When I was 18, I headed to Israel to spend the summer volunteering on a kibbutz. This had been a rite of passage in my family. I’d grown up hearing stories about my father’s experience on Kibbutz Mahanayim, where he once witnessed a chicken run around without its head, and my mother’s experience on Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev, where she was paid in chocolate and cigarettes.

I expected my adventure to include anecdotes like these – as well as working in the fields, meeting young people like me from all over the world, and practicing my Hebrew. But my experience on a kibbutz in the northern Galilee was nothing like that. When I look back on all the mistakes I made that summer, I realize that they gave me the foundation I needed to become a strong female traveler.

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