The venue took place at the sports complex with hot drinks and even live music. I got my bib and started to prepare for the race. Standing at the front line of the start line I got a good vision of the road ahead of me. 3…2…1 and we all set our bodies into motion. The time has come to kick some French ass. As always I’ve come with a plan.
13 miles at pace 7:50-8:00 /mi.
9 miles at 7:45 /mi.
4.6 miles as fast as I can, depending on conditions.
In fact I felt really strong during the first 13 miles, running at 7:30-7:33 /mi, 20 seconds faster than planned😬. I was constantly reminding myself to slow down, however 30 minutes into the race I stopped resisting and made a decision to continue with a faster pace. Bad decision.
I will begin from saying that I totally failed it, not just on the race day, but a week leading to the race. For breakfast I had approximately 200g of brown rice, 1.5 scoops of whey protein shake, 1 grapefruit and banana. On the course I brought 3 hummer gels (~ 70g of carbs in 300 calories), and two 200 ml bottles with BCAA mixed with creatine (no calories here). Throughout the course there were 7 fueling stations, serving !potato chips!, dark chocolate, oranges, pure cubed table sugar, orange juice, coke and water. My body is familiar only with bananas and coke, therefore I decided not to experiment and ate approximately 1 banana, flushing it down with 2 gulps of coke (~40-50g of carbs). Shortly after I passed the halfway point, I realized it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with a faster pace I chose to stick with. Poor nutrition, undereating few day prior to the race, sleep deprivation did it’s nasty job. It’s an “F” Sasha. Lessons learned.
Remaining 13.6 miles I felt pain in the liver and excruciating pain throughout my legs, making it more and more difficult to keep up with the pacing strategy. Right leg T-band and quadriceps on the left one, became sources of burning pain making the race more fun than I could handle. The second half was a 100% mental race. I became the main actor of my own movie called “50 Shades of Pain”, battling rapidly raising fatigue and exhaustion. It was really painful experience, maybe the most painful I ever had. Instead of running a negative split, as I usually do, I found myself getting slower and slower with a creeping thought of not finishing.
“It’s all good mental training” as mantra I kept on repeat in my head. I did not walk. I finished running! In just two months of hard training I broke my PR by 15 minutes since Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
I really enjoyed French nature while running through wide opened fields and forests. I am grateful for the warm and dry weather and appropriate choice of clothing I did for the race. I am grateful for the mind and body that allow me to take on this not only physical, but for the most part mental challenge. Thank you for not failing on me.
I am grateful for people that supported and believed in me.
Renee, thank you for smart, structured and personalized training plan and the words of wisdom I got from you. You are not only my coach, but a mentor to me.
Alysa I am grateful for your support. You know me better than anyone else. You have the power to ground me in times of deep crisis. You find the right words and approaches to break my armor and get me out of the mental prison I put myself into.
Mom, thank you for accepting my decision and cheering up for me from Ukraine. This is not how I imagined our vacation. Knowing that you had no hard feelings, took a huge weight of my chest and let me focus on the race.
Dad, thank you for always being honest WITH me, FOR me. I highly value your advices regards my physical and mental health. Thank you for giving me freedom to make my own mistakes.
Stepan, I am grateful for having you by my side, cheering up for me and forgiving my unpatience and short fuse. At the start line, you was worried for me more than I was for myself. You didn’t judge my decision to continue with a trip, pursuing my personal goals.
Another goal of mine got achieved setting me up for the next, greater challenges. I hit the PAUSE button for marathons and shift my focus to something greater. New 2019 year is going to be challenging and exciting year as I’ll spend it under the IRONMAN flags around the world 🌎
The New 2019 Years chapter has started. Happily I grab a pen and title the first page with “Marathon de Paris”. I’ve planned a family trip, where me, my brother and mom will travel to Paris by car, driving through Poland 🇵🇱 Germany 🇩🇪Belgium 🇧🇪and France 🇫🇷. We will be making stops along the way to meet my old friends and visit new places. Three of us will get a chance to see the Eiffel Tower and explore the city of love together, sharing our emotions and thoughts. We will have approximately 5,500 km to talk about all the things I’ve missed while chasing my dreams in the foreign countries, far away from home. We will reunite and strengthen the family bond between us three. It will be the first time I have my family cheering up for me at the finish line of the Paris marathon.
