15,000 km of perspective
Krystal Kowalski (BA ’15) and Gregory Mittler (BA ’14) have disrupted their routines completely by travelling around the world for a year.
Krystal Kowalski (BA ’15) and Gregory Mittler (BA ’14) have disrupted their routines completely by travelling around the world for a year.By Krystal Kowalski (BA ’15) in collaboration with Gregory Mittler (BA ’14) Alumni
“Let’s get lost to rediscover ourselves.”
Such a seemingly backwards sounding logic to self-discovery, isn’t it? That’s what we wanted though. We dreamt and planned for three years so that we could travel the globe and purposefully make ourselves feel as uncomfortable as possible.
We sold most of our earthly possessions, put our newly blossoming careers on hold, and said goodbye to loved ones because we wanted to wholeheartedly connect with other cultures and gain perspective on the concepts we tirelessly studied at UWaterloo for more than five years.
Wellness and balance aren’t just buzzwords to us. They were the foundation of our education which we recognized were seriously lacking from our own lives. We thought that maybe if we disrupted our routines completely, we could relearn how to place greater value on the energy we spend outside of work. With that, we planned to embark on a year-long journey with these two main goals in mind: to increase our international IQ, and to improve our physical and mental wellness.
We didn’t start as travel partners. We initially met because we were both involved on campus in our undergrad in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, and with Warriors Athletics in volunteer and paid positions, and with Housing and Residences: Greg as a Peer Leader and me as a Don.
It was one pivotal moment in 2012, however, that would act as a catalyst for this year-long adventure: my international exchange to the Netherlands. Studying at Tilburg University opened my eyes to life outside of Canada and sparked my desire to explore, which later inspired Greg to join along.
The two of us have a lot in common, including our Recreation and Leisure Studies degree which has given us an incredible arsenal of communication and planning skills that have helped us orchestrate this adventure of a lifetime. It gave us the knowledge that we finally started to appreciate on November 15, 2018, standing at the base of a mountain in Zakopane, Poland.
We desperately wanted to go on a hike after spending much of the previous two months in busy metropolitan cities throughout Europe. We were desiring some peaceful time with nature and had learned there was fantastic hiking near where we were staying.
After some searching, we found the park entrance and embarked on what would become one of the muddiest hikes we have ever experienced. As we ventured onward, we questioned our level of preparedness after passing a few hikers with intense looking walking poles. We continued to climb though, our footfalls cautious and fumbling on the slippery rocky incline.
As we neared the top of a hill, we started to notice a contrast between light and dark in our surroundings. We were walking through what looked like two universes divided by a veil of snow. One side completely untouched and the other in a dusting of soft, white powder. It created the kind of quiet that allows you to hear your own heart thumping in your chest.
Everything was still and pristine.
We continued the decline down the other side which opened into a remarkable valley. In that moment, we felt small. Standing there in awe, we both silently vowed to take more time to interact with nature. Up until that point in our trip, we were guilty of hurriedly pushing ourselves from one destination to the next, desperately trying to soak up as much information as possible without being mindful of what we needed.
Our trip had become work when we needed it to help us rediscover how to be balanced. We had learned about incorporating balance before; it just took 15,000+ km for us to finally commit to it.
As we write this post, we have travelled to 15 countries across Europe and Southeast Asia and are almost 6 months into our one-year adventure. In September 2019, Greg will return to his position with the Waterloo Warriors after his leave of absence and I plan to pursue new, unknown opportunities.