You know that feeling in a workout when you think to
yourself “It can’t get any better than that”, well, I am finding myself
“wowing” my way through this trip. I hesitate using the word “vacation” because
Karel and I aren’t use to vacationing Sitting around on the beach or being catered to at a resort is not our style....honestly, we'd be bored after a few hours
When we travel, it is typically for an
event or race and we don't do well sitting around. Thus, every time we pack our bags for something, it is for a
purpose and often includes some type of movement (or is related to our jobs which involve activity/fitness). This trip has many purposes but I am enjoying my time here in Czech
making memories but also learning about a new culture that allows me to bring
home new ways to live life as well as an appreciation of what I have back at
home. With my blog posts and pictures, I only hope that I can inspire others to
get comfortable being uncomfortable by trying new things and being open to new
opportunities. I realize that traveling abroad is not for everyone and may not
be practical for everyone (costs, timing, logistics, etc.) but I feel that many
people take for granted the many opportunities they have in their own current
life but just feel “stuck” either in a bubble of familiarity and fear change or
are scared to make any changes and the “what if’s” keep you bored, stressed and
overwhelmed in your current life.
This is my third trip abroad and although my last two trips were a while back in 2004 and 1995 to Philippines and Japan, respectively, I find myself constantly enjoying learning from others...particularly, the lifestyle.
Aside from the 7th day Adventists and the Mediterranean style diet (which research consistently shows, long term, that both show high rates of quality of life and low risk for disease and improved health status by following a vegetarian or plant based diet), I've learned from those who live a high paced, wealthy lifestyle and from those who take bucket showers and have no electricity and seeing that each country may have staple foods and/or certain thoughts on exercise/fitness/sports, every village, town and city differs in terms of quality of life. Thus, to assume that there is one right way to live is absolutely wrong as it isn't about a right way of being healthy but rather, making sure your lifestyle makes you happy.
So, here is the blog post that was very hard to summarize
for there were way too many wow’s and not enough brain power to put it all into
words. Again, thank goodness for iPhones and photos to keep memories current
Once again, the sun was shining early and I found myself awake at 5:20am thinking
it was 9am. I was able to lay back down for a little but then around 6am I woke
up to the smell of fresh European coffee.
Karel and I started our morning with a cup of coffee and headed out for a quick
2 mile run on new roads (for me) in Czech. For both Karel and myself, we love
to stay active and exercise is a very important to both of us for both physical
and mental benefits. But as I have repeated many times in my blog and in
articles, you don’t have to be a triathlete or marathon runner to be “healthy”.
I am a firm believer that you should get your heart rate up, don’t be afraid to
sweat and don’t feel as if you have to conquer x-minutes, x-workouts, x-days a
week. Just move whenever you can for however long feels “right.” I absolutely
love our morning runs because 20-30 minutes of sight-seeing is the perfect way
to start the day as it is only the beginning of a jam-packed day.
Throughout our morning run and breakfast (which was a simple
meal of local yogurt, fresh fruit, egg and bread/pastries and water) Karel
continued with stories of when he was growing up in Znojmo. I guess you could
say that Karel is taking a lot of “runs” down memory lane.
After breakfast Karel and his dad had to run some personal
errands so I joined along for the “experience” of living a day-to-day life in
Czech. Since we were in town for the
errands, we stayed busy on our feet walking everywhere (which is typical for
people in Znojmo as parking is tight, gas is pricey and streets are narrow and it is much
easier to just walk/bike everywhere. Plus, since everyone buys local and fresh foods
are so popular, most grocery stores are within walking distance so people just
shop daily for small items as not many would buy packaged bread here or
expect fresh food to last a week). We
visited a beautiful church as well as two of Karel’s old bike shops. It is so
great to see people remember Karel as soon as they see him and although I can’t
understand anything, I know they ‘re catching up and sharing great stories.
After the bike shop, it was time for a mid morning treat.
