Having a ‘gran’ old time
Nathanel Creson and Edna Nahari, his religious Yemenite-Israeli savta, are backpacking through Asia together
Nathanel Creson is backpacking through Asia. It’s not a particularly surprising choice for a 26-year-old, but many people are taken aback when they meet his travel buddy: his 74-year-old grandmother.
Creson and his savta – as he calls her – Edna Nahari, are just about halfway through their four-month excursion, and they’re having the time of their lives.
“With savta, a lot of the locals are very drawn to her for some reason,” said Creson in a recent phone interview from Japan. “When they see us together they approach us and want to take pictures with us .... She definitely has brought some magic to the trip that I cannot explain.”
Neither Creson nor Nahari are newcomers to international travel. Creson, who grew up in Sweden with an Israeli mom and a Swedish father, has lived in Norway, Scotland, Australia and Barcelona, and traveled extensively in between. Nahari, who now lives in Eilat, was born in Yemen and moved to Israel as a small child and grew up in Jerusalem. Creson said in addition to visiting the family in Sweden many times, she also traveled to Africa, Thailand and other destinations.
“She’s quite adventurous,” said Creson. “But I think a lot of her travels have happened in her later years. When she was younger she was a fulltime mom.”
So how exactly did the unlikely duo decide to pair up for four months of what they have dubbed “The Gran Adventure”?
“The idea was born a few months ago when my grandmother visited me when I was living in Barcelona,” Creson recalled. “I’ve always loved to travel and I asked her just as a crazy question: ‘Grandma, would you be willing to go backpacking with me?’ And suddenly we both though it was a great idea.”
And it wasn’t hard to get the rest of the family on board with the notion either.
“My parents and my siblings were really, really supportive,” he said. “And my uncles and cousins, I think they thought it was a fun idea... I think everyone felt also that savta deserved something like this because she has always given so much to her family, she is the most positive person in the world. I think everyone thought it would be a fun thing for her to do.”
So two months ago they set on their way, and have already visited several cities in China, South Korea and are now in Japan. Creson had been to Asia in the past, “and I know how the people are, how interesting the culture can be, and I had a feeling she would like it here,” he said.
Still, the pace is a little different than his normal travels. “I’m still with my 74-year-old grandmother,” he said. Instead of being out all day, every day, “it’s one bigger excursion a week and it’s a small trip every day. Sometimes we spend the day in the hostels and we play backgammon together.”
And when they are out and about, they often have unique experiences and meetings that Creson doesn’t think he would have by himself.
“In China, when I told them I’m there with my grandmother – I said the word grandma in Chinese – people were really happy,” said Creson. “They sat with us and spoke with us. We could sometimes share a snack with some strangers just because they felt that what we were doing was beautiful. This has been the magic of the trip – to have these authentic experiences in a completely different environment. This is precisely what I wished for her.”
Their travels also take into consideration the fact that Nahari is observant, though Creson is not.
“She is religious so... when we can, we do spend our weekends in the Chabad houses,” he said. “But if we can’t, it’s me and her in the hostel, and I make the Kiddush and she lights the candles. She respects that I’m not religious, and I respect that she is religious. I think this is part of how we are going to understand each other more as human beings, not just as grandma and grandson.”
And when the duo are done seeing all that Asia has to offer, Creson is planning on settling down a little closer to his beloved savta. He intends to make aliya and live in Tel Aviv, “a very lively city which I think fits my personality.”
But something tells me he’ll also be making some frequent trips down to Eilat.
NATHANEL CRESON and his grandmother Edna Nahari in Hangzhou, China, (left) and in Seoul.