Traveler Series: Monica

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She takes her beautiful smile wherever she goes. Packing her bags and her always cheerful attitude, this Chicago native has a severe case of wanderlust. She never forgets the wise words of those who inspire her, a song, a quote, or a beautiful line in a book. Monica, a hopeless romantic, has a pretty amazing yet simple life and she’s sharing part of her journey.

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Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Tell me a little bit about yourself, hobbies, favorite movie, song, food, etc.

My name is Monica Dziedzina and I’m a 25-year old PR professional in Chicago. I’m a pretty simple person, but here are a few “interesting” things about me: My parents came from Poland when they were 18. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life. I am obsessed with Taylor Swift (I’ve seen her since she opened up for Rascal Flatts and the next year when she opened up for Brad Paisley so #truefan). My favorite author is Nicholas Sparks, but I’ll read anything that is romantic/makes me cry/makes me think about life. I can’t cook, so I basically live off of McDonald’s and pizza. I’m hopelessly romantic so if I meet you and I know you’re married/engaged/in a relationship, you can fully expect for me to ask you a million questions about how you fell in love. I am a huge advocate for sustainability and that’s a major part of what I do at my job. Lastly, I love to travel and meet new people.

Who is your favorite travel companion?

Oh, that’s such a tough question! Honestly, I’m so blessed that thus far (knock on wood) everyone I’ve traveled with has been incredible. I’ve traveled with my best friends, my boyfriend, my brother, and the rest of my family over the last couple of years and can honestly say I’ve never had a bad experience with any of them. Also, I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes I travel alone and I love it!

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What was the trip that changed it all for you and made you decide to travel?

I was inspired by a person I met my senior year of college whose world was centered around traveling. I didn’t really understand the big deal as I traveled to Poland as a child, and saw traveling to all my dream destinations as a “will do someday when I’m old, married and successful” thing. However, this person really opened my eyes to everything that I was missing out on. So, it was my trip after college that changed it all for me. It really hit me that I was entering the real world without ever stepping outside of the comfort of my own world. I took a leap of faith and booked my dream vacation. I went to Ireland and Italy by myself and ended up meeting up with some friends when I got there. I was terrified but to this day it remains that monumental trip that sparked my love of traveling.

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Tuscany, Italy

What is your favorite travel quote?

Traveling is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer. I LIVE by this quote religiously.

What do you collect from places you travel to?

Is it terrible that I honestly could NOT think of something for the longest time? I tried key chains, shot glasses, etc., but I would never remember to buy these things until I was leaving at the airport (which I don’t think counts). One day, though, I was shifting through my travel memory box (which I think every traveler needs) when I noticed that I had subconsciously been collecting coasters from all around the world! So yes, I officially have a “thing” that I collect and those are coasters from my favorite pubs and places.

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Turks and Caicos

I’m sure lots of young people like to know, how do you afford to travel?

When I have a place in mind that I want to see, I save. For me, a new purse or new shoes are nothing compared to sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower. I think everyone thinks it’s SO expensive, and trust me, it is. However, if you plan strategically, you can get some pretty incredible deals on flights, hotels, etc.

What’s the one item that you must bring on every trip?

My iPhone. Not for my internet, but for my music. I always have this as my main source of music when I travel and always make sure I have my back-up old-school iPod with me anywhere I go. I would be so miserable without music during my trips. I listen to it on train rides, plane rides, and when I walk around. For me, it helps me reflect and appreciate the things that I’m experiencing in real time.

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Do you have any weird travel traditions?

I don’t know if this would be considered a “weird travel tradition” but I do have an “airplane take-off” song that I listen to every time I’m on a plane taking off the runway. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs one. My advice, Coldplay is the way to go.  Also, I don’t know why this started, but I always take pictures in front of Tiffany & Co.’s in the major cities I’ve visited around the world! Thus far I have one from NYC, Paris, London and Tokyo. Ironically, I still haven’t taken one in Chicago yet! Shame on me.

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Have you considered doing any extreme traveling, such as mountain climbing?

Of course! Doing things that scare you make life worth living. However, I’m not down to take crazy pictures with my feet dangling off a cliff. I’m a risk taker, but only to an extent. I want to be able to tell my children about my adventures one day so I never do anything that puts me blatantly at risk.

What are your favorite movies to watch on the plane?

I actually don’t watch movies. I can easily enjoy an 8 hour flight by just listening to music or sleeping. I also love to read, so if I’m into a book enough, I can do that too (sometimes it makes me a little motion sick though so it’s not always my go-to to-do). Unless there’s a movie I’m dying to see, I usually pass on watching them on planes.

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What has been your favorite place so far, and why?

Ireland has hands down been my favorite place. It was the first place I ever went abroad by myself. I made friends with complete strangers and loved every minute of it. The people there were incredible. The scenery was incredible. The music was incredible. It’s my happy place. The more you travel, the more you understand that the answer to this question isn’t the prettiest place you’ve ever been to or the most luxurious place you’ve stayed. It’s the place that makes your heart flutter just thinking about it. For me, that will always be Ireland.

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

What’s next on your travel plans?

Nothing planned as of now! I have a lot of things going on right now, so unfortunately my focus is elsewhere. However, I’m hoping to get out of the country at least one more time before the end of the year.

Has anything unexpected ever happened that made you re-consider your love for traveling or strengthened it more?

The beauty of traveling is that unexpected things happen every single minute of every single day. Even the worst situations have a way of working themselves out perfectly. For example, my best friend and I missed our flight in Paris due to a taxi strike. I was so flustered and disheartened, and to make matters worse, when I got to Ireland they lost my bag. But at the end of the day I was drinking a Guinness in my favorite pub in Ireland and my heart couldn’t be happier. It always has a way of working out.

And anything else you like to tell readers…

There will always be a million and one excuses not to travel. Whether that be a lack of a travel companion, money, time, etc. But don’t let any of those reasons stop you. There are billions of people in this world, and so many are waiting to meet you. I strongly believe that the cruelty in this world comes from people not taking the time to understand and appreciate other cultures. It also comes from people not understanding that no matter where you are in the world, we’re all the same at the core. Traveling will do that to you. It will open your eyes and make you change in the best way possible.  A word of caution though, there is always a healthy limit for wanderlust. If you’re finding yourself constantly trying to get away from home, maybe it’s time for a new home.

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Tokyo, Japan

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