Seeing that we have not snacked between meals since we have arrived in Czech, I
was super excited for this opportunity to have a real espresso in Europe with a
real pastry. Because I have relied on Karel to order everything for me (much easier
than having him translate everything for me), he ordered me a delicious walnut
pastry as well as 3 other pastries for us to share. I laughed at Karel when he
told me that he would always pass a bakery on his way home from school when he
was young and he would always get pastries before he came home. Now I know why
my hubby has such a big sweet tooth! Although it may look like we are
“treating” ourselves a lot, we have yet to feel gross or guilty after eating
anything and although no scale and we aren’t very concerned with weight gain,
neither one of us feel as if we have gained any weight. We do not ever use words like "I'm being bad, I shouldn't be doing this or I feel fat" as I don't believe those are beneficial words in a balanced lifestyle. Of course, we can not
bring home this lifestyle to the US because it just wouldn’t work in our
sedentary, fast paced society. As hard as I try to help others live a more
balanced active and healthy lifestyle (and feel more confident doing so, thanks to this trip), I realize that what works in one country
may not be ideal in another. In addition to the food here being prepared with fresh
ingredients and not loaded with salt, high fructose corn syrup (Karel says they don't use it in processed food here that he knows of) and sugar, we are extremely active here
just moving all the time. Whereas in America, for many of us, we seem to spend
most of our day sitting and only get up to go and eat (often eating quickly or
continuing our day while eating).
Here in Czeh, it is nice to sit down to eat with
family/friends after walking around all day. Also, there is something to be
said about the quality of food here. I have yet to put a preservative, food dye
or artificial ingredient in my body since arriving to Europe (although I have
food with me, I have not had any protein powder, KIND and Hammer bars or other
“emergency” food from home for I have not felt like I needed it), food tastes
so good that you don’t have to eat a lot of it to be satisfied…much different
than in America where you think food tastes good and you can’t stop eating. Here
in Europe, it’s hard to overeat for the food is just more delicious and meal
time is a slow time. I have yet to see anyone eat in their car or behind a
computer screen (although I am sure people do, but unlike America, it is not
the norm). It’s really hard to explain the living and eating style here,
especially because many people in America have such an unhealthy relationship
with food and the body. I have a blog to write in the near future as I talked with Karel's niece about "diets" here in Czech as well as some other questions that I had in terms of the "lifestyle" here and relationship with food and the body and I found it all very interesting. To sum up one of her statements after I asked her what she thought about American culture (relating to food/bodies) after her recent trip to Miami and then a cruise, she said that yes, there are big Americans but also, way too many "skinny" Americans. When I asked her to describe "skinny" she basically described the body that I feel many athletic individuals are trying to achieve - toned, lean and not curvy. To her, it looked unhealthy.
Everything in the US from body image (too big to too
small) and diets (from good food to bad/off-limit food) is so extreme and for
some reason, we have this perception of what is “healthy” in terms of body
image and diet (although the diet component changes daily, it seems) and thus,
I feel our society is so far removed from a balanced lifestyle. People want to
be healthy but they aren’t happy and their idea of "healthy" is not always a true defnition of health. Although I have been very
adventurous in trying new things and being extremely “free” here, I don’t feel
as if I am living a different life from what I try to do at home in Florida.
I am so happy that I came to Czech with a strong relationship with food and a good one with my body that I am only continuing my balanced lifestyle rather than being shocked at any one thing here. It is a great feeling knowing that I can travel outside of my comfort zone in the US and still maintain my definition of a healthy and active lifestyle.
