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How to plan a Kick Ass Trip and Training Camp - Girona Edition



10 days exploring the classic pro cycling training grounds, epic trail runs, amazing food and wine, and unique Airbnbs, alone and on a budget? I mean who doesn’t want that?


I recently took one of the best trips ever to Girona, Spain. I went alone with just my bike (well sort of, more on that later), run shoes, a heavy jacket and a heart ready to wander the world!


This article is a guide to how I picked Girona, found cheap and unique places to stay, picked my routes, and did it all alone!


I know the alone part might be surprising to add in this guide, but most of the questions I have been asked about this trip have been about how it is to travel as a solo female, so I am going to address it. Solo traveling, in my experience, has been some of the most eye opening experiences of my life. This trip was no different. 


I also created a FREE Travel Mindset Guide to help you love every vacation to you take!



A little background on me


I love to travel! have traveled to over 42 countries, lived in Kenya, studied in Vienna. I have spent hours and hours traveling by buses across East Africa, trains in India and even in the back of a pickup truck in Cambodia. I have traveled alone, with random people I met along the way, with friends, and with a partner. While I am not a travel agent, I am most definitely a seasoned traveler and have learned some important lessons along the way. 


Now that I am an endurance athlete, I focus my travel on exploring through cycling, running and swimming. It is my preferred method of wandering. I feel alive when I can see new things propelled by my own feet. 


For the 3 years, I was the co-owner operator of The Pura Vida Cycling Challenge, which hosts 5 days of epic riding in Costa Rica. Riding in new countries and helping others do the same has become a passion of mine and reignited my love of combining adventures and training.


And finally, I am newly(ish) single. My partner and I traveled quite a bit when we were married. But now that it is just me, I am embracing the freedom to travel 100% about what I want to do, see and experience. While some can see this as lonely, I choose to experience it as liberating. You are always doing what you want to do in every minute of the day! 




Timing


I love traveling in January and focusing on getting in a ton of training miles and exploring the world. It is a great time of year for travel deals and you don't have the insane December or summer holiday crowds.


I live in a place that most people try to escape to in the winter, so I suppose it is odd to be traveling to other locations for the weather. But because I have warm weather basically year around, I don't mind places with a little chill. As long as it is rideable weather (no rain/snow, upper 30s and above), it works for me! So January is a great time to travel, especially to Europe where most places it's low season and you get great rates and way less tourists. 




Why Girona?


I knew I would be solo on this trip and I had to be somewhere "warmish" that had accessible and amazing rides, and a city I would have fun walking at night. Running and swimming are always the easier of the 3 sports to get in so I don't usually worry about them as much. I was even willing to not swim for the 10 days to make location options easier (only possible for winter training). 


So many amazing streets to explore

I do not like to go back and forth in my head about all the options. For me, the world is literally my option, which is very overwhelming. So, I asked a friend that knows most everything there is to know about cycling. He suggested Girona, I did about 30 mins of research and decided I was in! No back and forth drama.


When I decide where to travel, I check in with myself and if my initial reaction is “let's go!” then I go with it. Otherwise the amount of stress of deciding is overwhelming and you are already giving your brain options to have FOMO. FOMO is the killer of awesome trips. 


Girona is one the premier training grounds for pro cycling. It is 45 mins from the coast, incredible rides right from the city and the Pyrenees are about 2 hrs away. It also has great trail access from the city, an amazing cycling community and turns out it is one of the coolest cities I have ever explored in Europe. 


It is an excellent choice for any cyclist or really anyone that loves the charm of old cities without overwhelming traffic, congestion, and people. 




Flights and Travel with a Bike


Well this one I just really lucked out. I will not pretend to know anything about flight prices. For whatever reason, I was able to fly Phoenix to Barcelona with one stop on American/British Airways for $650 round trip. It is low season, but even with that, this is an absurd price. 


When traveling with a bike, I look for long layovers, especially when traveling in and out of Heathrow and other huge international airports. I will pay extra for less stops. Less stops = less opportunities an airlines misplaces a bike. I also consider airline bike policies and baggage fees which can change the overall cost to fly. 


