I think writing a blog is an eloquent way of sharing thoughts, but for the most part, it is a way to preserve them as well. I don’t really share my posts on social media to force you to read them, but if you stumble across my website, you are free to take a peek at my experiences working abroad, lessons I’ve learned, cultures I explored, and more. I found out that I do write a lot, even though I am an amateur. As a kid, I wrote a diary and then realized that I’d been missing it when I met a friend who found it fulfilling to write her blog. I also read some of my mother’s articles for the Czech media. Coming back to this place reminds me of who I am and helps me to maintain the child within. In this busy world sometimes we need that reminder. I also believe that in this time and age, sharing our stories with each other will put a stop to an effort to ruin them, not the other way around. In the end, sharing is a way of preserving. For a while I had a serious problem with pseudo seizures and started forgetting the beautiful moments in my life, only focusing on the traumatic ones, which can be a very scary, self-destructive experience. When I read the book “Such Stuff as Stars Are Made of: Thoughts on Savoring the Wonders in Everyday Life” by Caroline Castle Hicks, I was reminded how much healing magic lies in the little things and came back to a new form of journaling and embracing the beauty of nostalgia.

A bit about me, I was born in the Czech Republic and I have always enjoyed traveling, starting with the Tatra mountains in Slovakia. When I was five, my challenge was to hike up the Krivan mountain. My stepdad told me that there is the king of the mountains waiting at the top and when we were getting closer to the top, he ran up to find a nice bearded man to give me a chocolate bar and tell me what a good job I have done walking up the mountain. The moment has stuck with me. I will never forget the sense of accomplishment and love I felt when I was appraised by the ruler of the mountains, and I will also not forget that the chocolate was a blend of dark and white and that someone has already consumed half of it! I didn’t realize that this experience was going to put me through a neverending battle with my alternate self as someone whose pony lost its baby, giving myself the task of reviving a pegasus in order to defeat the Kraken.

After the Velvet Revolution, we started making road trips to the rest of Europe. Since we didn’t have much money, so we took our old blue Fiat, and despite having some problems with a sputtering engine, and thick mist in the Pyrenees that made the road nearly invisible, we followed a local who knew the road as well as his own shoes, and we got to work at places in different countries to stay there for free. It was an amazing experience to meet locals in France, Spain, Austria, and Germany… and simply interact with them. I was just a kid, but I enjoyed cleaning up a pool at a farm in the French Pyrenees and then camping out there, making friends with kids who spoke other languages, and hanging out with the animals at the farm. I called one of my furry friends “Chundelacek”. The name means “Little Fluffy”. He was fluffy, but he wasn’t little. He was a big dog with a large heart. It was a dog I’d grown to befriend and love, and I walked with it everywhere. I’m not making this up when I say that he prevented me from stepping on the venomous Vipera aspis zinnikeri by navigating the snake off of the street. I was also given a Schnapp by my parents’ German friends. I recalled that immediately when I saw an elephant gobble down a bottle of milk while holding it up with its own trunk at the elephant orphanage in Nairobi, showing off its drinking skills to the travelers standing by! The ears of excitement reminded me of myself when I was super proud of how easily I could conquer a Schnapp, with no hands! Just a trunk, however long your nose is from lying about the percentage of alcohol in your bottle.

Upon our move to the US, we ventured out to the Amazonian jungle in Peru, where we interacted with local tribes, children, and animals on daily basis, and getting a sense of nature and the life within was unforgettable. I got to experience much beautiful Italian culture during a long-distance relationship with an Italian friend. Long distance is hard, especially if you are working full time and studying for grad school, and the relationship eventually ended, but I was even more inspired to discover more cultures. These adventures have been an inspiration for me later in life while traveling to volunteer and getting exposed to the culture beyond typical tourist locations, where I can live and interact with the locals. I started traveling solo, beginning with Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. I know this is very cliche, but just like many other volunteers, I began this with the intention of making a change but realized that the people I met along the way have changed my life as well, if not more so. When I stay with locals while helping in the community, not only do I get a free education on the life (living conditions, homemade food, traditions) in the country I visit while making friends, but the stay is a lot cheaper while I pay to the people who need help the most to support their families. On top of that, seeing a smile on their face when you play the guitar for them and sing with them while sharing songs from your country and learning their songs is a priceless moment to last for a lifetime. One develops a constant urge and need to connect with those from different backgrounds and views, lifestyles, challenges, stories, and beliefs. Not only humans but also animals.

