Travel Stories Week 38
What's your favourite place you have visited?
My favorite destination is Serbia. All of my family is back in Serbia (expect my mom, dad and sister). We immigrated to the US when I was 5 years old. Because I grew up in the US, Serbia still feels like a place “I’ve visited” –not like home. While I can speak Serbian, my grammar is utterly terrible. Serbia feels foreign and familiar at the same time.
It’s my favorite place to visit because I can see my family, eat Burek & be reminded of a different way of life. My cousin Jelena refers to our lives in the US as being “sterile.” I think this is true in a lot of ways. We don’t have cats roaming the streets or grow our own vegetables. We miss out on a lot of the beauty and simplicity of life in the hustle and bustle of Chicago. But, I never miss out on it when I’m in Serbia.
What’s the best thing you have seen while travelling?
The best thing I’ve seen while travelling was a Pakistani wedding. The first day, mehndi, was something out of a Disney movie! The event was held in an ornate tent decorated with hundreds of flowers, bright colors, pretty lights. It was absolutely beautiful. The bride’s whole family put on dance performances the entire evening. Everyone, from the youngest kids to the grandparents, got on the dance floor to perform a routine. At first, I questioned how someone would “party” without alcohol (being as Pakistan is a dry country). By the end, I had my answer.
What’s your best travel story?
Hiking the Stairway to Heaven was one of the most memorable experiences in my life so far. The Stairway to Heaven, or Haiku Stairs, are a track of combined step ladders built by the US Government during WWII. They traverse the beautiful Ko’olau range on Hawaii’s island of Oahu. They were designed to reach a top-secret radio transmitter, and they still reside on federally owned land today.
To do this hike, we had to arrive before dawn. It was pitch black out. We saw a police cruiser positioned near the entry point (which was empty). At this point, we were lucky enough to meet other determined hikers. We had to climb through a small hole in a metal fence and follow printed out instructions through the forest. I remember wandering around in the dark, with our new friends, looking for vague “paths” and debating which turn to take at which fork. We must have wandered around like this for an hour before we finally found the stairs.
Just before dawn, we embarked on the climb. It was almost entirely vertical. The views were spectacular. The whole island of Oahu was laid out before us. It was grueling and unforgiving, but utterly amazing. At the end of the climb, we were greeted by a homeland security officer. He threatened to fine us, but ultimately let us go with a warning! Mostly, because it was Easter Sunday.
Tell us about your blog
Valentina’s Destinations was born from my obsession with meticulously researching, organising and planning my travel itineraries. I’m originally from Nis, Serbia. My family moved to the US when I was young, and I’ve been living in Chicago for the last decade. My passion is travelling the world with my boyfriend, Remigijus. When we’re not travelling, I work as a physician assistant in the psychiatry field. The mental health field is as rewarding as travelling can be.
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