Sunday, April 3, 2016

LozinTransit in 2015: American Roadtrip, FIBA Oceania and Asia

<<crossposted on the 'Loz in Translation' blog

Founded in Lithuania during EuroBasket 2011, I've been documenting my search for basketball experiences on my @30HomeGames project. It became an Instagram-focused pursuit when I got my first smartphone in 2014, each day capturing a moment through the lens of basketball. Whether its snapping Basketball kicks on a Bushwalk, a jersey at a Foodie gathering or finding Hoops of the World. These daily scavenger hunts have made my adventures at home as novel as my adventures abroad, a premium placed on quirky and improbable intersections.

#30HomeGames in 2015: USA Roadtrip and being the Ultimate NBA fan
I started 2015 with a splash, spending 2 weeks on the US East Coast. The New York Knicks graciously hosted my friends and I at the World Famous Madison Square Garden. An auspicious start for my mission to visit all 30 NBA Cities.

In 2011 and 2013 I quit work and went on extended trips, 13 and 6 months respectively. I knew this wouldn't be the case for 2015 but continuing my FIBA (International Basketball Federation) streak would be a solid consolation. During my EuroTrip I spent a month in Lithuania as they hosted the biennial European Basketball Championship. I made sure to attend the Americas equivalent in Venezuela during my 2013 South America Trip. For 2015 I had a choice between FIBA Asia and AfroBasket. I had sights on the African tourney in Tunisia but ultimately decided against it with uncertain developments in the area. Going to Changsha, China for FIBA Asia and adding nearby Wellington and Melbourne for FIBA Oceania rounded out a worthy mission for the year.

Under the umbrella #30HGaustralasia, the itinerary for Oceania was:
Aug 15 - Melbourne, Australia. FIBA Oceania Game 1
Aug 18 - Wellington, New Zealand. FIBA Oceania Game 2
Aug 22 -  Melbourne, Australia. LSU Downunder Tour
Sep 23 to Oct 3 - Changsha, China. FIBA Asia
Oct 11 - Shenzhen, China. NBA Global Games

As with previous forays into FIBA action, watching games came with a learning curve. I endeavour to watch as many of the competing Nations as possible, sourcing tickets through official channels. Regular games usually don't meet quarter capacity whilst the Host nation plays to a packed house which often means having to brave the secondary market. With FIBA Asia in Changsha, there was little choice but to deal with secondary vendors. Rather than having booths by the stadium, tickets were sold at the nearby university. A stall was set up with all the tickets emanating from a lone backpack manned by a student-type, these were snapped up by enterprising locals who tried their luck reselling them. All transactions were cash in hand which makes one wonder where the money ultimately ended up. How much you paid for tickets fluctuated with demand and the whims or mercy of the vendor, a glimpse into the negotiable markets of China.

In some ways this helped. I paid most for tickets in the beginning when I was just getting my bearings and saved money progressively. I watched all 7 Gilas Pilipinas victories paying around 100-200 RMB (AU$20-$40) for the earlier, less coveted games. Come the Playoffs as Gilas matches were incorporated into Double-Headers with the China games, we were able to ask for tickets from the departing locals who only wanted to watch their National team play. We had to compete with savvy resellers doing the same. Newcomers invariably get taken advantage of so it helps to ask around and get a lay of the land as early as possible. The fun part about these trips are always the things you stumble on and the connections you make that can only happen by being on the ground and having your feelers out.

A photo posted by 30homegames (@30homegames) on

Whilst this proved successful for watching other games, I ultimately couldn't stomach paying the high price to see the Host nation play. I departed Changsha altogether on the morning of the Philippines VS China Grand Final knowing it'd be futile trying to watch it live. Reports would later say that even Filipino Coaching staff had trouble securing tickets for the game.

This proved the same for the NBA Global Games in Shenzhen between the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers. With tickets starting at a hefty AU$80 and ultimately selling out, I braced myself for an uphill battle. I was happy to observe the pandemonium in search for access but didn't want to risk any money by joining them, I witnessed every manner of bribery and trickery imaginable from eager travelers and locals desperate to watch the game.

Vista views: Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Ticketing aside, for me these trips are shaped by the adventures outside of basketball. Without the benefit of a rolling start and the considerable language barrier, this mission was arguably my most challenging travel experience. As South China was less frequented by Western travelers I didn't encounter many peers, on the other hand I was less concerned about falling prey to travel scams. Interestingly as China is densely populated and I'd unwittingly visited during the Golden Week Holiday, I was never very far from hordes of Chinese locals who were commuting during their short Annual window away from work. En route to my Final basketball destination in Shenzhen, I spent a week traveling through Fenghuang (Ancient Phoenix town) and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (popularly inspiring James Cameron's 'Avatar'). Heavy rain and a severe dose of food poisoning put a damper on some of the days but it turned out to be some of the most scenic places I've ever visited.

The China trip gave me lessons and set expectations for AfroBasket and FIBA World Cup if I am to pursue them. Likewise for "Missions" in general. At times it can feel more like a Business trip, as previously these basketball trips were happy detours on a larger backpacking adventure I hadn't really noticed the process of it prevously. Interestingly all my trips this year have been in the service of basketball, beginning with USA to Melbourne, New Zealand and China. I like traveling with a larger theme in mind, so its only fitting.
It's been a good year. My daily Instagram snapshots, whilst seemingly one-dimensional with its basketball theme offers a fair accounting of what I've been up to. No plans for 2016 but I've got my head up waiting for the next play.

Find other Basketball adventures here:
- Balancing Basketball and Travel in Lithuania (1 of 2)
- My time in Caracas, Venezuela for FIBA Americas 2013
- Hashtag Roadtrip: #30HGroadtrip