I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane, or a Train, or a Boat: 3 Benefits of Traveling for Sports

Many of us travel for competition, as athletes and/or spectators. Have you ever thought about why it’s good to do this? I have and I came up with 3 important reasons to travel to sports competitions.

By now, I have gathered lots of good intel about HOW to travel for competitions and athletic events, whether it be grappling, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, or otherwise. I’ve even written about it myself: how to pack in an effective but minimalist fashion, bringing diversions to keep you occupied if you’re a passenger rather than a driver, all the things you can do to regulate your sleep schedule.

But after a trip I just took with some teammates this past weekend, I’ve been thinking more deeply about why to travel for competitions and athletic events. Obviously, one of the main reasons to travel is to compete. If a tournament or event is far from where you live, you have to travel to get to it. And I’ve taken many of those kinds of trips. But for this trip, I went as a spectator, with about eight teammates and coaches, to cheer on our coach while he did his thing. And that gave me some time to consider the benefits you can derive from competition travel. They extend beyond the actual tournament, which means you can take advantage whether you compete or whether you simply come along for the ride.

This trip required a ten-hour drive each way, and once we arrived, we crammed into two hotel rooms. At the actual event, we wore matching t-shirts to show our support, we were rowdily (but respectfully) vocal, and we may have shown some love for our local bartender. The event was fun and well organized, the good guy(s) prevailed, and, speaking for myself, my sense of adventure was more than satisfied for a little while.

So what do you get when you travel in the service of competing or supporting your teammates? Plenty, as it turns out. Read on for a few examples:

#1. Camaraderie

When you spend ten hours in a car with people, you have nothing but time, time to learn more about those people and, arguably, yourself. Add to this probable sleep deprivation and disruption of normal routines, and you have a traveling petri dish, in which you see sides of teammates that you probably don’t normally see.

From what they wear on long plane trips (long johns or pajama bottoms?) to what they eat on the road (Happy Meal or brown bag lunch?), to how their natural reservations break down during hour thirty of being awake, the choices your comrades make and the ways they behave give you insight into their preferences and personalities you might not get just from training with them. And you never know what factoid might come in handy in the future, and for what reason. (I’d like to point out right now that I never mentioned the phrase “friendly blackmail.”)

#2. Sustained Focus

If I’m any indication, one of the things athletes love about their training is the opportunity to be completely present. So often in our lives our attention is fragmented among our jobs, our families, our other obligations. But somehow, we manage to bring all of ourselves to our workouts. We get to block everything else out and just be fully in one place. Imagine an opportunity to experience that kind of presence for several days rather than just an hour or two.

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Imagine being able to be steeped in your practice, by participating, drinking in the sights and sounds of the actual event, discussing with teammates, interacting with strangers likely to become friends because they are in the same place, for the same reasons, loving the same things you do. Traveling to an athletic event affords this opportunity.

#3. Expressing Your (Other) Selves

In our daily lives, we are predictable and circumscribed. We are parents, professionals, and spouses who follow routines and fulfill certain expectations. When we travel, however, we are temporarily freed from the normal expectations placed on us, and we can give voice to other aspects of ourselves. We can try on for size what it feels like to be a professional athlete, or part of a road crew, or simply the incognito enthusiast. Traveling can free us to express parts of ourselves that don’t get center stage very often, or perhaps ever, without disrupting who we are at home.

Kerouac was on the road. Steinbeck traveled with Charley. Heyerdahl got on a raft and hit the open sea. These guys had the right idea. When we travel, the possibilities are endless. When we travel in conjunction with our athletic practice, the possibilities for expanding our connection with that practice through connection to others, opportunity to focus, and personal expression are significantly increased.

Have you ever traveled to compete or support your teammates? What did you experience? Did it affect your relationship to your athletic endeavors? Post observations to comments.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.