my best shot
Wide World of Fitz
my best shot

Wide World of Fitz

Larry Fitzgerald, globetrotter, shares the best snapshots from his offseason travels
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Of all the eye-popping statistics Larry Fitzgerald has accumulated during his nine-year NFL career—he is the most prolific receiver in Cardinals history, with 10,413 yards and 77 touchdowns—this may be the most surprising: The six-time Pro Bowler has visited 86 countries and set foot on all seven continents. A zealous photographer, an insatiable history buff and something of an amateur naturalist, the 29-year-old Minnesota native was bitten by the travel bug shortly after he turned pro. He averages about two months of globetrotting every offseason.

There is no rhyme or reason to Fitzgerald’s destinations (“I just kind of pick a place on the map and go for it,” he says), but the Southern Hemisphere often beckons during his downtime in late winter and early spring. These vacations, however, aren’t really for rest and relaxation. “It’s a worldly education,” he says. “The experiences and things you see every day in your travels broaden your horizons and give you perspective.” Below, Fitzgerald shares some snapshots from one excursion this offseason, a journey that took him through 19 countries in a little more than 60 days.

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Fitzgerald has scuba dived nearly 30 sites worldwide, and he added another with fellow Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts during an 18-day trip to Central and South America in January. “We were staying in Cartagena, Colombia, and we rented a boat and went out to these remote islands, about two hours away,” Fitzgerald says. “We island-hopped and scuba dived all day long. Our guides caught fish and cooked it for us on the shore in banana leaves, with some fried plantains and sticky rice.”

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As Fitzgerald watched ships pass through the Panama Canal, he marveled at how well the system of locks connecting the Atlantic and Pacific operates, 99 years after the passageway opened. “I was really blown away by it, to think that something could be created so long ago and still be working to perfection,” he says.

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In western Nicaragua, Fitzgerald climbed Cerro Negro, Central America’s youngest active volcano, and donned a different kind of uniform and pads to prepare for the adrenaline rush of lava boarding. “I sand surfed in Dubai a couple years ago, I’ve surfed on water, and I’ve surfed on lava now,” Fitzgerald says. “I pulled the trifecta. I’m interested to see if anybody has ever done any more than that.”

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Most lava boarders use a sledding style when going down Cerro Negro’s black ash slope, which peaks at 2,388 feet above sea level, but Fitzgerald sought a greater challenge by standing up. “Who wants to go all the way to Nicaragua, hike all the way to the top of an active volcano and then slide down on your butt?” says Fitzgerald, who swears he fell only a couple times. “You tell me what the most difficult thing is, the most fun, and I’m going to try that.”

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En route to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Fitzgerald and Roberts spent an hour zip-lining through the northern Guatemalan rainforest, which is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. “It was a lot of fun hanging over the canopy, seeing the monkeys and the exotic birds, and doing a little thrill-seeking,” Fitzgerald says.

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On his way back from Antarctica, Fitzgerald checked the Patagonia region of Argentina off his must-see list. He stayed in the tiny city of El Calafate, the gateway to the monumental and pristine Perito Moreno Glacier. “It was really crazy to see the glacier there and think about how it was able to form over millions of years,” Fitzgerald says. “I got to hike up there, walk on the glacier and drink some glacier water.”

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In late February, Fitzgerald visited Joseph Stalin’s hometown in Georgia, then took off to explore the Adriatic Coast, where he tried ice climbing in Slovenia. “Slovenia is world-renowned for its winter sports,” Fitzgerald says. “I wanted to go there for a couple days and participate in a lot of those outdoors activities.”

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Fitzgerald drove roughly 400 miles from Slovenia to Dubrovnik, where he stayed inside the town’s famous stone walls. “It’s a medieval city,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s well-preserved—there’s really cool architecture and history. It was special.” Another attraction: Dubrovnik is a filming location for the HBO series Game of Thrones, of which Fitzgerald is a big fan. “Who’s not?” he asks. “That and Boardwalk Empire are my two favorites.”

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Down the Adriatic in Montenegro, Fitzgerald had a prime perch for a view of the small coastal town of Kotor and its bay. “It was picturesque,” he says. “Another old, ancient city, one of the oldest in Montenegro. It was home to the most beautiful harbor—one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.”

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India is one of Fitzgerald’s favorite places to visit. “The sheer mass and volume—all the people who live in that country—it’s unbelievable,” he says. “I love the food, and the culture is really spectacular.” In late March he spent three days at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, observing one of the country’s densest tiger populations.

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Though odds of spotting tigers in Bandhavgarh are good, Fitzgerald says each sighting is special. “They’re really elusive, and they’re solitary for the most part,” he says. “They’re not like big prides of lions where you see 10, 11, 12 of them together. They’re active and they move around, so it’s difficult to find them.” Sounds like a certain wide receiver, doesn’t it?

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After leaving India and before going on a charity mission to the Philippines with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, Fitzgerald spent a few days in Singapore. “I’ve always been fascinated by the technology and the architecture there,” says Fitzgerald, who rented a boat for a day, learned about the island’s history in the spice trade and took a business meeting with the computer manufacturer Lenovo. The man can stretch his horizons as well as he can NFL defenses.

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