Woke up exhausted but excited about what’s coming. The amount of stress is peaking as I’ve taken a lot on myself, organizing and planning our family trip through the Europe. Approximately 5,000 kilometers are to be explored in the next few days. For the past 2 days, I’ve been sensing a weird tension between my mom and me. I initiated an intimate conversation with her to address my feelings. This eliminated misunderstandings that could’ve grown into something bigger. We clearly communicated our feelings, which I consider a great success as it made us both feeling better. Now we’re ready for adventure!
My godfather Nicola expressed the interest in traveling with us. Without thinking twice, I agreed to make a loop through Hanover 🇩🇪, helping him with his personal business. He’s funny and kind man, always joking and telling stories from his childhood. Me and him would switch driving whenever we get tired and sleepy. During one of those rotations I noticed an interesting thing. When got on the back seat to rest my mom offered to put my head on her laps so I can lay down. During one hour that I was asleep my heart rate dropped down to 36 beats per minute (my regular resting heart rate is 41-43). I felt like I slept for 5 minutes only. Approaching Poland border my godfather made sure we made mandatory stop at Duty Free store. According to him, two bottles of vodka he got, will serve as a medicine to improve his health and well-being. Can’t refuse to stop when it comes to his health. Crossing the border totally changed my plans, setting me onto a new trajectory for this trip and essentially for life…
At the border
Miss Olga, where are you traveling? – Immigration officer asked. To France! – She responded confidently.
Non gonna happen… my mother is not permitted to enter European Union through the Poland border due to the passport issues. She is forced to leave the vehicle and being deported back to Ukrainian territory. I hugged my mother and she walked away accompanied by border patrol personnel. Car stereo is off. Smiles are wiped off our faces. Months of hard Marathon training lost its value. In instant, time, money and effort I put into pursuing my dreams depreciated in the face of decision I’m about to make. The eyes across are full of fear, looking at me silently with a big questioning mark… There is no one else, besides myself to ask for help or advice. Within next few minutes I’m required to make a though decision which I am not ready for. No matter what I choose to do next, the relationship with the person I love so much, who gave me birth, will not be the same. I am given a power to change trajectory of life for my little brother as I set a benchmark of action and decision making in critical situations like this. Sasha, what to do? Will you look back with a sense of regret or pride? If you die tomorrow, how will your family remember you?
Day 2: Germany-> Belgium-> France 🏁
Despite the fact that my mother was deported back to Ukraine I made a decision to continue with the trip. It didn’t come easy and I left Poland in pieces. Having two drivers allowed us to cover about 1500 km in one day, meeting a sunrise in Germany 🇩🇪. We spent almost the entire day in Hanover running back and forth helping my godfather. However when the job was done I got really happy to get back on the road, with only me and Stephan in the car. To split the long leg of driving to Paris I made a stop in Liège, Belgium 🇧🇪. Saint Paul Liège Cathedral made a strong impression on both of us. What an amazing piece of architecture. The town itself is so beautiful, with its tiny streets and cute little cafes put back to back offering a vast variety of drinks and food. This is the town where I first tried the fried chestnut “Marrons” 🌰. I felt in love with it from the first bite. Sooooo freaking good! Back on the road. Covering the remaining distance to France, me and Stepan had a really good conversation we both enjoyed. I’ve said a lot, and he heard me. Tomorrow is the day I’ve been working so hard towards… I need to get my shit together.
