ITU racing necessitates global travel. I’ve gotten very used to living out of hotels/AirBNB’s, having traveled to over 15 countries, and relying on only as much as what I can carry. The last two months have included weekly travel, having journeyed from San Diego —> Weihai, China —> Jersey, Channel Islands —> Charlotte, NC —> Sarasota, FL —> Salinas, Ecuador —> Malta —> Mallorca, Spain —> South Bend, IN —> San Diego.
Every day was an adventure, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for all the beautiful places I saw and new friends I made. I love experiencing new cultures and comparing the quirks of each country! Not to mention comparing swimming pools around the world.
Since I began racing professionally, travel has certainly become a skillset of mine. In the process of discussing these adventures with family, friends, and even competitors, I have come to realize how many “tricks of the trade” have become second nature to me. I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my travel via my top 5 travel tips:
Food, glorious food.
I love exploring local cuisine when I travel—for me, it’s how I truly connect with a new culture. Unfortunately, when traveling to perform in races, food experimentation had to be kept to a minimum. Even after the race I chose to keep things as familiar as possible, given the next event was going to be only 5-6 days away. While some people can get away with being a bit more adventurous with their diet, I learned my lesson the hard way in Chengdu this past May, I can’t afford to do that.
With that in mind, I invested in the smallest size Instant Pot for my travels this fall. I stocked up before heading to China on essentials (for me): tuna packs, beef jerky, dehydrated veggies, lentils, favorite snacks like trail mix and pita chips, and even rice/pasta (believe it or not, sometimes it’s hard to just get plain rice even in China!). Luckily in the European destinations and in the US I could rely on local restaurants and the hotel. Even in Salinas there were some amazing (and reliable) food options. But I made all my own food in China and leading up to the race in Salinas I did all of my own lunches and dinners. To work so hard and travel so far in order to achieve results at my races, it was just worth it to take no risk. Plus, I enjoyed having some of my favorite snacks when I was feeling far from home!
Home is where the race is.
When living on the road, I have found that it is important to find ways to feel at home wherever I am. I have come to find home in my routines. Some of the daily routines ground me are breakfast — I start everyday at home off with steel cut oats, chia seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon and sea salt — being able to make that in my instant pot was a game changer; nightly quiet/reading time before bed; and connecting with my loved ones, especially Adam and my Mom.
Long-distance relationships can be challenging, especially when across the world from each other. A piece of my heart was certainly in South Bend with Adam as I toed the line in one country after the next. So we anticipated each time difference and planned out how my schedule would align with Adam’s in my next destination. Maintaining the routine of FaceTiming everyday kept me grounded and feeling connected. When far apart for months at a time, we’ve also found it’s the little things that often get lost in the shuffle. Our text message media list shows how we’ve used technology to share good mornings, meals, memories, favorite songs, and little moments throughout the day!
Acknowledging the little things that make you happy—that connect you to “home” in the traditional sense and the people you love—will provide a sense of comfort when you’re in a new country, particularly when it’s incredibly difficult to communicate with many (if not all) of the people surrounding you.
What is time, really?
Global travel really checks in on your basic algebra skills: pacific time, plus 15 hours, minus 8 hours, minus 5 hours, minus 1 hour, plus 7 hours, minus 6 hours, minus 3 hours… whew! Everyone handles time changes a bit differently. For me, sleep is SUPER important, and too little of it leads to sickness. So I made a point of always mapping out a “sleep plan” when I time travel. Even if I didn’t stick exactly to it, having that structure really helped me shift time zones more quickly and maintain better energy in the process. I always go for the window seat because it’s easier to curl up there for me. And key investments for any international traveler? Eye mask, ear plugs, noise cancelling earphones (while a bit of a splurge, this was one of the best and most used purchases I’ve made since turning pro!), and a great travel pillow (I like this one because it is very compact for travel yet comfortable for sleep, but everyone has their own personal preference!).
Never underestimate the power of perspective
Luckily, my travel this fall was a huge step up in terms of travel and lodging logistics from my first two years in the sport. The Super League Triathlon team takes incredible care of its pros, and as I’ve gotten to know athletes on the circuit, I’ve come to feel much less alone when traveling to races in foreign places!
I’d be lying if I haven’t had “WTF” moments in the course of travel, but I always make a point of coming back to an appreciation for the opportunity to race the fastest women in the world and to see the world in the process. That said, enjoying the good and being able to laugh about the bad (such as, you know, wooden planks for beds, sand bags for pillows, and never-ending travel days on planes, trains, buses and automobiles) with squadmates and fellow athletes racing on the world circuit has made the experience much sweeter.
Picture credit: Sarah Alexander & Super League Triathlon
Find your happy place
Last but not least, travel can be a huge drain on your energy. There are germs everywhere (yes, I have become a germaphobe); people sprinting past trying to make tight connections (and yes, this has been me on more than a number of occasions!); other people aimlessly wandering from store to store; and angry customers yelling at airline attendants. Most of the time, circumstances are outside your control, and for a lot of people, dealing with that reality week after week is exhausting. I admit I was glad that I wasn’t going to be flying again for another 6 weeks as I boarded the plane for my final flight of the fall to San Diego (which I made by about 30 seconds, I might add! Shout out to Delta for holding the gate open for me until 4mins before departure time!).
I first learned to put blinders on and keep my mind quiet when surrounded by chaos in my skating days. Being able to block out distraction was an important skill for me to develop in order to execute in my competitions; and it is something I have applied to my performance in school, office work, and triathlon racing. It has been a critical skill as a world traveler, as well! Shutting down, accepting my lack of control, and not internalizing the stress of airports allows me to travel from continent to continent, layover to layover, security line to security line while staying positive and keeping my cool.
I hope one of these “pro tips” will set you up for easier, less stressful, more successful travel as you pack your bags for your next trip!