Fred Zalokar’s primary interests are traveling, running, and mountain climbing, all of which he shares with family and friends. He has visited over 130 countries, run a marathon on all 7 continents, as well as winning his age-group in all 6 Abbott World Marathon World Marathon Majors, and he’s been on the highest points of over 75 countries, including climbing 6 of the 7 summits of the world.
Fred loves combining his passions, and often plans family vacations around an exciting destination race or a climb. He always tries to go somewhere he hasn’t been before.
You can read more about Fred’s adventures on his website, FredZalokar.com. He was kind enough to answer a few of our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Fred: I’ve been traveling for 30 years or so. My first trip was to Mexico in 1990 with my buddy Sean to climb the four highest volcanoes there: Pico de Orizaba, Popo, Ixta, Nevado de Toluca. The experiences I had in Mexico made me want to climb more and see countries all over the world.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Fred: I like to plan my trips around adventures, getting out of the cities and into the mountains whenever possible. I collect high points of countries, and always research the accessibility of a country’s high point before getting on the plane. I have traveled to many countries to run races of various distances, from 5Ks to ultra-marathons, and every once in a while, my wife gets me into a city for some museums, more traditional sightseeing, and some really good food!
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Fred: In 2015, my wife Deb and I went to Namibia. It was a trip that ticked all the boxes. Namibia has great roads, so we rented a car and drove everywhere, visiting National Parks like Etosha where we saw unbelievable amounts of wildlife, climbing massive sand dunes, flying over the Skeleton Coast, and climbing the high point of the country, Brandberg. I wrote a Trip Report about it on my website, called The Sands of Namibia.
TA: What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Fred: Where do I want to go? Easy… anywhere I haven’t been. High on my list would be Mongolia, especially the opportunity to climb Khuiten. I’d also like to visit the 5 Stans. There are some beautiful mountains there.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Fred: I always take my running shoes. Even if I’m not traveling for a race, I run nearly every day while I’m traveling. Running through a new city is the best way to get a feel for it, especially early in the morning, before the traffic. I love running on new mountain or forest trails, or running along rivers or beside the ocean.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Fred: Just go! Make it happen. Don’t wait.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Fred: Divergent Travelers, Mountain Madness & Runners World.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Fred: My top destination for anyone who hasn’t already been would be Slovenia. It has a beautiful capital, Ljubljana, as well as castles, caves, and amazing hiking in many national parks. Climbing Mt. Triglav is a long day, but absolutely worth the effort! Lake Bled is one of the most idyllic mountain lakes I’ve ever seen. If that isn’t enough, the Adriatic coast is breathtaking. The people are friendly, the roads are good, and the food is incredible.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Fred: Too many people worry that if they go somewhere where they don’t speak the language, they won’t be able to get around, or they will be scammed somehow. I don’t speak any languages other than English, and I’ve been to over 130 countries, on all 7 continents. I really can’t think of a time when there was a problem. When in doubt, smile and point, and people are generally pretty helpful! I’ve ordered from menus by randomly pointing at things, and while there have been some surprises (the tongue that appeared in the steakhouse in Tokyo) it’s always been pretty tasty. Train, plane, and bus schedules are in numbers, and metro maps are not hard to decipher with pattern recognition. Don’t worry about being able to speak the language, just go. And smile. A good attitude will get you anywhere you want to go.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Fred: I was surprised at how good the food (and wine) were in the Republic of Georgia. The best thing we had was khachapuri, a bread dish with cheese and egg. It is one of the best things I’ve eaten anywhere in the world. Lobiani is a pastry pie filled with beans, and mtsvadi is their version of grilled meat on a stick. Last but not least are khinkali, traditional Georgian dumplings. You can get them filled with anything: mushrooms, ground beef, even potatoes. Yes, dumplings filled with potatoes!
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Fred: It’s a little cliche, but when my wife Deb and I were in Paris to run the Paris Marathon, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and drank champagne while we watched the sunset. That’s hard to beat.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Fred: More people should visit Armenia. The capital, Yerevan, is full of history and culture, as well as lots of great restaurants. There are so many attractions in the capital, particularly the Cascade, a massive outdoor sculpture museum (with more galleries inside), and the Mother Armenia Military Museum. Outside the capital there are lots of beautiful old churches and monasteries to visit. The high point, Mt. Aragats is a challenging climb, but accessible and a great climbing experience. The people are friendly, and very welcoming, and the food is great! It’s also very affordable and easy to get around.