Benford begins literal world tour – Daily American: Somerset

Video: “The Voyage of Discovery” World Tour Revealed – trekking to 221 countries, driving my Jeep Wrangler to 150+ countries, 7 continents, and learning 15+ new languages

 

Jessica Benford with the 2010 Jeep Wrangler she’s dubbed “Oakley.”

Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2015 7:49 pm  

Somerset Daily American                                     (Front Page)

 

BAKERSVILLE — Jessica Benford insists the upgrades to Oakley were an absolute necessity.

She’s spent approximately $15,000 for the new front bumper, 2.5-inch lift, 33-inch tires, 17- by 9-inch rims, Smittybilt sidesteps and winch, 50-inch front light bar, and a plate-metal roto-rack with canisters of water, spare fuel and First Aid materials.

If it seems like overkill, it’s maybe because you don’t know Benford. The self-described adrenaline junkie didn’t enhance her 2010 Jeep Wrangler because it looks cool or because she likes to throw money around.

She did it because she aims to take the Jeep across the globe. Literally.

“I kind of went nuts this past year,” the 31-year-old Rockwood native said Friday as she sat down to an appetizer at her family’s restaurant, Laurel Mountain Inn, immediately after completing the 11-hour drive from her residence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She later had a send-off party Saturday at the inn with more than 100 friends and family members.

Some of the upgrades, she said, she hopes she won’t have to use: “(But) if I do, I have the utilities. I have the weaponry in my favor.”

Benford will soon begin her self-described “voyage of discovery,” an eight-year plan to hit all seven continents and about 150 of the world’s 221 countries. It’s a realistic goal because her career as a marine mammal scientist allows her to take extended periods of time off in between jobs.

Professionally, the Penn State University grad is contracted by international oil and gas companies to conduct independent research on the industry’s impact on wildlife near deep-sea drilling. She listens to whales and dolphins, also watching for behavioral cues. If marine mammals are being disturbed by the operations, the oil and gas companies may be forced to shut down and move elsewhere.

Given the fact that her “daily grind” for the past eight years is already akin to adventure for most of us, it should be no surprise that Benford goes to even more extreme lengths to get her kicks in her spare time.

Her mother, Maggie Benford, visibly beams with pride when she recalls how entralled her daughter became with the dolphins and their trainers while visiting Sea World as a young girl.

“She would literally want to go talk to the ones there,” she said. “She was like, This is what I want to do. And she never let up.”

Though Benford’s voyage is expected to take nearly a decade, she’s OK with that. She said it’s already been about eight years in the making as she has researched and meticulously planned her journey.

Benford was first inspired to traverse the globe after taking a sidecar motorcycle trip with a friend several years ago from California down through Mexico. In the past five years alone, she has been to 57 different countries.

“It just kind of clicked,” she said.

That doesn’t mean she’s neglected the good ole U.S., either. Just two years ago she took a U.S. National Park trip through 27 states. The sightseeing took nearly three months, and added about 16,000 miles to Oakley’s resume.

“It was an amazing trip,” she said.

To document her upcoming tour of the world, she is bringing seven or eight cameras, including a helicopter drone she plans to fly over Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road.”

For at least some of the trips, she will be accompanied by her videographer and brother Josh, who said he’s actually looking forward to Canada the most.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity,” he said.

The trip, according to Benford, isn’t going to be a typical tourist’s trot. Not only does she plan to stay off beaten paths, but also spend time volunteering and pitching in with various conservation and cleanup efforts.

“As a traveler, it’s amazing how many people you meet,” she said. “There’s just so many great people.”

Benford also wants to use her experiences for education. She is looking to give lectures at universities, and may write a book someday.

Canada: A Halloween Jeep Holiday

Location of Canada in North America
Location of Canada in North America

 

Theme: Jeepin’ Around Canada Roadtrip        Country: Canada  Language English & French  Unit of Currency: Canadian dollar   Location: Montreal, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Quebec City, & Toronto Year: 2000 & 2012 Bucket list: Photographing the mist at Niagara Falls

Entrance to Prison; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
Entrance to Prison; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

DO:  SPEND HALLOWEEN AT MONTREAL’S SIX FLAGS THEME PARK

Montreal:
  • Jumping on every roller coaster in the Six Flag’s theme park and checking out the street performers
Creative Shot; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Creative Shot; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Beast; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Beast; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Awesome Expression; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Awesome Expression; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Witch; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Witch; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Summoned; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Summoned; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Band of Ghouls; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Band of Ghouls; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Band Conductor; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Band Conductor; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Band of Ghouls; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Band of Ghouls; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Pumpkin Carver; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Pumpkin Carver; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Pumpkins; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Pumpkins; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Event Pumpkin; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Event Pumpkin; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Silly Pumpkins; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Silly Pumpkins; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Witch; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Witch; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Rollercoaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Roller Coaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Rollercoaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Roller Coaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Blood Water; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Blood Water; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Skeleton on a Boat; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Skeleton on a Boat; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Bloody Ride; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Bloody Ride; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Skull; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Skull; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

Rollercoaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011
Roller Coaster; Montreal, Canada; 2011

 

DO:  VISIT THE NIAGARA FALLS

Niagara Falls City:
  • Photographing the Niagara Falls in Canada and getting a glimpse of New York’s Buffalo Falls
History of Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
History of Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Mist Sunrise over Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Mist Sunrise over Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Sunset over Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Sunset over Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Colorful Sky; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Colorful Sky; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Sunset Buffalo Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Sunset Buffalo Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Cool Sky; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Cool Sky; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

In Front of Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
In Front of Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Good Mate, Joakim; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Good Mate, Joakim; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Sunset Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Sunset Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, Canada; 2011

 

 

DO:  SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN OLD JAIL HOSTEL

Ottawa:
  • On Halloween night, staying the night in a haunted jail hostel and a quick jaunt to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canal Rideau
    Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Welcome to Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Welcome to Canal Rideau; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    St. Nicolas; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    St. Nicholas; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Black Squirrel; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Black Squirrel; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Enter; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Enter; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Bars on Windows; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Bars on Windows; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Cells with Red Lights; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Cells with Red Lights; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Cells; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Cells; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Light the Way; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Light the Way; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Exit; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Exit; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

    Gaol Hospital Women's Prison; Ottawa, Canada; 2011
    Gaol Hospital Women’s Prison; Ottawa, Canada; 2011

     

DO:  EXPLORE THE CITY OF TORONTO

Toronto:
  • Walking down the street taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city
Volcom; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Volcom; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Player Statues; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Hockey Hall of Fame; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Melinda Street; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Melinda Street; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Zanzibar; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Zanzibar; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

City View; Toronto, Canada; 2011
City View; Toronto, Canada; 2011

 

Bank of Nova Scotia Emblem; Toronto, Canada; 2011
Bank of Nova Scotia Emblem; Toronto, Canada; 2011

Greece: Island Hopping

Location of Greece in Europe
Location of Greece in Europe

 

Theme: Greek Island Hoppin’ Venture   Country: Greece  Language Greek  Unit of Currency: Euro   Location: Athens, Chania, Mykonos Island, & Santorini Island   Year: 2012 & 2013 Bucket list: Photographing sunsets from Santorini Island

Beautiful Structure; Athens, Greece; 2013
Beautiful Structure; Athens, Greece; 2012

DO:  SCOPE OUT GREEK ARCHITECTURE

Athens:
  • Hiring a tour guide and exploring the city
The Entrance to the Olympieion; Athens, Greece; 2013
The Entrance to the Olympieion; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Sky Bar; Athens, Greece; 2013
Sky Bar; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Creativity of Athens; Athens, Greece; 2013
Creativity of Athens; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Roof Top Bar; Athens, Greece; 2013
Roof Top Bar; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Ashley & I with New Mates; Athens, Greece; 2013
Ashley & I with New Mates; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Ashley & I with New Mates; Athens, Greece; 2013
Ashley & I with New Mates; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Graffiti; Athens, Greece; 2013
Graffiti; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Cityscape; Athens, Greece; 2013
Cityscape; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph with Ashley; Athens, Greece; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph with Ashley; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Landscape; Athens, Greece; 2013
Landscape; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Unique Location; Athens, Greece; 2013
Unique Location; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Unique Location; Athens, Greece; 2013
Unique Location; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Center Square; Athens, Greece; 2013
Center Square; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Church; Athens, Greece; 2013
Church; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Guards; Athens, Greece; 2013
Guards; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Kids with Pigeons; Athens, Greece; 2013
Kids with Pigeons; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Engulfed in Trees; Athens, Greece; 2013
Engulfed in Trees; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Pathway; Athens, Greece; 2013
Pathway; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

Ceiling of Beautiful Structure; Athens, Greece; 2013
Ceiling of Beautiful Structure; Athens, Greece; 2012

 

DO:  ISLAND HOP

Mykonos Island:
  • Having a proper night out with a diversity of people all over the world
Greek Flag; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Greek Flag; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph with Ashley; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph with Ashley; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Ashley & I; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Ashley & I; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Best Transportation; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Best Transportation; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

