Caitlyn O’Dowd on Visiting all the Summer Olympic Sites

Caitlyn O'Dowd on Visiting all the Summer Olympic Sites 8

Caitlyn O’Dowd – Visiting all the Summer Olympic Sites

Meet Caitlyn, an Australian expat currently living in the Netherlands who has an interesting travel passion – visiting all the summer Olympic sites in the world. With my upcoming trip to the Sochi Winter Olympics (if they get their shit together that is) I decided to compile a list of all the Winter Olympic Sites that I have been to. I stumbled on Caitlyn’s site, Olympic Wanderings, while searching for a list of Olympic host cities and had to reach out to her.

I recently sat down with Caitlyn (via email) and asked her a few questions on her obsession with visiting all the summer Olympic sites and what she is up to now.

Brief Bio:
I’m from Melbourne, Australia but have been living in Dordrecht, the Netherlands for the past three years. I’ve visited over 50 countries across five continents (South America still beckons). I sort of combine all types of travelling – for work as a tour guide, I travel for months on end with no breaks, but personally I like taking two or three-week trips and trying to concentrate on one area or country. Living in Europe I like taking weekend trips once a month or so.


 

Your decision to leave Australia to travel the globe and visit all the Summer Olympic Sites is a unique one. What led to this choice and what is your obsession with the Olympic games?

I’ve always been obsessed with sport – us Melbournians call our city ‘the sporting capital of the world’. I always loved watching the Olympics on TV as well, in 1992 my seventh birthday occurred during the Barcelona Games so I held an Olympic-themed birthday party. Then my family decided to attend the 2000 Games in Sydney and that really got me hooked for life. I just love watching sports you don’t normally get to see, learning about all the different countries participating and the quirky things that seem to happen each Games.

How many Summer Olympic Sites and cities have you crossed of your list and how many are left?

I’ve visited all Summer Olympic Sites except three – Moscow, Mexico City and Atlanta are all still on my list. However in Los Angeles and Saint Louis, my visits were when I was very young and I didn’t get out and see the stadiums, so they’re still on my list too. So that’s five all together! I’ve visited all the others that are still existing today. I’ve also visited four winter sites (Calgary, Sarajevo, Turin and Innsbruck).

The bizarre modern uses of the Bird's Nest in Beijing
The bizarre modern uses of the Bird’s Nest in Beijing

Out of all the Summer Olympic Sites, which stands out the most for you and why?

I’m a bit biased when I say that the 1956 venue is my favourite – that’s the one that was held in Melbourne! I’ve pretty much grown up at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), watching Aussie Rules football and cricket matches, with crowds sometimes topping 100,000. Outside home, Beijing’s Bird’s Nest was pretty amazing. It was just so eye-catching, and I really liked seeing that it was still being used by the public after the Games (they were using it for ice-skating when I visited).

As a fifteen year old at the Sydney Olympics in 2000
As a fifteen year old at the Sydney Olympics in 2000

Have you been fortunate enough to attend any Olympic games out of all the Summer Olympic Sites you have been to? Follow up – What games have been to, which was your favorite, and which event is best watched live?

I’ve attended both Sydney in 2000 and London in 2012. If I had to pick a favourite I’d say Sydney as it was my home country and I think I just wandered around in a daze during my whole visit. My favourite event was the athletics – I visited the first day of the program in London and it was just brilliant. The crowd was so excited for anything ‘Team GB’ did and there was just so much to see all the time, which is totally different from watching it on TV. There’s multiple events taking place at the same time.

The second Olympics attended, in London in 2012
The second Olympics attended, in London in 2012

As I am sure you have encountered, attending an Olympic hosting city can be extremely expensive. Any tips for first time Olympic goers on how to best enjoy the games?

