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Where In The World Am I Today?

Posted by kevinwolz on November 24, 2011

Once 2011 comes to a close, I will be able to say that in the last year I have stepped foot in 6 U.S. states (not including drive-throughs), 7 countries, and 4 continents (as long as you consider Panama south of the canal to be South America). Whoa. How did that happen!? I honestly don’t view myself as a world traveler…many of those trips were quite under planned and/or unexpected. In the lat two years, my life has grown more decentralized…I currently have strong roots in southern Wisconsin, the Chicago suburbs, and the U of I. I can barely figure out where my clothes are, let alone my home turf. Add to that a slew of world travel, and you have quite the whirlwind. I’ve probably slept as many nights this year in a bed (or lack thereof) that wasn’t mine that in my own bed(s)! Often times this year, I have woken up in the morning quite confused…without the slightest idea of where I was. Intense. I’ve already posted about my European travels last winter and my summer in the tropics, so here I’m just going to give a quick run down on the whirlwind that has been my fall semester. The following five locations are the last 6 weeks/weekends of my life. Crazy.

Phoenix, AZ

By this point, Phoenix seems so long ago, but was actually the first domino that fell this fall (pun half-intended). I traveled to Phoenix through the always-awesome Campus Honors Program here at U of I in order to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Annual Conference. At the conference, I presented the Prairie Garden Project that I led last spring (the funding for the project came from an NCHC grant that I secured last fall). While my presentation was a very small component of the conference, attending the rest of the conference (centered around innovation in collegiate education) provided some really neat sessions and programs. The best program I attended was a day-long trip out to Montezuma’s Well National Monument for a behind-the-scenes experience on how the National Park Service operates and what it takes to maintain a park, both ecologically and economically.

Montezuma's Well National Monument

Overall, Phoenix was just so beautiful. It’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been in, and the weather was incredible. Above all, the best part of this trip was the fact that I have family in Phoenix who I haven’t seen in a long time. So, reconnecting with them and spending some quality time together was a really great experience.

Columbia, MO & Charlotte, NC

These two weekends came about as a result of the Illinois Cross Country Club (IXC), the first being the site of our Regionals race, and the second of our Nationals Race. I’m proud to say that the IXC won both the men’s and women’s team titles this year! We are the Champions!! While I did not race competitively this cross season (since I did not train all summer), I did attend both of these meets as a coach and raced the open races. Surprisingly, those open races went far better than I had ever expected after taking an entire some off. More importantly, however, was that, as the IXC Travel Coordinator, I coordinated both of these trips. Consequently, these two trips were personally by far the most stressful of any this fall. For Nationals, I had to get 75 people to travel 750 miles in five 15-passenger vans in a comfortable and relaxed manner that allowed them to compete at their highest potential, and then bring them back…for as cheap as possible and in only 3 days. Stressful. However, the trips ran smoothly and we had a great time. All that’s left to do is wish Declan good luck. He has to do this job in the spring…

Maysville, MO

This was the Open Source Ecology weekend, which I have already posted about extensively. It was only one day, but what a long day it was…

Los Angeles, CA

Most recently,  as I enjoy my week-long fall break from school, I have headed to Los Angeles to visit my two best friends from high school, neither of whom I have seen for a significant period of time since we all left for college. We’ve had a lot of catching up to do. Aside from just spending lots of time running and catching up on life plans, we explored downtown LA, hiked the nearby Malibu Creek State Park, and are now cooking our very own Thanksgiving Dinner.

And just when you (and I) thought that the year was winding down and relaxation was on its way, I go and do something crazy: sign up for a Winter Abroad course through U of I that travels to China and India for a week each over winter break. What the heck is wrong with me!? We’ve already been told that we shouldn’t expect to sleep very much on the trip. Despite the lack of relaxation, I think that these two weeks are extremely important for me. They will include lots of traveling and intense cultural/social interactions…essential to understanding the global nature of the issues I am interested in.

This year of traveling has certainly taught me more about the Real World and opened my mind more than any other year of my life. The opportunity to head out on all these endeavors is something that I am extremely fortunate to have and for which I am truly thankful. I can definitively say that I have not taken these opportunities for granted and have made the most out of every moment I have the privilege of experiences. That said, traveling is exhausting…in more ways than one…and next year I plan on scaling my travels back quite a bit, at least the far-reaching ones. For many different reasons, 2012 is going to be the Year of Focus for me. More on this to come…

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2 Responses to “Where In The World Am I Today?”

  1. Joan said

    Kevin,

    The books “Where’s Waldo?” should be changed to “Where’s Kevin?”
    You’ve had a great year and I look forward to reading about China & India.
    Congratulations to the U of I teams and for your success as the IXC Travel Coordinator. Good Job, Kevin!!

    GB

  2. Vickie Johnson said

    Amazing how many miles you travelled in such short time, viewing so much, participating in so much and enjoying yurself so much!! Hope you get some R&R before headinig for China an India

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