The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics will mark Julia Marino's debut as an Olympian. A gold medalist at the 2017 X Games, the 20-year-old snowboarder specializes in Slopestyle and Big Air. A resident of Westport, Connecticut, Marino says that the best souvenir she hopes to bring home from Korea is a medal for Team USA. Fans may stay in touch with the athlete via her Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/_juliamarino/).
Q. You will be competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Have you traveled to Korea before?
A. I've been to Korea for the test events, so I know what to expect in terms of the courses I'll be competing on. I'm sure the Olympic atmosphere will be beyond all my expectations since this is my first. I think it will be a great vibe, where all the athletes will be part of this one community for two weeks and really relate to each other, because we all know the hard work and dedication that goes into it. We will all be looking forward to putting on a great show for a global audience. I'll also have the unbelievable luck of having a friend of mine there who I grew up with, but who is originally from South Korea, speaks Korean and knows the culture as a true native!
Q. Are there any souvenirs you're hoping to bring home from the Games?
A. Aside from a medal? Something to remind me of the experience and the country I visited. Not sure what that is yet.
Q. You competed in Yabuli, China. What was it like there?
A. I didn't get to sightsee much. There wasn't a whole lot going on at the time. The Club Med was pretty nice, but I could tell they were going to use the time between now and the 2022 Winter Olympics (in Beijing) to really make it into a great Olympic venue and hopefully a cool resort for people after the Olympics.
Q. Where was the first place that you competed?
A. For my first competition, my coach, Raschid Joyce, said there was a Slopestyle competition. I didn't know if he meant I should compete or I should watch! I competed and came in second and liked it. I wound up going to Nationals that year at Copper Mountain and podiumed there. It's been a pretty cool journey ever since!
Q. What area has the best place for snowboarding?
A. I'd say Vail for variety and great tree runs and just pure wildness in the back bowls.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Most places I've been to are not secrets, but I'd say New Zealand was as far off the beaten path as I've gotten. Long trip, but stunningly beautiful and lots of cool, adventurous outdoor activities and you can do warm weather stuff and snowboard on the same trip.
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Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. The first trip I can remember was when I was four. I went to Amsterdam with my parents. My mom had to go there for work and my dad and I walked all over the city for a few days, went on boat rides, visited windmills, played in playgrounds with local kids and went to Vondelpark, which is like their Central Park. I loved it. My parents bought me wooden shoes, which I wore constantly until I outgrew them.
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. It is a great idea to travel and experience the world outside of your own town. Seeing how people live their lives in completely different settings and doing things differently, but still being the same underneath is an awesome learning experience and it is fun! I feel fortunate that what I do allows me to do that. I also love the fact that it teaches me how to be self-sufficient and to figure out stuff on my own, even if I don't speak the language.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Innsbruck, Munich, Prague, Montreal, New York City. I can elaborate, but it would be a long answer!
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Believe it or not, I haven't been to Whistler, Canada. I'm hoping to go there and ride purely for the fun of it at the end of the season.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Camera, for sure. I am really into photography and want to capture what is unique and interesting about where I am visiting and my drawing journal. I am really into art.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)(c) 2018 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.