Race Day 🇫🇷
First time in past 6 days I got to sleep more than 5 hours. Marathon starts at 8:45, so I woke up at 4:30 to give myself enough time to get ready. Arriving at 6:30 am I got confused as the venue was dead empty. No people or signs of upcoming event. I anxiously starred in my phone, checking the address and contact info. A little cafe across the street lighted up, showing the sign of life. A guy opened the doors and began preparing his business for opening. I ran up to him saying “Bonjur Sir! Do you speak English?” The response was negative. Do you know anything about the marathon? Running? Yes, Yes! he responded and I felt a huge relief. He pointed towards the narrow street and said something about the stadium and 5 minutes walk. It was enough. I then asked if I can get a cup of coffee at his place and he invited me inside. It was the best 3 euro I spent on coffee as I got a chance to hear his family’s story and see the place inside out.
His name is Boris, and the restaurant was his farther’s legacy that he got shortly after he recently passed away. Boris, in the past mechanic, moved here from downtown Paris to continue his father’s business. He loves to play golf and race his Yamaha dirt bike. He is really passionate about every little detail in the cafeteria he now owns, as it all reminds him of his dad. Two policemen helmets, he pointed at, represented the history of serving the country as jandarme by his father and grandfather. The amount of family pictures spread through the walls, would keep you engaged for hours. The place had no single modern piece of electronics and it seemed like I got inside time machine that brought me at least a hundred years back. Boris proudly put his hand on a blander manufactured in 1930, which definitely added to the charm of this unique place. Cheers! We finished our coffees and I left the place, heading towards the “stadium”.
Venue took place at the sports complex with hot drinks and even live music. I got my bib and started to prepare for the race. Standing at the front line of the start line I got a good vision of the road ahead of me. 3…2…1… and we all set our bodies into motion.
1st MARATHON DE FRANCE race recap can be found here.
Day 4. Paris🇫🇷
I absolutely loved Paris. Every street is unique hosting the cutest cafes and restaurants. Beautiful happy people exploring the city impressed by its architecture and colors not less than me.
At some point, walking around the city I felt a weird feeling that something is off, something was missing. With the speed of the lightning strike I realized what’s missing. Despite the fact that streets of downtown Paris were flooded with cars, motorcycles and bicycles, I haven’t heard a single car honking. No one got mad at each other behind the steering wheel. Wow😮
I was impressed by the amount of motorcycles and bicycles around the city. Every street has designated line for cyclists. This might be my paradise.
On the flip side are the prices. “Gasole” – Diesel fuel and gasoline are crazy expensive compared to Germany, Poland or even Ukraine. Groceries are really expensive as well, forcing you think twice before putting that fruit or vegetable into the cart.
Overall I left under a really good impression of France and Paris specifically. I will definitely come back to explore the city as I feel like I only tapped into the tip of the iceberg.
It was December 2017, when I set a goal to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I don’t know why, I just thought it would be really cool to see it with my own eyes. Indeed it was cool!
I could not believe I am standing in front of it. It’s gorgeous! It’s unbelievable! It’s bright! It’s so fucking cool! I have experienced what Daniel Goleman called in his book “Emotional Intelligence “, an “emotional flooding”. I am standing right in front of the Eiffel Tower in the heart of Paris. My brother is by my side, sharing this lifetime experience with me. Holly smokes am I lucky?!
You know, a lot of times the things you see in the movies, look way cooler than in real life. It is not the case! If you haven’t seen the Tower with your own eyes, I strongly suggest that you make an effort to do so. I’m still under the impression, carrying euphoric feelings I caught in Paris. I will definitely come back for more!
Notre-Dame de Paris & Louvre
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is my favorite cartoon of the childhood. I was amazed by the attention to the smallest details of this historical place. It gave me chills realizing how much history it carries within. How much work and energy has been put into raising this building.
Standing inside the Notre-Dame I was imagining the hunchback anxiously running through tight hallways on his way upstairs to ring the bells. The air is electrolyzed here. Every brick in the wall is priceless.
