A taste of decadence

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Eventually, my birthday passed in style. The little hostel where I arrived the first night in San Francisco was in a street crowded with bums and drug addicts, and the inside was nothing to write home about either. So I went online and found a last minute deal for 2 nights at 5 star hotel Clift.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the place; and I wasn’t even aware how fancy it was when I booked it. The good, perfumed smell in the lobby, the fancy interior design, the redwood bar designed by Ralph Lauren. A spacious 24/7 gym. Treats sent to our room by the receptionist after I had told her that it was my birthday… it was all familiar, it was that kind of hotel I sometimes could stay at when I was a banker. Also, it felt a bit like the christmas we didn’t have two weeks ago in Costa Rica: cold outside, warm and cosy inside. A day spent lazily, with lots of nibbling all day and some cocktails at night.

On the other hand, only a few blocks away, urban San Francisco was a shock. I had asked my parents to send a pre-prepared package with my ski gear to 94102 San Francisco for ‘general delivery’ (which is a truly fantastic thing: you send a letter or a package to a post office and you can go pick it up there). I had chosen this postal code for no specific reason, just because it was sitting on top of the list I guess. In any case, to collect it, we walked down Market Street on Friday afternoon, and what we saw reminded me of the too many zombie movies that come out of Hollywood in recent years. The streets are filled with people obviously suffering from one or more of the following: drug addiction, homelessness, miserable health, absurd poverty. Even the post office dealing with general delivery – located in the Tenderlon area – was filled with homeless and drug-addicts, hanging out in the post box corridors.

My social and political views have never been the ones most people would expect from a banker. And in the face of what I saw here in San Francisco, I even more failed to understand how anyone in the US could endorse tax breaks for the ultra-rich and oppose national healthcare, when poverty and misery are so obvious that you can’t look the other way even if you want to? How is this possible?

California and the dollar are expensive though, and the Canadian dollar is irresistibly low right now. So we booked flights to Vancouver for tomorrow. Whistler is only 125km away. Sorry, Lake Tahoe.

 

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35!

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One day, I will tell my children that I skied 100+ days the year I turned 35.

Today is my 35th birthday. And I am quite fit! Among the many things I lost, gave up or sold in the course of 2015 is one size in board shorts – actually I lost it in only one month in Costa Rica.

35 is a landmark. It is when you start being closer to 40 than to 30. It is the beginning of the ending of your second (or for those who enjoyed their teen age, already your third) youth, and somehow, the youth of fully developed adulthood.

Turning 35 to me means something completely else today than it would have meant one year ago. By having taken huge chances to do what (I thought?) I wanted to do, I don’t have the same regrets I would have had then about the passing of another year and the reaching of another landmark age.

One year ago, not only didn’t I know where my life was leading (in this, the status quo is not so different), but also I didn’t feel like I was doing what I desired to do the most if time was short. The truth is, time actually is short, even if we reach old age.

Today, I am following my dreams. It may not always feel as great as it felt when I fantasized about it (just look at the picture below, this is where I woke up on my 35th birthday 😉

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Not really the stairway to heaven.

But I am following my dreams, and I had the guts to follow them. And this is meaningful, even if it poses many risks and is not the same as being happy all the time at all.

Straight ahead lies one of my greatest dreams: Skiing all winter, and skiing in places like British Columbia and Alaska. Mentally I have prepared for this for a long time. Physically, unfortunately not so much – my arms have become my legs in the water, and I could barely exercise my legs on land due to the oppressive heat in Costa Rica. Who cares! This will be awesome!!

PS:Many thanks for all your kind birthday wishes! It feels good not to be forgotten.

The magic of the good sale

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The moment the last ride on my first surf board ended. It was undertaken by this beach beauty.

 

Today felt like the last day in Costa Rica, although it actually is tomorrow. But this morning I got up and returned the car in Tamarindo (not without hustling to find eye liner or car polish to get rid of the scratches), and in the evening, I walked to the next surf shop to sell my board. I never really loved this board since I didn’t appreciate the weird and somewhat random design. But I really started to appreciate – and even love it a bit – here in Costa Rica, it gave me a lot of wonderful rides. (I think it might have been 200-300 rides in total in the roundabout two months I went to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with it.)