Americans traveling to Europe, you have to actually tell the airline ahead of time you are taking a bike. I almost didn't make it out of Norway flying back from Norseman trying to get my bike on the flight.



Where to Stay


I really love Airbnb/VRBOs etc. I like having more space that feels like I actually live somewhere. It also cuts down on the overall price since I can prepare a lot of meals on my own. For a long training camp, laundry is everything. A washer is a must for me.

I mean...

I have a pretty good knack for finding kick ass places to stay. I figure out where I want to be using maps to find the city centers and Strava to see where most of the bike routes start from. Then I search Airbnbs and start with the reviews of the location. I wanted to be walkable and centrally located in the main part of the old city so when I was done training all I had to do was shower and walk 3 mins to get food. 


Once I really nailed the location I looked at prices. Many places are managed by a third party, so sometimes you can get lucky and go rent directly from them which can save you airbnb fees etc. If it is the same cost, I typically stick with airbnb and book through them.


Ger spot... amazing

For this trip, I knew I had to check out the mountains. That is all I knew. I looked at google satellite maps to see where some ranges started but had villages lower so I wouldn't be stuck in snow and searched for ski resorts (ski = mountains) to give myself a general area. Then back to Airbnbs. This time I went by photos. I wanted to find something unique and in a small village. From there it was back to reviews and Strava and All Trails to make sure there were ride and run options in the area. I didn't actually decide what I wanted to do, I just wanted to make sure I was in an area that other people use to ride/run. 


I ended up with the best Airbnb find ever in the little village of Ger. You can see it here on the hosts website. They were absolutely amazing. I ended up having to change some dates around and they were accommodating and even left me dinner and breakfast since I got in so late. I will definitely be heading back to this amazing spot!




Picking Routes and Cycling Safety 


Top of Robacorba

Girona is known for its amazing rides. There are so many to choose from! Too many in fact. I started with Strava and googled “best rides in Girona.” It was basically that easy. There seemed to be a consensus on the top 5 which got me started.


I connected with a friend of one of my athletes that lives there some of the time and he was super helpful. I also asked for ideas in local bike shops and once I was there, IG friends sent suggestions. 


For trail running I use mostly All Trails, Strava is a little lacking in trail routes and asked around. 


The main thing to consider is that you will probably get lost. And that is all part of the experience. I am really great with directions but suck at reading Garmin screens. I also forgot to download European maps on my Garmin which meant I was starting at a red line. Not helpful in roundabouts. After turning onto a highway (people get really mad at you when you do this), I decided to just map it on my phone and go from there. That meant more map stops and some wrong turns, but it's ok. I had all day and I also got to really understand the roads going in and out of the city. 


Girona is hands down the safest place I have ever ridden a bike. The roads are clean, there is very little traffic once you are out of the city, and the traffic that is there is respectful and considerate of cyclists. There are cyclists everywhere, it is a part of culture and community and the level of respect is felt. I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable at any moment on the road.




Other Way to Cut Costs


I only eat out once per day. I have dinner and wine each night. But everything else I buy at a grocery store and make myself. Nothing super fancy, yogurt, granola, pastries, chocolate, bananas. Since I was training a ton, I brought blocks, gels etc with me, and vanilla almond butter. Yes, I traveled with vanilla almond butter. I also didn't really need a real meal, I just need to have easy calories accessible. 


No cash needed

I use a card for everything. I have not actually taken local currency out in years. Even the tiniest town in Costa Rica takes cards. Depending in your credit card, you have much better rates using a card than exchanging cash. 


Cell Service

Google Fi is where it is at! Instant service right when you land and no extra fees for using data out of the country. There are some low fees for International calls. But most people use WhatpApps or other non cellular service options so that isn't really an issue. Having a working phone with service is a non-negotiable when cycling, so make sure you understand your carrier's international rates and additional fees.


