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Budget Travel Adventures Olympics – my top 3 sports and travel memories

sports and travel memories Jeremy Branham horseshoes

My Olympic pose

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  After my first trip to Estonia, I wanted to travel.  Sports and travel have been a part of my life – but not necessarily at the same time.

When this travel blogger relay came along, I was eager to join the race.  Sure, I have a lot of travel moments.

However, I need to warn you – I am not going to share my top 3 travel memories. 

I love sports and like to compete.  I also like to be different.  I don’t want to do things like everyone else.  The Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world but I am competing for a different type of medal.

You see, a big part of my blog focuses on sports and travel.  There are very few travel blogs or sports sites that combine two of the most popular topics in the world.  And while I love hiking, budget travel, destinations, and seeing the world, I can’t deny that sports are a big part of my life.

As part of the Lowcostholidays travel relay, my muscles are warm, my adrenaline is pumping, and my game day face is on.  So here they are – my top 3 sports and travel memories.

Bronze medal – Barcelona FC vs Real Zaragoza

sports and travel memories FC Barcelona Camp Nou Jeremy Branham

In 2006, I was struck with a strange disease.  Growing up in the US, I had never experienced this in my life.  The symptoms were similar to other things I had experienced.  However, this was different.

I started showing signs in May.  By June, the disease had taken over.

I had World Cup fever.

A few years later, this disease has spread and completely overtaken me.  I am now a passionate soccer (aka football) fan).  While the symptoms began in June 2006, I fully contracted the disease in 2007.

In September 2007, I watched Barcelona play Real Zaragoza at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona along with 95,000 Catalan fans.  I wore my jersey, watched some of my favorite players, and experienced one of the best travel experiences of my life.

Since then, football has become my second favorite sport.  I watch matches, follow the news, get the highlights, wear jerseys of my favorite teams, and even cried when Chelsea won the Champions League last year.

Even though many may not understand this life-long disease that I’ve now contracted, that match in Barcelona taught me something – sporting events are one of the best ways to connect with locals when traveling.

Even if you don’t enjoy sports all, attending a sporting event is one of the best travel experiences you may ever have.

Silver medal – 1995 World Series Game 1 Cleveland Indians vs the Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves win the silver medal here – 30 minutes ahead of Barcelona.  That’s how much time I’ve spent watching Braves videos from the 1990s before I wrote about Barcelona’s bronze medal.

During my junior year in college, the team I had followed my entire was back in the World Series.  Sitting in my apartment on a Fall Saturday morning, I bought two tickets to Game 1 of the World Series.

Just a week earlier, it was Fall Break at the University of South Carolina.  I went on my first solo road trip to watch the South Carolina Gamecocks play the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville.  OK to be completely honest, I went to visit a girl for the weekend.  However, my Gamecocks happened to be playing her school the weekend of my visit.

A week later, I listen to the radio as the Gamecocks beat Vanderbilt while I am on the road to Atlanta.  My Gamecocks flag was flying.  I lost a hubcap somewhere along the freeway when my car hit the median because Donny and I were taunting our rival fans on the way to Atlanta.

Yet nothing could ruin my weekend.  I was at Game 1 of the 1995 World Series as I watched the Braves beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2 behind an outstanding pitching performance from Greg Maddux.  A few days later, the Atlanta Braves would win their first and only World Series title since my birth.  Not a bad week for my first sports and travel road trips.

It wouldn’t be my last.

I got goose bumps watching this one again.

Gold medal – The College Football Travel Tour

sports and travel memories Washington Huskies Oregon Ducks Husky StadiumWithout a doubt, the gold medal of sports and travel memories goes to The College Football Travel Tour.

As a kid, I loved college football ever since that first game in Williams-Brice stadium in 1984.  In 1995, I fell in love with travel.

In October 2011, I put my two greatest passions together.

As I stepped off the plane in Seattle, something felt right.  I walked around the beautiful campus of the University of Washington as the Fall colors, cool temperatures, and the spirit of football filled the air.

Over the next few days, I watched the Washington Huskies play the Oregon Ducks.  I met sorority girls picking up trash and experienced door after door open to this incredible opportunity.

In November, I visited my alma mater, the University of South Carolina, and watched my team beat our rival, the Clemson Tigers.  While I was in town, I connected with two sports writers.  Those connections led to my first radio interview on my hometown sports station.

In December, I got goose bumps at the Naval Academy as I watched one of the greatest college football rivalries of all time – Army vs Navy.  Annapolis welcomed me with open arms.  I hung out with the lead singer of a band and was treated like a rock star all weekend by the people of the city.

This year, this passion became something bigger than I ever thought it would be.  This dream has become a travel series as Expedia has come on board to sponsor the 2012 College Football Travel Tour.

