In the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” author James Thurber describes a meek and mild man who imagines himself as a wartime pilot, an emergency room surgeon and a devil-may-care killer.
While Walter Mitty only dreamed of living a life of adventure, Vsevolod “Seva” Granin, of Land O’ Lakes, actually has been living one.
Granin graduated from Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes and later from Rollins College, in Winter Park.
He studied Chinese at both schools, studied abroad in China while enrolled at Rollins, and returned to China to work after graduation.
He’s back home now, after initially working for an American hotel chain in China and later for a Chinese subsidiary of a European logistics company.
Before returning to the United States, he also set off on a number of adventures including backpacking through Vietnam, trekking up Mt. Fuji and running in the Great Wall of China marathon before returning to Pasco County.
Granin, who is an avid photographer, blogger and artist, recorded his experiences through words and photographs in a blog.
“I see things artistically,” said Granin, whose mother is an artist.
In fact, some of the photographs he took in China recently were on exhibit at Hillsborough Community College. He has another exhibit scheduled from May 22 through June 19 at the Oglesby Gallery at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Granin was born in Moscow and spent his early years in Russia before moving with his family to Land O’ Lakes.
When he arrived here, he was 14 and barely spoke English.
“I was lucky with Academy at the Lakes,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s a small, private school. The teachers are very helpful. I learned quickly and a lot.”
Living in China, however, was an experience that took learning to an entirely new level.
Although he had a foundation in Chinese, he soon discovered how little he knew.
“Chinese is one of those languages it takes a lifetime to master, I think.”
He worked eight months for the hotel chain then networked his way into a job with the logistics company whose main customer is the largest online retailer in Russia.
“For them, we developed a list of over 500 factories in China,” said Granin, who worked with a buyers’ team from Russia.
He and his team handled the factory negotiations, contracts, logistics, the supply chain, getting through customs, documentation and getting goods to the warehouse.
It was challenging, but rewarding work.
“If you’re adaptable to other cultures — it really expands your world,” Granin said.
“If you’re willing to accept different cultures and go so far away from home, you can get amazing work opportunities,” Granin said. “It’s not going to be easy, but you will have that opportunity.”
Granin also took advantage of his time overseas to delve into a series of other adventures.
He did a backpack trip through Southeast Asia, visiting 11 countries in like two months. He also climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan and ran the Great Wall marathon in China.
The Great Wall marathon was grueling.
He describes that experience in blog entries.
In the beginning, he remembers taking his first steps and “raising my head up and seeing a few white doves flying a few meters over my head, from left to right. (It was a) simple, short and beautiful moment, but the crowd around me was picking up speed, and so was I. The marathon was on.”
Shortly after the race began, though, “I felt a sharp and intense cramp in my right calf. Ouch, that was sudden and painful.”
Around a quarter of the way into the race, he was slowed down and limping.
“What do you do? Do you stop? Do you quit? Do you stretch for as long as it takes?”
He stretched for a bit and even though his muscles did not relax, he decided to continue.
There were many places along the route that were difficult to navigate, but he kept going, describing his increasing pain.
“…the spaghetti legs with iron shackles were barely cooperating with the mind, the desert dry cotton mouth was making it hard to breathe and swallow.”
He wasn’t the only one struggling.
“People were stumbling, leaning on the (Great) Wall, sitting, laying down, crawling … Medics ran up to each person.”
But he pushed through the pain and finished the race.
Granin said he decided to return home because he missed his family, but now is applying to graduate school — waiting to see where he’ll start the next chapter in life.
If you would like to read more about Granin’s adventures, visit Vgranin.com.
Published March 18, 2015