When it comes to the parting words with Costa Rica, I have my difficulties… No doubt, this is a country of stunning natural beauty. But I never fully warmed up for this very – actually, too – hot place. It never quite gave me what for example, Portugal gave me so much of. Or Mauritius before that, or some places of Spain like Tarifa have been giving me for years. Maybe the geomantics here just don’t work for me. Maybe I never fully digested the almost-attack of the deadly yellow-bellied black water snake in the lineup on day three of my stay.*  But it could just as well simply be the crazy price level of almost everything from food items to car rentals. Most of all, it was the feeling of being one of too many tourists in a country crowded by holiday vacationers, with no possibilty to exit from this  status.

It is almost symptomatic for my trip to Costa that it was a guy from Uruguay who reconciled me with this place just before I left. This man, a surfer for life, surf shop owner and, as I would find out, surfer poet, bought my board from me after a long and skillful, but friendly negotiation from both sides. With a good deal (that is to me, one that is toughly negotiated, if not contested, and serves both buyer and vendor), often an atmosphere of mutual respect and genuine interest for the other party is created. I think this might have happened, and we embarked on a long conversation about surfing and life in general after the sale was done. It was the first time someone who lives here revealed something truly relevant about themselves and their personal history to me. My spirits felt renewed after that conversation.

 

 

* This incident probably raised my awareness for all the many species of animals here that ‘don’t mean well’, as I would point out to a a friend in the line up some week thereafter. There are many of them to choose from: Sharks (theoretically), crocodiles (quite practically – even in the sea, on some surf beaches too), a nice range of venomous snakes on land and on water, scorpions, spiders, mosquitos with various diseases, or the ever-disgusting and severe-disease-transmitting kissing bug. If you are a turtle, you also tend to hate the vultures which prey on your freshly laid eggs. On the positive side, you will see turtles, pelicans, many different species of birds, howler monkey, sloths… the main thing about the Costa Rican fauna is that it is much richer in both quantity and variety than the central European.

Wrapping up 2015: Surf is no(t the) answer

As this year ends, it is already clear that this will be one I will remember. I incurred the biggest voluntary changes in my life so far in 2015. Did I take these steps and have they already made me so happy I never have any doubts? Not at all. All I know for sure after having dedicated the past six month almost exclusively to surfing: To surf is not the answer.

Surfing took me a lot of places geographically and has helped me win my fears of the ocean mentally. (Although I am sure that a round of cage diving in South Africa would reverse my progress in an instant.) It made me become friends with a lot of great and inspiring people. It made me rediscover my passion for photography. But still: It is not the answer. At least not to my questions.

BB8_2752Maybe it is because I am a mountain person (I’ll find out more about that soon). But more likely, because I was naive. Or had excessive expectations.

While the perdition-o-meter has gauged pretty high levels during the last few weeks here in Costa Rica (touchy locals in Santa Teresa, a trip to Carribean lost-souls-home Puerto Viejo, some intense episodes in my private life), it has made me find a first, deep-felt desire within me. It is called a home. A home at home, in the Tyrolean mountains. I can visualize it.

So maybe it is true, and all the rocking by the waves of the ocean connects us to our subconsciousness, and subsequently to our true emotions?

Happy New Year to you.

Your Gipsy Banker

PS: Thanks for reading my blog in 2015 🙂

 

Moving on (a bit)

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Santa Teresa sits right next to Malpaís at the tip of the Guanancaste peninsula. Costa Rica surf map by Blue Gecko Surfmaps.

Finally, we – that’s Burkhard, Daniel, Daniel’s dad Peter and me – decided to move on. We left Nosara and Guiones Beach to head out to Santa Teresa, at the southern tip of the peninsula of Guanacaste.
We strapped  my 9.6 longboard and the two shortboards to the roof of Peter’s rental 4WD and took off on the dirt road down south.
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A road in very good conditions.

