How to Travel Like Olympian Gus Kenworthy: Wander and Explore with No AgendaBy T.L. Stanley
Between training camps, competitions and sponsor appearances, freestyle skier and Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy is on the road nearly 300 days a year. He considers himself more of an adventurer than a nomad, though, squeezing in as many of his own trips as he can around his packed sports schedule.
While it may sound exhausting to the average person, it’s energizing to Kenworthy, one of the first openly gay U.S. Olympians and an outspoken animal rights and LGBTQ activist who recently competed in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“I’ve talked to people who’ve never left their hometown or state or country, and I know you can definitely lead a rich, fulfilling life in one area,” he said. “But if you’re not able to experience the world, it’s like you’re reading the same book over and over when there’s an entire library out there. Traveling really opens your eyes.”
A dog lover who spearheaded puppy rescues during his Olympic stints in Korea and Sochi, Russia, Kenworthy is always on the lookout for interesting new places to see, feeding his passion for the outdoors, art and architecture, exotic food and karaoke clubs.
With so many miles under his belt, Kenworthy’s uniquely qualified to recommend temperate rain forests in Vancouver (check out the dog-friendly Lynn Canyon, he said, reached by a massive suspension bridge) and an early 20th Century house-turned-art-gallery in Boston (the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum).
During his trips to Lisbon, Portugal, he stops at Time Out Mercado, which he described as “a giant warehouse filled with a variety of food truck-style booths” that will please every palate and when he’s in Colorado, he makes a point to hit his favorite country bar, Charlie’s in Denver, known for its drag shows and karaoke nights.
A visit to London isn’t complete without seeing the Shoreditch district, he said, with its street art, “trendy restaurants and hipster shops.”
And if you find yourself in San Francisco, he recommends renting a bike, taking it on the ferry to Sausalito and riding back over the Golden Gate Bridge. And for lush and gorgeous scenery, there’s nothing better than the road to Hana on Maui.
Even if he’s in familiar territory, Kenworthy consults Marriott Moments to help him curate his activities.
“You can have an experience in your own city that you might not have known about otherwise,” he says.
Kenworthy, who calls Colorado home but lives mostly in New York these days with his boyfriend, Matthew Wilkas, spoke recently to Marriott TRAVELER shortly after returning to the states from the Winter Olympics.
He was “counting down the days” until he’d be reunited with the puppy he and the Humane Society International saved from a shuttered dog meat farm in Korea (he named her Beemo after a character in his favorite animated show, “Adventure Time”).
He was also fielding offers about his next move, which he hopes will include more entertainment gigs like his appearance on E! News during Oscar weekend. He also recently hit the stage in a rap battle against fellow Olympian Lindsey Vonn on the TBS hit, “Drop the Mic.”
Kenworthy, meantime, shared his travel essentials, his must-see destinations and his chill itineraries. The key is not overbooking, he says.
What surprised you about your experience in Pyeongchang?
It was shocking in both good and bad ways. When I was in Sochi, I was completely sequestered in the mountains. It was my teammates, the gym, Athlete’s Village and that’s about it. We all existed in this very small radius. I assumed it would be the same way in Korea, but it wasn’t. I got to see other events, I went to the coast, and I explored the sights in Seoul. I had an incredible time. I wasn’t expecting to be able to see and do so many things.
He also visited a dog meat farm, closed through the Humane Society’s efforts, and drew worldwide attention to the brutal conditions there. The animals, about 90 in all, were headed to the U.S. and Canada for adoption.
Is there a place you think everyone should visit?
Paris, without a doubt. I went there for the first time last fall with my boyfriend for our anniversary. It’s so romantic and so fun. There’s just so much to experience there, like the National Museum of Natural History (Museum national d’Histoire naturelle) in the Jardin Des Plantes. It’s a hidden gem and the Gallery of Evolution is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever been in. The whole place is massive. The taxidermy section – I feel like it’s controversial, and I’m not at all for hunting and I don’t believe in killing animals. But there’s something beautiful about the way they’re preserved. There’s every animal you’d ever imagine, some extinct. So it’s amazing to get to see them.
Do you have a favorite travel memory?
I don’t have one specific memory, but what I love about the places I’ve been is that I so often bump into people from home (the U.S.). I’ll be in some far-flung part of the world and I’ll see a guy wearing a Telluride Film Festival hat. I start having a conversation with him and realize we know people in common. That’s one of my favorite things to happen while I’m traveling.
What do you always have with you on trips?
My phone. I’d be lost without it. It’s also my camera and my connection to everyone, my email, Instagram and Twitter. I also take a candle because hotel rooms can feel a little sterile. It changes the atmosphere, adds a little ambiance and makes it smell nice. I like a scent called campfire and a few others that are masculine and not floral.
You’re a foodie and a hard-core athlete – how do you balance the two?
I don’t really have a strict diet but I try to eat vegetarian as much as possible, so I’m always looking for the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants wherever I go. But food really is my go-to activity. Without eating meat, I try to experience as much of the local culture as possible. I love to try new things. One of my favorite places is Hiltl in Zurich. It’s the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world and it’s delicious. And I love Dirt Candy in New York.
Because you’re so busy, do you have to plan every second of your trips? And do you like to keep moving even if you’re on vacation?
I’ll enjoy a day or two of lounging around, but pretty soon I want to get my heart rate up and get the adrenaline going. I try to do something outdoorsy like mountain biking or hiking or paddle boarding. And I like to have a structure to my schedule, with a few things planned, but I don’t want it to be too mapped out. I like to spend time wandering and exploring with no agenda. To me, that’s one of the most stimulating things about travel.
What’s next for you professionally?
Growing up, I did theater, and I want to pursue acting. I’m so passionate about skiing and when that took off, I gave it everything. I’m not done, I’m not retiring, but I would like to get into acting. The platform I’ve been given as an athlete and an Olympian might help me get into some audition rooms. At least I hope it does.
So do we, Gus. So do we.