Thursday, October 30, 2008
“Un sueño” - a dream. Traveling often makes me feel as though I'm in a dream. Not necessarily because of the moments of beauty or the feelings of surrealism, but rather because of the way time seems to slow down. Much like a dream, when I travel it seems as though so much time has passed even though my journey has hardly begun. It's been just over two weeks now, but lately I've been feeling as though I've been on the road for months, and this is one of the most comforting feelings. Occasionally I'll find myself panicking, unsure about what my future holds, unsure about what I'm actually doing with myself out here. Then, the panic quickly transforms into a feeling of wholesome happiness as I realize that the future is boundless for me, that tomorrow I can be wherever I want, that ultimately, I can do anything that I will. It's a feeling of freedom that often induces a confident smile on my face, wherever I may be, and the first person that I connect eyes with always returns the smile, as if they know exactly what I'm thinking.
Much has happened in the last while, I'll try to relay it all as succinctly as possible. Liam and Herman and myself all left Puerto Escondido in search of a new place to surf, and what we found was probably the best wave I've ever surfed in my short lived surfing life. I'll omit the name of the place, for the sake of the locals and regular surfers there who undoubtedly would like to keep it as much of a hidden gem as it is. The break is on a beach about a twenty minute walk from a small and simple rural Mexican village. Admittedly, I was a little annoyed that I couldn't sleep near the calming beach, and I was even more frustrated that I had to pay 20 pesos everyday to gain access. Then, as soon as I experienced the pristine oceanfront, and the untouched shoreline, I realized the importance of making people walk to the beach rather then sleep there. I realized that waking beside the ocean was a luxury that I could forego in order to avoid the inevitable development of cabañas and hotels that are so common along the Pacific shoreline here in Mexico. Later, I discovered that the 20 pesos we were paying was going towards education for the local children, and I felt incredibly guilty for begrudging that fee in the first place. The whole village, as it turns out, was set up in commune style. All of the villagers were required to give a certain amount of volunteer time everyday, and in exchange everyone was provided with daily necessities of food and water produced locally. It was beautiful, and I was happy that I had experienced for the first time a form of direct and localized democracy that I knew I would find here in Latin America.
We spent three days there and then moved on again. Circumstances led myself and Herman to a place called San Augustinillo, while Liam decided to head back to Puerto Escondido. Here in SA I feel more relaxed than I have thus far, as the whole community seems to be laid back – something I think the Pacific ocean tends to bring out in people. I've befriended two amazing Swedish girls, Nina and Veronika, who are a couple of the most real people I've met thus far. It's been great lounging around, playing the random instruments that they've brought with them, wading around in the calm lagoon. SA is certainly not not known for its surfing, but the shoreline kicks up some fun waves, and its anonymity in the surfing world allows for complete freedom on the water. This morning I woke early and paddled out into a deserted ocean, and as I sat on the outside alone, waiting for my wave, I had one of those moments where I smiled broadly, to no one but myself.
Tommorow I will leave SA and head to San Cristobal De La Casas, a supposedly stunning city, and the epicentre of the Zapatista movement. After that I intend to head over the border and begin studying Spanish in Guatemala. I've picked up a good amount, but there have been too many interesting and kind people that I have been unable to communicate with, and I am now more eager than ever to learn the beautiful Spanish language.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I´ve settled in quite nicely here, especially with the assistance of an old friend named Liam who surprised me with a last minute email telling me he´s joining me for a leg of my journey. Liam is one of the most interesting people I´ve ever met, and although we have many differences, without him I would not be the adventurer that I have become.
We spent our first night in a little cuarto above the surfshop that I bought my board from. The next day we were able to negotiate a deal on a nice room in an unfinished building right on the beach.
