Every overseas baller can attest to the many difficulties that arise when getting adjusted to life in a new country. Every city presents a new set of challenges. Yet, there’s a list of must-pack items, and no baller should leave home without them.
Without further adieu, the top 10 things to pack when going overseas to play professional basketball.
1. Electricity Converter Kit– Most international regions (Europe, Asia, South America, etc.) require a different kind of plug to charge your items. Phones, laptops, ipads, and other low voltage items cannot be charged without a power converter. Radio Shack sells these things for about $20 bucks. Just get the small voltage one, unless you plan on packin’ your big screen TV. WARNING: If you plan on taking your clippers, spend $50 and buy the high voltage converter. Using the basic convert results in something to the effect of trying to cut your hair with a lawnmower. There’s also the risk of electric shock.
2. Toiletry Bag – Don’t expect to see any American brand soaps or your favorite toothpaste in the grocery store. And deodorant? “Fa-get-about-it!”
You should also pack common medicines. Most countries don’t have corner stores where you can pick up tylenol. You’ll need to go to the local pharmacy for that. 24-hour Walgreens or CVS’s are American luxuries. Be prepared to live without them. But be sure to check with the team before you take a dose of your trusty pain reliever. Some basketball federations list Excedrine and other our common medicines as banned substances.
3. Passport. My recent blog post explains this. There is no trip without your passport. But contrary to common belief, you don’t have to carry it everywhere you go. Make a copy, and keep it in your wallet. But be sure to store the original in a safe and secure place in your apartment. Forget the flight itinerary, your passport is your ticket back home.
4. Ball Gear. Take a week’s worth of shorts, shirts, socks, Under Armor gear, and sneakers. Don’t expect the team to be sponsored by Nike. It sounds crazy, but most teams these days are making players wear their own gear in practice. And if your former college team is extra generous with Under Armour gear, take a few extra pairs of compression shorts to give to the young bucks on your team. Under Armour is nearly impossible to find overseas, and if you come across as a player who is generous to even the least important guys on the team (as some people consider them), then the ownership and coaching staff will immediately think you’re a good guy. It’s also a really nice gesture.
5. Flip Flops. Don’t get cute. Wear a sweat suit and flip flops for your trip overseas. Europeans don’t care about your $300 Brons. Be comfortable on the flight, and avoid the hassle when you have to pass security.
Smartphone iPhone. If you ask me. Right after MJ, there’s SJ. That’s Steve Jobs. If you don’t have an iPhone, get one. Even if you aren’t going overseas to play ball. This thing is essential. There’s so many apps available that can make life overseas a piece of ‘tiramisu’, and really cheap too. In most cases, all you’ll need is a wi-fi connection and a strong pointer finger and you’re connected to the world–for free! NOTE: Don’t forget to put your iphone in airplane mode before you take off. If not, you’ll be getting hit with roaming charges of up to $2.25 a minute and that’s before the plane lands.
7. Money. Change money in the airport. After you get settled in the city, you’ll find better exchange rates at the local bank. But it will take some time so get cash before you get to the city. You may even find that your team gives you the best exchange rate, but don’t take their word on it, check www.bankrate.com and know how many dollars you’re entitled to in exchange for the local currency. In most cases, you’re gonna want to use cash (not dollars people) for all purchases. However, if you do your research, you can find a credit card that won’t kill you with fees and allows you to accumulate points and miles just like when you shop in the states. Captial One is a good option.
8. Your favorite American Goods. Face it, when you get to your new home, there’s some things you’re not gonna find anywhere, and you’re just gonna have to live without them. Popeye’s chicken is one. But some stuff you can pack. Whenever I take a trip back to Europe, I make sure I wrap a bottle of A1 steak sauce in bubble paper and stick it in a shoe, but that’s just me. A good friend of mine grabs all the mambas and swedish fish he can find. If you find out how to get Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to last for a 10-12 hour trip without melting, please let me know.
And just to save you the hassle, Peter Pan peanut butter IS considered a liquid item. Don’t put it in your carry-on bag. I learned this the hard way. And if I ever happen to be on the street, and I see the officer that took my extra-large jar of Peter Pan peanut butter, I guarantee you I’ll be ‘confiscating’ something from his @$$ this time.
9. Baggage Scale. In all my years of playing pro ball, this had to be the best travel gift I ever received. Thanks big sis! Find out the weight allowance before you get to the airport, then weigh your bags. You’ll save yourself the embarrassment of opening your bag to pull out the A1 sauce from inside your shoe that’s weighing your bag down. Don’t get fancy with the baggage scale. It doesn’t need to be the battery-operated digital scale. Go basic and you’ll have a travel buddy for life.
10. Contract. If you don’t have this one, then 1-9 don’t matter. Don’t get on the flight without this. I don’t care what the agent or the team is promising you. The contract needs to be signed by the team on every page. It’s OK if you’ve received a scanned copy or even a picture. You can get the original as soon as you show up, and always before you step foot on the court. Trust me on this one. You step on the flight or the court without a contract and you’re opening yourself up to a bad situation.
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