My Happy Place; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
My Happy Place; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Clear Water; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Clear Water; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Waves Rolling; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Waves Rolling; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Oceanscape; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Oceanscape; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Margaritas; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2013
Margaritas; Mykonos Island, Greece; 2012

 

Santorini Island:
  • Spending a few days on the island, and making sure to hit every secret cobble-stoned path
My Good Mate, Ashley; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
My Good Mate, Ashley; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Ashley, me, and Shop Owner; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Ashley, me, and Shop Owner; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

New Friends; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
New Friends; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Dinner Shot; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Dinner Shot; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

A Happy Ashley; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
A Happy Ashley; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Relaxation; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Relaxation; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Creative Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Creative Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Greek Evil Eye Symbol; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Greek Evil Eye Symbol; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Ashley Anxious to Island Hop; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Ashley Anxious to Island Hop; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Wine; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Wine; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

3D Painting; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
3D Painting; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Cheese Platter; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Cheese Platter; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Creative Shot; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Creative Shot; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Mythos Beer; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Mythos Beer; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

City View; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
City View; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Cute Alleyway; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Cute Alleyway; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Wine and Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Wine and Sunset; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

 

Beauty; Santorini Island, Greece; 2013
Beauty; Santorini Island, Greece; 2012

Republic of Macedonia: The Hidden Cave on the Lake

Location of The Republic of Macedonia in Europe
Location of Republic of Macedonia in Europe

 

Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour  Country: Republic of Macedonia  Language Macedonian  Unit of Currency: Macedonian denar   Location: Matka & Skopje  Year: 2013   Bucket list: Signature jumpin’ photograph in a lake cave

Pathways; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Pathways; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

DO:  SAIL TO THE CAVE ON THE LAKE

Matka:
  • Visiting a cave on the lake only by a boat
Welcome to Matka; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Welcome to Matka; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Boat Captain, Amet; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Boat Captain, Amet; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

History of Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
History of Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Mate's House on the Lake; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Mate’s House on the Lake; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Lake View; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Lake View; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Lake in the Cave; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Lake in the Cave; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Map of Cave; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Map of Cave; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Boat Captain, Amet; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Boat Captain, Amet; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Reflection on the Lake; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Reflection on the Lake; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Barrel of Wine; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Barrel of Wine; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Church St. Andrew; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Nature of Matka; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Nature of Matka; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Macedonian Beer; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Macedonian Beer; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Cave Restaurant; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Cave Restaurant; Matka, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

DO:  TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE CITY

Skopje:
  • Walking around a populated city, encountering a small taste of Turkey’s culture, and exploring the city’s creativity
Shanti Hostel Entrance; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Shanti Hostel Entrance; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Martina, me, and Rosalie; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Martina, me, and Rosalie; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Great Mates; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Great Mates; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Strike a Pose; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Strike a Pose; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

City Center; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
City Center; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Night Photograph; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Night Photograph; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Art Street; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Art Street; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Turkish Flag; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Turkish Flag; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Old Building; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Old Building; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Fortress Closed; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Fortress Closed; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Balkan University; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Balkan University; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Fortress; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Fortress; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Balloon Messages; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Balloon Messages; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

A Touch of Turkey; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
A Touch of Turkey; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Landmarks; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Landmarks; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Mother Teresa House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Landmarks of City; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Landmarks of City; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Creative View of Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Creative View of Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Creative View of Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Creative View of Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Church; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

City Center Night; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
City Center Night; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Bridge Night View; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Bridge Night View; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Bridge Night View; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Bridge Night View; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Night View Under Bridge; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Night View Under Bridge; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Bridge; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Bridge; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Statue; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Statue; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Bridge Opening; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Bridge Opening; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Skate Grind House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Skate Grind House; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Art in the City; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Art in the City; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Bicycle Path; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
Bicycle Path; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

The Best of Republic of Macedonia:

First impressions of Skopje at night: After the 4 hour bus ride from Pristina, Kosovo I was relieved to arrive in the early evening. Once set on exploring the city’s nightlife, I quickly checked-in to Urban Hostel. My quest for the night was to view the silhouette of Fortress Kale. To my surprise, the shape of the fortress stood out against the light-shaded moon and background. It was definitely a beautiful, and unexpected sight!

There were a lot of great highlights during my time in Republic of Macedonia, but these top three are the ones that stood out the most:

1) It really is a small world – Consequently, I met up some girls in Pristina, Kosovo who were living in Macedonia for quite some time. Since Skopje was on my list, it was only natural to take the opportunity and visit with them during my travels. Once I was introduced to their international friends, I had my first Macedonian dinner. And that started the tale of how I lost my favorite purple-collared shirt! 

