Kara Duval is an outdoor enthusiast who loves hiking and hopes to hit the trails in Patagonia sometime soon. In the meantime, the popular Pilates instructor is, like everyone else, making the best of the new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic — and trying to help others along the way. Duval, 28, who teaches Pilates at several studios including North End Yoga, Equinox, and the new lululemon on Newbury Street, is offering virtual Pilates classes live on her Instagram (@karaduvalpilates; she’s also taping them so they can be watched at a later time). There is no set fee, but participants are invited to make donations. Duval is giving the money collected from one class per week to charity. “I wanted to use my platform to give back to the community,” said Duval, who emphasized that she and others are finding Pilates especially relevant — and even helpful — right now. “Pilates is one of the most focused exercise forms out there. It’s just as mental as it is physical,” she said. “Pilates is all about connecting one movement to the next. You have to control what happens first to connect to what happens second and so on. So in a time like now, when we feel like we have very little control, Pilates is a great way to feel like we do have some control.” We caught up with Duval, who was born and raised in Quincy and lives in the South End with her boyfriend, Ben Newman, head of commercial operations for a biotech startup company, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination?
My favorite vacation destination — so far — has been the Dolomites in Northern Italy. My boyfriend and I are avid hikers and outdoor adventurers, so give us mountains over the beach any day. The Dolomites are unlike any mountain range I’ve ever seen. They are jagged, harsh, and pretty “uninviting,” but have the most spectacular views I have ever seen. I thought nothing could be more beautiful than the Swiss Alps until I traveled to the Dolomites.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing?
My absolute favorite thing about traveling is experiencing the local cuisine. While my drink of choice is consistently a Hendrick’s dirty martini, my favorite food while traveling has been in Mexico. There is nothing better than fresh local flavors with a bit of spice. Also, there’s nothing better than a spicy margarita after a day in the sun.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?
Easy: Patagonia. The hiking is supposed to be absolutely incredible in Argentina and Chile. I also love the feeling of being isolated in nature and it doesn’t get much farther from home than Patagonia.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?
This is a very good question. The first two things that come to mind are sunscreen and Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy that you take at the first sign of sickness. Air travel generally leaves me feeling crummy, so I always travel with a good supply.
Aisle or window?
Ah, well this depends. . . . When I’m traveling solo, I love the aisle. Nothing makes me feel worse than stepping over people to go to the bathroom. However, when I travel with my boyfriend, I sit in the window seat. He’s a nervous flyer.
Favorite childhood travel memory?
When I was young my parents took us to Colter Bay in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for a week. We stayed in cabins — which looking back sounded like a nightmare with three kids — went fishing and hiking, and I remember eating about 300 pancakes — with whipped cream — over the course of the week.
Guilty pleasure when traveling?
I cannot stress this enough: There is no better feeling than a cocktail after 10-12 hours of hiking. Nothing.
Best travel tip?
This is my favorite question and my answer is crazy. I dare you all to book a flight and head to a country with no plan. This is how my boyfriend and I travel. This past September, we started in Berlin as he was running the Berlin Marathon. We flew to Munich and picked up a rental car, thinking we were going to go hiking in Austria. We drove to Innsbruck and realized we didn’t want to stay there. We continued on to Cortina, Italy, and found the Dolomites — so three countries in one day. We stayed in the Dolomites for seven days and it was the most incredible week of our lives. We’ve also done the same thing traveling through Arizona and Utah, as well as Switzerland. Trust me: Take the chance. Do not show up with a plan and just see where life takes you.