15 minutes is how much time you get before you experience another emotional flood. 15 minutes away by feet you get access to another place you absolutely must see – The Louvre. I didn’t get a chance to dive in inside but even just being there gave me chills. Details, details and more details. It’s incredible how much attention has been put into the smallest things. Not a single thing, a statue repeats itself and completely made from scratch by hand. Bravo!
Day 5: Munich 🇩🇪
This is where I’ve met a buddy of mine whom I haven’t seen in 7 years. When I told him I’ll be driving through Munich, he nicely offered to drop the heat at his place. Oleg been living and working in Germany for the past 4 years, and definitely have few interesting insights to share about German culture, traditions, people and just his overall experience living there.
He is a beer fan so guess where he took us out? We went straight to German pub for a glass of traditional local drink and a great conversation.
2.80 euro opens up the underground gates leading to subway station. The few stations that I saw, were really tidy and clean. Munich subway also seemed to be not too deep as I didn’t even loose the LTE cellular service while on the train. An interesting thing, when the train stops, to get out you have to open the doors manually. Without knowing that, I guarantee you will miss your station, waiting the doors open manually.
20 minutes later, we found ourselves on the main square of Munich – Marienplatz. Wow! The first word I dropped seeing massive gothic buildings all around me. Hundreds of high end shops and restaurants light up Marienplatz better than anything else. Stepan look! There is a guy selling fried chestnuts 🌰. Money doesn’t matter when it comes to “Maroni”. 5 euro? Not a problem! Just give me that 15 pieces of heaven.
“Cheers for meeting!” – we each raised a glass of local brew (12 euro total). The beer was good, so good that Stepan finished both, his and mine =) I’ll be teasing him for a while.
It’s safe here, Oleg started. Going out at night, I feel secure. It is wild to see people fist fight at the pubs or night clubs in civilized country like Germany. People don’t get robbed.
Grocery stored are closed early. It’s a problem to buy produce after 8 pm, therefore you better plan ahead what you will need for a week.
Germans prefer to hang out within closed circles of people they call friends. This makes it a bit challenging to fit into the group and blend in.
A lot of people are smoking here. Unfortunately, a huge portion of them consists from females. When it comes to intimate relationships, just like for me, Oleg sees it as a dealbreaker. Girls here also have a strong need for independency, which could be perceived as the obstacle by many Ukrainian/Russian males.
Overall Germany appeared as a great country to live at. Roads are perfect, gas and groceries are cheap, quality of life is high. Munich is an active, beautiful city, offering a lot of things to do to a lot of visitors and residents. I liked Germany!
Day 6. Wroclaw, Poland 🇵🇱
Leaving Germany the weather sucked and it snowed the entire time. However I relatively easy put 550 km on odometer, finding myself and Stepan in Wroclaw.
Few words about Poland and my impression of it. I perceived this county as something similar to Ukraine. I was wrong. Life quality is waaaay higher. Groceries are cheaper than in Ukraine, Germany and especially France; Gas and Diesel is cheaper as well; Streets are clean with bicycle lanes; A lot of expensive cars on the road; A lot of construction throughout the city indicating the growth; Even being located within close distance to Ukraine, the weather is 5-7 degrees warmer, making Wroclaw ideal for running and cycling in winter time; And the last thing- a lot of pretty young girls consist the city population.
I understand that every place has its own issues, however I’ve got a really good first time impression of the city of Wroclaw and Poland in general. My friends are really happy to be able to live and work in the neighbor country and share my positive thoughts about it.
Serioga – a buddy of mine lives and works in Wroclaw. We share so many great memories growing up in our hometown Zhitomir. No matter how tired I am, stopping in Poland to see him is absolute must.
Serioga and his wife Irina met us really warm. We felt welcomed and taken care of. He cooked delicious dinner, also considering my healthy food choices. I am impressed, bravo 👏
Thank you guys! It was really nice to meet you.
Day 7. Lviv, Ukraine 🇺🇦
My Eurotour has come to the end…
Not just yet. Lviv – the city of lion 🦁 located on the western part of Ukraine, close to the border with Poland. It is one of the most amazing cities in my home country that I’ve never been to.