2) The cave hidden in the mountains – Since I love caving, it was penciled in my itinerary to journey to Matka (roughly 45 km outside of Skopje). During this time, I was the only tourist located on the mountain, but my tour guide definitely made it worth my while when we went by boat to enter the cave. In the end, I even took a signature jumpin’ photograph and managed to not disturb the bats lurking in the cave! 

3) High energy of the Old Bazaar protesters – The trek across Stone Bridge with the whispered warning of protesters in the area made it an interesting experience in this unique location. Not only did this place help create the “Turkey” experience that I longed for, but on this particular day, I had also gotten a taste of the hate within the Macedonian and Albanian groups – fortunately, many civilians came together and wrote positive messages on balloons expressing their love and devotion on ending war between the two parties.

Next stop: Tirana, Albania!

War is Over; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013
War is Over; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 2013

 

Kosovo: Goodbye Is Not Forever

Location of Kosovo in Europe
Location of Kosovo in Europe

 

 

Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour  Country: Kosovo  Language Albanian & Serbian  Unit of Currency: Euro  Location: Pristina & Prizren  Year: 2013   Bucket list: Hiking to the Fortress of Prizren

Landscape with Serbian Orthodox Church; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Landscape with Serbian Orthodox Church; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

DO:  TOUR THE CITY

Pristina:
  • Drinking, eating, photographing, and hanging out with the locals in the city
Home Restaurant; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Home Restaurant; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Art; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Art; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Old Building; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Old Building; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Black-n-white Building; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Black-n-white Building; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Museum; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Museum; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Aferdita Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Aferdita Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

University Pristina; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
University Pristina; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Bronze Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Bronze Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Protest; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Protest; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Tribute; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Tribute; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Han Hostel; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Han Hostel; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Chicken Mushroom Dish; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Chicken Mushroom Dish; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Bill Clinton Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Bill Clinton Statue; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Moroccan Good Mate, Ali; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Moroccan Good Mate, Ali; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Selfie University; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Selfie University; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

The American Dream; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
The American Dream; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Flaky Pastry of Burek; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Flaky Pastry of Burek; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Creative Peja Beer Shot; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Creative Peja Beer Shot; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Home Restaurant Menu; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Home Restaurant Menu; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

My favorite Kosovo couple; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
My favorite Kosovo couple; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mother Teresa and I; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Mother Teresa and I; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Stairwell of University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Stairwell of University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Poster in University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Poster in University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Inside of University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Inside of University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Newborn Friends; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Newborn Friends; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Black-n-white Serbian Orthodox Church; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Black-n-white Serbian Orthodox Church; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Newborn of Pristina; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Newborn of Pristina; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

American Corner in University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
American Corner in University Library; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

DO:  TREK TO THE FORTRESS OF PRIZREN

Prizren:
  • Witnessing city views from the hill sides
River in the City; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
River in the City; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Landmark Distances; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Landmark Distances; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Tower View of Church; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Tower View of Church; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

American Welcome; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
American Welcome; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mosque Entrance; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Mosque Entrance; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mosque Entrance; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Mosque Entrance; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Purple Bench with Mural; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Purple Bench with Mural; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Welcome to Prizren; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Welcome to Prizren; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Mosque Ceiling; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Fortress Pathway; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Fortress Pathway; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Church; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Church; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

City View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
City View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Hike to the Fortress; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Hike to the Fortress; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Hoxha Family; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Hoxha Family; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Boy in Cave; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Boy in Cave; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Hoxha Creative Shot; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Hoxha Creative Shot; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Elona & I; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Elona & I; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Eddi Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Eddi Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

 

The Amazing Adventures of Kosovo:

It is incredible how you meet people, and traveling around the world reminds me of this quite often. My time in Kosovo will be intertwined into three stories (individualized into three posts).

This post will unfold my first story and will capture the perfect moments during the first time in Pristina, Kosovo.

SO THERE I WAS walking within the alleyways of Pristina, with plenty of daylight and no set itinerary in hand. I stumbled upon the University of Pristina, where a National Library was conveniently placed in a courtyard and Christ the Saviour Cathedral was close by.

I remember thinking how amazing it would be to have a signature jumpin’ photograph in front of this famous Serbian church. Once the thought crossed my mind, a nice engaged couple approached me and asked to take my photograph.

After traveling to quite a bit destinations, I am a bit hesitant about lending my camera for someone to photograph me; however, after making a joke and mentioning that I can run fast in my trainers if they decide to steal my camera, I let my guard down and happily accepted their offer.

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

I am really glad that I did! I spent the entire afternoon and evening tagging along on their routinely “Sunday afternoon walk” around the city. Not only did I get to visit the places that were a ‘must see,’ but I also was able to experience the city through their eyes.