Now I will be traveling all over the country, attending some of the best college football games and rivalries in the nation, and showing people why this series is much than a football game.

This has become that moment that I’ve worked and trained for my entire life.  This is the greatest sports and travel memory of my life.  And I am still living it.

Honorable mentions and passing the baton

As I reflect on travel and sports memories that are worthy of these medals, I want to thank a few guys who didn’t make it here but deserved recognition.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to hang out with Scottish Games professional athletes and tell their story.

These guys treated me like a friend.  My time with them brought tears to my eyes.  And as big as these guys are, I definitely need to say thanks.

sports and travel memories Scottish Games professional athletes Jeremy Branham

Thanks to Dawn for passing the baton to me after sharing her top travel memories.  As I relish in these life changing moments, I am still living out my sports and travel memories.  I’ve finished my race and bow to my coach Christina Hegle as I pass my baton to The Wherever Writer.

What are your favorite travel memories on your travel journey?

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  1. Michael says:

    Here’s mine:

    Bronze: The European field hockey championships in Paris, some time around 1990, a surprisingly low-key event with all the charms of a village egg-and-spoon race, to be honest. Mainly enjoyed it because It meant I could stay in Paris for a week, all expenses paid. I had no idea that I would move over there only a couple of years later (and stay there for 20 years).

    Silver: European Swimming Championships in Seville, Spain, mid-1990s. Incredibly hot, fine architecture, went to the bull fighting as well, in Spain’s must beautiful arena (found it surprisingly dull and repetitive, even though I had just finished Death In The Afternoon). Swimming very much a sideshow, for me anyway.

    Gold: 2001 World Series, Yankees v Diamondbacks. A sport that I actually found interesting, for a change, plus New York post 9/11 and Rivera blowing THAT save. Memorable whichever way you look at it.

    • Interesting about the field hockey championships. Sounds very low key like the Scottish Highlands Games that I’ve attended. I love events like this where you can get up close and personal with the athletes and events.

      I love Seville but not sure I could get into swimming and bull fighting that much.

      As for baseball, that was always my first love – before I ever laid eyes on a girl. I hate the Yankees so that 2001 World Series was awesome. So glad to see the D-backs win that one (even though I had some sympathy for NY after 9/11 – still didn’t want them to win).

  2. Laurence says:

    Sports eh. Hmm. I liked the opening ceremony, does that count?

    • Laurence, see the question again at the bottom. Just because I shared my favorite sports and travel memories doesn’t mean you have to share yours. Sharing your favorite travel experiences are OK too. :)

  3. Great idea, Jeremy!

    A. First time I walked into the Rhein-Energie Stadion to watch 1. FC Köln play at home, I was hooked. They even have terraced standing-room places. But the atmosphere is generally safe, because tickets have remained affordable so entire families can come out and support their side. For me, being able to complain about the footie, bad calls or bad technique in both German and English is a bonus.

    B. First time I walked into the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Canada to watch my hometown Canucks. I don’t remember who the opponents were, but to cheer my Canuckleheads in person was a big thrill.

    C. This past April, I got to visit for the first time the “new” Target Field in Minneapolis to watch the Twins, and also the famous Camden Yards to watch the Baltimore Orioles. Going to baseball parks with friends who are also fans is the best, because not only do you shoot the breeze, catch up, talk baseball, be the best anti-Yankee fans possible, and gripe about how the 1994 strike totally gipped the Expos’ chances for a pennant and ultimately doomed the franchise. Oh wait, that’s *my* gripe …

    • I am a huge fan of European soccer as I’ve stated. I don’t get to watch the Bundesliga very often (I am a Bayern fan – yes, I know very bandwagon) but it’s one of the most entertaining leagues to watch.

      I was in Vancouver last year during the Stanley Cup. However, things got ugly after game 7. Thankfully, I had already left. I’ve never been to a hockey game but I’ve seen the two hockey arenas – both in Canada (Vancouver and Toronto).

      As a Braves fan, I admit that 1994 Expos team was really good. Also ruined Tony Gynn’s chance to hit .400. Believe he was hitting .394 when the strike happened.

      • Christina says:

        Bayern fan? My word Jeremy, I had no idea ;) This post is like a revelation :D Glad you get sucked into the goodness of World Cup fever as well. I love the World Cup, and the Euro Championships, its little brother (despite Germany not progressing to the final… those Italians kicked us out. Again.)
        Great that you chose your favourite sports travel memories. I also had a sports memory in my top travel moments – I also watched the Braves, and they lost against the Nationals (must have been a very rare occasion, I’m being told, so I feel honoured to have been present on that 4th of July in DC).