My mom wasn’t able to join me and my brother in Europe, therefore I felt I had to make an effort to compensate for the time we’ve been apart. Meet me in Lviv!
Leaving Poland and entering Ukrainian border was easy and fast. Totally different experience from what I’ve had on the way there. Few hours later I got squeezed in my mother’s tight hug. We made it, we back home.
I never skip workouts and traveling is not and excuse to break the rule. 6 am: I’m wide awake searching for nearby lap swimming pools. “Outdoor swimming pool “ is located in Lviv. Quick weather check, negative 8 outside the window. Hmmmm…. interesting how this pool look like and what’s the water temperature in it in the middle of Ukrainian winter❄️.
50 meter, 8 lanes of clear blue warm water surrounded by ice and snow. Holly smokes this is so awesome! Water temperature is 26-27 degrees Celsius, raising so much steam that it’s hard to see farther than your nose. I was impressed.
The city is gorgeous and the best way to explore it is by feet. Even the laziest person will easily put 20-30k steps walking around the city. January is also the time of Christmas market, where you can try so much different foods and even by yourself a pair of real wool handmade socks to keep yourself warm while in Ukraine. Telling you from own experience, it was one of the best purchases I ever made😁
It was really nice to see Matthew my best friend, whom I grew up with. He made the city of Lion his temporary home.
We both changed quite a bit, however warm childhood memories remain fresh, not rusted by time and distance. Meeting with people that have known you for so long gives you the sense of change you underwent.
Matthew served as our personal guide, keeping us engaged with the stories and interesting facts about the new city. He has always been a great friend of mine and always will. I’m really proud of you for all the things you have accomplished and all the great things that are waiting ahead of you. I’m sure we will get a chance to travel and experience the world together and I am really looking forward to it. Take care buddy.
All three of us had an amazing time in Lviv. The best part of this trip was the fact that we finally were side by side and had a privilege to share the same experience of traveling and discovering new places together.
Being constantly side by side for so long brings some challenges associated with misunderstanding and simply getting tired from one another. Even such patient person as my brother can give a crack while being with me for so long. You can find a key to everyone’s heart and here is the approach I used to smooth our mini-fights and eliminate any grudges that arose during our vacation:
This trip back home is a complete social, emotional and physical detox. This is a reset of me. It’s stress-test of all the labels I’ve put on myself, of what I made myself to believe I am, of what I made myself to think is important to me. This is the time to meet myself again. This trip is the mirror of me.
Suitcase is packed, everything is ready. I sit at my desk, trying to gather my thoughts around. Only a few hours are in between me and my family. It’s been 5 years and 2 months since I left home. It’s been 62 months since I’ve seen my family. It’s been so longs since I’ve touched my mother, felt her smell and a tight hug. Gosh it feels like forever…
Throughout the darkest moments of my life, the only thing I was wishing for is to be next to my family, just for a moment, just to catch a breath. They only way we could get together, was in my dreams. I would close my eyes and fly back into the happy moments of my careless childhood at the parent house. I open my eyes and still they weren’t there, I wasn’t there for them. I started to hate Christmas and New Years. I was jealous to see all the happy families at the malls Christmas shopping.
Suffering is a resistance to pain. Suffering is optional.
It took me about 3 years away from home to understand it. I didn’t stop missing everyone, I didn’t stop carrying, but I did stop to suffer. Distance between us became just a convention. Since I left home, I never stopped being a son, a brother or a grandkid. Understanding of it allowed me to open up to other people that cared about me. Karp’s and Hackett’s families accepted me as their own, giving me the support and care they could. I stopped resisting and stepped towards them. I didn’t feel anymore that I cheat on my family by accepting help from others. I still struggle with it, but I am better than before.
After all the years spent apart, all the family holidays and birthdays that I missed I am given a chance to reunite. But why am I hesitant? Boy, what do you wait for? Isn’t it what you wanted for so long? Here is a ticket, take it! Timidly I reach out with my hand and take it. Now I just wait to depart, surprisingly calm and relaxed.
