How traveling the world transformed a family

In 2018, Darren Gladstone and his wife, Shoshi, set off on a yearlong journey from their home in Tzur Yigal with their children, Mili, then 9, Eyal, 8, and Guy, 5.

 The Gladstone family at the top of Roy's Peak, new Wanaka in New Zealand (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Gladstone family at the top of Roy's Peak, new Wanaka in New Zealand
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Darren Gladstone not only looks after his children; he also looks up to them as role models.

Why? Because in 2018, He and his wife, Shoshi, set off on a yearlong journey from their home in Tzur Yigal with their children, Mili, then 9, Eyal, 8, and Guy, 5. They traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Nepal, India and Maldives.

“We thought it would be difficult for the kids to keep up with the pace of our travels, but they more than kept up,” says Gladstone. “The experience transformed our family. There was equality – not in authority, but in ability.”

The trip certainly had its challenging moments. For instance, Shoshi and Guy were hospitalized in the Philippines over New Year’s. They both had dengue fever, and Shoshi had typhoid fever as well. Within the month, Guy was back in the hospital – this time, in Vietnam – for hernia surgery.

Gladstone documented their adventures in a blog that captured in words, pictures and videos the family’s many exciting and exotic experiences.

Like the time in the Philippines that they found themselves in the company of a Greek anthropologist, a documentary film crew, tribal villagers and a crate of eight rare baby mountain pigs designated for a breeding program.

 Darren and Shoshi Gladstone enjoy a local celebration in Nepal (credit: Courtesy) Darren and Shoshi Gladstone enjoy a local celebration in Nepal (credit: Courtesy)

Or the beautiful 10-day trek through the Annapurna Range, which ended in a little drama as they crossed the Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters despite Guy struggling with altitude sickness and requiring a short stop in the local hospital for some oxygen.

Nevertheless, their dad reported, “The kids want to do it all over again. They never complained once; quite the opposite.”

Everywhere the Gladstones went, they met newly discharged Israeli soldiers as well as other Israeli families, with whom they were happy to hang out.

THE TRIP also led, eventually, to a new business venture. Since coming on aliyah in 2004 from London, the Glasgow-born Gladstone has worked mainly in ad-tech. This has included, among other jobs, heading UK operations for JDate; working in online marketing and co-founding a mobile media company that he sold during his travels.

Around April 2021, in a Facebook group for Israelis who’ve done long-term travels with their families, one of the members told Gladstone about Nir Even, who had developed an app for Israeli travelers.

“Nir didn’t have business or marketing experience and was looking for a co-founder. After a few chats, I decided to join him on this journey.”

Travelot, which went live on September 25, is an AI-powered app giving Israeli tourists access to other like-minded travelers and to local businesses, one-off activities and experiences – like music lessons and cooking demos – they wouldn’t find on travel sites.

“Travel and taking a vacation have become all that much more stressful over the last couple of years due to the pandemic.

“Now, when we arrive at a destination, we want to know what is going on, what is open, what is accessible.“Travelot brings together all those local businesses, and activities that you may not have heard of, those ‘hidden gems’ that only the locals know of – the yoga teacher, the local running group, art classes, unique tour guides, local restaurants and so on.

“Users will also get personal recommendations from real people, including where to go and what to do.”Travelot launched first in Eilat.

“We’re excited to learn from there and expand to other destinations in Israel, probably Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” says Gladstone. If all goes according to plan, cities abroad are planned next.

TEL AVIV is well known to Gladstone, as he lived there after his aliyah.

He comes from a “very connected-to-Israel, Zionist type of family that visited Israel often. I used to say, ‘I wish I’d been born in Israel, but I don’t know if I could make aliyah. It looks too hard.’”

However, Gladstone left his advertising job in London to go to Israel during the year he turned 30, following his younger brother, Paul.

“I decided to give up my job and go to Israel for six months and see how it goes. I guess I knew I wasn’t going back, but it was easier to say it was for six months,” he explains.

Exactly one year later, he met Shoshi Mizrachi, a teacher, who started out as his flatmate and ended up as his wife.

Aside from their year of traveling abroad, the Gladstone family spends a lot of time trekking and camping around Israel.

“We love the desert,” he says. “It’s just amazing.”

Coming from the UK, Gladstone very much appreciates the Israeli climate and its day-to-day feeling of security.“People think Israel is a very unsafe place, but the reality is I feel much safer here than in the UK on a Saturday night in the city center,” he says. “I love that my kids can go about the neighborhood and I don’t have to worry about them getting home.”

In fact, says Gladstone, the weather and lifestyle are what keep him in Israel.

“Zionism is not the reason I’m here. The longer I live in Israel, the less my reason for being here is a connection to Israel and the more it is about the lifestyle connection.

“I’m not religious – I don’t believe in anything – and so the intersection of religion and state in Israel is problematic for me. When you live here, that intersection touches your daily life and maybe even how much money you’ve got in your pocket.”

In addition to his work with Travelot, Gladstone is a partner in an ad-tech/cybersecurity company called Blaick, and this year he’s beginning studies in the Global Green MBA program at the University of Haifa.

He has a sister in London and a sister in Modi’in. His brother, who also lived in Tzur Yigal, recently moved his family to Glasgow for three years “to have a different experience,” Gladstone explains.

Seems like the appetite for worldwide experiences runs in the genes of the Gladstone family.