My International Travel Promise To Myself

Copyright : Sebastien Decoret

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.

Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”

What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.

Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.

My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.

Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.

In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.

I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.

For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:

England (1980)
France (1980)
Switzerland (1980)
Italy (1980)
Germany (1980)
Austria (1980)
Greece (1980)
Turkey (1980)
Hungary (2014)
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
Bali (2014)
Maldives (2018)
Thailand (2018)

It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.

For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.

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Traveling Is Hard For Fitness People

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Ever since I began competing in 2009, I have become a high maintenance traveler. It’s almost impossible to avoid becoming high maintenance when things like finding a gym and locating clean food are foremost in one’s mind. I’m not saying that it’s not possible to stay on track with workouts and food while traveling, but foraging for certain “fitness” resources becomes an essential part of prepping for a trip in a fitness person’s life.

I honestly believe that it is always possible to create intense workouts in any location by performing plyometrics, calisthenics, climbing stairs, running on the beach, etc. However, I also know that those of us who love lifting weights go through iron withdrawals when a gym is not available during travels. My first question when a trip is being booked is, “Where is the closest gym, and how is it equipped?”, rather than what sights there are to check out. No hotel room routine or outdoor workout will ever feel as good to me as weightlifting.

Road trips are the easiest since a car can be loaded up with meals and water, but I am always concerned about whether there is a refrigerator in the hotel room at my destination. Though I am resourceful and can put my food on ice, food spoilage is almost inevitable after a couple of days. Packing food when traveling by plane is much trickier since certain food items either travel poorly or are not allowed by TSA. If you need to bring a lot of food and decide to check in your food bag, be prepared for the possibility of lost luggage. My food bag was lost for 24 hours on one trip when I was traveling to a national contest, all because the airline had cancelled a flight, yet had neglected to reroute my food after they booked me on a replacement flight! I also had to spend the night in a freezing cold airport terminal during that trip, so by the time I got to my final destination, I was exhausted and frustrated. When I discovered that my food had been lost, I literally began crying. Eventually my bag was found and delivered to me, but 7 pounds of chicken and beef were on the verge of spoiling by the time the bag was back in my possession.
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Traveling abroad holds even more challenges for the fitness person, since many countries don’t offer clean meal prep services. Even if a local market is located, how will food be prepped if your hotel room lacks a kitchen? I am currently facing this challenge as I prepare for a trip to Hungary. I will make sure to pack a bunch of whey protein, Quest bars and nuts to at least ensure that I meet my body’s daily protein needs. I have also looked into purchasing prepped meals and having them shipped to the hotel on the day of my arrival. Thank goodness I will be staying in a room with a kitchenette when I travel to Sydney, and can cook up a bunch of fish and chicken once I arrive there.

I know that those of you who are not involved in the fitness industry must be reading this and thinking that I am nuts, while those of you in fitness will be able to relate to what I have been saying in this article. The thing is, I don’t want my body to rebel from radically different eating habits or food choices, so I will uphold my high maintenance perspective and do everything in my power to eat clean. Most countries tend to consume whole foods and aren’t in the habit of eating copious amounts of fast foods, a fact which I am thankful for. I look forward to consuming the local produce and trying new foods while staying clean.