It’s not the way I imagined coming home. One of my biggest dreams was to come home with the one I loved. She would meet my family and see the place I grew up in. She would get to know me better, understand me better. She will… but it will be a different person and at the different time. Today my travel partner is Blake, a Scottish terrier of one year old. This dog has been my copilot for the past year. He has seen and traveled to so many different places that a lot of people haven’t in their lifetimes. As it’s important to give your child good education, it’s equally important to train and tech your pet some good behavior. Realizing that I invest a lot of time, putting an effort to train him be well in the car, on the plane, with kids, other people and other animals. Having him by my side adds more to the experience of travel. Whenever we go, I feel like a rockstar, attracting all the looks and attention from people of all ages, genders and colors. It’s a hell of a trip not just for me, but for both of us.
On Top of Tsunami
The closer my plane gets to Ukraine the stronger emotional wind starts to blow.
As expected, meeting my parents and brother at the airport was total shock. I thought my mom would squeeze all the tears out of me in the tight hug. She is so pretty!
Stepan! You’re soooo freaking tall and big. My brother now taller than me, shaking my hand with gorillas size claw. Damn you’re big!
Dad quietly hugs me over the shoulders, saying such short and powerful: We missed you, Son.
Impressions of the Country
Prices are ridiculously high. If not the same, they are higher than in US or Canada. Living and working in America I rarely limited myself while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, picking what’s good, not what’s left , without breaking a budget. Now, in Ukraine, I felt myself broke. Every time leaving grocery store I had a strong sense that I’ve been ripped off. Even my higher salary, compared to money people make in Ukraine, didn’t always allow me to feed myself with healthy foods I’m used to. Healthy food selection is limited, unwillingly turning people’s heads towards highly processed and packaged alternatives. It became clear, that fresh and healthy foods are not in great demand here. However I must admit that the quality of local vegetables is outstanding. Cutting and smelling simple vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers gave me the culinary orgasm. There is so much taste to them compared to American options. Rather than that it was an every day struggle for me, trying to eat balanced, clean diet. By the end of my vacation I lost 4 kg (9 lbs), in three weeks.
Three digit prices spread not only for groceries, but also gas and utilities. I began to ask how the hell people can afford to even survive here? I began to ask different people how they manage to survive with such crazy prices. Few conversations with locals gave me an insight into what’s going on. Listen to this: an average/typical salary in my hometown is about $200-250 /month and utilities eat up approximately $125-$150 /month!!! a half of it. Half of your lifetime, you work just to pay you utility bills to keep the water running and not freezing to death in your apartment during the cold months. What’s left is $125 which you should distribute on food, commute and other basic monthly expenses. I don’t even speak about going on vacations, eating out, buying clothing and for God’s sake, putting some money aside. Impossible! Now more questions were running in my head than ever before.
What totally blew my mind and created a cognitive dissonance is the picture I’ve been observing around. Mercedeses, BMWs, Range Rovers, Porshes were frequently passing my bus. At the restaurants, on the public transportation, at the grocery stores – everyone seemed to be holding iPhones of the latest models. Everyone dressed nice, in a good looking and not always cheap clothings. I frequently spot meat, fruits and alcohol in people’s carts at the cashier’s register. WTF?! I don’t understand how can they afford all of that? Someone please explain, because I am really confused at this point. I hear one thing, but I see completely opposite. Who’s lying here?