The only thing that is different here is that it IS the “norm” here to live a life
of happiness, love and good, real food. Food is slow cooked, not fast. It is real, not processed. I do miss a few of my staple foods that I feel are healthy in my diet like nuts, seeds, tofu, lentils, peanut butter, beans and whole grains but I am functioning just fine here in Czech while maintaining my meat-free lifestyle (and Karel is enjoying his meat options here and enjoying the lifestyle just as much as me. Well, maybe a bit more since it has been many years for him to have enjoyed his mom's cooking). Sure, Karel and I are athletes and our
bodies take care of themselves because
we “train” more than we “exercise” but if I have learned anything in the 3
short days that we have been here, it is that American’s waste so much energy
on wanting to change the outcomes of unhealthy lifestyle choices when instead,
it is not one food
(or food group) that needs to be eliminated but instead the overall lifestyle
is what needs to be addressed. If you don't make time to cook real foods, you are only going to find yourself blaming carbs for weight gain for the rest of your life. It's not carbs, dairy or bread...it's the lifestyle and I can attest for that as I have eaten a diet here that tastes great and much of it is not my typical diet....but, I feel great, have not seen any negative change in body composition, both Karel and I have repeatedly said we feel very "clean" inside and we feel energized and satisfied. Let's not forget that a balanced lifestyle includes good sleep, stress management, slowing down to enjoy life, spending
time with friends/family (and wanting to take care of others) and of course,
real food…not too much, just enough to enjoy it, feel fueled and nourished and
feel satisfied. It's not gluten-free, paleo or these others diets that Karel's niece had never heard of, but instead, it's the lifestyle of moving your body and feeling good about the food you put into your body (and not worrying about what others are doing or not doing).
After our morning adventure, Karel and I went to his mom’s
to change quickly for we were about to take a bike ride to Austria!!!
Karel’s old cycling buddy, Jirka, invited us for a ride on his “lunch break”
since many of the business shut down for lunch. Another one of Jirka’s friends
joined us and I was thrilled that he could speak a little English.
So excited for a bike ride of a lifetime, we rode ~10K and crossed the Austria
border! It was around 12:30pm when we started but I’ve completely lost track of
time here in Czech as Karel is keeping me incredibly busy and on my toes (love
it!). And I thought Czech was beautiful, the scenery in Austria was gorgeous! I
just couldn’t believe my eyes and I couldn’t stop taking pictures while riding.
I am happy that my bike handling skills have improved over the years for this
ride offered many new experiences for me such as riding through small towns
with small roads and cars zipping buy (although they don’t seem to mind
cyclists), signs which I couldn’t understand and thus had no idea where we were
going, riding on cobblestones and riding on a few rollers (Very smooth roads
outside of the towns).
When we arrived to Retz, Austria we took a few pics and then, why not…let’s
have a cappuccino! Coffee drinking is much different than in America..it’s not
coffee, it’s the culture of drinking coffee. Seeing that I normally have 1-2
cups a day (before and after my morning workout or in the morning), I don’t
ever do “energy” drinks or afternoon coffee pick-me-ups. But here, there are no
paper cups or weak coffee beans that require loads of sugar and sweeteners to
provide flavor. It’s 2-3 ounces of strong coffee that must be consumed slowly
and it is hard to not enjoy it. Of course, I am use to this because I have
lived with a European in America for the past 6.5 years so it is something that
I welcomed but had not yet appreciated until I came to Europe.
After coffee, we headed up a climb on cobblestones (nervous at first but I did
just fine thanks to Karel giving me pointers as to not ride slow as I needed to
keep my momentum riding up the climb) and then up a windy, smooth road to see a
beautiful windmill on the top of a hill which overlooked the city. Talk about a
priceless opportunity in life while doing what Karel and I love to do….and how
we met, on our bikes!
After a few more pics, we climbed a bit more and then had a fast, fun descend on a smooth open two lane
road back to Retz and then we made our way back to Znojmo. Although the total
ride was around 25 miles and the way there was rather casual, the guys picked
it up on the way back and with the wind blowing strong in the open fields, I
had a nice workout on the way home by drafting with the guys pulling away.
