Meet Joel Heath, one of a very small number of American players to compete at Grand Prix Utrecht this weekend rather than Grand Prix Portland. Why Utrecht? "Every year in the summer, I pick a Grand Prix for my vacation and this time it was Utrecht," said Heath.
Based in Austin, Heath used to just travel to events in Texas and neighboring states. However, that changed in 2009. "Basically, I got out of school, started work, and found myself with two weeks vacation time that I didn't know what to do with. Now, every year, I look at the Grand Prix schedule to narrow down on possible locations for a summer vacation."
Heath freely admitted to not being exactly a globetrotter, but decided to broaden his horizons this way. "I use that to get out of my shell, out of my comfort zone, to meet new people, learn new things, get more used to unfamiliar places and situations," he explained. He did start small however, with trips to Seattle and Washington D.C. followed by spending a week in New York City leading up to Grand Prix Pittsburgh. "Then, last year I went to San Francisco and Oakland, and now I decided to branch out and go international," said Heath.
"My girlfriend and I were also considering Grand Prix Sydney. Utrecht won out because of the shorter flight and because of Amsterdam. She had been to Amsterdam before and has some knowledge of the area, so I preferred this option."
And of course there's the Grand Prix offering a familiar experience. "No matter where I'm going, a Grand Prix will always be a Grand Prix. Despite some issues with different languages, this is the most comfortable I've been," Heath explained. He clearly felt at home at the Grand Prix despite the fact that this particular Grand Prix was thousands of miles away from his home.
"It's great, maybe a little intimidating at first," Heath said about his experience as an American in Europe. "We've only been in Amsterdam for 24 hours, and with the jet-lag and being tired we haven't ventured very far out yet. Next week, we'll be doing all the touristy stuff. We already had some original Dutch cuisine though. At least I think we did. And we had awesome waffles with chocolate!"
As for the future, Heath and his girlfriend have tentatively penciled in London for next year's summer vacation. "And I definitely want to get to Australia at some point," Heath added. I suggested Japan for the complete culture shock—maybe not the best idea at present, but as long as there's a Grand Prix somewhere, I have no doubts Joel Heath will fit right in.