About two weeks later I opened my eyes. At the exit of big shopping mall I saw a very sick, poor looking grandma. She was holding a curled bunch of dill in her wrinkly hand, offering it for sale. Standing right in front of the door, she was trying to catch people’s eyes, hoping to make a sale that would bring her some few pennies. What do you think she will spend that money on? Alcohol? Drugs? Maybe gambling? I highly doubt. She will trade it for a piece of the cheapest bread or some sort of sugar, that will keep her alive for the next few days. Ughhhh I’m so mad! I went back inside to get few loafs of bread, buckwheat, and some sugars in form of cookies and fruits. She began crying, taking a bag of food off my hand…
One morning, running through the neighborhood I learned another horrific story that curbed in my memory. A lady standing on the side of the road, greeting me as I rapidly approach her. “- Good morning young man! May I ask you for a favor? – Sure, I said, what’s up? There is a grandma in the house. She fell to the floor and can’t get up, even with my assistance. Please, help me lift her up. I promise it won’t take long and I don’t have anyone else to call for help. – Of course! I agreed”. Following her into the house I got shocked of the condition the house was in. Hangout for the homeless would seem as a 5-star hotel, compare to the house of this grandma. Entering the room I saw a lady approximately 80 years old, in her underwear laying helplessly on the cold floor, next to her “bed”. She fell when she was trying to go to the restroom – a metal bucket placed in the corner of the same room. I picked her up and left as fast as I could. I couldn’t feel the ground under my legs from what I have just seen. I realized that for her, something as simple as catching a flu meant death. Breaking a leg – death. Just because she can afford any type of healthcare or drugs. I got scared.
I began to realize that there is something seriously wrong. There is no middle class. There is a huge gap in between people that are balancing between life and death, trying to simply survive and people driving Porshe, living in mansions behind tall fences. You either poor or rich.
Bars & Pharmacies
Every time I travel to a new country, new city or neighborhood I pay attention to the billboards and advertisements around me. Seeing what is being advertised and what kind of audience is being targeted gives you a really good understanding of what kind of people live here, what their lifestyles and average incomes in a given region.
Sitting on the kitchen the other day, I turned the TV on to see what Ukrainians are being fed with these days. What’s in demand and what’s being advertised? Back when I was a kid, there were alcohol and cigarets commercials everywhere. Now that they seem to be banned from television, drug commercials have taken control of advertisement time. There were 6 commercials in about 2 minutes of time and 5 of them were promoting either some drugs or medical services. 5 out of 6! Exploring the town I confirmed that the number of pharmacies and drug stores have dramatically increased since I left 5 years ago. What I’m seeing now are bars, cheap grocery stores and pharmacies along the streets. You either drink or drug yourself to death, or both.
Ukrainian girls are the prettiest. Seriously, don’t just take my word for it and go see yourself. If you’re looking to merry a model for cheap, Ukraine is the place to go. Local women might not always offer higher levels of intelligence and won’t always share your excitement about the book you read and spiritual experience you’ve had, but who cares when she’s so beautiful. Cashier registers, waitresses, bus drivers, nurses – seemed like they all were hired straight from the model agencies. I couldn’t stop enjoying to just watching the pretty faces around me.
Knowing the importance of planning, I’ve made a list of the things to do, places to see and people to meet wile in Ukraine. I have met with everyone I wanted and even more. I also found time for everyone who expressed the interest in meeting and chatting with me. The list of places to visit was almost covered, leaving Chernobyl and mountains of Karpaty unchecked. Considering the time and countries I’ve been to in the past few days I am ok with that. I am leaving it for my next trip to Ukraine. Head to toe health check; Ice swimming and Family photography is marked done on my to do list. The only thing that’s missing is to “Try Escargot”. Should’ve stopped at the French restaurant for the piece of exotic meat. Overall I feel pretty happy and accomplished as I achieved almost everything I planned for myself.
I am not sad that I’m leaving. I hold no hard feeling to anyone or anything. I don’t regret of anything I’ve done or said during these three weeks. I’ve said everything I wanted, I hugged everyone I wanted…I am leaving again, as I did 5 years ago. Same airport, same terminal, but with a different cargo this time. Heavy emotional backpack is resting on my shoulders.
The same melody from the turbines plays in my ears. Three weeks later, me and Blake are on the plane back home. His head is resting on my feet, while I try to make any sense of my feelings and thoughts.
