Between an ongoing battle for equal pay with the U.S. Soccer Federation; playing for her club team, Reign FC in Tacoma, Washington; and winning two FIFA Women's World Cup championships with the United States women's national soccer team, Megan Rapinoe manages to take at least one vacation a year. If she can do it, anyone can. As part of Travel + Leisure's new Women Who Travel advisory board, she wants everyone to take some time to discover something new when they head out on their own trips.
No stranger to traveling thanks to away games and international duty, Rapinoe says that it's completely different when she's gearing up for a trip that doesn't involve lacing up her cleats. Her wanderlust goes way back, she says, and she owes her constant curiosity to soccer and the unique feeling of being a stranger in a strange place.
"As soon as I started making my own money, I tried to take at least one vacation a year. I've always looked at traveling internationally with soccer as an opportunity to see the rest of the world, and from a young age, I realized how special it was to travel and how different the world was from where I lived," she said. "I love feeling like a foreigner, like a stranger in a place, and getting to kind of lose myself in those places."
Rapinoe's attitude on the field is all about chasing the ball with the determination of a goal-scoring champ, but on vacation, she says she's much more low-key. It's clear she knows how to turn it on when she's out on the pitch, but she's just as happy to tune everything out and unplug when she's traveling. That means balancing time at landmarks as well as kicking back at cafés.
"To this day, me and my closest friends on the team are constantly finding restaurants or coffee shops, looking for things to do, and just really trying to take the opportunity to experience places when we're on the road," she adds. "We're often in cities that we wouldn't have a chance to visit otherwise, so I figure I might as well immerse myself in it a little bit and try to get a sense of what's happening. Otherwise, you just sit in the hotel all day long."
Travel touches every part of her life, Rapinoe adds. As an activist, she revels in the opportunity to see things from different perspectives and experience what different cultures have to offer. Being so entrenched in her own world, zigzagging across the States, lets her meet people from different walks of life, too, but she notes that there's no comparing that to being completely immersed in a new place surrounded by new people.
"Seeing other people and cultures — and being a foreigner in another culture — is really important because, outside of basic human rights, there's really no right or wrong way to live. Every culture does it a little bit different," she told T+L. "You get an outsider's perspective on your own life — and there are beautiful things about each culture that you can start to fold into your life in different ways. Travel gives us a broader perspective and a greater sense of empathy coming back into our own country, which has different cultures in and of itself."
And what's on her itinerary? There's no word on whether or not she'll be joining her teammates in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but you can be sure her passport will be getting its fill.
"As for where I want to go, it's all over — Europe, Southeast Asia, Northern Africa," she said. "I want to go everywhere."