Rugby is a Passport to the World
December 13, 2018
By Kristen Thomas, USA Rugby
Australia. Netherlands. United Arab Emirates. Three years ago, I did not even have a passport. Today, I have more stamps in my passport than I could have ever imagined. Rugby has given me the opportunity to see the world. I went to Rio for the Olympics, I went to Ireland for the World Cup. I have been to five of the seven continents and got to play in the iconic AT&T Park in San Francisco during the 2018 Rugby Sevens World Cup. It has been an incredible experience and one that would not have been possible without me picking up a rugby ball.
While an injury kept me from playing in the Rio Olympics, rugby afforded me the opportunity to travel to Brazil for the first time. I was hosted by a teammate’s family and was able to experience the spectacle of the Olympics. The rugby community from all over the world was out in full force and the shear experience of attending an Olympic Games and seeing the passion exuded by the host nation was incredible.
As a member of the Eagles 7s team, every year I look forward to five or six stops abroad. I have been to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Australia, New Zealand, England and France in recent years and each place provides a unique experience and culture.
Occasionally when we are on a series stop, we have the opportunity to go out and explore the city. One of my fondest memories is from Dubai in 2015 and I recently got to relive it on our 2018 stop. We took the Dubai equivalent of Uber to head to the historic sand dunes in the UAE. On the way we learned a tremendous amount about the culture of the city and when we arrived at the dunes, we put on traditional clothing from the region. Driving around the sand dunes in jeeps was an amazing experience and I encourage all of you to put it on your bucket list!
I was fortunate enough to make the Women’s World Cup team and head to Ireland for several weeks in 2017. It gave me time to immerse myself in the culture. While our focus was on the tournament, we were able to visit a number of Irish and Northern Ireland cities. Dublin and Belfast were extraordinary places. However, the breathtaking views at the Cliffs of Moher left the biggest impression on me.
All of the places I have seen that rugby has allowed me to experience has only made me more interested in exploring the rest of the world. So, after the World Cup concluded, I decided to stick around Europe for a few weeks and backpack through France, Italy and Spain. It was nice being able to see parts of Europe and not be on a strict timetable. It also allowed me to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and travel on my own. Carrying nothing but a backpack and a duffel bag I traveled from place to place staying in hostiles and meeting new people from all walks of life.
Rugby has given me a new view of the world. Traveling around the world was once a dream, but now, thanks to rugby, I am experiencing places beyond my wildest expectations. Where has rugby taken you?
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