Who Are You?
I am Masha and I am a travel and lifestyle writer and researcher living in New York City. I have been traveling my whole life, taking my first flight at the age of four and taking a hundred more since. I’ve studied in Paris, flown on urgent flower business to Holland, experienced my first MRI in Hong Kong, met a boy in Ireland, married that boy in Russia, made altar pieces for a church in Rome, assisted in veterinary surgery in Thailand and I even did the New Year’s Day swim at Brooklyn’s Coney Island wearing a white ball gown. That last bit landed me on the Huffington Post.
I really, really enjoy my life and I will make you enjoy yours too, whether you like it or not.
The most important thing you need to know about me is that on June 1st 2014 I will begin my year of walking pilgrimages around the world as the Unlikely Pilgrim.
A few years ago, the word pilgrim was not even in my vocabulary. Hearing it would conjure up vague images of a pious-to-a-fault person, starving, in rags and miserable. I am none of those things. First, I was born in the USSR, a place where faith was practiced in secret, if at all, and never in my family. I have not been baptized into any religion and although I have a healthy relationship with my spirituality, I tend to feel more at ease with my atheist friends than with my churchgoing ones. Rarely have I ever said no to cheese, chorizo or dessert. That has lead to a painful lesson I’m happy to share with you— don’t buy cheese from an unrefrigerated caravan in the Pyrenees, but more on that later. I like dressing well. I celebrate life with color and texture and pencil skirts. And I am happy, annoyingly so. I start up conversations with strangers and dance when there is not a dance floor in sight. So how did I become to define myself as a pilgrim?
Why a Pilgrim?
Externally, this happened because I went on an actual pilgrimage— the Camino de Santiago, walking across Northern Spain along with hundreds of other curious people of all breeds for the duration of a month. This is where I learned the cheese lesson mentioned above. Each of us even carried a pilgrim’s passport— the only identification you need on the Camino– which was stamped at every hostel we stayed in as proof that we had in fact walked the entire 500 miles. The experience made me, and I imagine everyone else who’s made that walk, question how we define ourselves. It also made our feet very sore.
I have since realized that a pilgrim is someone who neither sees their life as separate, random occurrences nor plows through it with unwavering determination. A pilgrim is anyone who sees every day, every chance meeting and every disappointment as an opportunity to be a better human being, who sees self-flagellation and guilt as unnecessary and chooses to practice forgiveness and acceptance instead. A pilgrim is a traveler who walks the planet with intention and curiosity in order to gain a better understanding of themselves and others. Honestly, I think there’s a little pilgrim in all of us. And that is a definition I can get on board with.