There seems to be a lot of Canadians here in Puerto, many of them here in Mexico for much the same reasons as myself. Many of the international travelers are here not necessarily to escape or run away from anything but rather to achieve what they know is possible: a somewhat stress free life, a life in touch with nature, and a feeling of connectedness to the world. Some of the most interesting people that I´ve met are the locals. A late night of drinking and partying with locals revealed to me both the best and the worst side of Mexican culture. One fellow I met was a Mexican who had never traveled before, but nevertheless had the insight of one who had seen the world. Perhaps this is because here in Puerto Escondido, much of the world is brought to him. Although barriered by both language and intoxication, he was able to communicate to me about the many foreigners that come here only to socialize with other foreigners, and about how too many people draw borders and distinctions that are inimical to global harmony. Much like myself, he didn´t consider himself a Mexican, but rather a human. I could only look at him in admiration for holding such a mindset despite the seemingly negative interactions he has had with people from around the world. The same night I saw another side of Mexico as I found myself in the midst of what I will call "Barrio diplomacy". The Barrio is a district or neighborhood, and although I´ve witnessed localism back home, it seemed to be at a different level here. Liam and I had found ourselves in mixed company composed of a few foreigners and mostly Mexicans from two different Barrios. It was a precarious position to put ourselves in, and we´ve decided to avoid it again if possible. I sat at tables that night listening to locals conspiring against one another for lack of respect within the Barrio. I watched a man sitting across the table from me get punched in the face and knocked off his chair and simply accept it, for he was not in his own Barrio and he was in no position to retaliate. The last thing I want is to paint a bad picture of Mexico, and I´m sure that this was a somewhat isolated incident comprised of severely intoxicated people, but nevertheless it is something I experienced. Liam and I left unscathed that night, and even stopped on the long walk home for a nap on the calming beach.
I´ve been surfing everyday, usually twice a day, and its left me feeling refreshed and energized like I havn´t felt since the last time I was near the ocean. There are two main breaks in Puerto Escondido, Zicatela and La Punta. Zicatela (left), also known as "The Mexican Pipeline" is one of the heaviest waves in the world and is supposedly for experts only. La Punta (below) is a nice point break, and this is the wave that Liam and I have been surfing. We´ve befriended a fellow named Herman from Holland, an avid surfer and business man. The other day he somehow convinced Liam and I to do something that we probably shouldn´t have, although in retrospect I have no regrets. While sitting around talking one night he said that we ought to try and surf Zicatela, and try we did. It wasn´t so much surfing as it was continuous duck diving, getting tossed around, and getting held under the water for longer durations than I´m used to. Well this is not the ideal situation for a fun day of surfing, it is great training and experience.
There is a statue that can be found at the end of Zicatela beach, and I´ve learned from a local that this statue represents the power of Zicatela. It is shaped above a large rock and it is of two hands joined together at the wrists with the palms and fingers spread apart and beginning to clench together. It is the perfect symbol. The waves at Zicatela look smooth and peaceful like the fingers of a soft hand, but when the wave forms up and breaks, it relentlessly squeezes everything underneath it, like a strongly clenched hand. I felt those fingers squeeze me that day, and I´ve decided that someday I will come back here and conquer this wave they call Zicatela.
We are leaving Puerto Escondido on friday and heading South along the coast to find new waves, new people, and new experiences...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The hardest part of traveling, I´ve been reminded, is the actual traveling. The long plane rides, and the lack of sleep, the contorted airport naps, and the overcoming feelings of utter loneliness are almost unbearable. Then, just when you think you might crack, you arrive at your destination and all is well.
I spent the weekend in NYC, immersed in rampant consumerism, materialism, and pollution - the eye of the storm, so to speak. It only made the contrast to where I am now so much more apparent. I flew out of New York early Tuesday morning, and I didn´t arrive here in Puerto Escondido until 3pm Wednesday. In order for me to get the cheapest possible plane ticket I had to spend one night In Cancun - the last place in Mexico I wanted to go. I took the bus from the airport into Cancun Centro, the only other option being to go to the hotel zone. There´s not much to see or do in the Centro except watch everyday Mexicans live their everyday lives, which can be interesting enough. The tourists don´t really wander into the Centro very often, but when they do its funny to observe them. As interesting as Mexican culture can be, even in Cancun, I think its as equally interesting to watch the all-inclusive tourists interact with them. It makes me wonder if I look and sound as ridiculous them.
