The day my brain was body-slammed…

Every now and then an experience really grabs you by the shoulders and shakes the shit out of you. It leaves you questioning everything you know and leads to the reshaping of your conception of the world.

This happened to me recently at the intersection of grace, entertainment, pageantry, athleticism, brute strength and face masks.

There is no other way to say this…I am a HUGE fan of Mexican wrestling.

Now before you think I have gone and lost the plot let me tell you about my experience…

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Enjoying the spectacle with some true fans!

A group of us went to the classic Lucha Libre Show on a Friday night at Arena Mexico in Mexico City. I didn’t think too much about this event before the night and felt it would be a fun cultural experience.

What I got was WAY MORE than that!

We entered the reasonably large arena with a capacity of about 15,000 people and sat in what could only be called, prime seats. The elevated wrestling ring was about 10 metres in front of us and people were still filing in. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or particularly noteworthy…then the lights went down.

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My favourite wrestler in the orange…shimmy, shimmy, shake!! (read on to understand this caption)

A spotlight shone on the arena and announcers appeared in the ring. They began talking to the crowd making note of the matches that we were about to see. Names like Mistico, Último Guerrero, Characteristico, Drágon and Títan were spoken into the microphone and answered with a cheer from their supporters. Seeing the excitement on everyone’s faces from the youngest of the young, to the oldest of the old, I knew we were about to see something special.

Cue laser lights, smoke, music and the crowd goes wild! A figure appeared on a platform at the top of some stairs leading down to the ring with a huge screen displaying a montage of his best wrestling moves behind him. He walks down the stairs, through the “cheerleaders” on the ramp down to the ring and climbs into the arena. He is then followed by his opponent who also displays a perfect amount of peacocking prowess.

Things start off slow, with some slaps of the chest and over acting but very quickly, shit gets real!

People are being lifted into the air and slammed onto the floor. Wrestlers are flying out of the ring and into the crowd. Beer is snatched out of people’s hands by wrestlers and thrown at their opponents. Masks are attempted to be ripped off and Little people in unusual costumes are standing as wrestler mascots. The crowd is cheering for their favourite wrestler and scathing of his opponents.

But you would be a fool to think that things remained one-on-one. No, no. As the night progressed we would see teams of two and three battle it out to evidently very loose rules. At times the referee would allow three people to beat one person into the floor while his teammates were not able to do a thing and had to watch on from outside the ring!?!?

The crowd really was the extra person doing battle throughout the show. Hanging on with bated breath to see who would be flipped, rolled, stomped on, thrown out of the ring or body slammed. Then shouting disapproval or approval of the pain inflicted. It really did not matter that everything was fake and set up…this was awesome!

Needless to say, after yelling “this is the best night of my life” within 5 min of the show beginning I knew I would be back. I went three times in about 6 weeks…and I WOULD DO IT AGAIN!!

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The incredible tacos outside of the arena area are also a brilliant drawcard!

Here are some of the highlights for me during my three adventures out to Arena Mexico:

  • Seeing 140kg kegs of men flying out of a ring to take down wrestlers standing on the ground outside the arena
  • Watching people going absolutely nuts while chanting for their favorite “Luchador”. They would also chant:
    • Cuuleerrrroooo (Culero) – coward or f*cking arsehole
    • Putooooohhooo (Puto) – literally, male prostitute
    • Chinga tu madre – F*ck your mother
  • Seeing a streaker run into the ring only to later find out he was a friend-of-a-friend
  • Seeing a “little person” get knocked out by a wayward kick to the head. I know that sounds very controversial and politically incorrect but the pure outrageousness of it is impossible to ignore. Seeing him slung over a security guard’s shoulder and carted out of the arena with his head and arms flopping down on this man’s back made me 100% certain that I was in an alternate universe
  • Último Guerrero (Last Warrior), my second favourite wrestler, the man with possibly the worst hairstyle of all time but also one of the greatest people living, turning to the crowd while pumping his arms above his head, hopping up and down getting everyone to chant “HOU, HOU, HOU, HOU” along with him. I did it in the arena with the crowd and outside of the arena on the street…this has continued weeks after the event, in random places…I might have just done it now while writing this
  • Winning $1USD in a bet on Último Guerrero’s team taking out a 3-on-3 match
  • Watching my favourite wrestler, who I don’t know the name of, completing some huge moves, then see him turn to the crowd, shimmy, and then shoot a victorious arm in the air making a “peace” sign pointed to the sky. Inspirational stuff from an absolute legend, and another move that I have added to my repertoire (see the video through until the end to see this guy in action!)

