Molly Turner: The Beauty of International Chaos
By: Molly Turner
Shambles. Complete and utter shambles.
We were clueless from the beginning. From the second we filled out the form for Team USA with optimistic hope to be sent to Cambodia, to the moment we hopped (crawled) off the plane finally arriving back into the United States.
My partner, Jessica Gaffney, and I had traveled out of the country for Team USA once before (not together), but this trip was entirely different. This trip, a cross-continental journey at the end of February, we had to do the investigating, planning, packing.. all ourselves. I would absolutely classify Jess and I under the intelligent category but this trip looked us in the face, laughed, and said otherwise.
It all began before the teams for the tournament were even announced. If you didn’t know, they post the main draw, qualifier, country quota, and reserve teams 21 days from the date of the tournament. And…… we didn’t know that. We bought flights prematurely and didn’t realize we weren’t actually confirmed a spot. Two expensive flights later, Jess and I were told we didn’t get in yet. Heart rates elevated and our hands became clammy as we scrambled to find the return policy on the flights. Chaos.
Later we found out we got into the two-star qualifier after returning the flights in entirety to only rebuy them again (we laughed about it only because we got all of our money back). Fast forward 21 days and two 22 year-olds are on a 15+ hour flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia by themselves.
Compression socks = on, eye masks = lowered, melatonin = taken, seats = reclined.
Throughout our day on the plane, we made it a point to get up and stretch. We did lunges in the aisles, yoga by the bathrooms, used the hypervolt (that alarmed everyone in our cabin), and constantly jumped over the sleeping woman who sat in the aisle seat to go to the bathroom (hydration is key).
We booked our flights to arrive the day before the qualifier. Not the best idea but we mutually agreed that saving $300+ each would be worth it. That’s why stretching and freaking out the surrounding people with our hypervolt on the plane was necessary! The biggest struggle was adjusting to the time change. It was a 15-hour time difference and our flight lined up perfectly so we could sleep the entire flight and wake up to the sun being up in Cambodia. The flight meals were surprisingly good (do not judge me on that statement if you disagree) despite the fact that we packed enough snacks for every passenger on the plane. We came prepared.
We landed in Taiwan for a slight layover. We had less than 30 minutes to get onto our connecting flight to Cambodia. Two distraught girls with eye masks on our foreheads running across the Taiwan airport which, mind you, is insanely large and confusing. It’s a blessing we even found our way. We made the connection and eventually landed in Cambodia. I have never felt so dirty in my life but our never-ending day kept going. Straight from the plane we ran to practice. One-hundred degree weather with 90% humidity. Quite the temperature difference from a winter in California that we just came from. We had to adjust, and fast. Time was ticking and in less than 24 hours we had our first game. Not only were we adjusting to the heat, the time, and our inability to consume their natural water, we had to do it in less than 12 hours. Chaos.
We weren’t even on the emailing list for the teams in the tournament either. We had no idea what time check-in was let alone where it was being held. We almost missed it by two minutes. If we had, they would have eliminated us before we even stepped on the court. Chaos.
(my tournament ID photo was taken after running a mile in 100 degree weather to check-in did not turn out well… surprise surprise)
Going to bed that night, we sat up and talked about how grateful we both were despite the craziness. This opportunity was everything to us, no matter the outcome. It’s tough. This lifestyle is a tough one to grasp. I think Casey Patterson’s instagram post said it perfectly so I’m going to quote him (by the way Casey I’m a huge fan):
“You prepare to the best of your ability with hopes you will have success half way across the world. You gamble on yourself. Two weeks later you’ve made zero dollars and come home empty handed to your wife and kids. You’ve missed your kids championship basketball games, baseball games and dance performances. You get stuck in 16hr flights with seats that no human can really fit in comfortably. BUT!!! Even with all of that you keep playing because when the dice roll your way and you win. You know it was all you and your partner believing, working and earning it. We all work hard and grind in our own way. Everyone has different obstacles to over come to make the dream a reality. But that’s what makes it so EPIC when you’re successful. You get to travel the world and meet so many new friends and others who love the sport as well. It’s an epic adventure with zero security except for the fact that You Love It!”
This caption from Casey’s post after losing in a game halfway across the world hit home. The next day, Jess and I were handed a loss. It’s not like the jet lag got us, it’s not like we weren’t prepared, it’s not like we weren’t capable. It just didn’t happen. And the thing about this sport is that it’s a risk. Every trip, every tournament, every game. Whether you are the 1 seed playing the 16th seed or you’re the 16th seed playing the 1 seed. Upsets happen. And unfortunately with beach volleyball you don’t get paid millions of dollars for just showing up to the game like in the NBA. You go home with your wallet empty and find yourself on 2nd street in Hermosa, at practice Monday morning, grinding to make sure that loss and that feeling never happens again.
Traveling internationally is a risk. It’s money out of your pocket and not a lot of money back in (even if you win the entire tournament). But what was written in a SANDCAST post that connected with me is:
“Such is the nature of the beach volleyball ladder: You invest $10,000. You get your finishes. You build your points. You climb.”
After our loss in the qualifier we walked back to the hotel in silence. We both didn’t know what to say. Neither of us played our best game. No one was to blame. When we arrived at the hotel we made a team agreement that we wouldn’t talk about the loss until the following day. And when we did, we wrote down the emotions during the game and compared notes. We wrote down things we felt that went wrong, distractions that got to us, and things we need to work on. What I value about our partnership is the ability to see past the noise. Sure, it was demeaning taking a loss in a 2 star qualifier but we knew this was a necessary step in our unique journey.
We got a flight out of Cambodia after absorbing the culture and beauty it had to offer. I highly recommend regardless of the tournament finishes, you spend time in the city you’re in to not only appreciate the trip as a whole, but to disconnect the loss from your current reality. We then spent another dreadful day on a long flight watching 500 Days of Summer together and reading 3+ books. We crawled off the plane at LAX and immediately started planning for training that coming Monday.
Our biggest successes are born out of discomfort, uncertainty, and risk.
Thanks for reading,
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