Bag fees

I hate bag fees and will do anything to avoid them, except bring less things :) For this trip I had to bring a ton of cycling gear since the weather was going to be cold and warm. To avoid overweight charges, I made sure my bike box was under 50lbs, my second suitcase the same which means I also had to have a small roller as a carry on + my backpack. Since it was just me, I knew I could fit it in the car and it's just as easy to roll 1 bag and a bike box as 2 bags and a bike box. Plus, it means I can put my backpack on the roller in the airport and save sore shoulders and neck which is a huge plus going into high volume training. 




Traveling Solo


So many questions about this! I even created several reels on my IG account about it. Traveling solo is absolutely amazing. At the moment it is by far my preferred way to travel.


Number one reason is I get to do exactly what I want to do in every minute of the day.


When in your daily life is that true? 


It is so liberating! I switched plans, changed routes, made my own trail in the mountains, rode at whatever speed I wanted. I ate amazing meals watching the vibrant city around me.


Can the experience be lonely?


Sure, you can make it lonely by thinking about what you might experience with someone else, which might or might not have actually happened (it's all a guess since it is not actually happening). That is a choice you can make. You can also make the choice to love every experience you are having with you! The more you can connect with yourself, the more you will feel less alone. Sounds almost counterintuitive. But you do not need someone else to make you feel whole, complete, not alone. That all comes from you. Traveling alone is an incredible way to source that from yourself. And when you do that, you start to build the foundation for confidence and a deeper self love. The point here is that it is a choice. 


Want to explore what this can look like further? Check out my Travel Mindset Coaching. It might be just the thing to support a solo adventure! 




Traveling as Solo Female


I am a woman and I travel alone. I have traveled alone in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Is it more dangerous for me to travel solo than a man? Yes. That is a fact. But does that mean terrible things will happen to me while traveling alone? No. I have absolutely had some close calls, but in all my traveling and living in developing countries, the biggest act of violence to me has been 2 miles from my house. 



My suggestion for female travelers is to be aware and be smart. If something seems off, assume it is and stop, don't go down that street, leave the bar etc. Be careful with your valuables. It's ok to be more guarded in conversations. But this is also the same advice I would give any woman living anywhere. There is nothing different you have to do. Be aware, be smart but for god sakes get on the airplane. Do not let fear of the unknown hold you back from experiencing the freedom of solo travel. 




Travel Mindset


The absolute most important thing you can have to make any trip insanely amazing is having a travel mindset.


A travel mindset is one that allows you to roll with it and enjoy every minute of your travel, even when it is not smooth, even when the weather sucks, even when you never get your bike. You can replicate my entire trip and have a horrible time.


Why? Because a kick ass trip is less about where you go and more about how you let yourself experience it. 


I can 100% guarantee I will always have the best vacations because I know I can manage my mind. 


This trip was not smooth. My bike never actually came to Barcelona. It was lost in god knows where the whole trip. People were freaking out. I was not. I called the airlines, waited a day. Made peace with the idea that my bike would not come but that I would see it again. Then I rented 2 insanely amazing bikes from the Trek shop, bought a new pair of cycling shoes and I was on my way. 


The weather was not perfect. I had a pretty cold and rainy day the first day and several 40 degrees mornings on the bike. 


I had to rearrange the second half of my trip to accommodate bike rentals and lost money in my airbnb reservations. 


I skidded out on a wet curve the second day and got some pretty gnarly road rash for the rest of the trip.


I literally rode my bike the wrong way on a highway (not recommended).


I totally misjudged how hard and how out of shape I was for my big 90 mile coast ride and had to empty the tank to make it back in daylight which meant I had to back off on riding the next day.


I could have spent time and energy wishing someone was with me to experience the joy and beauty I saw.


It was not that circumstances made my trip perfect. It was the fact that I can manage my mind to stay in the moment. To trust that I will figure it out. To know I am exactly where I want to be. 


I do not know where my next trip will be, but I already know it will be amazing because I have a travel mindset. 


In fact, this trip inspired me to create a new coaching program - Travel Mindset Coaching and a FREE Travel Mindset Guide. They are focused on helping you develop a travel mindset so you can fully love every minute of their trip! It is the ultimate travel insurance!


Final word of advice? Just do it. Take the leap, book the trip, and commit to loving it all. We have just one life, why not make it amazing!



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