Friday, 02 September 2016 00:00

When traveling, I am often so focused on spending time with those I'm visiting that I forget to take time out for myself. I am an introvert, so I need a bit of alone time to recharge and reenergize myself for my next adventure. I find it hard to ask for that free time because I fear that it will seem selfish, and that others often see it as rejection.

I'm wondering if the best way to go about this would be to schedule it ahead of time so that it is expected and doesn't come up as a surprise to those I am visiting. Talking about it before the trip would also help, as you may find that the host also needs a bit of time off.

Sometimes, the time off can't be put on a schedule. For instance, your host may become tired or need to do some things for themselves, but they are trying to be a good host and keep you entertained. Or perhaps one of you is having an off day, and not feeling well. It is better to acknowledge this at the beginning of the day or at the time you realize this, so that you can get some rest and relaxation when needed.

For me, being able to wander by myself somewhere uninterrupted is essential. This is my creative time. This is the time I can think and plan and dream. I love discovering a new place at my own pace. If you crave individual exploration of a new territory, then dare to schedule it in.

You, your traveling companions, and your hosts will all appreciate your mini-break. So, next time you travel, be sure to take a little time off from your "vacation," and take some time to explore your inner self.

Sunday, 17 July 2016 00:00

I was recently on a trip to visit my family, and went out for a walk. While walking, I discovered a local bus transit center where you can catch all of the buses in the system, all within a few minutes of each other. It was a small town, so they all only ran once per hour.

I hopped on one of the lines that would take me to the next shopping center down the road. I immediately felt in my element. Riding the bus was my preferred method of travel at home, and I felt right at home on this bus. I got off at the shopping center, bought some groceries, and then walked back to the house.

The next day, I ventured out again, and this time took one of the bus lines on the full one-hour route. It was like going on a nice sightseeing tour where I could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.

I am not a car driver. I don't own a car. I don't like to drive, and I don't enjoy riding in cars. To me, the car represents a fast-paced lifestyle where people are in a hurry to get everywhere. I prefer to live the slow life, where even your form of travel is part of your experience and your journey.

Going on vacation and riding in many cars on fast freeways feels stressful to me. Finding my way to the bus lines and hopping on that bus was a great feeling of freedom for me.

Photos from my travels:

Above—bus in Davis

Below—bus in Klamath Falls


Wednesday, 22 June 2016 00:00

Sometimes, while the rest of the country is enjoying spring flowers, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is still waiting for the snow to melt. When the snow finally goes, the landscape explodes with color, from the turquoise blue of robin eggs to multicolored roadside blossoms and forest wildflowers. Many surprises await you as you drive through small communities along miles of scenic highways.


Saturday, 23 April 2016 00:00

Have you ever had a 30th-year crisis? It’s when, on the eve of your 30th birthday, you summarize the results of your life so far, count your achievements, and judge yourself for all the opportunities you've lost to have a more exciting life than you had before. It’s when you suddenly stop enjoying everything you enjoyed before because you're terrified of spending your next 30 years in a state of unfulfilling monotony. It’s when you can’t get the idea that you’re wasting your life out of your head.

This is what I felt two years ago, when I was about to turn this horrifying and challenging age. Since I believe that a person who experiences deep inner discomfort always finds the strength to “jump out of the train," I started looking for ways to do something completely new. After a careful review of the achievements most important to me—my business and my pretty stable life—I decided that leaving my comfort zone would be the best solution. The new experience of traveling to some exotic country seemed a more exciting and less radical choice than quitting my business or moving to another city. So, after a brief search, I found a post written by a Ukrainian guy who was looking for travel companions for a trip to Peru. That sounded perfect and challenging—traveling from my native Russia to the other side of the Earth, to a country where most of the population speaks a language I’ve never learned, and spending a couple weeks with a dozen Ukrainian guys who might have a pretty tough attitude toward Russians because of the conflict between our countries.

My preparation for the trip consisted of two parts: Spanish classes twice a week, to increase my confidence in being in Peru, and having soothing conversations every day with my parents, who obviously weren't happy with my traveling so far away.

To practice my Spanish. I went to Barcelona for a couple weeks. Out of hundreds of language schools, I chose the one closest to my hotel. It felt so special to walk every morning to my classes on the old mysterious streets of the Gothic Quarter. Coming across sleepy passersby and the smell of coffee and freshly baked croissants made me feel like I’d been living in sunny and hospitable Barcelona for years. And if this weren't a story about my 30th-year crisis, it would be a nice love story, because there, in that Spanish school, I met "HIM." Among other pluses, he was an American, which made the circumstances even more romantic. After a week of studying Spanish together, Scott ("HIS" name) and I agreed to stay in touch, and flew to different sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

About a month later, my long-awaited trip to Peru began. It was incredible. We went hiking in breathtaking Machu Picchu and flew over the mysterious Nazca lines. We went paragliding from a scary-looking cliff in Lima, and rafted in the cold Urubamba River. We fed bananas, left over from our breakfast, to wild alpacas and llamas. In the two weeks we spent together, along with these unbelievable adventures, I became friends with everyone in our Russian-Ukrainian team.











Meanwhile, I kept Scott informed about my trip, and shared all the emotions I experienced there in Peru. After I got back home to Russia, we became very close and started dating. Well, we could barely call our relationship “dating” at that point, because we only saw each other a few times a year. We spent vacations in Indonesia together, Scott visited me in Russia, and, finally, I visited Scott in Portland.  It was love at first sight—Portland was the most beautiful city I’d ever seen.

