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Travel as an Elite Athlete: Interviewing Australian Olympian Caroline Buchanan

Caroline Buchanan is a BMX & Mountain Bike athlete, 5 x World Champion, and London 2012 Olympic Games Finalist. Her sport has seen her travel all over the world since she was 9 years old, and has gained her worldwide recognition as one of the most successful international cyclists.

So naturally I was interested – what is it like to travel as one of the world’s most elite athletes?

Caroline Buc

Caroline Buchanan

You’re an elite athlete – how often does this mean you travel to compete in an international event?

Well this year I worked out that I have travelled on 73 flights, in and out of 35 countries, spent 15 full days on a plane and the year is not over yet!

Do you like to travel?


It’s all about getting somewhere

Yes and no – I have rarely been on a plane for recreation, for going on a holiday, and so when I travel it’s all about just getting somewhere, getting settled into training, and then competing.  If there is spare time, I get to take in a bit of sightseeing.

Much of my travelling was done before I was 21 and so I couldn’t even rent a car in most parts of the world! Even now the insurances are massive for under 25s renting a car.

How young did you start competing internationally?

We went as a family to France when I was 9 years old, and my dad, brother and I all competed in the BMX World Championships in Nantes. It was the year my brother Sam was turning 12 so he could still travel at half price. We went on to Wales in the UK to meet my dad’s family so it was a dual purpose trip.

Were you excited at the prospect of traveling for your first international event?

I was 9, I was excited about everything!!

Do you travel alone or with a team?

It depends on the sport and what the event is. I only travel with a team if it is to a BMX SX event (World Cup) or to World Championships or the Olympics. With mountain biking I only stay with a team at World Championship events. All other events are as an individual.

London Olympics

All other events are as an individual.

How do you deal with jet lag when you need to be at the top of your game for an event?

It used to hit me pretty hard, particularly on the trip to and from Europe which is usually at least 30 hours. Now I stay really hydrated on planes and have found a great product called 1Above which is natural and replaces lots of nutrients and electrolytes.  It makes such a difference to how I feel when I arrive somewhere.

Do you get time to yourself for sightseeing and to explore each new destination?

I don’t get much time to myself as I usually travel with someone going to the same event to share costs etc. Sightseeing only happens if there is a spare half day and we can organise a bus or some form of transportation.

Saying that though, I was invited to do a weeks coaching and racing on Curacao, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezula, a few months ago and that was a wonderful experience. I have also had layovers in countries for sometimes several weeks and so have had time relax and enjoy exploring.

We did managDay 1 of the  Pietermaritzburg South Africa DH World Championships Week.

We did manage a short Safari while in South Africa for the DH World Championships Week.

What was it like to attend a major international event such as the Olympic Games?

So hard to put into words, there is a fascinating hype there, such a buzz and so much tension all at the same time and sooooooo many spectators. Cant wait to do it again!

London Olympic Villiage!

London 2012: Olympic Village!

What is your favourite destination/why?

I have been to so many picturesque places, but Austria, Andora and Curacao would have to rate as most beautiful. Fort William in Scotland is also a favourite as the mountain bike events there are always awesome. Although it is a small town the entire community really gets into the event and the hype there is great. Mountain bikers are a great bunch of people, and it doesn’t matter if it is a World Cup or World Championships, there is a friendliness and casualness to the event.

Austria for the 4cross Mountain Bike World Championships!

Austria for the 4cross Mountain Bike World Championships!

You must have an insane amount of frequent flier points!  Do you have a preferred airline you fly with?

I try to stick with as few different airlines as possible, to maximize my points.  I fly with Qantas both within Australia and internationally, and mainly Southwest when I’m flying within the US.

But it is also about cost too, so I have flown with a lot of different airlines.  My mum booked me on an Air Berlin flight from Berlin to Los Angeles many years ago. Budget airline, 14 hours non stop, no wifi, no tv, no computer, pay as you go food and 6 German Shepherds in the bulkhead in front of me…and I don’t mean the chaps that look after sheep! Last time on that airline!

Who is the most amazing person you have met on your travels as an elite athlete?

There have been so many but possibly Wheelz from Nitro Circus! I met him in Chicago and he is such an inspiration, the things he can do in a wheelchair are both amazing and scary!

Wheelz from Nitro Citrus

Wheelz from Nitro Circus

What is your most memorable moment traveling?

Well the German shepherds are still up there! However I still get goose bumps heading back into Sydney on an overseas flight.

Travelling back to Australia for Christmas last year the Qantas pilot welcomed me back and introduced me as an Olympian to the people on board.  In that moment I felt very special. Qantas did it again after I won the World Championships this year on both the international flight in and the domestic flight into Canberra.  It made me feel like a rock star!

Do you travel for any other reason than your sport?

I think I can say all my travel is sport related. I was back in Australia for 10 days and went to 4 awards nights, a product launch, had 6 meetings and did 15 interviews in four states only to then travel back to Los Angeles to get ready for a big race in a weeks time.

My parents gave me a three day retreat in the mountains out of Los Angeles for Christmas and that is an hours drive from where I stay here.  Probably the first time I have travelled for just me and not sport related in many, many years!

15 interviews in 10 days!

15 interviews in 10 days!

What are three essential items you can’t travel without?

  1. My laptop – there is always so much to catch up on.
  2. Adaptors and chargers for computer and phone.
  3. 1Above concentrated drink for the plane. I think it’s the best thing ever!

For more information about Caroline check out

Be sure to follow her amazing journey on both Facebook and Twitter.

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.


  1. Interesting interview, Megan! She seems like quite the celebrity. How did you meet her?

    • Glad you enjoyed it Deia! Caroline’s from my hometown in Canberra, Australia. She’s friends with my younger sister – they were in school together…small world!!

  2. Great interview! My boyfriend races professional enduro mountain bike (longer, more sustained runs than DH) which has given us a lot of travel opportunities. However (and after reading this I think it might be a good thing) he is not at Caroline’s level so his race schedule is not as intense, so we can travel for periods of time on either end of a race…Of course, this also means we’re funding a lot more of our travels than Caroline is, I’m guessing. This year we’ll be in New Zealand for a few months training and riding and then heading to Chile for the first World Series race for him. Then we’ll be in Peru and both racing Inca Avalanche–a crazy downhill race that starts at elevation 16,000 ft! His international racing has opened up a lot of cool opportunities for us to combine bikes and travel :)

    • Wow Syd that sounds amazing! So fantastic that you have the opportunity to travel for periods of time on either end of racing – we’ll be in Peru next year actually – when is your race? That sounds like it would be amazing to see!

      Really glad you can combine both bikes and travel!

    • I think it is mid to late April and near Cuzco. I’ve never been to Peru so I’m super stoked. Where all are you guys going?

    • Nice! We’ll probably just miss it then – we’re heading through Central and South America starting May; should be in Peru around mid May :) Not sure of the itinerary yet but want to take in Lima, Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines – super excited!

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