I’ve been lucky and have stayed with friends on both occasions, cutting down on accommodation expenses. Don’t be afraid of asking if friends of friends can accommodate you – that’s what we did for Sydney and found people were more than happy to help. We also did little things like packed lunches and used public transport everywhere – it was free in London when you had an event ticket. However, I spent a lot of money in London. I had planned for it and knew that there were limited opportunities to save pounds so I just had to grin and bear it – hey, it’s the Olympics, you don’t attend one every day!

You admirably have been sidetracked on your quest and now live in the Netherlands. What led to this distraction?

You know the drill, girl meets boy. I met my partner Paul when in Japan (a trip that had me visiting the sites in Tokyo and Seoul) and after doing the long-distance thing for a while, I decided on a sea change and moved here to the Netherlands.

Riding a camel in the United Arab Emirates
Riding a camel in the United Arab Emirates

What cities have you been a tour guide in? What has been your favorite city to show off?

Oh, too many to count! I’ve guided in – wait for it – 66 different cities in 22 countries. I’ve guided people in Tangier, Morocco, Krakow, Poland and even Tirana, Albania. I’m a bit torn on my favourite city to show off – I’m tied between three! Berlin, Budapest and Sarajevo are all amazing cities and have such an effect on the people visiting them.

Paragliding over the Swiss Alps
Paragliding over the Swiss Alps

Any parting words for those thinking about packing in their 9-5 life to chase their own “visit all the Summer Olympic Sites” dream?

If you are already considering it, you’re halfway there. So many people say that they couldn’t do what I do and they’re right – it’s not for everybody. But hey, I’m going to look back on what I’ve done a couple of decades from now and be pretty impressed with myself!

 

Be sure to check out Caitlyn’s site OlympicWanderings.com

 

Quick Questions:

Best Moment while traveling

 

Bit out of left field, but the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremburg, Germany are extremely well done and worth a trip to Nuremburg just to see them. In terms of natural sites, I love Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

 

Worst…

Best Tourist Site

 

Bit out of left field, but the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremburg, Germany are extremely well done and worth a trip to Nuremburg just to see them. In terms of natural sites, I love Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

Worst…

 

I hate the entire city of Salzburg! Everything seems to have something to do with Mozart or the Sound of Music, which drove me crazy. It’s a shame, since the city itself is extremely pretty.

Best thing you put in your face hole while traveling?

I have grown obsessed with pintxos (a regional type of tapas) in San Sebastian in Spain. I hate to think of how many calories and how much money I’ve spent there over the last few years.

Worst…

 

It tasted good at the time – Sichuan hotpot in Chengdu, China. However, let’s just say that the agony I went through the next few days has made me never try hotpot again.

Best quote from your trip

A Texan once asked me in Rome, “So your seasons are opposite in Australia? So when do you celebrate Christmas?”

Poll Questions:

Favorite Country – Spain. I love it to bits – the late nights, the food, the people on the streets, the fiestas and the fact that you have to force yourself to speak a bit of the language.

Best food – Tough! I’d probably have to say the food in Vietnam – the noodle soups, the spring rolls, the pork rolls and the unique type of pancakes, it’s all mouth-watering stuff.

Friendliest country – A tie between Vietnam and Bulgaria.

Favorite Nationality to Travel with – Canadians are a lot of fun, and really laid back. Meeting other Europeans travelling around Europe is also a bit of a novelty, I’ve met some really fun Germans, Italians and Poles, for example.

Least Favorite – Eek, it sounds horrible but probably my fellow Australians! Most of my passengers are Australian so seeing them travelling kind of feels like work, and unfortunately hearing the accent has always made me cringe!

Best Hostels? – China! They’re all brilliant! Friendly and helpful staff, heaps of extras and modern facilities as they’ve all been opened relatively recently. It also helps that they’re less than five bucks a night.

Best place to take a nap – Spain. It’s part of the culture!

Caitlyn O’Dowd is the founder of olympicwanderings.com and a European tour guide extraordinaire. For more information check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook, and Twitter.


Cover pic via Flickr CC Eugene Kim. All other awesome pictures provided by Caitlyn of olympicwanderings.com

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