Living Out of a Bag
Ihave been a part of the Canadian men's Track Endurance program for three full years now. It seems like yesterday that I flew to Los Angeles for that first tryout. Over the past three years, for many different reasons, we have seen talented athletes come and go. One reason, regardless of talent, is that the lifestyle isn't for everyone. Traveling all over the world competing and taking part in training camps take its toll. Being away from loved ones, friends and pets is a sacrifice, to say the least.
Though I wasn't exactly sure what I had signed up for when I first started, I have a much better handle on how to deal with and even enjoy living out of a bag. My view of things now is that my life was turned upside down for the better. Living out of a bag isn't for everyone, but I want to share some valuable lessons I've learnt moving from hotel room to hotel room.
Things change. Embrace differences and be flexible in new situations and surroundings. It is great to experience new areas and cultures. Expect things to be different, soak up the atmosphere and really try to become one with your surroundings. I fully expect my coffee to taste different everywhere I go, and I'm now open to it taking way longer to get it than I'm used to back home. Take some time to learn a few new words so as to fit in a bit better, and slow down and smile if communication breaks down.
Another thing that helps with traveling to new places is asking questions and becoming familiar with your surroundings. No one expects you to know the entire history of their town or city, but if you take interest in the people and their home, it will be appreciated. Make sure to listen and do your best to try to understand them. Don't expect to grasp it all right away, and also realize you don't know as much as you may think.
Trying my best to fit in, make friends and not be an outsider has worked everywhere I've been in life. Give it a shot. Explore. Get out on the bike and take it all in. Believe it or not, I also like to get out on foot and do the same. Look at the local architecture, the history in the roadway and take a deep breath of that manure-scented or smog-filled air. I don't like being spun around, not knowing where anything is. Call it survival instinct or whatever, but knowing the floor plan of the hotel, the stairs, exits, the parking lot, the major intersections and local highways, including the route to the best sandwich shop in town, really puts me at ease. I always make time to walk around and explore my surroundings, especially if it includes a sandy beach.
Talk to people, face to face. Share experiences live in person with your coaches and teammates, but also make time to communicate with family and friends back home. A solid WiFi connection should make it very easy to say hello and see a smiling, loving face from the other side of the world. It's good to know what is going on outside of your sporting bubble. A little distraction or a good barrel laugh can make all the difference to your mood and general well-being. One caution though – your mobile device shouldn't be your everything while away. Put the phone down and turn it off as much as you can. Connect with the human beings around you. In the past few years, I've been lucky enough to enjoy the company of and to bond with so many incredible people on this journey. Way too many special moments would have been missed if I was face down in my phone.
My life was turned upside down for the better.