Lessons Learned from Traveling Around the World from Liudmila Kalabukha


This woman has visited 37 countries of the world. She knows how to choose routes for her dangerous journeys and to learn lessons from each trip. Liudmila Kalabukha is a successful Ukrainian businesswoman and at the same time a passionate traveler. When she talks about her adventures, you get the sense that you are following each step of her journey.  


Teide Volcano on Tenerife: From a Beach to Snow

When we were in Spain, we decided to climb the highest peak of the country – Mount Teide, which is located on the Canary island of Tenerife. This volcano was admired by Columbus, Darwin, and Captain Cook.


My husband and I walked for about 5 hours up the hardened lava. At the bottom of the volcano the temperature was +30°C, and the top  0°, and in some places minus 1-2°C. Despite the fact that we were well prepared, having put on quite warm clothes on top of t-shirts and shorts, we still froze. In the thin air, my heart jumped out of my chest, and it seemed during the climbing that we would never see the end of the trail, which disappeared in the clouds! We were impressed by Teide’s Martian landscapes, volcanic rocks of all colors, and the incredibly eerie silence – there were no birds, animals, or noisy tourists. Everything was so pristine that we got the impression that we were the first people to set foot on this virgin land.


Culinary Shocks in Cambodia

 In the legendary city of Angkor (a Cambodian district that was the center of the Khmer Empire), Cambodians sit along the road and sell baliut – a boiled duck egg, which contains an already formed fetus with feathers, cartilage, and beak. My husband refused to eat it. I sat down and, strictly following the seller’s instructions, first drank the amniotic fluid which tasted like chicken broth. Then I squeezed the shell, sprinkled it with a mixture of black pepper and salt, and ate one baliut and then another one.


I should mention that I have tried crocodile meat, frogs, turtles, and ostriches, drank a viper’s fresh blood, and even swallowed its throbbing heart. But these “delicacies” were nothing compared to the duck fetuses. At least they were boiled. I heard that they are also eaten raw. I do not know whether I could dare to go that far…


Lessons I learned from Cambodia are to be always open to new experiences, and never to be surprised, either in life or in food.



Everlasting Traditions of Vietnam

Rice grows in spikelets, like rye, but not from a seed, but from seedlings, which are still hand-planted in the Southeast Asia. The whole life of these people is spent on the ground where they work knee-deep in water. The traditions that had been formed hundreds of years ago are still preserved there.


The dead are buried right in the rice fields. Headstones are placed there too. And when these small patches are sold to a complete stranger, it occurs to nobody to remove the graves of somebody’s relatives from their field. So they look after the strangers’ graves and bury their dead nearby. In this country, there are no nursing homes whatsoever!


The lesson I learned: when at a cemetery, I always tidy up abandoned neighboring graves and remember the hard-working and noble Vietnamese peasants.


Scottish Legends for Sale

 How to benefit from a legend? The most important thing is that the legend has to be SCARY! That’s what the locals in the area of Loch Ness did when they began to “advertise” their Loch Ness monster, known as Nessie. My husband and I also stared into the cold waters of the lake, froze to death, and got soaked under the perpetual British rain, but we did not see Nessie.


Disappointed, we went into the souvenir shop where the legend is commercialized, and took a photo to remember the trip by.


The lesson I learned: a skillful PR campaign can turn any legend into a profit.



Czech Republic: Be Careful What You Wish For!

 In this country, I heard a strange legend. A girl named Starosta lived in the early Christian times. She was a Christian and the daughter of the King of Portugal. Her father told her to get married to the King of Sicily – a gray-bearded militant pagan. She pleaded and asked to cancel this marriage, but her father was steadfast in his decision. On the eve of the wedding, the desperate girl spent all night praying for the almighty higher powers to do anything to prevent this marriage. In the morning, maids ran out of her room with cries of horror. It turned out that during that night a long mustache and beard grew on her face. Of course, the groom refused to marry her, and the cruel father crucified the disfigured daughter.


Since that time Starosta became the patroness of unhappy married women who travel to Prague, to the monastery of Loreto, to pray to the crucified girl in a wedding dress with a beard and mustache.

The lesson I learned: I need to be very clear about what I am and what I am not be ready to do. And when somebody promises everything under the Sun to me, I ask what exactly is meant by that.


Petra: The City Built by Giants

Petra is a ghost town. So far, nobody has learned its history thoroughly and exhaustively. The city has impressive giant temples, which legend has it were built by giants, a race that preceded people. It is reminiscent of an artificial oasis created in the middle of a rocky desert in line with modern technologies. The ancient people did not only carve huge temples and dwellings from the rocks but also learned to collect water using a dam system, stone tanks, and aqueducts that still operate.


How old is Petra? Four thousand years or ten? Who used to live there and who founded it?


What is the purpose of such huge buildings, next to which modern man looks like an insect?! What was the size of the people entering these doors?


The lesson I learned: all the religions of the world, fairytales of all peoples, and ancient books write about incredibly large people-giants that once inhabited our world. I thought it was a legend. In Petra, I believed it! There it is a fact that does not require any proof.


Ludwig of Bavaria

The life story of this king is amazing. Ludwig of Bavaria spent huge sums of money to attract the best artists of his time. He built marvelous castles in his country and dreamed of peace and harmony around the world. Neuschwanstein Castle still towers in the Alps and fascinates tourists, no matter where they come from. It is unlike anything else in the world. The architectural excellence of this world masterpiece amazes you with its refined beauty, grandeur, perfect shapes and taste.


He was a king, and it might seem that he could afford to live the way he wanted! However, he was declared insane, then deprived of property, servants, and freedom and put in prison. Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances. Researchers believe it was suicide – the only act of his own will.


My sad lesson: even the noblest kings who opposed wars and violence and sought to live according to their dreams could not be entirely free!


Ukrainian Love that Conquered Death

 In the city of Vinnytsia three meters under the ground, in the crypt of a small church, a sealed glass coffin with the body of Nikolai Pirogov has been kept for 134 years already.


What did Pirogov make for humankind? He was the first to use anesthesia for surgical operations in the battlefield. He designed a mask for anesthesia, which is used up till now. He was the first to perform plastic surgery and the first to develop a plaster bandage for treating fractures. He created anatomical atlases, which are considered to be the most precise in the world.


The scientist was never at home: he saved soldiers’ lives in the four wars of the 19th century; he spent long hours in a dissecting room, performing up to 20 autopsies per day or treating someone.


His18-years-younger-than-him wife loved him, waited for him at home, and raised his sons. She wasn’t blessed with her own children. When her husband died, she wanted to keep him close to her. When Pirogov was still alive, she ordered a special expensive coffin from Vienna and commissioned his student to develop an innovative method of embalming. This is how the first mausoleum with an embalmed body came to be! It was created in the remote province of Vinnytsia, in the village of Vishnya of the Russian Empire. After embalming Pirogov, they began to embalm the bodies of Communist leaders.


What was my lesson after this trip? I saw the actions of a strong woman who proved that love is immortal and can conquer death!


Text by Lesia Kichura

Photos courtesy of Liudmila Kalabukha

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