The trip was supposed to last three to four hours.  It ended up taking us about 10 hours on mostly grueling gravel roads with holes the size of a fridge before we finally arrived in Santa Teresa. The first morning session there was a poor one but the evening session was a magic one, glassy water, fun-sized waves and a beautiful sundown.
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Moving on (a bit) too.

Also, this was to be our last evening as a group of four, so we partied a bit. Alcohol consumption has been at record lows on this trip since we have developed a ‘surf nerd’ (quote Burkhard) pattern of getting up early (sometimes as early as 4.30 a.m.) surfing in the morning, surfing in the evening and going straight to bed after dinner.
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Some more pics

I’ve tried to upload some more pics for days… the internet connection is really not that good here. Enjoy.

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Takeoff on a rival peak in the sunset session @ Guiones.

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Catching a wave in the sunset @Guiones.

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Temporarily forbidden wave due to turtle pilgrimage @Ostional.

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Riding our golf cart  in our Ralph Lauren board shorts all the way to Marbella.

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The golf cart crew @Marbella.

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Missing this beauty by a stroke or two @Marbella.

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A clearly frustrated wave warrior @Marbella.

Surfing beats blogging. Nosara, Costa Rica

First lesson for the unexperienced surfing blogger: When what you experience is inspiring and worth telling, it’s hard to make time to write. Or take pictures. Whereas, when you have lots of time and are bored (read: on a plane, in the airport lounges of Munich and Houston), you tend to be little inspired and would end up writing boring self-reflexions. (And you would thank me for not publishing those.)

Yesterday was my first full day in Nosara, and ever since the waves were too good and the water too warm not to hang in there for a daily total of almost six hours. I still don’t have a picture of myself surfing yet (a flaw that needs to be cured asap), but I can honestly say that I did catch a fair share of ca. 2m waves pretty quickly despite not having surfed in months. That’s not due to my extraordinary talent but rather due to the benign nature of the waves at today’s (high tide) morning session.

The sunset session, a matter of low tide, was quite different: steep and powerful waves, still easy to catch, but hard to make something out of with my longboard after the takeoff. The problem with steep waves is that beginners like me have trouble going sideways on the steeper faces. You drop and all of a sudden you are at the bottom of the wave with the board still pointing 90 degrees away from the wave. We’ll see how all of this changes in the 2 months time I have planned to stay here…

A less technical comment about the sunset session: It’s just an enchanting affair, sitting in the warm water, trying to read the waves against the sunlight and even when you have to paddle back out against the white water (i.e. the broken waves), your mood gets lifted by the stunning view of the lips of the incoming waves back-lit by the sun.

 

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Morning glory in Playa del Ostional. (Yeah, this wave will close out, you are right. But if it wouldn’t, I’d be in the water instead of taking pictures.)

The route

Thanks to the Star Alliance Miles & More program (and, very substantially, my former employer) I was able book an around the world ticket. My first destination is the surf of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. After that, I’ll fly out to San Francisco to start my exploration of the Rocky Mountains by skis from Californian Lake Tahoe through British Columbia all the way to the Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska before taking off for Hawaii (you guess the main activity there).I will take a contemplative break in a Japanese Zen monastery in Kioto before entering the Indonesian surfing universe via Singapore. Nostalgia (or lack of a better idea) will see me stop in Mauritius, before hopping over to South Africa for my last stop.

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Leaving Vienna

I’ve been here for 46 somewhat chaotic days now. It took me a while to realize that Vienna, too, was a destination for me, and not anymore – or yet – the ‘home’ as which I liked to remember it. Nevertheless, the time to leave again has come. Daniel is already surfing his first waves in Nosara while I am writing this, and Burkhard will follow soon. Me, I’ll let my family in Tirol and Trentino have a final look at myself before I’ll board a United Airlines flight from Munich to Houston on route to San Jose on December 3.

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Preparations are pretty advanced. So I hope.