I never travel without...

Courtesy of Alana Nichols

As a Paralympian in both skiing and wheelchair basketball, Alana Nichols has been on the road constantly for competitions.

As an athlete -- especially one who’s had more brushes with death at age 31 than most people have in their entire life -- I like to think I’m pretty in touch with what matters in life. And it’s certainly not stuff!

Still, when I’m packing for a trip (which is pretty much all the time!) there are some things I never leave behind. Here are my five must-haves:

1. A turquoise bracelet my grandma gave me. I wear it whenever I race. My grandma adopted me when I was young, and gave it to me about 10 years ago. It’s just a special thing that reminds me how far I’ve come, and what a big supporter she has been for me. This coming May I’m taking her to Hawaii. She was a big world traveler in her younger years, and one time on the way home from China she connected in Hawaii. My grandpa always told her to go back, but he passed away two years ago so now I’m going with her.

2. USA bands from my sisters. I wear them on my outriggers when I race as just a little shout-out for my two sisters, Jovan and Julianne.

3. A picture of my brother. I have this really cool old black-and-white Polaroid picture of my brother D.J. on a bike. He passed away before the Vancouver Games in 2009, but he is still such a big part of my athletic endeavors. When I race, I know he’s right there with me.

4. My journal. I always have my journal with me, whether I write five pages or a small note in there -- I do it to help my memory down the line. Sometimes I write about ski racing and sometimes about travel in general. I started my first journal in the hospital when I broke my back at age 17, and I’ve filled a lot of journals since. This current one I started last June as I began to prepare for the Sochi Games, though there’s a big gap from June to August when I dislocated my shoulder and couldn’t write! I love looking back at the journey.

5. My laptop and headphones. OK, so I’ve also got my iPad and iPhone. I’m kind of a high-maintenance traveler! Whenever I travel, time in the hotel is my time to work. And that usually involves writing a lot of emails, so I come prepared.

Alana Nichols, a Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing, is the first American woman to win gold in both the summer and winter Paralympic Games. Alana's previous blog: Paralympic drama