Globe-trotting With Blaze Travel Guides
by Samantha Wright
Jun 07, 2012 | 643 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OURAY – Taylor Chase has always been a lot of things – a writer, a traveler, a teacher, a linguist, a runner, and above all, a fire starter.

Traveling in eastern Europe with her parents in 2008 before heading off for a year of teaching in Moscow, she got a brain flash about how to combine all of these passions and talents into one grand project.

“You know,” the 20-something thought, while taking a run in a beautiful park she had stumbled upon during her last morning in Belgrade, “someone really needs to write a running guide about the best places to run in Europe. That would be great.” And then all of a sudden it occurred to her, “Wait a minute ... I run, I travel, I write. Maybe I should write this book.”

The book never materialized. Instead, the project evolved into an online travel website for runners – Blaze Travel Guides (www.blazetravelguides.org).

Four years, 50 cities and thousands of miles later, Chase is still running, writing, and traveling the world, adding more and more destinations to her website all the time. In addition to the fresh, informative free content, Chase sells individual city-guides, available on Kindle, iPad, and smartphones, that can be downloaded from her store at HYPERLINK "http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004GB8NK8" Amazon.com. The e-guides, currently offered for cities throughout Europe as well as New Zealand and North America, bring in a steady little income to augment her salary as a foreign language teacher (she’s fluent in Russian, Italian and French and is headed to Guatemala to learn Spanish this summer) and Gifted and Talented coordinator at Ouray School.

For runners and non-runners alike, a visit to Blaze Travel Guides is sure to awaken dormant wanderlust. Why not set off for Dubrovnik, or Stockholm, or Kiev, or Cork?

Chase not only offers detailed maps, photos and information about where to run, but also gives armchair travelers captivating descriptions of each city’s charms, and potential dangers.

For example: “We think it's kind of funny that in some European countries you have to watch out for large wild dogs, while in others you have to watch for the pomp and poozle of a tiny poodle,” she writes in her guide to running in Monaco. “In Monaco, watch out for the latter. Maybe it's got something to do with the size of the country or the economic status of its visitors, but the only dogs we saw here were no bigger than the size of a small Prada handbag. And yet, they all seemed to yap at us louder than any canine we'd ever come across.”

There is even a section on each city devoted to “sweet rewards,” with advice about local delicacies. In Zagreb? Pick up a post-run strukli (a flaky cheese pastry native to the area) and wash it down with gemist (a combination of sparkling water and cool white wine).

There’s also advice about places to stay, like the Hostel Mostel in Sofia, where a hearty breakfast, pasta dinner, and an end-of-day beer are all included in the price of accommodation. And, how to say the most important things in the native language of the country you’re visiting. In Sofia, for example, “YED-na boo-TIL-ka min-er-AL-na VO-da, molya,” gets you “One bottle of water, please,” and “na-ZDRA-vye!” means “Cheers!”

Chase traces her love of “travel running” to a trip to Grenoble in southeastern France as a foreign exchange student when she was in high school.

“I remember my first day in France, I woke up in my host family’s house at like 5 a.m., totally jet-lagged and terrified,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to have to go out there. I don’t know these people. I don’t speak this language. I have no idea what I’m going to do.’”

What she ended up doing was to go for a run. “I came down to this vista, where it opens up and you can see these green pastures rolling down, and then you’ve just got the Alps rising there. It was amazing. I remember I just stopped and stared. It was early in the morning and there was this fog on the meadows.”

She thinks back on that run a lot. “It was this moment when I was in the magic of traveling to a new place,” she explained. “This desire to get out and explore, and using running as a means to explore. Something about it got me.”

Running continued to be a great outlet as Chase ventured out into the world during her college and post-college years. Whether in New Zealand, or Russia, or Italy, going for a run gave her a window into the local culture, and rhythm, of a place. And writing about running turned out to be a great way to celebrate the people’s side of the local history.

In ramping up her website over the past two years, Chase has perfected the art of the “travel blitz,” hitting a city with both feet on the ground and getting what she needs within two or three days. “It is intense, intense travel,” she said. “It’s not even my kind of travel that I like, but it was necessary for this project.”

Chase hopes that her work inspires more people to embrace international engagement.

“Travel provides this glimpse into another culture and the unknown,” she said. “It’s not as scary and as foreign as you might think. Writing a running guide is one of the most communicative ways to say that. Going for a run is an everyday thing. The ability to do that implies living in a society in a place that’s safe, and peaceful. I think a lot more of the world is like that than we give it credit for.”

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