Q: Being an athlete part of your regular routine includes a lot of traveling. How do you overcome Jetlag, and is it something you’ve gotten used to?
Yona: I have traveled regularly throughout my whole life, growing up I often went to Barbados with my mother to see family. My traveling became more varied and more frequent when I began representing Jamaica all over the world. The jetlag is something that I continue to struggle with, especially when going forward through time zones (towards Asia).
My strategy when flying towards the Americas (backward through time zones) is:
* Sleep as normal before flying.
* Do not sleep on the plane.
* Stay awake until the normal time for sleep in your new time zone.
My strategy when flying the other way is still something I need to settle on. Usually when flying forward through time zones, I am coming back from a competition, so I don’t really focus on trying to get my sleeping patterns right. However, most (long) flights in this direction are overnight. Therefore my strategy is:
* Try to get a few hours sleep on the plane.
* On arrival, do not nap throughout the day.
* Go to sleep at your normal time in the evening
Q: How would you categorize yourself as a traveler, Happy and Mellow, over it before boarding the flight, can’t wait to fall asleep on the flight, are we still flying?
Yona: I would say I’m quite a happy traveler. I don’t hate flying. But I know I can’t get too excited about where I’m going to, because more often than not, I don’t really get to see a lot of the city. I’m not very good at sleeping on planes, so I’ve learned to keep myself entertained during a flight, but that usually leads to boredom.
Q: Describe your most bizarre encounter while abroad.
Yona: I have a few in my head, but an experience that will always be prominent in my mind was when I tried to see Christ the Redeemer in Rio. It was our last day in Brazil, and I was going to meet my friends before paying to go up.
I had no cash on me, but I had been told that Visa cards were accepted at the attraction, so I wasn’t concerned. But as I arrived and went to the desk to buy my ticket, it turned out the card machines weren’t working. My friends were still nowhere to be seen, and I couldn’t get in contact with them.
[I know no Portuguese whatsoever, so I was running around trying to find someone who spoke English to see if they could help me in any way.] Fortunately I found a guy who said he can get someone to give me a lift down the hill, to a cash machine, and then right back up.
So I followed this guy expecting to be getting into a car, but all of a sudden, he stops a scooter and passes me a helmet. Let it be known, the roads in Brazil can be treacherous, and even though bikers are most at danger, they whizz through traffic without a care in the world.
So with genuine fears for my life, but without much other choice, I climb onto the back of this bike, and the guy rides me down one of the steepest hills I’ve ever been on, going through the traffic like a true rider. Fortunately we got down and back up safely, and I got the cash I needed. I finally ended up finding my friends and we had a great day, but in hindsight, everything that happened was so crazy!
Q: You’ve competed in several ideal destinations, but are there any cities on your bucket list you haven’t check off yet?
Yona: New York. I’ve been stuck in Newark airport for 11 hours, but that’s the closest I’ve been.
Also, I’d love to see more of Australia. I went to Adelaide in 2012, and will be in the Gold Coast for Commonwealths 2018. But I’d love to see Melbourne, Sydney and maybe even New Zealand!
Q: How do you handle timezone changes? Do you prepare for it beforehand, or are you the type to get into the groove of things after landing?
Yona: I tend to just try to deal with it when I land. I’m usually quite busy up until my departure, so I am not really able to change my sleeping patterns beforehand.
Q: This might be a hard one, but where is your favorite city, and if you had 24 hours there, how would you spend it?
Yona: I have two which are very difficult. Barcelona and Miami. I love the weather in both cities, and I love the vibe when you’re out and about! Out of the two I’d choose Barcelona because there’s so much more I still need to do there.
If I had 24 hours, I’d go to see the Camp Nou and the SaGrada Familia. I’d walk up and down La Ramblas, stop off at a local restaurant and have a paella. Then I’d check out the night life in the evening.
Q: Have you witnessed any awe-inspiring cultural practices while abroad? If yes, do share.
Yona: Generally when I go away for competition, we never really integrate into the local culture. We tend to just stay around the hotel/pool, apart from a day or so of exploring, in which you don’t really get to see much apart from the architecture.
It is interesting, however, seeing how the other countries athletes conduct themselves within the competition environment.
Q: What are some items and travel accessories that are absolute must haves when traveling?
Yona: Phone (camera, music and social media), headphones, portable charger. For competition, I always have to wear skins/tights on the plane to help keep my legs fresh. I have also recently acquired a mascot, which is a little panda teddy. He will now accompany me wherever I go.
Q: Do you have any special dietary needs you have to fulfill while competing abroad? If yes, how do you find satisfy your dietary desires?
Yona: Not particularly, I try to just eat as close to normally as possible. The food we get at competitions is usually good. But on the occasion it’s not, I might have to indulge myself in something that reminds me of home, i.e. McDonalds. Don’t do that often though…and don’t tell my coach!!
Q: Describe your fondest travel memory…
Yona: It has to be when I went to Rio last year for the Olympics! Nothing I can ever do abroad will top that…unless I go again in Tokyo.
In full, I actually went to Italy first for a competition, from there I flew home for just a few hours, then went straight down to London to travel to Kingston for five days. After my time there, I went to Tallahassee and Miami, Florida to begin my prep for the Games. Finally I flew down to Rio for three weeks. All of that traveling was full of fun and priceless memories.
Q: Describe your most laughably embarrassing travel memory?
Yona: I haven’t thought about this story for a long time, but thinking back to it now, what I did was so ridiculous! I went away to Eindhoven for my first international competition, back in 2006, representing my club, Leeds. I was with all of my friends who started diving at the same time as me, and so many things happened on this trip which forged our friendships for life. For example, my friend Chris, fell over a bush when we were walking to the pool, a story we still laugh about now.
My embarrassing moment was actually in the hotel room. It was our first night, and we were all fast asleep, but I happened to wake up in the night, needing to use the bathroom. [As I sat up and looked across the room, there was, what looked like, a man sitting at the table with some kind of knife in his hand. I panicked and woke the other two up, and switched on the lights. Of course they were very confused as to what was going on], and they became even more confused when I was pointing at a plant sat on the table.
After a while explaining what I thought I saw, they laughed at how ridiculous I was being. To avoid my imagination getting the better of me again, I decided the best move was to get the plant out of sight, so I locked it in the safe, and it was never seen again!
Q: Where have you met the most friendly/hospitable locals while competing in another country?
Yona: To be honest, anywhere I’ve been for a “Games” type event, for example the Commonwealth, Pan American or the Olympic Games. Every time I have attended one of these, the locals have always been so friendly and enthusiastic whether they come across you at the pool, outside the village or out and about. I think that is the magic of the Games. Truly brings everyone together in celebration on sport.
Q: How is time made for sight-seeing while competing away?
Yona: This really depends on the length of the competition. If it’s a 3/4 day competition, I’ll only be in the country for 6/7 days. Therefore I may only have one spare day where I don’t have to train/compete. Sometimes that day off requires me to just chill out, rest and recover. When the competitions are longer, for example the World Championships, I’ll have a day off before my competition, which I can use to explore. I’ll also have a number of days off after my event, where I can go out and see the city during the day, and maybe sample the night life in the evening, without having to worry!