So I checked into the first hostel I came across near the bus station, tired and feeling dirty from sitting beside a large girl on the plane who would look guiltily at me everytime she passed gas. Coincidentally, the hostel was called ¨The Weary Traveler¨. I checked into a dorm room and had a rinse off, and as I walked back into the room there was a fellow standing there, rather weary looking. I asked him how he was doing and he said not so well. He was an Israeli, and as it turned out, him and his two army pals had been arrested the night before for refusing to pay for a meal that had apparently been raised in price halfway through the meal. I felt bad for him and all, but I couldn´t help but think about how this was the first conversation I had with another foreigner in Mexico, and this was the story I was being told. I made sure to ask him what restaurant it was and then went out to grab a bite.
I flew out of there early the next morning, and after a stop over in Mexico City flew to Puerto Esconidido. I wasn´t feeling to great at this point, but as the dark and magnificent expanse of the Pacific ocean came into view from my little plane window, a feeling of calm and euphoria came over me. And now, I´m sitting in a little cafe across from the beach with the smell of salt in the air and the sound of waves crashing in the distance. Tommorow I will find my board...
Monday, October 6, 2008
It's always the long goodbyes that seem the most sudden when they finally culminate into a parting of ways. Although I've been preparing for this for some time now, it certainly has come as a shock. Nevertheless, its the path I've chosen, and I'm confident that the many sacrifices I've had to make will be well worth the experiences I'm going have.
Like most people reading this, I enjoy the comforts and securities and liberties that this society has to offer, and I certainly appreciate the opportunities that lie before me. In fact, it is because I appreciate those opportunities so much that I have chosen to do what I am doing. There are so many different societies out there, a diverse multitude of cultures and ways of life. So many beautiful and magnificent places on this earth to see. Why, I wonder, stick to just one of them when I have the ability to see them all?
After living in one place for a quarter of a century I began to ponder the purpose of my life. I grew older and experienced and gained a heightened sense of perspective on this world and my place in it. I discovered surfing, which helped me develop a profound appreciation for the power and beauty of nature. I began to contemplate my existence, and leaving all the questions and confusions aside, the one conclusion that I could reach was that surely there must be more to life than the one imposed on us by this society. Surely, this beautiful and magnificent world is out there for a reason – for us to enjoy and to explore. Life, I reasoned, must be made the most of, and as privileged as we are, especially here in North America, to not do so would be to take this life and this beautiful world for granted. Perspectives are broadened and toleration is heightened for those that explore beyond the familiar. By stepping into the unknown and engaging with other cultures and environments, ones becomes exposed to experiences which increase ones appreciation of life and this world. It sounds easy because it really is, all it takes is a conscious effort to constantly widen your perspectives by exploring the unknown. The world is an immensely large place and the moments of beauty are infinite. The more people begin to appreciate what we have before us, the better we will all be.
This society often deters us from following our passions, with a call for practicality instead. But the ultimate measurement of happiness should be the fulfillment of one’s passions, despite how unconventional and difficult such paths may be. Of course life is not easy and requires hard work and practicality in order to survive, especially for those less advantaged. That, however, does not mean that we must conform to the conventions and norms of a given society. We should look harder at the way we live our lives and at the things we actually need to be happy as individuals. It is incredible how easy it is to simplify ones needs and desires and pursue a passion, the hardest part is taking the conscious step.
This is exactly what I have done. I’ve lived a simple life over the last year, I’ve stopped being a mindless consumer and set my priorities right. I’ve worked hard and have saved enough money to keep myself afloat for a long while. I have rid myself of most of my material possessions and have settled any outstanding commitments. And now, I’ve set off on an indefinite journey of personal development to learn more about myself and my place in this world by pursuing my passion of surfing while I travel and learn a second language. All that I’m leaving behind are my cherished family and friends, who will be with me in my heart and mind, who I will see again.
I will attempt to keep these writings updated and interesting, and hope that many will read them and follow me on this journey. Leaving ones society and culture behind is not for everyone, but I know that there are many out there who long for such freedom. If there is anything that I want most out of this, it is to inspire those souls who are searching for something else but simply don’t have the courage or knowledge or discipline to find it. This is how easy it is...
“And so I stand among you as one that offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a free-floating kind of existence.” - Merlon