It was fate that led me to this unique city. Unlike all the cities that I have planned to visit in the West Balkan states and Turkish regions, I knew very little about this hidden gem. With the depth of history embedded into Pristina and the genuine kindness that seeped from individual characters that I met during my first day there, I can honestly say my impressions of Pristina were incredible. I am thankful that I trekked to this city and met the most amazing people during my journey.

Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Aferdita & Nebih; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

The next two stories include a loving and generous family in Prizren, Kosovo and an amazing group of university students whom define why communication does not always have to be verbal.

Story 1:

This post will illustrate how sometimes at the most unexpected moments in our lives, we come across a string of individuals that display a kindness and warmheartedness that is rare to find. Fortunately for me, I was at the right moment and the right time.

It all started when I just finished a walking tour in Prizren, Kosovo with one of the hostel owners that I had anticipated staying with that night.

In order to continue learning about the historical significance of each country and the difficult obstacles that the West Balkans have faced during the time of war, I had to complete my tour in Prizren with discovering its most famous fortress.

River View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
River View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

The quest was to find the Prizren Castle, since it was destroyed during the First World War. This unique structure was built to protect Prizren from foreign attacks and consists of a great number of underground tunnels.

I thought that this was proved to be an easy task, but to my surprise there was a 90 degree up-hill trek that was in my way. After over-heating from the multiple layers of winter attire shaped to my body, I stopped to take in the view. As the cobble-stoned pathways welcomed my feet, I remember thinking how beautiful this cityscape really was.

Church View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Church View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

Once caught my breath and started the treacherous climb yet again, I heard a faint “Hello” behind me. Startled as someone just spoke English in a non-speaking English city, to my surprise turned around and found a row of smiles looking at me. One of the oldest female siblings approached me and we begun to speak little English and display hand-gestures as if we were long-time friends.

At the top of the hill, we had all reached our final destination – the Prizren Castle. A few moments later when I had begun my capturing the beauty of the city within the images that I had photographed, I was asked by the young girl about my travels, university attended, and what my occupation was. Consequently, this information was being translated from English to Albanian to her entire family.

Fortress; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Fortress; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

After a translated session of communication, I was politely offered to visit with the family in their home, which turned out was quite close to where my hostel was located.

I can honestly say that I have met dozens of locals in various travel destinations that I have been to (especially traveling solo), but I had rarely taken the offer and opportunity to visit their residence. When I thought about this invitation, I gazed at their facial expressions and focused on the range of ages that was eagerly awaiting my response. A family of six consisting of 3 children, 2 young adults, and 2 adults excitedly and wholeheartedly showed their enthusiasm when I said “Yes, I will come visit with you and your family in your home.”

And that was the story of how life-time friendships were formed. I will forever be grateful for the company that I had during my time in Prizren, especially having one of my best travel experiences with a local family in Kosovo.

Without further delay, here is my favorite image of the Hoxha family!

Hoxha Family; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Hoxha Family; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013

 

Story 2:

This post ends my time in Kosovo, but it would not be a great travel story if it did not have an incredible ending! 

Once I met the Hoxha family, I became instant good friends with their oldest daughter, Elona.

Elona at Cafe; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Elona at Cafe; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

I could have stuck around and explored Prizren’s nightlife, but I decided that I would chill with my new friend and her mates instead. This would include a bus ride back to Pristina and a proper night out.

During the course of my time learning about the girls, their studies, and what their common interests were, we had spent the time speaking slower English, gesturing, and even I had absorbed a tad bit of Albanian words to help the communication.

Gresa & Besjana; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Gresa & Besjana; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

Regardless, I was not able to clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas to them, but I can honestly say that this had made my experience so much more meaningful.

Communication does not always have to be verbal, and though I had a few minutes of discussion on Beyonce and Lady Gaga, I really enjoyed the challenge of embracing a new culture and appreciated their patience while I slowly exchanged my new Albanian dictionary of words.

Besjana, me, and Elona; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013
Besjana, me, and Elona; Pristina, Kosovo; 2013

 

It turns out that my time with the girls was one of the coolest experiences I had with some local university students during my West Balkan states tour.

The best moment was when we had to say our goodbyes – each of the three girls had bought me a small gift of appreciation. In addition, I made a promise that I would back to visit again. In return of their generosity, I purchased 4 blue bracelets (represents their American Marine Biologist friend). It is awesome to think that we will always have a treasure from the moments that we spent in Kosovo together.

Next stop: Skopje, Macedonia!

Selfie with City View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013
Selfie with City View; Prizren, Kosovo; 2013