When we travel we often hope to meet people who have similar interests, no matter where you are in the world. Well, on your next vacation why don't you combine it with a swim meet? Nearly every state and most foreign countries have Masters swim meets. At some of the hot beds of swimming such as California you can find a masters swim meet every weekend, some where in the state. I like to go to other states championship meets as there are usually special mementos such as meet shirts, special medals, etc. You can find a list of National, Regional, and some International meets in the Calendar section of SWIM magazine.
For those who like foreign travel, there are international meets practically anywhere you want to go. There are meets in the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, even former Soviet countries. One of my friends was invited to the Maccabiah games in Israel last year. He came back telling everyone about 50,000 spectators and how wonderful it was.
I have been to Paris, France for a two day international masters meet in which 18 countries were represented. I swam next to a Russian breaststroker in the last competition before the fall of the Soviet Union. In many other countries the social affairs are even more emphasized than here. After the first days' competition we had an eight course formal dinner at a French Ministries building. One of the highlights was all the Scotsman marching in together in kilts. The Germans started clapping and soon the whole room was cheering the swaggering Scots! The finest French wine flowed, and they provided a band and several entertainers. We rocked, waltzed, Scottish jiggs and danced till past 2:30 in the morning. The crazy Scots went back to their hotel to party some more, but I staggered back to my room to sleep. The next days competition thoughtfully didn't start until noon.
At another international masters meet in Scotland we swam short course meters on Saturday, with a dinner after. The dinner was in the Glasgow City Chambers. It was like attending a White House State dinner. Most residents of Glasgow have never been inside their beautiful marbled City Chambers building. It required an engraved invitation to get pass the locked doors, but all the swimmers received invitations. Next to the huge dining hall was table after table of liquid refreshments of the alcoholic type, all free. Over 250 Scots and one American descended on the free drinks. There were numerous dignitaries such as the Lord Provost (mayor) of Glasgow and several British Olympians making speeches. We were then treated to a fabulous dinner. I lost track after the sixth dinner course. Naturally there were more drinks to toast the Queen; and anything else we could think toast to. The next day we swam at their long course championships. I really enjoyed the Scots hospitality and warmth. Where else but at a swim meet can you meet and make over two hundred new friends!
The main thing in traveling abroad is to plan ahead, enter the meets early and get to know the meet hosts. Don't be afraid to go in the winter, as the meets are indoors, and best of all airfares and hotels are much cheaper then. Just have fun and enjoy your new friends.
By Wayne A. McCauley