Are you an athlete?! How about a traveler? What if we told you that destination sports is just what you needed to boost your endurance, passion and adrenaline for your next competition!? Meet Elise, who is going to make your destination competition dreams a reality. When you race among hundreds of people in a competition, racing isn't all that you are doing - you are coming together to build a community that's stronger than the boundaries drawn out by countries, religion, politics and cultures. It's a way to come together as a whole. Elise started Open World Racing just for that. Read her story below..
What was your life like growing up?
I moved within the United States more than 15 times before I was 10 because of my dad's job but didn't get a passport until I was 21. I spent hours in the libraries pouring over travel books, especially when I was eight and my family was considering a move to Spain. The thrill of imagining a life abroad, even dreaming up a Spanish friend named Maria, colored my dreams until that particular move was squashed. When I finally did travel abroad (to Russia, of all places), I was hooked and never looked back. For as long as I can remember, I've drawn immense pleasure from planning social activities (including play-by-play itineraries for my birthday parties) and travel experiences for myself and my friends. I spent a lot of time buried in books or my journals, dreaming of a life unconstrained by geography.
"...we want to bring in those people who have a bit more hesitation and show them how doable-and how rewarding-it is to get overseas."
What are you currently working on?
My partner Andy and I recently launched Open World Racing, an active travel company focused on destination races and immersive intercultural experiences. We take small groups overseas to compete in triathlons and half-marathons off the beaten path while also enjoying tons of local food and wine, adventure activities, and giving back with an environmentally-focused service project. So far we’ve taken groups to coastal Croatia and to Poland, and in 2019, we’ll lead trips to Croatia, Iceland, Colombia, and Poland. We work with local partners to ensure we capture the greatest delights of any given place, even in a relatively short time, and also engage with the local racing community. I am a huge believer in the power of sports diplomacy and Open World Racing is our small way of bringing people into a global racing community they might not otherwise have discovered. Our biggest challenge now is spreading the word and attracting the right audience for our trips.
How was the idea for your business born?
Andy and I bonded over our shared love for triathlon and it's become a huge part of our life together. We've competed in a bunch of races in the D.C. area and I've done several races abroad, and we've been struck by how racing unites people from very different paths. At a time when it often seems all the news is bad, we wanted to create something positive that builds relationships, fosters unity, and makes people feel good. Open World Racing trips combine our love of travel, racing, good food and drinks, immersive cultural experiences, and giving back to the local community and the planet.
What has been your boldest career or life change?
When I was 23, and with a bit of encouragement from a mentor at the time, I ended a serious relationship and moved to Prague to teach English. At that point I'd only been overseas twice and I didn't know a soul in the Czech Republic. It was terrifying, and that was only compounded after a rough acclimation that included bedbugs, tough roommate situations, and a seemingly insurmountable language barrier. But I soon found a sales job with Project Syndicate, an international media organization, and stayed in Prague for three years. During that time I realized I wanted to go to graduate school and pursue an international career. Moving to Prague was the single biggest turning point of my life and it's hard to imagine where I might have ended up had I not made that leap.
"At a time when it often seems all the news is bad, we wanted to create something positive that builds relationships, fosters unity, and makes people feel good."
How would you like to impact the travel industry?
We want to lower the barrier to entry for amateur athletes and weekend warriors who dream of competing in races abroad but aren't sure where to start. Most people in my immediate circles are confident travelers and don't think twice about a quick jaunt to Manila or Vilnius. But we want to bring in those people who have a bit more hesitation and show them how doable--and how rewarding--it is to get overseas and have unforgettable experiences.