooms with yogurt and waited for something to happen. But after an hour, nothing had changed. So we decided to forget about it and get our hiking permits from the police station, of all places.

At first, I was talkative, friendly, and full of enthusiasm. The Nepalese police officers wore red berets, and we had a great conversation. I shared my experience in the Israeli Army as a paratrooper, wearing the same colored beret. Then, Dalit and I started laughing. We realized that the mushrooms had begun to work – the laughter was uncontrollable – gratefully, we were coherent enough to understand the mushrooms had started to hit home and quickly rushed to our motel room.

The hallucinations took over and were intense. I vividly remember lying down, watching the color on the ceiling change to purple with geometric shapes that kept moving like in a dance. We were in another world. The following morning our neighbor commented that we sounded like we were having a wild night. In hindsight, it’s a moment I treasure.

An Unforgettable Himalayan Adventure: My Journey Through the Annapurna Circuit

When I decided to travel to the Indian sub-continent, I wasn’t thinking about visiting the Taj Mahal, experimenting with food or drugs, experiencing the madness of New Delhi, staying in a palace, witnessing Varanasi, or cruising Kerala’s backwaters. Those things came later. My goal was to hike the Himalayas. As a geology enthusiast, I extensively explored the Sinai Desert and thought the world’s highest mountains were the perfect next step.

We were one of the first foreign trekkers to experience the majestic Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. In 1982, it had just opened to outsiders due to a dispute resolution between the CIA-backed Khampa guerrillas and the local populace, who were working alongside the Nepalese Army. The 145-mile (230 km) journey began and ended in Pokhara, which took one month to complete. It was an unforgettable experience I will cherish forever.

I remember the many suspension bridges spanning the river that we had to traverse, filled with dread. I recall how we’d arrange for a place to eat and sleep at the end of the day’s walk.

We’d approach a house, greet its inhabitants with a respectful “namaste,” and utter two words: Khana and Sutnu, which translates to “food” and “sleep” in Nepali. The villagers would nod their heads and show us an area on the floor to lay our sleeping bags.

Every night, they’d serve us Dal Bhat, the local meal which consists of rice, lentils, and side dishes, usually a variety of fresh vegetables, potatoes, and cauliflower. It cost us less than $1 per day – what a bargain!

The other vivid memory that fills me with a great sense of gratitude happened on the last night before we crossed Thorong La pass, which at 17,769 ft (5,416 m) is the highest point of the Annapurna Circuit and is covered with deep snow. We stayed at the only place available with 20-30 other tourists and sherpas. Our sleeping bags were squeezed one next to the other inside a small ramshackle structure. It was a famous spot among hikers, known for the two local Nepalese who managed it and served food, the Dal Bhat Brothers.

I’m so thankful for the American woman who noticed Dalit’s badly beaten-up sneakers and offered her extra shoes. I’m sure Dalit’s toes would have been frozen without that generous act. Every time I think about it, I sigh with relief, but I can’t help but scold myself for my youthful lack of thoughtfulness.

The Delicious Delight of Yak Yogurt in Nepal

I remember the sight of the monkeys roaming around the sacred temples in Kathmandu. Believers held them in high regard, and it made for quite the picturesque scene. Every morning in Kathmandu, we were treated to a hearty breakfast of Yak yogurt. Yaks are large domesticated wild oxen with shaggy hair, humped shoulders, and large horns. They are used as pack animals in the Himalayas. Their milk has a higher butterfat content than cow milk, making for an incredibly creamy and robust yogurt—often sweetened with honey. We ate it out of unglazed red clay pots, which added a unique charm to the experience.

Nepal has long been known as a cheap destination for travelers, and its romantic appeal in the Himalayas is undeniable. But beneath the surface of its stunning landscape lies an unfortunate irony. Nepal’s political divisions are incredibly volatile and unsafe, almost as much as its active geological fault lines.