Carmen Small Journal: Home sweet home

Small reflects on her beloved home in the U.S. and the importance of creating a new, second home for herself in Europe to be successful.

The jarring of the plane landing abruptly woke me up from a desperate sleep of maybe five minutes. Well it could have been 30 seconds or 30 minutes for all I know. This will happen when you have been traveling for 20-plus hours. I feel groggy — almost the feeling of being drunk, maybe hungover a bit, but certainly that is not the case. It’s late, and I am very much over being on a plane. I’m ready ready for my king-size bed, my own bed with my own pillow, at my own house. When you are gone for so long, it’s funny what you really long for and appreciate. Some of the things I missed the most? Well let’s be honest: my cats, but also my bed, cooking for myself, and my non-cycling clothes.

The feeling of calm, happiness, and gratitude surges into my body as we head for the gate, after almost two and a half months away, I am finally home. I can’t wait for my first night of jet-lagged sleep. It’s always the best and deepest.

The past couple of days I have had a lot of time to reflect on my European trip while soaking in the beautiful Durango, Colorado weather. It’s strange because part of the time, it feels like I was gone for half the year, but at the same time I think about the trip, and it feels like I just left. One journey can sometimes reflect two very different impressions. I had highs and lows — this is becoming the norm. I think that whenever you try to control something, that’s when you lose all control. I have learned this year that I need to follow my heart, be flexible, and let things go. In cycling, and in life, you can’t predict much, and when you think you have it all figured out, that’s when it all changes.

I have been plagued by crashes this year. The last two seasons, I think I had one minor crash, with no real injuries, maybe not even real road rash. This year, I have had more than my fair share, and it seems to be never-ending, always with some sort of injury or major road rash. Lately I have been dealing with a huge seroma on my hip. It’s been with me for 2.5 weeks, longer then I had hoped. I have not yet named it, but I did tell my soigneur that my leg is pregnant. The older I get, the more I question what I am doing to my poor body, but then I shake it off and get on the bike again.

Okay, back to home sweet home. I can give this one piece of advice to a future cyclist that wants to race full-time in Europe, or anyone who wants to take my unsolicited advice: Find a place where you will be happy, and make it your home. I think this is crucial to the success of the American athlete racing in Europe. If you plan to spend long periods of time there, you need to find a country that you enjoy. Somewhere that you can make friends, have an apartment, and create a life. Trust me, it will pay off. Embrace your decision and the different cultures. Living in Europe the last two seasons has enriched my life more then I could have anticipated. Meeting new people and learning about different cultures is something that I will never forget. For now, I will embrace my home in the States and recharge. Next year, I plan to head back full-time and make my home in Italy, my second home.