Coleman Collins: Basketball Vagabond
Coleman Collins lives in Ulm, Germany where he plays professional basketball for the team ratiopharm Ulm. His hoops skills have brought him to Estonia, Poland, Spain, France, Italy and 40 states in the US.
The first trips I ever took growing up were trips to New York to visit my grandmother.
One summer I spent a month there and she took my sister and I sight-seeing and we went everywhere. This was before “homeland security,” when you could still go to the crown of the Statue of Liberty; when the Twin Towers were still there. As we took the elevator to the 107th floor observation deck, I rubbed the penny in my pocket. I was planning to sneak past the guards and throw it off the side of the building, because I’d heard that a person’s head would explode if you hit them from that far up. I was a weird kid growing up.
The only travel influences I have are my friends.
Somehow I’ve been lucky enough to acquire a loosely-knit group of about 7, maybe 8 friends that travel a lot. I’m the youngest, but they’re all around my age, 23-26, and someone’s always going somewhere. So before I travel, I usually ask around. “Who do we know in Barcelona?” More often than not someone’s been there or has a friend living there. Every city I go to, there’s someone I should meet, or go to dinner with, or ask for advice. They all keep me motivated. They inspire me.
When I go somewhere I try to make at least one friend or contact.
That way the network keeps growing.
I don’t sleep much on the road.
If you don’t want to go out at night, that’s fine, but you can’t travel with me. We’re going somewhere; we’re going to get into something. Otherwise what’s the point?
When you’ve been in the air a little bit, when you’ve cut through the clouds and are hovering above them, looking down,
…when you let your seat recline, and your electronic devices are back on – (iPod on ‘random’ and headphones noise-canceling) and the clouds are below you, looking up, green with envy, jealous of your altitude… People used to think that heaven was just a little bit above the clouds. Were they wrong?
Go read “The Innocents Abroad”…
…and get back to me.
That last night in Rome he found a street vendor and bought a megaphone and a battery-operated chicken that squawked and moved its head from side to side when you pressed a button.
“What’s the chicken for?” I asked. “Entertainment,” he said. I remember haranguing lovers at the Fontana di Trevi, freestyling impromptu raps on the Spanish Steps, announcing to the entire bar – voice amplified to the fullest – that we were all going to take a shot of vodka, on me. I remember my credit card bill. I remember him filing a police report for a wallet, camera and cell phone the next morning. He wrote “pick-pocket-ing” on the incident report, punctuated like that. The megaphone we dropped accidentally, smashed to bits on cobblestone. No one remembers what happened to the chicken.
I’m not a wilderness person.
I like cities. I want to be where the people are. If there’s something I just have to see, I’ll go look at a landmark or a specific painting or whatever, but aside from that I’m in the streets. I drop my bags off and grab my camera. I get a business card from the front desk so I’ll know where to come back to, or in case I have trouble pronouncing the address. Then I walk. I just walk, and make lots of turns, and wander, and look up and down and all around. And then I’ll stop, and listen. I love the sounds that cities make.
If you can’t drink the water…
…then stick with wine.
Stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.
You can find inspiration in the strangest places.
We took the train back to Nice around 3, expecting to get the sleep we hadn’t gotten the night before, wake up at 10pm and go back out in Monte Carlo.
Never happened. Woke at 5:30am, and walked outside. They were cleaning the streets with hoses. We walked downhill, towards the sea, and caught a bakery just as it was opening. First customers of the day. Halting French greeted by perfect English. The croissants were still hot. Jackson bought a quiche. It wasn’t as good as his mom’s but it was damn close. We walked to the beach and waited for the sun to come and after it came we kept on waiting anyway. Not impatiently.
The guidebook is…
…the last refuge of the scoundrel.
I had a Kobe steak in Bismarck, North Dakota.
They flew it in once a week from Japan. No idea why.
I don’t need a television in my hotel room.
I do need wireless internet. And some art, preferably.
The iPhone changed my life.
That blue dot is a comfort on the road. It reminds you -”YOU ARE HERE.”
…ride another Greyhound bus again.
Follow the customs. Dress the part.
Do it all the way. You’ll never regret looking silly for a bit, and even if you do, remember – it’s Somewhere Else. When are you ever going to see them again?
Spend the money and get a decent camera.
And then remember to bring it with you. And keep it turned on. Good pictures make good memories.
We were in the Canary Islands.
She had white socks with red ladybugs on them and a silk red ribbon where her belt should have been. Don’t laugh.
If you can go to Paris without falling in love…
If you can sit in St. Germain and hear the click-clack of heels on cobblestone and not wonder who’s making that sound, then I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t. Unless you’re not into women, which is cool, too.
My next trip is to the Philippines to visit my friend that recently joined the Peace Corps.
I’m a little worried – I’m not the backpacking type. I’ve never had to get a malaria shot. I was planning on going in May, and then he’s like “Oh, you should probably wait a few weeks – the elections are coming up and there are usually riots.” On top of that I read a New York Times article about Sinatra’s “My Way” leading to murders in karaoke bars. I love that song. So something will have to give.
I love languages.
And accents. And cultural overlap. I love to hear Chinese people speak Spanish. African people speaking French. I heard a Nigerian speak German to a Kazakhstani and almost passed out.
I feel kind of silly giving people advice.
I’m still young, and honestly, I don’t really know anything yet. Like Donald Rumsfield says, there are known-knowns, known-unknowns, and unknown-unknowns. I have no way of knowing, but I think I’ve got quite a few of the last.
More than just a talented athlete, Collins is a traveling correspondent for the basketball blog TrueHoop. He also shares stories, photos and ideas on his own website Colemanalexandercollins.com. The 23-year-old Georgia native is currently writing his first novel, titled “We All Know About the Pufferfish.”
“How I Travel” is a new BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.
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all photographs provided by Coleman Collins and may not be used without permission