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Go away with Amanda Beard

By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Media Services

Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim

March 27, 2012

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Swimmer Amanda Beard won her first Olympic gold medal in 1996 at the summer games in Atlanta. Now 30, the swimming champion — who has won seven medals at the Olympics — is hoping to bring home more gold for the United States in her fifth consecutive Olympiad this summer in London.

Beard, who also has a successful sideline career as a model (including a nude spread in Playboy), recently penned "In the Water They Can't See You Cry" (Touchstone, $24.99). The revealing memoir gives readers a look at the struggles she faced with bulimia, learning disorders and broken relationships.

Beard lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, photographer Sacha Brown, and their toddler son, Blaise. To read more about Beard, check out her website at http://www.swimlikeamom.com.

Q. You've traveled the world for swimming. Which places stand out?

A. My favorite cities have been Monte Carlo, Rome and Capetown. I love that swimming has allowed me to travel to so many destinations. As I grew older, I would extend my stay after my meets so I would be able to see more than just the pool and the hotel.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Wakatobi (an archipelago in the Banda Sea off the coast of Indonesia). My husband and I actually got married there. It's a huge scuba-diving destination and we loved relaxing and enjoyed swimming and diving in the water. To this day, it has been one of my favorite places to scuba dive, simply because it felt like you were swimming in an overstocked aquarium.

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

A. Wakatobi Dive Resort (http://www.wakatobi.com) has a camp-like feeling. It has five-star chefs and three boat dives offered to you on a daily basis. The resort is very small and only holds 55 people with enough staff to meet your every need. I say this is a great place to go for a water lover, scuba diver or book reader. I would wake up every day to a gourmet breakfast, go for a quick swim in the 85 degree water, eat lunch and then enjoy a nice massage in their spa. It is the best place to unwind and hang with people you love.

Q. How important is it to you that Blaise grows up seeing other parts of the world?

A. I love that we take Blaise to so many place already. Before he turned two, he had been to Australia, China and a couple times to Hawaii. He has also been on a six-week-long road trip around California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah. I think it's important to show him the world and how everyone lives in it. It's by far the best way to get an education outside the classroom.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Las Vegas is great because there's always something to do last minute and you can always find great deals. Catalina Island is also one of our favorite places to go and if you go in the winter it's super cheap and you have the whole place to yourself.

Q. In your mind, which cities are the most vegetarian-friendly?

A. I believe that any big city is very veggie friendly. You can find a great place to dine in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Seattle, New York, Sun Valley, Laguna Beach and Tucson.

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

A. Boca Raton, Fla., reminded me a lot of Orange County. It's very clean with a lot of great shopping and dining.

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

A. I want to go to a lot of places. Venice (Italy), Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Seychelles and Bora Bora definitely top my list.

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

A. Sunscreen, Pedialyte packets, granola bars, lip balm, running shoes, swimsuit, hat and camera!

Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?

A. I have a lot of dream trips. I want to rent a car in Italy and drive all around the country with my family. Another is to spend two weeks in Orlando exploring all the parks with my husband and son. They are very different trips, but they both sound like a lot of fun to me, hanging with my family, having fun and exploring!

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

A. When I travel to other countries I like to try local cuisine, so I let myself indulge in all the goods, whether it's dinner or dessert. Calories don't count on vacation, right? (Laughs.)

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

A. I do a good amount of research checking reviews on hotels and finding good deals, but once I get to my destination I try to talk to everyone who lives in the area to get their idea on what's the best things to do.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?

A. On a trip to go snowboarding with my family, I had a bad fall and broke my wrist. I had to ride in the car all the way down the mountain in complete pain until I got to the doctor. I had a winter formal at my high school soon after, and I wore a bright orange cast to it.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)