        • Christina, I actually do like Bayern. They are my favorite team in the Bundesliga. However, the allegiance is nowhere near the same as it is to Chelsea and Barca. I have a lot of respect for Germany’s national team. The Bundesliga is also fun to watch.

          From childhood to now, my sports focus has changed. Growing up it was baseball all the time. As I got a little older, I loved college football. Now football/soccer is a new passion of mine and one that I follow all the time. Even for those that don’t love sports, going to a sporting even when traveling is quite the experience!

          4th of July always a fun time of year for baseball! I miss the Braves!

  4. Aaron says:

    Great sports travel memories Jeremy! Remember 1995 well being a fellow Braves fan. That’s great you had a chance to go to the World Series. Thanks for posting the video. Look forward to following your upcoming college football travel tour, so jealous haha. :)

    • I wish I had been at Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. Now THAT would have been awesome! My uncle was at that game against Pittsburgh where Otis Nixon made that catch. He turned off his video camera right before that catch! :)

      The College Football Travel Tour will be fun and exhausting. I have a newsletter if you want more behind the scenes info on the tour. I will announce the first tour stop next week!

  5. Leah Travels says:

    First off, go TEAM BLUE! We’re so going to win this relay.

    You know I’m down with the sports theme, so I’ll bite. You know my number 1, as it was in my relay post.

    3.5: My memories of playing and coaching basketball all are very special, but because I can’t just pick one, I’ll make it 3.5.

    3: Hanging out with Greg Norman and company at TPC Sugar Loaf outside of Atlanta. It was the first tournament held there, and through some connections, I was allowed VIP access for the tourney. Scott McCarron (whom I had a slight crush on) won that year. Thus began my love affair with golf (and golfers).

    2. I got to watch the USA Olympic Basketball Team play a team comprised of Duke all-stars in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Coach K is my coaching idol, and I’ve been a Duke fanatic since I was in eighth grade. Despite visiting Durham on many occasions, this has been the only time I’ve seen actual basketball played in Cameron. I got to meet Quinn Snyder (he’s been my imaginary boyfriend since I can remember), Danny Ferry, Johnny Dawkins,and Coach K. For this basketball junkie and Duke nut, it was a dream come true.

    1. Texas Tech defeats #1 University of Texas on a last-second pass to win the game. I <3 football.

    I guess I could add the final fours and regional finals I've attended, but none of them stand out like the three and a half above. :-)

    Yay, Team BLUE!

    • Over the last 10 years, I’ve been playing golf. I am not great but decent. However, I don’t have time to play any more. I think the one thing that people love about golf is that they watch it and think “I can do that” (unlike hitting a 95 mph fastball, dunking on 7 foot tall men, and facing a 250 lb LB).

      In 1995, I was working at IBM in Research Triangle Park, NC. During winter break, me, one guy from Penn St, and a girl from Tennessee went walking around Duke’s campus looking for Cameron. The guy and I stopped suddenly and just stared as the girl asked us what we were doing. Coach K walked right by us into Cameron. We went inside and got a glimpse of Duke practicing. I even got to say something to Cherokee Parks. I’ve been a Duke fan since 1986.

      Obviously, I love football as well. I had a hard time picking one game that I loved. 2009 and 2011 Clemson, 2000 against UGA were some of the best games I’ve seen in person.

      • Leah Travels says:

        Yes, golf does look pretty simple, doesn’t it? I used to play a lot including in tournaments. It’s a lot of fun, but like you, I just don’t have the time to spend on the course. Plus my short game is not good and that’s really frustrating. :-)

        I didn’t know you were a Duke fan! At least you have great taste in basketball teams. :-) I used to spend summers in Durham with my cousins who worked at Duke. I’d go to the campus in the evening and just people watch. I can’t tell you how many of the players I saw just walking the campus. The student body population is small and the basketball players really stand out. I did get to see Christian Laettner, but I never got to see JJ Redick…sigh.

  6. Amy says:

    First off, thanks for passing me the baton! And I’m glad you appreciate competition as much as I do. Haha.

    Second, I’m actually more jealous of your Bronze memory because I’ve always wanted to get more involved with the World Cup. I love how my Hispanic friends get SO riled up over the World Cup, but Americans just don’t get as excited.

    Third, you lost a hubcap while taunting rival fans on the interstate??? Ruthless. You say it was on the median, but why do I picture you ramming your car against the side of theirs? Haha.

    Oh, and will you be making a stop at the University of Florida on during your College Football Travel Tour? I’m sure it’s at the top of your priority list…

    • I do love the World Cup but enjoy the passion of each season of European soccer even more. If the US is better, then the World Cup would be even more exciting.

      As for losing a hubcap, just call it being a 20 year old driver on the road getting too excited for the baseball postseason while being psyched about college football. The testosterone was flowing! :)

      As for The Swamp, I will get there eventually. Bad thing about this tour is that there are 13 games and LOTS of college football teams. This will take me a while!