After the ride, it was nearing 2:45pm and we had yet to eat
lunch so to no surprise, Karel’s mom had lunch ready for us (from earlier since we missed it)…fried cheese and homemade
mashed potatoes! Karel had been telling me about the Smažak for a while and it reminded
me of mozzarella sticks…but of course, so much better as it was prepared by
Karel’s mom and served in the perfect portion as I could have eaten so much
more but Karel and I always eat until we are satisfied (in other words, we
could eat a few more bites but we stop before). And here in Czech, Karel keeps
reminding me you don’t want to eat until you are full because you never know
when someone will have more food for you J
What a great thought as many people eat until they have eaten one too many bites and thus, feel uncomfortable and regret that last bite (or 5).
We rested for about an hour and then Karel’s niece (from his
sister who passed away in 2001) and her husband came over to take us to a trip
All new news to me, I was so super excited when she told me where we were going
in the car. It was ~80K to Vienna from Karel’s home and when we pulled off the
interstate to downtown Vienna, I “wow’d” once again. Oh wow – so beautiful!!
You could just feel the history between the buildings and on the streets. Oh
and those streets were super bike/runner friendly (and in-line skating). We had
coffee at one of the most famous café’s in Vienna called Landtmann along with a
pre dinner dessert. The atmosphere was amazing with people just socializing
after work, drinking coffee, enjoying a small dessert, reading newspapers and
just enjoying talking to one another (minimal cell phone use). After a once in
a lifetime experience in Vienna, we drove around the city before heading to
another small city about 80K away for dinner. Karel’s niece is a vegetarian as
well and she was excited to take me to my first restaurant meal in Czech….well,
not exactly a Czech meal.
The restaurant Schickh was in Austria so the menu was in
German and the waitress also spoke German (and a little English). Nothing new,
I relied on others to choose for me as Karel’s niece Jitka read the German
menu, translated Czech to Karel (she also speaks English but it was much easier
for Karel to find something for me as he knows what I like to eat and also he knows
what I may like to try for something new) who then told me what I would be
eating. Talk about a new experience on a whole new level!!
For starters, the beautiful bread basket came and seeing
that it was around 8:15pm, we welcomed the variety of fresh bread along with
the fresh veggies and chive dip that also came with the bread. We also got a
bottle of white wine to share. For appetizers, I had a salad w/ fried goat
cheese and Karel had a steak Tatar plate. For our entrée, the chef prepared a
vegetarian item just for me which included boiled potatoes w/ parsley (no salt
added by the chef, I didn’t even have to worry about salty potatoes as he
didn’t even feel the need to salt them) along with a full plate of a variety of
roasted veggies tossed in olive oil. Karel said that I never have to feel the
need to finish my plate and you don’t ask for a “doggy bag” and it is OK to not
finish your meal. I wasn’t able to finish my meal so I ate until I was
satisfied and I felt really great after I finished (albeit, very tired from a
long, busy day). Karel, no surprise, had Schnitzel with potatoes and he loved
every bit of it.
As I mentioned before, it was a wow-type of day. All new to me and lots of
memories made in Czech (and Austria). I am learning so much about the culture
and I am so grateful that I have Karel as my tour guide and that we are staying
with Karel’s family. I feel my life has already been changed from this trip and
I can’t wait to get back to “work” (Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition) and to
change more lifestyles when I return home from Europe. Although I have never
been one to read “diet, fitness and health” books written by guru’s and
professionals but instead get my knowledge from research and textbooks, I can
honestly say that a lot can be said from the experiences you get by living a
lifestyle in another country, learning from the locals and addressing the pros and cons in another country in relation to your own. Sometimes
you have to be willing to make a change to feel a change and often, those
changes can’t be read in a book but instead, through life experiences.
Stay tuned for pics from Day 3 as well as a recap of Day 4: traveling to Karel's brother's house in Příbor, CZ , checking out Stramberk and eating LOTS of awesome, delicious, fresh food!
Thanks for reading and enjoying the pics on Facebook
. I'm happy we can share this journey with everyone in hopes that you can be inspired to live a more balanced healthy and active lifestyle.