A huge invisible backpack is resting of my shoulders. It feels so heavy. Solid emotional piece of concrete with two handles I carry with me on this plane. I need to brake it into smaller digestible pieces so I can start making any sense of the feelings and thoughts it represent.
I am grateful for my body that handled so much physical and emotional stress. I am grateful for my mind for staying as clear as possible during the times of hardship. I am grateful for all the nice people I’ve met during this journey and the people that supported and believed in me, often even more than I did.
Father. I am grateful for my father and his family for their help with Blake and supporting me so much. I am so happy to see him and his wife living in piece, understanding and mutual respect. You know, when coming into someone’s house you can instantly feel the energy of the people that live there, you sense the “vibes”. Entering and staying at my father’s house, I instantly felt welcomed and warm. I felt so much piece inside of me. I could finally relax and take off my armor, even just for a few hours. I am grateful for my dad taking such a great care of me physically and mentally. I needed that warmth and care.
Mom. I am grateful for my mother, no matter what, supporting me. Even knowing she doesn’t show her love as much as I would liked, I know that she wants all the best for me and will always accept me. I feel that only by the end of my trip, we started opening up more towards each other. She went through some difficult times in her life and I respect the way she handled those situations. I am endlessly thankful for everything she’d given me and Stepan as her kids. I can not imagine how hard it was to raise two boys single handily in Ukraine, working as a military nurse. So much strength and power lives inside such a tiny body, a lady. I am admired by her courage and strength. She is a one though cookie. I am also grateful for the Universe connecting her with Dmitriy – her boyfriend. To be honest, as long as he loves and makes her happy, I don’t care about the appearances, what he does for a living, social status, amount of money on the bank account etc. From what I’ve seen – he does care about her and this is the thing that matters to me most.
Brother. I am really proud of my little brother. He is a one handsome, smart, companionate, empathetic young man. He has the biggest, kindest heart. I am grateful for him being by my side and sharing my experiences with me. He was really supportive during some of really tough times I was going through. He was quiet when necessary and cheerful at the times of happiness. Our Eurotour together will always stay in my memory as one of the greatest times I’ve even had.
What it all worth?
Right before leaving Ukraine I’ve been asked a really tough question. Does it really worth to sacrifice your family and friends, living in foreign country, far far from home? – My aunt asked.
I am glad she asked that question, after I’ve spent three weeks there. I’ve been asking same question myself many-many times, and finally I’ve got the answer. YES! It worth. That magic word – opportunities. Living in developed country gives me the opportunity to grow and develop physically, mentally, spiritually. Living in Ukraine will make it nearly impossible to train for triathlons and participate in meaningful competitions agains best of the best. It would be extremely difficult to follow my training and nutrition regimen, as well as affording necessary training equipment. Access to a clean, nutritiously rich foods is limited by crazy prices, which would force me to search for cheaper alternatives and will directly impact my health. To freely grow spiritually you should at least cover your basic needs for food, shelter and security. Living in Ukraine will shut the door to the spiritual development, as like a hamster in a wheel, you need to constantly be chasing money. I love my job, working on self-driving cars, and I realize how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing for a living. “Find the job you like and you won’t have to work a day in your life” – that is so true, and I am really grateful to be able to understand this quote from my own experience. Entrepreneurship is another passion of mine. So many easy accessible courses, conferences, meetups that help people to implement their passion and dreams into reality. So many more opportunities to develop as an entrepreneur. These opportunities allow me not only grow in those dimensions, but essentially they give me a chance to bring something good into the world. By becoming better I can help and improve the lives of people around me. I can create something great, something better, bigger than me, that will serve others.
Unfortunately I don’t see the same back in my home country. It hurts to realize that the country I was born in, couldn’t provide me and other bright, smart young people with the opportunities for growth. I hurts to be separated from your family and friends, while in search for a better life. Of course I want to be able to just jump in my car and drive to see my mom or dad, whenever I feel like. Of course I want to spend Christmas, New Years, Easter, Independence Day holidays with the ones I love. Of course! But at this point I don’t see how this dilemma can be resolved.