Go Away With … Sarah Piampiano

20140702-_D3_2905 photo credit Larry Rosa_640

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
November 18, 2014

As a child, Sarah Piampiano dreamed of being an Olympian. But, as an adult, she figured her life as an investment banker would prevent her from becoming a full-time athlete. Five years ago, she made a lifestyle switch, quitting her job, moving to the West Coast and devoting all her time and energy into becoming a pro triathlete. Piampiano, 34, says that switching from finance to the world of elite athletes hasn’t been the easiest transition, but one for which she has a passion. She resides in Sausalito, California. To keep updated on her racing schedule, you may follow her on Twitter.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I have two: Tuscany, Italy — specifically San Gimignano — and Brazil.

Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. In Brazil, one of my favorite parts of the trip was going to the northeastern part of the country to some of the beach towns. We visited Pipa, which has a really relaxed environment. We rented a 50-foot sailboat with a crew for only $35 per person one day and were given the royal treatment — amazing food, swimming on a private beach, drinks, music. … It was amazing!

Q. What’d you do in Tuscany?

A. I knew Tuscany would be amazing when I went, but it blew my mind in every way possible. Dinner in tiny restaurants on cobblestoned side streets, exploring little alleys in medieval villages, wine-tasting, walks in the vineyards and moonlight swims. We stayed in an Agriturismo in San Giminagno called il Borghetto, which was amazing.  Depending on what you are looking for, some agriturismos actually have you working on the farm, others have a community table for dinner, others are simply working farms/vineyards.  Regardless of what type you choose, the interaction you have with locals and the suggestions they offer create a wonderful, unique and local experience.  We also visited a number of local markets, where we purchased produce and meats.  The meals we created were amazing!  The great thing about San Gimignano is that it is an easy drive or train ride to Sienna, Florence, Cinque Terre and all of the amazing wineries that the region has to offer.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?

A. Last year I raced in Austria, and then took a vacation in Austria and Italy afterward. It had been a few years since I was last in Europe and I was reminded of how amazing a continent it is! I loved every minute of that experience and have made it a point to spend some of my competition season in Europe every year.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?

A. Tuscany is a pretty darn romantic place to go. Another place is Edinburgh, Scotland, (which is) one of my favorite cities of all time and surprisingly romantic!

Q. Besides Edinburgh, what are your five favorite cities?

A. Paris, Venice, San Francisco, Boston and Burlington (Vermont).

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. The last two years I’ve raced in Pucon, Chile, and it reminded me so much of growing up in Maine, being uninhibited as a kid and running around creating the most amazing and memorable experiences. There is a real sense of freedom and unbridled adventure and creativity in Pucon. It is a wonderful place to go.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I really want to go to Namibia and South Africa, Morocco, Turkey, Papua, New Guinea, Thailand and India. Those are on the top of my list.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Bose noise-canceling headphones, which are a must for flying, compression socks, my water bottle, a bar of Dove soap, sunscreen, Trader Joe’s raw almond butter, raw oats, my Shimano video camera, Clif Builder’s bars and Kit’s Organic bars for snacks. (Shimano and Clif are two of Piampiano’s sponsors.)

Q. What would be your fantasy trip?

A. I don’t do well just sitting on a beach and doing nothing. I like adventure and relaxation, so going to places where there is the opportunity for new experiences is what excites me. I’d love to do a bike trip across Europe, followed by a week or two in Portugal or sailing off the coast of Turkey. I’d also love to go trekking in Asia with a boat trip scheduled in Indonesia afterward.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. I have a true love affair with pizza and ice cream and I like seeking out the best local joints and giving them a go. It is a pleasure for me to experience that! I also really enjoy drinking local regional beers specific to the area I am in.

Q. What is your best and worst vacation memory?

A. One of my favorite memories was being in Lienz, Austria, at the top of a hike in the Dolomites. There was a lodge up in the mountains and I was there with my cousin, his wife and my boyfriend at the time. We sat up there, each drinking a beer, looking out onto one of the most spectacular landscapes. It was amazing. My worst memory is when I was in high school, I went to Slovakia to the village that my grandmother was born and grew up in. The airline lost my luggage and for a week I was wearing the same clothes. I was jet-lagged, cranky and in an environment I was unfamiliar with. I just remember struggling with that. It truly wasn’t that bad, but as a teenager I was miserable. These days, I go with the flow, making the best of things.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. In Brazil, we went way up in the Amazon to a floating “resort” called the Pousada Uakari Floating Lodge.  You fly into Tefe and then take a boat 1.5 hours up the Amazon to the “floating forest”.  The lodge is run by different local communities, who then use the money they earn to help support their villages.  It is an absolutely incredible experience, but knowing a bit of Portuguese helps as the almost no English is spoken by the villagers.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A.  When I am on the East coast, where I grew up: Acadia National Park (Maine), Burlington (Vermont), Boston (Massachusetts), The White Mountains (NH), Rangeley Lakes (Maine). On the West Coast: North Lake Tahoe (California), Napa (California), Joshua Tree (California), Portland (Oregon), Aspen (Colorado)

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A. I am definitely a foodie and like high-end restaurants, but I also love the hole-in-the-wall local haunts.  My favorite places in the US are Jean-Georges (New York City),  Babbo (New York City), Bar Jules (San Francisco), Slanted Door (San Francisco), Blue Plate Oysterette (Santa Monica), Father’s Office (Santa Monica), Sweet Rose (Santa Monica) and Duck Fat (Portland, Maine).

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. I’ve stayed in some incredible places in my travels, but no one place really sticks out.  Some of the best hotels I have stayed at are the New Mandarin in Hong Kong and The Scotsman in Edinburgh

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. Pack as light as possible. If you can travel with carry-on only that is the way to go! Be organized, particularly when you are traveling internationally. Things like driving instructions are important to have ahead of time! Be willing to be flexible in your plans. Things can change quickly.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. I actually don’t like to do a whole lot of research. I really enjoy having a basic idea of where I want to go and where I am going to stay and then figuring out the rest as I go. My best travel experiences are when I get to live more like a local than when I act like a tourist, so I try to embrace the local culture and get the most of the experience that way.

© 2014 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (1)

  1. Sarah Piampiano says:

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