  7. One of the best posts I think you have written so far! I really want to join you on your Football tour as I haven’t even been to a game. Watched the Superbowl in Hooters on the way to Reno one year though :)
    Good luck!

    • Wow Cole, thanks for that! May I ask what stood out about this post that made it so special? I’d like to think my writing continues to get better and I blow people away as a wordsmith. However, my instinct tells me that I write better when I write about my passions.

      As a sports fan, I have to admit I don’t care that much about pro football. I did watch it and follow it but I’ve skipped the Super Bowl a few times (unheard of here in the US).

  8. Fun to read your favorite memories. Glad you focused on your two of your passions — sports and travel. I do like men in kilts, too. :) Go Team BLUE!

    • Thanks Cathy! Starting next week, I will focus a LOT more on sports and travel as the College Football Travel Tour kicks off for 2012. Now you can see why I have sports and travel on the brain right now :)

      I have to admit I loved how the kilt felt. I even wore it the traditional way for a bit (if you know what I mean) :)

  9. Leigh says:

    You like great in a kilt and a killer Olympic photo of you at the top. I love sports as a participant. I just don’t make a very good spectator. However, would enjoy a soccer match in Europe as much to see the fans as anything else.

    • Thanks Leigh. I need to work on my legs, my tan, and my gut a little to make that kilt look a little better! :)

      Honestly, I love playing sports as much as I love watching them. However, my body has taught me that even though I like to still compete like a 20 year old in everything I play, I don’t recover like a 20 year old :)

  10. So here is where our divergent sports interests finally connect! I grew up as a HUGE Atlanta Braves fan: Many childhood nights were spent listening to WSB radio broadcasts of their games, even during the crappy years. Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, Jeff Horner, Biff Pocaroba (sp?)… I loved them all, and collected all their Topps baseball cards. Though I lost interest in baseball as I grew up, my interest in photography led me back to the game, more for work than for fun. That year they won the Series, I got to shoot quite a few games, sitting in a box about 5 feet from the warm-up circle. For a longtime Braves fan, the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz era was MAGICAL, wasn’t it?

    • I loved that you got such an up close view of that World Series! Honestly, I could write pages on my memories of the Atlanta Braves. Growing up, my favorite player was Dale Murphy. To this day, I still use my baseball glove from high school with Dale Murphy’s name on it. I’ve met him a couple of times and gotten his autograph.

      Like you, I collected baseball cards in the 80s and early 90s. I still have them – over 11,000 in all. I had some really valuable ones until these guys were all doing steroids.

      As a Braves fan, I loved those 80s teams. Minus the 82 and 83 teams, they were bad. However, I watched as many games as I could. That’s all I did growing up in the summer – watch baseball games. Even when we went to the beach on vacation, we’d turn the game on. The day Skip Caray died, I cried. I loved Bob Horner as well but those teams were lovable losers. Horner even hit 4 homeruns in a game and the Braves still lost.

      When the 90s came around, that was a different kind of special. I loved 1991, Sid Bream’s slide, Otis Nixon’s catch, and so many other highlights from those years. These days, I don’t watch the Braves any more because they aren’t on TBS and harder to watch out here in California. However, that team, those announcers, the players, and my days at Fulton County really had an impact on me as a kid.

  11. Haven’t been a lot of sporting moments on our Journey but we did get some unique insights into Mexican culture while watching the Veracruz Tiburones soccer team live in a stadium and watching the Mexican national team trounce France on TV during a World Cup Match. Then there was the time Eric watched the NBA finals on TV in Thailand while I recovered from Dengue Fever. Come to think of it, there HAVE been some sporting moments!

  12. So wait…you’re a Gamecock and a Chelsea supporter? Oh man, this is going to be a fun several months:) Glory Glory Man United!

  13. Love your sports travel memories. Though I don’t remember going to a sporting event while I was traveling but I have to agree: it is one of the best ways to connect with the locals.
    Go Team BLUE!!!

  14. Caitlyn says:

    Oh wow, I have just stumbled across this and am so excited that I’ve found someone else with a ‘sport and travel’ category! Love it. I’ve got heaps – two Olympics, Wimbledon, sumo wrestling, Gaelic football, bullfighting, Thai boxing, ice hockey, the list goes on. If you can find it online, there’s a great book called ‘Race Around the Sports World’ which documents a guy’s trip around the world, combining as many sports events as possible, it’s a great read.

    • Race Around the Sports World? That sounds like something I would enjoy doing! I’ve watch it all – soccer, football, baseball basketball, tennis, volleyball, etc. Going to sporting events would be a lot of fun. I love the cultural and travel aspect as well.

      Which event has been your favorite?

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