It’s nothing new to say that the snippets of lives shared on social media are often only the most interesting parts of them. My most recent blog post is no exception. It was lucky timing that my first post on The Ice Garden featured my most exciting and idealistic experience thus far. The reality is that those trips can only really happen when the international breaks occur or if our team has no games, which is rare.
I decided this would be a good opportunity to illustrate the less glamorous aspects of this adventure. Once again, this is all my own personal experience and opinion. All teams and imports will have unique perspectives so I would highly recommend reaching out to multiple imports both past and present and asking them questions if you're interested!
One part that has, ironically, been the most challenging for me is the amount of free time. I coached all summer so I don't have a remote job, and due to circumstances it is easier to not try and navigate a random remote gig or have a local one here. I'm sure many imports work on the side and that is definitely an easy way to fill up some of these hours. But, if you can't/don't need to work while you play, you will have buckets of time. Here is a quick visual of an average week:
Like I said, buckets.
Now, I’d say I’m usually quite disciplined when it comes to my routine, but I learned that is only the case if my routine is convenient. For example, this summer in Vermont, I would drive to the gym in the morning, stop at the grocery store on the way home, have lunch, do my extra hockey activities for the day (video, stickhandle & shooting, Neurotracker, mobility etc.), head out to my coaching job, then play pick-up hockey, then go back home for dinner and finish with an hour or two of free time before bed. It was easy and since I purposefully jam-packed my day, I felt as though I had 'earned' my few hours of free time in the evening. This need to feel like I must earn my time off has been a growing consequence of living 'the grind' of an athlete.
If things are not going as planned or I am unhappy with one little thing, I assume it's because I'm missing something, like there is something I should be doing or that I am 'falling behind' if I'm not constantly doing something athletic or career-related. This mindset did not serve me well for the first few weeks I was here. We didn't have access to a gym for awhile and although we do now, any sort of rain usually prevents me from making the trip (I will definitely be packing more and stronger rain gear next time).
Since I struggle to stay engaged in body weight workouts at home, I often opt for doing nothing on those days. For several straight hours I'll watch Netflix and work on a puzzle. Rather than trying to enjoy these activities, I feed myself all sorts of negative thoughts about how I'm wasting my time and surely regressing athletically. I can't help but think, "if you really cared or wanted to get better you'd just do the workout at home. It's not that hard."
On top of that, if practice goes poorly, I find myself turning that inward, thinking it went poorly because I did it to myself. I would also think that because I'm in another country and not doing something athletic, I should at least always be out and about doing something interesting.
Days passed by that looked the exact same and I believed each of them were a wasted opportunity. In fact, it took me so long to even sit down and write this next post because after the trip I got sick and it rained for two weeks so I couldn't do much anyway. I thought, “how am I supposed to follow-up that adventurous, idealistic post with all those pretty pictures if nothing happened?” I kept hoping that one day something interesting would just happen so I had a good story to share. Half of the month has gone by and surprise, surprise, life is… well, life! I did do some fun things here and there, but nothing I thought was 'blog worthy.' Luckily, I reminded myself that this is not a travel blog. Heck, I even called it Life of an Import, so why shouldn't I discuss the entire experience!
Here are some things I did to fill up my free time:
- Watched Netflix, several movies & NHL games
- Re-watched all of our (Lakers) games so far
- Watched Team Austria v. Team Hungary in a double-header exhibition game
- Worked out at the gym
- Took a bike ride on the Drau bike path
- Met with a friend and played street hockey with her kids
- Read a few books and worked on my puzzles
- Played a few hockey games and had some practices
- Baked brownies, cookies & banana bread several times
I'd say that's a pretty normal-looking week right there! Although I wish it were easier to do the things I like, it has forced me to work on being more flexible and accepting of what I can do with what I have. I played club hockey for four years and countless women's players have had to play professionally for years with similarly bare bones amenities (i.e., the ones they brought themselves). Ultimately, we do it because we love the sport more than anything.
There might not be a lot of resources available, but the games are competitive and the results matter. I already got to play in a multi-league playoff series (Super Cup) and there's an Austrian-only and EWHL league playoff series at the end of the season. Who doesn't love playing for a medal?! Writing this post helped remind me why I came here in the first place. I'd trade an uneventful, normal week for being able to lace up my skates competitively one more time any day.
To wrap up, there will be time for longer traveling, but 90% of your time will be not doing hockey things. If you like to be busy, you could consider getting a remote job before you leave, asking the team if they will be able to find work for you, or perhaps you have semesters left on your degree or want to study something else entirely. There is more than enough time to not stress about finishing assignments, morose than having a full-time job or even when playing for the school. So, depending on how much free time you like to have or what you enjoy doing, location and transportation available might be something you strongly need to consider when selecting a team.
That's all for now, thank you for reading!