As this is my first blog post, I am going to take a few moments to introduce my blog and myself.
What is this blog going to be about?
Ever since I skipped my senior prom to take my first “alone-trip” (without my parents) to Washington, DC, I have been looking for new places to go, activities to do, and foods to eat. This blog will be a culmination of my travels, destination runs, good eats, and daily life adventures. I will publish a post every other Wednesday- starting tomorrow.
My first post will be a review of a destination run, the Zurich Neujahrsmarathon. I am not a born runner, it is something I had to study, push, and struggle with during my early twenties when I started to want to run. The fact that I ran a marathon last year would be unbelievable for a younger me, who tried her hardest to get out of gym class, to hear. It has taken me years to be able run more than a mile, and so the midnight runs that I do on New Year’s Eve help me start the year reminding myself what I can achieve. As so, it is a fitting first post for my new blog.
Who am I?
In short, I am a newlywed who is not very good at anything (especially winter sports and skiing), but loves to try anyway.
I grew up in NJ as a first generation American in a Ukrainian family. I went to college in western NY and then moved to Washington, DC for graduate school and work. Recently, I have had the opportunity to spend a few months on the French / Swiss border outside of Geneva. I have a cat who my parents take care of when I travel, and a husband who never says no to my ideas.
I am always searching for unique experiences (midnight walks in the jungles of India and shark cage-diving in South Africa) and often get into a bit of trouble on the way (renting from Sixt led to sliding down a mountain then being shuffled between a variety of closed Sixt branches in 3 different countries).
I’m far from fearless… just ask anyone who knows me. However, I try to never let it stop me from having a new experience. From riding the world’s oldest roller coaster in Denmark to gliding through the world’s longest zip line in the Copper Canyon, I am particularly susceptible to superlatives.
Most of the time, I like to travel as authentic or cheap as possible. And while this gives me stories to tell, I do end up in interesting predicaments like sleeping in a rain-soaked, apparently-permeable tent and taking showers in a cold outdoor trailer without any towels to dry off with (Oktoberfest). Other times, I do spring for luxury like relaxing in the spa town of Davos with heated outdoor pools and every type of sauna and steam room available.
I always go out the door with a plan and itinerary, but I often learn about new things while I’m traveling that inspire last minute changes. When I visited San Francisco during my first year of college, I heard the tallest trees in the world were nearby. I didn’t have a smartphone yet and didn’t bring a laptop so I couldn’t “Google” more information. I knew the trees were north of the Golden Gate Bridge and past the hills of the Marine Headlands. I decided to wake up early the next day and find them however I could. At 4:30am the next morning, I was midway across the famous red bridge, thinking optimistically about all the time left in the day. To further boost my hopeful spirit, shortly after the bridge, I serendipitously found a map to Muir woods. Well.. it seemed more like a child’s drawing than a real map, but excitement blurred my judgement. There were no street names, just swirly lines representing hills and a bold line similar to that on a treasure map leading over the hills and to a big “X” – Muir Woods… I think. Following this “map” I ran into streets that were disconnected by cliffs and other steep surprises. By 10:30am, I realized the road was longer than I expected and my pace was slow – I rented a bike. Shortly after I rented the bike, I realized I couldn’t pedal it uphill and ended up walking the ungainly object most of the way anyway. By 4:30pm, shortly before the park closed it’s gate, I made it to the trees. I hitch hiked home afterward.
I get my ideas for my destinations from anywhere and everywhere. When I hear something that piques my interest, I write it down immediately. I planned my Mexican honeymoon half based on a few stories I heard from a college professor about Oaxacan culture and half based on one of my favorite books, “Born to Run.” I picked up other itinerary items by talking to people around me. I spoke with my coworker about my upcoming honeymoon and she suggested we go to Xel-Ha, which I never came across online. My time at Xel-Ha ended up being one of the best days of my life as I encountered stingrays while walking on the ocean floor and parrots wild in the jungle.
When I travel, I consider culinary experiences as high as all other experiences. Haggis in Scotland, squeaky cheese curds in Wisconsin, truite gravlax, Dutch Bros coffee in Portland, Undredal goat cheese, brunost, moonshine and hot chicken in Nashville, deep dish pizza in Chicago, burrata, lobster rolls from McDonalds in Maine, poutine in Quebec, pizza from Naples – the birthplace of pizza, and milk every day from the raw milk vending machine in the French village where I have been living are just some highlights of the amazing things I have digested over the years.
Sometimes, I don’t have the best luck. I arrived at Niagara falls the first time on a rainy day. The mist and fog covered most of the falls, and I was so disappointed in how small I found the natural phenomenon to be. I had to drive to Mount Washington twice and stay at the same motel without sheets or blankets because the first time the wind was too strong to go up. I was one of the first people to show up at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration on the morning of December 31st. I was all set to go into the main fenced area when a pair of drunk men tripped into the police officers letting people in, causing them cut off the crowd there.
Sometimes, I have the best luck! Somehow, I ended up at the Grand Prix in Monaco and the International Film Festival in Cannes without previously knowing about the events. I had the pleasure of meeting the Dickens descendants in London while they were volunteering at the Dickens house and museum. And I had the pleasure of meeting running legend Kathrine Switzer in Washington, DC at the Cherry Blossom running expo while I was volunteering on trash duty.
I feel luckiest when I get to experience moments of beauty and extreme emotion. Moments like in Israel, slipping notes filled with prayers from my family and closest friends into the cracks of the Eastern Wall. Moments like in Munnar, looking through the breaks in the monsoon and seeing rolling hills of tea plants as far as the horizon. Moments like finishing my first marathon with the help of a friend who crossed the finish line but turned back and ran to help his teammates. Moments like in Abu Dhabi, standing in the Grand Mosque Sheikh Zayed during the call to prayer on the first night of Ramadan. Moments like in Paris, helping a woman run after a pickpocket and witnessing sidewalks of people being swept into the streets to apprehend the thief, fulfilling their own social justice. Moments where the world is good… and the people are good.
I don’t always have favorable opinions on places. And I personally liked the décor in Elvis’ house more than that in Versailles… but I do always keep my accounts honest.