As far as my career goes, as a child, I was always interested in art and music but wanted to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist. My grandfather grew up on a farm and became a veterinarian himself. I followed him around while he worked on animals ranging from cats and dogs to horses and cows on farms, lions, and giraffes at the Liberec ZOO, or animals on the set of some major Czech film productions. He absolutely loved his job. I am slowly becoming vegan due to massive farming and the treatment of animals, but I don’t completely regret munching on his rabbits in the past as a kid. One is because my grandmother’s recipe was to die for and two – I watched him, knowing he gave them a good life (even singing to them at times), gave them treats and space… I always sneaked into his room with framed photographs of horses and all of his treasures like his vintage pocket watch, his haslerky candy etc. During another incident with farm animals, I had to laugh hysterically when our neighbor’s ram decided to chase my dad and uncles around our house. Three fully grown men sprinted away as far as they could from one young ram that I and my cousins peacefully hung out with. They were going in circles because they did not have enough time to open the wooden fence door to get into our protected garden area. It was the battle of endurance – a sight I will never forget. It’s tough to keep running if you can’t stop laughing, especially when you are barefoot and may easily step into a wasp nest somewhere. I didn’t want to help them open the door, just because I was enjoying myself too much. All these tricks to scare your kids, like on St. Nicholas day, being afraid you’ll forget your poem and will be taken to underground by the devil… it was my revenge and my friend was a perfect partner in crime. Somehow the family on my dad’s side was always surrounded by animals, as if they subconsciously knew my grandfather. He called me gold, and it wasn’t until later, when I had my conversations with the lion at Kopicuv Statek, that what he meant was that I should connect to the spirit of the bumble bee. Actually maybe even as kiddo it popped into my head that there’s some correlation with honey and the bumble bee in his communication. My mother used to say that supported her higher education and dreams when others didn’t. She connected with my father’s dad, and my father connected with her dad – the Jazz man and comedian, while my grandmothers cooked the best meals, and had completely different styles of embracing the role of a grandmother. My mom’s mom was so full of imagination, it always had to be stories and adventure. My dad’s mom was incredibly warm and motherly, with amazing cooking and knitting.

To me, animals in the wild kill each other with respect, living within the knowledge of nature and the energetic web all species AND plants live in to help their survival and collaborate to continue to share and nurture our planet. I think that through our evolution as humans, we have forgotten this aspect of survival, becoming our own worst enemies through theories such as alpha male vs beta male, oblivious to the lessons that nature has yet to teach us. Many say that the most unbearable loneliness is experienced when one is with the wrong people. I always thought this doesn’t happen with animals.

My grandfather did his job at introducing the importance of animals and letting us enjoy their sense of humor. I definitely inherited my grandfather’s love and fascination for animals, but I only decided to volunteer abroad as an amateur conservationist, observing their temperaments. Baby elephants racing towards us with their floppy ears to conquer a milk Schnapp, a horse running towards us downhill out of excitement that he got visitors, a dolphin energetically nodding in agreement that it is time to get his PR in the highest jump, a monkey sneaking up on you to jump on your shoulder, taking you by surprise, or a calf being born, resting peacefully next to its mother… you simply never get bored when you’re finding your connection with them! I think the craziest thing I’ve done was jumping into the Amazon river to test if I am an accepted part of nature for the piranhas. I feel privileged to still be here.

Regardless, my career eventually stirred more toward the creative and technical focus. I work as a UX Designer and I also love what I do, given the opportunities it has been giving me to get involved in supporting the causes I care about, including wildlife and animals. I have been focused on eradicating human trafficking, but I found that the environment could be a cause #2, because of my fascination with animals and their strong temperament. Human Trafficking is a very thorny issue to tackle, and one has to be mentally strong enough to do so. I can only focus on it for a short time before having to switch to another project.

For more information on my work and project examples, please visit http://www.klarko.com

Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to drop me a line or two, sharing your own experiences.

Best wishes in your endeavors!