THIS WAS NOT A RACE AS SUGGESTED

All photos courtesy of Andres Corredor Ospina

(8 airports, 4 nations, 4 languages, 3 time zones, 1 lost baggage and many miles of flying).

My mother Bertha Olga has been described as a seasoned traveler, adventurer, BTI survivor, AGEI.ST personality and many other merit-based acknowledgements. We traveled together from Bogotá to Frankfurt making a stop in Munich before continuing to Russia; visiting two amazing cities Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Afterwards, we traveled to the capital city of Kiev in Ukraine via Moldova, diplomatic relations did not allow us to travel directly, all in a quest for new experiences and proximity to other cultures.

Having a local agent can be extremely helpful given the complexity of booking international connections with special requests. Fortunately, we counted with the assistance of my mom’s childhood friend Rosario. Nevertheless, not everything that is planned in advance is always perfectly aligned or convenient from afar.

What would you do if your baggage did not arrive for three days and you were in a foreign country? What if you were traveling alone, or with an elder person with a recent medical condition, or in my case, with someone that has reduced mobility and is in a wheelchair. I’m certain most travelers have experienced this frustration and have similar anecdotal stories when it comes to keeping sane. Luckily, my travel partner always kept positive and did not let the darkness eat me up. In fact, my baggage was delayed at the origin city, rushed the day after and delivered hours before my departure flight almost 48 hours later. Something could be said of German efficiency. (I have since filed a claim with @Lufthansa).

Here are a few key takeaways and recommendations from our travel content.

1. Infrastructure and punctuality can keep you sane

Munich translates as “home of the monks”, and my sense is that the Bavarian capital has plenty of offerings year-round, certainly some of the best breweries and green spaces such as the Englischer Garten that draw in many international tourists, savvy business travelers as well as students from around the world, especially during the two week frenzied Oktoberfest.

It has also been regarded as Italy’s most northern city based on its proximity to the Alps. Monocle’s “Quality of Life” annual survey ranked this the winning city among 25 other cities in the world, based on its modern vision. For me, the traditional food scene, the so called beer hall’s with its meat-eating and beer-drinking crowds can be a bit overwhelming. Some locals prefer dimly lite restaurants or taverns. Also don’t be surprised if friendly faces familiar with the city, instead, recommend a neighborhood pizza eatery in the trendy Glockenbachviertel district spanning to the west. Of course, after trying out some of their best dishes.

Two power houses are headquartered here both with a design-driven compass that unlock German ingenuity. The automobile industry helps keep the unemployment rate below 4%, and its home to both the industrial complex of BMW and Audi, as well as the insurance giant Allianz. Football fans may regard the arena, home to the FC Bayern Munich as a true wonder of the world.

All Münchner’s value punctuality and have great time management skills. It’s hardly a compliment to be late to a meeting in the Bavarian capital. Despite my thoughts and mild OCD in this matter, I kept cheery and did not let my troubled anxiety about my lost baggage deter me from enjoying the city’s popular transportation system including its autobahn, underground, cycling paths and grid of waterways. Taking the U-Bahn, a universally recognized public transportation was a delight. It’s a win-win when infrastructure and design come together.

One of the highlights of our visit to Munich was the BMW Welt | Museum. My mother had most of the fun as she reminisced to the days when her father a mechanical engineer taught her how to drive as a teenager in a self-made kart and then to her very first BMW back in 1972.

All photos courtesy of Andres Corredor Ospina

2. Life is about seeing things for oneself

Saint Petersburg holds the key to the success or downfall of the Romanov dynasty and the history of Peter the Great as its supreme egotistical visionary, to the subsequent years of Catherine the Great and the entire Russian navy fleet for that matter. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The story is more fascinating if you consider that this was once the capital of the world’s largest country and most powerful. If you intend to visit or have an intellectual desire to learn more about Russia, I highly recommend watching the Netflix special Empire of the Tzars, starring historian Lucy Worsley.

This was my first visit to Russia or the “mother land”, as my immigrant friend back in Boston would like to say. I had seen plenty of images including recent coverage of the World Cup. It was an odyssey to get there. The Neva river boat cruise was phenomenal. Saint Petersburg is indeed a beautiful city reminding me of the great Ottoman empire with its Bosphorus strait.

From my experience, I valued the new generation of creative entrepreneurs that have opened new distinguished markets, retail shops alongside great book shops as well as its underground music scene. I was also very keen on its hotels, restaurants and quality service. My favorite without a doubt, was the Hotel Astoria given the intimate nature and excellent cocktails accompanied with live music.

3. VR can be as important as a second language at Museums

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg @state_hermitage has an amazing Hermitage VR experience available to those that visit. It’s the best preserved immersion of one of the world’s best art collections. If you plan to visit and want to avoid long-lines and get a birds-eye view of the Hermitage and its historical significance this is a great starting point. I spoke with Viktor Gaskelberg, the creator and promoter of the thought provoking educational VR experience with the latest use of @oculus VR technology.

4. Souvenirs for the traveling soul

My fridge is full of magnets from all corners of the world. For 20 years now, I have collected wonderful little images from places as remote as Guangzhou, China to Büyükada, Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara. As a student or a nomad traveler, I made certain to put aside some cash during my travels in order to purchase a magnet from the places that I visited. Some of my favorites are those that looking back remind me of the conditions that took me to that place. A gem of wanderlust. It was suggested by a local friend that we visit Moscow’s less-known Cosmonautics Memorial Museum.

It has some of the most dramatic space relics that manage to remind us of the Soviet race including it’s avant-garde propaganda posters of that era. On display, are the effigies of the first two dogs to orbit the earth and survive. These are Belka & Strelka. Of course, I picked up a magnet of these rare dogs for my fridge, reminding me of this rocket-like monument to Russian space exploration that is definitely worth visiting.

Nowadays, I am more unapologetic about my media junkie background, fascinated with picking-up a lifestyle magazine, something with an inspiring cover, a rare find. I happened to pick-up the third edition of the City Coffee Guide Ukraine.

A great collection and guide with some of the very best including interviews and great images of the coffee culture. I found this wonderful guide at one of my favorite spots in Kiev called Fandom coffee bar.

5. What’s next

After repairing forces and gathering steam, we are ready for our next adventure. We welcome suggestions from other adventure travelers, governments with mobility projects, media that would like to approach us for an interview and flagship carriers with a particular agenda for travelers with special needs.

Here is this wonderful write up in #AGEIST magazine by Gaia Seguin Lutz, (Special thanks to David Stewart, Editor in Chief). This certainly reassures the fact that people are interested in hearing different stories from travelers overcoming difficult circumstances. For me, it’s about sharing our unique travel experience.

We want to encourage others to impact the role governments have in tourism and the future for people with special needs. It’s not impossible.

In case you are wondering, we are putting together a travel guide in order to share some of our favorite hotel accommodations, food recommendations, and places we’ve visited with local travel tips for those traveling and looking for that human touch. You can expect to hear more from us or you can also write me for more details via email at: aco@runnermedia.co