The morning started like other mornings on past taiji pilgrimages, very early. We were packed before bed the night before, engaged in pre-trip texting among our fellow travelers, slept a few hours and woke up to the alarm. Quick – down that coffee, shower, tidy the house, feed the cats, and jump in the taxi to the airport!

Bill and I were the last to arrive, despite TSA precheck. Our group was ready and waiting, although not bright eyed. We have a long day ahead – San Diego to Chicago, to Zurich, to Vienna. We arrive in Vienna at noon tomorrow and will do the usual tourist activities. A bonus – we are meeting Bill’s daughter Camila for an overnight in Vienna. She’s been traveling around Europe with friends and we are pleased that she wants some parent time.

The training in Slovenia will be fantastic. Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing and two of his sons will be teaching. I can’t imagine a better gift – to study Chen style xinjia yilu, double mace, staff – with these 3 members of the Chen family. On top of that, we will see friends from all over – Kim, David and Davidine, Ben (whom we haven’t seen in years), and others we have met over the years through taiji. Jan will also be in attendance for a few days.

We will stay in an Olympic Training Center near Planica. I read that this center is one of the few in the world that allows training at altitude, meaning they can adjust the oxygen levels in the rooms and gyms to simulate high altitudes. I can’t wait to see a high level training center where Olympians train. I look forward to the food, and the coffee (!!!), and the amenities that aren’t typically found in Chen Village, our usual training place. I look forward to the walks in the surrounding area, and while I’m sure it is breathtakingly beautiful, I will likely thing about the Chen ditch, and my many walks there over the years.

I hope I’ve been training enough (I haven’t). I hope my stamina is there for the daily hour of standing and hour of silk reeling (it isn’t). I hope I capture all of the details in the xinjia yilu that I’ve been wanting for years, from Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing (well, at least we will have group memory).

I am excited to see parts of Europe, and excited to have a “real” vacation, but mostly, I’m excited to get to Slovenia and start training with my Chen family!!