I've had the pleasure of getting to know Karel for the past 6.5 years. As my best friend in life, I couldn't ask for a better person to spend forever with.
This pic was taken of Karel in Italy at the age of 20. Just a few years before taking a risk that would change his life.
Although many people know Karel as a talented cyclist with a strong European accent who is a perfectionist that never gives up, I know Karel as a dreamer. Someone who wanted so much more out of his life and was willing to take chances to achieve a great life.
When you mention the word immigrant, there are many thoughts that pop into your head (good and bad).
Regardless of where you live, I think we all aspire for a quality filled life and perhaps appreciate the freedom we have in our life. Perhaps for many, the American Dream is what draws people to this United States but I believe that there are many amazing places in this world to live and countries filled with dreamers, doers and believers.
What is it about life that we dream about? For many it is wealth and the ability to put forth hard work. Maybe the dream is less work and more play or for others, simplicity, health, laughter and happiness. Maybe it is a combination of things but I think we can all agree that the dream of living a great life isn't without obstacles and a lot of challenges thrown your way.
When I met Karel I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into as I was "set-up" with him by our mutual friends who thought that we would make a cute couple. Of course, they caught my attention when they mentioned he had a cute accent and is very smart and active and I must say, meeting him on the bike for a group ride for the first time was a pleasure..there's something nice about a European in spandex who can ride a bicycle :)
Fast forward 6.5 years and I have learned a lot about Karel for he hasn't lived the life that so many people are accustomed to in the United States.
One day, I hope to share Karel's story of coming to the US with only a backpack and working up to 3 jobs a day to afford a safe place to sleep at night and enough food to feed himself for the day (often, at the Chinese buffet or pasta with tomato sauce). Karel and I have been through a lot together and with every low there was a high. Although not always timely in life, sometimes you just have to appreciate what you have when you have it and just keep staying positive and strong.
I always wanted to be with someone like Karel. Someone who could give me a different perspective on life, someone who could challenge me mentally and physically and someone who I could learn from. I also wanted to be with someone who accepted me for me and regardless of my strengths or weaknesses, he would love me for who I am and encourage me to stay strong with what I believe in. I also wanted someone who could make me laugh for I don't like to be sad and sometimes it is hard to smile all the time when things just aren't going your way.
For the past 6.5 years, I have acquired a new appreciation for many things in life and I have also seen myself grow with an open-mind. Seeing that I have traveled internationally to Japan and the Philippians in the past (at age 13 and 20 years of age) I have realized that with every experience in life, you have the ability to change for the better or appreciate what you have.
Traveling to the Philippians changed my life when I was at an age to appreciate what I have and to not take things for granted. Running water, electricity, available food (everywhere)...just a few things I appreciate and certainly try to not take advantage of. But then there's Karel to share stories with me of his upbringing - rarely eating out, only on special occasions, eating foods from his mothers garden, having fresh bread daily, walking to school and watching 30 minutes of TV with the family daily in the evening.
What I have loved the most about having Karel in my life is being able to make memories from someone who is from a different country than my own. It doesn't only make for interesting conversations and different points of views but it also brings us closer.
For the past few years, we have shared our story with our close friends and family and they all know that this announcement is a long time coming. For 13 years, Karel has not been back to Czech Republic. Within the past 13 years, Karel has seen his mom, dad and brother only once, at our wedding in 2008. Thank goodness for Skype and the postal service but nothing beats a homemade meal by your mom and a bike ride with your dad.
I'm excited to share the news that on May 7th, 2013, we are heading to Czech Republic!!
Flying into Prague and making our way to Karel's hometown of Znojmo, Czech Republic.
I don't think we will really believe that we are going until we start packing but for the past few months we have anticipated this day after the flights were booked and now the time is almost here!!
So what am I looking forward to?
-Spending 12 days with Karel, all day, every day!
-Meeting Karel's extended family and friends
-Spending time with Karel's family (his brother speaks English) in the homes where he grew up in.
-Trying new food, taking pictures of food, learning as much as I can about food in Czech!
-Possibly getting a bike at Karel's old bike shop in Czech (Karel has a bike for himself that he is borrowing, he is trying to find one my size)
-Enjoying new sights and visiting Prague and Karel's hometown
-Listening to Karel speak Czech for almost 10 days as oppose to only speaking Czech just a few times a year when he Skype's with his family.
-Creating memories with Karel
What am I not looking forward to?
-Leaving Campy :( But he will be staying with his grandparents at the "Resort" so he will get plenty of love and likely lots of people food. Maybe even a ride in the Corvette by my dad :)
-Karel explaining to people that I am a vegetarian and that someone actually chooses to not eat meat (should be interesting in a beer and meat loving country :)
-Long flights.......compression socks will come in handy and my Trigger Point set.
-Being away from my athletes (coaching and nutrition) and social media - I am sure it will be nice to get away but I am not sure how well I will handle not being able to blog, FB or email like I do here at home. But, I will survive :) My athletes will not worry because they will have their workouts on training peaks so they can do their miles while I travel thousands of miles. My nutrition services will be on hold while I am gone so that means that I can look forward to lots of communication when I return from active bodies who are excited to change their lifestyle.
Have you traveled to Prague, Czech or Europe? Any suggestions, tips or to-do's for traveling international?