After about a year of a tough long-distance relationship, we decided that one of us would have to move to be able to date more often. We decided it would be me, and it wasn’t an easy decision at all.  I had to leave my parents, my business, and my city, where four generations of my family have lived. I had to move to another continent and start learning everything again, including how to speak American English, how to take the right exit on the highway, how to bake biscuits, and how to call internet customer service (which still infuriates me every time I have to call).

Once the decision was made, I told my friends, my parents, and my brother, who had to run my business after I left. I have a great family. They didn’t like my decision, but they supported me because they always loved and trusted me. I was very excited and very scared. I remember days when I had so many fears and doubts that I didn’t want to get up from my bed. However, I didn’t want to change my mind, either, because moving to the USA meant I could be with the man I loved and have the opportunity for a new life, full of learning and expanding boundaries.

The toughest day was the day I sold my car. It was my first car, and it was a great one, in the most beautiful shade of red that ever existed. I loved it, but I had to sell it. When the buyer, whom I found just a week before my departure, happily sat behind the wheel and joyfully drove away, I couldn’t stop crying. I never thought I would ever cry about a car. But selling my car made me realize how much I had to sacrifice to be able to start a new life.

Thanks to my 30th-year crisis, I had the opportunity to change everything that I wasn’t satisfied with before. It was like starting a new story, one that takes place in a new country and tells about new characters, including a new me. Exploring American culture and Portland weirdness inspired me to start writing articles for a Russian magazine. As part of my new life, I take drawing, printmaking, and photography classes, because I want to get into a graphic design program in the upcoming winter term. I take Chinese classes because I’m planning to travel there soon. I garden and cook a lot, because this is what I enjoy doing.

My 30th-year crisis was a painful process, but as a result, I got a chance to get rid of the ballast, and to build a new route—one that brings me back to myself and gives me the experience of fullness and the meaning of life.

Saturday, 27 February 2016 00:00


Sunday, 18 October 2015 00:00

Business Traveling—Eat Without Panicking

Traveling always makes me excited and hungry. Being hungry away from the homestead makes me nervous. Especially when it’s a business trip. When you travel for pleasure, you have more time and options for your food choices. You can try different restaurants or farmers markets. When it’s a business trip, you’re generally stuck with the food at the hotel or conference center, or of the client’s choice. Normally you have very little control over your food choices. Or do you?

I eat organically grown and homemade food. I eat lots of grains, vegetables and fruit from my local area. Plus, I’m very protective over the food I eat. I don’t want anyone to tell me my food is “safe”; I want to know how it’s grown. Before food panic made my entire trip a bust, I needed to get control over my fear of eating away from the homestead. 

Immediately, I thought of a friend who has eaten a very strict diet throughout his adult life. He never lets food consume him or ruin his day. He used to tell me that he had three choices: he could starve, forget his eating choice and be ill, or make wise food decisions. He was very careful about eating at restaurants. Often he’d ask many questions until he was satisfied he could find something “approved” to eat.

Since bringing my own food and cooking wasn’t an option, I’d need to find “approved” food to eat. I made a conscious decision not to let my food choices overshadow my trip.

Looking at what I ate every day

The week before my trip, I began noticing what I really ate, when and how.

All my food was from our homestead, organic farms in the area, or a grocery store. I ate fresh eggs, vegetables, mixed grains, beans, and home-baked treats. I cooked with organic olive or coconut oil and vegetable broth. My favorite drinks were organic herbal teas and water with organic apple cider vinegar. This time of year, I picked fresh tomatoes from the garden and apples from the apple trees before eating. I knew where the majority of my food was grown and whether it was “safe” to eat. My food had no pesticides, no fillers; just good, wholesome ingredients. In less than five days, my way of eating would change, and I felt my food choices would become obsolete.

Control Your Food, Instead of it Controlling You

Instead of being in constant fear of what you can’t eat on your trip, figure out what you can eat.

For me, I made a decision to pack my own tea bags, fresh fruit and nuts. Online, I found a small store near the hotel where I could get organic apple cider vinegar and other goodies throughout the week. I contacted the hotel to find out what special dietary needs they honored and what types of food they had available at the hotel. They had everything from Kosher to gluten-free to vegetarian, but nothing that said "We won’t poison you with genetically-altered food and pesticides." I inquired about organic restaurants and stores in the area. I was pleased to find both available near the hotel. Since I was flying in the night before the conference, I could check out the store and bring some goodies back to my hotel room. Knowing I had choices made, my food fear quickly went away. I might not be able to eat exactly like I did on the homestead, but I wouldn’t starve either.

Consider bringing some nonfood essentials

What about other stuff, like lotions and soaps? As I began packing, I realized I’d better take shampoo, soap, conditioner, and toothpaste with me as well. You never know what is in the bottles from the hotel. It is better to be safe than smelly. A quick trip to the store for an “airport-approved” bottle, and I was in business. One less thing to be worried about on my trip.

Ready for the business trip?

Frankly, I have no idea how ready I am for this business trip, but I’m feeling less overwhelmed about my organic lifestyle and not being on the homestead. When I return, I’ll let you know how it went. I’ll give you the rundown on what worked and what didn’t. Best of all, I’ll let you know what I’d do differently to make the next trip even better! 

Happy Organic Eating!