Tommy has been blogging since 2012. Today, he’s studying at NYU Tel Aviv because he wants to gain firsthand experience in the region. We checked in with him just as he was getting ready to leave for Israel.
How did you start writing about the Middle East?
I’d always been interested in the Middle East because it seemed a world away from the countryside in Ireland where I grew up. When I came to NYU, I took a class called Reporting the Middle East. We looked at the challenges facing journalists writing about the region. The Middle East is in the headlines almost daily, but the news is often totally baffling to the average American or European reader because of cultural differences. I want to write about the area in a way that demystifies it for a Western audience.
What made you decide to study in Tel Aviv?
When I started my Middle East major, I realized I should go to either Abu Dhabi or Tel Aviv. I chose the latter because there’s a huge contingent of foreign correspondents based out of Israel. I’m excited to freelance from the region and to be reporting on the ground. More broadly, though, I’ve been studying the area and reading about its politics and its history, and now I want to walk its streets and talk to its people.
What’s one piece of travel advice you couldn’t live without?
You don’t truly own anything you can lose in a shipwreck. I’ve never checked a bag while traveling solo, whether I was going for a week or for four months. When people asked me why I pack so light, I started to jokingly respond with the shipwreck aphorism. As I repeated the joke, though, I realized it actually described my attitude and outlook. I prioritize experiences over things when I travel, and so I tend to be nonmaterialistic in the extreme.