So as you can tell I am a big fan of the Lucha Libre show. If you get a chance to get out to one of the events at Arena Mexico in Mexico City, DO NOT THINK TWICE! It was outrageous, hilarious, nonsensical, and pretty much the most entertaining thing I have ever seen. I even managed to change some of the biggest sceptics of the sport into supporters, not only of the wrestling but also of me replicating their moves.

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time.

Much love,
Nick

Musings in Mexico – Adios!

After 12 months of travelling with Remote Year it was now the final month. The culmination of a year of jumping around the world and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to finish up.

There are a few important things to know about Mexico City…

  1. Tacos rule for several reasons. They are cheap, they are tasty, they are life (and best at The Flying Cat taco stand in Roma Norte)
  2. Tequila is not the way to go in Mexico. Mezcal is the drink of choice (Fun Fact: Tequila is a type of Mezcal and I know a special way of really tasting it)
  3. The city is actually built on swamp so if it feels like your building is shaking when a heavy truck lumbers past…that is because it is!
  4. Mexican food is amazing and not always folded
  5. You MUST go and see a Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling show. More on that in another post…

I had a blast in this HUGE city, with so much to see and experience, farewells to be had and organising what was going to happen at the end of this structured travel program, there was a lot to get on top of!

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Just hanging with these legends!

From the video in this post, you will see us all having a good time and life would seem to have been a lot of fun, which it was, but it was also a very weird month. Everyone was talking about what they were going to do after our little travel bubble burst and we all were to head our separate ways. Don’t get me wrong, we DID have an awesome time but for me there was a foreboding undercurrent of impending separation.

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Mexican party boats…they see me trollin…

Some of this separation was probably welcome for some, as it is impossible to be best friends with everyone in a group of 50 people, but there were a few things that really smacked me in the face.

It was weird to come to terms with this being the end of the road with Remote Year. The 12 months was almost long enough to create the illusion that it may just never end…

It was strange to think that I would no longer have two awesome people, our program leaders, Michelle and Chrissy, making sure that all our travel needs were sorted. No more safety net. It is amazing how we can easily become used to having a “blankie”. For my last 12 months this “blankie” came in the form of a Chicagoan Champion, Chrissy and a Lancaster Las, Michelle. Legends of the game. Much love always!

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Chrissy and Michelle…heroes!

I also found that throughout the month people were discussing the concept of time and how we felt that time had flown but also ground on at certain points. Days would be long, but weeks would fly, months would disappear and the year, well, blink and you would have missed it.

Something that I think many were fearful of was just stepping back into their old life and everything would seem like a dream. I am still travelling now throughout the USA so have delayed that feeling for the moment, but already my adventures on Remote Year do seem to be a weird real dream. They happened, but did they? Who were those people? Wasn’t I meant to find myself over these last twelve months? Why don’t I have all the answers?

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Oyster bar dinner? Why not?

In between the catch-ups, farewells and exploring the city I did think a few times that a particular moment could be the last meaningful time I would spend with someone or I would look around at a group event and wonder how or why I hadn’t got to know certain people better.

I think that throughout the entire year I had a feeling that no matter what happened I would have time…tomorrow, next week, next month…to get what I was here to get out of this experience. But I wondered if at any time before or during the year of travel if I could ever really define exactly what that was?…after a lot of thinking about this, the simple answer to that is…no.

When I was staring down the barrel of the end of the year of travel, I realised that that “time”, that epiphany, that lighting bold of understanding would never come, and it got me questioning things. I found myself looking back and felt that I should have gotten more from the year. That having “gotten more” is what would have alleviated this feeling. More close friends, more trips to more exotic places, more memorable evenings, more, more, more. It felt like I was longing for another experience that I had missed, but was unable to define in any significant way.

A long time ago I heard a quote that really stuck with me.

“Comparison is the death of joy”

I have been thinking about comparison lately. It is not uncommon to have expectations and then be upset when they are not met. What is dangerous, and also not that uncommon, is when we are dissatisfied but cannot really define what that mental image, what that expectation actually was. The idea of comparing your lived experiences with an abstract expectation is ludicrous but we do it all the time, often without realising it. You know you are doing this when you hear yourself say “it should be different” or “it wasn’t meant to be like this” but have no idea what “different” or “this” actually look like.

I think that before the year started I felt by the end of the 12 months, I would have figured “it” out, without knowing what “it” was. It is like trying to answer a maths question without knowing what the equation is.

Maths teacher: “Solve this equation”

Student: “What is the question”

Maths teacher: “It’s on the board”

Student: “There is nothing on the board”

Maths teacher: “But what is the answer”

Student: “I am not sure, maybe 27”

Maths teacher: “Wrong!!”

Student: “…Okayyy….?”

Over the past few weeks I have begun to wrestle this unease of sorts to the ground and started to realise that in the end, the year was what it was, no more, no less, it just was my experience and that’s it, and that’s awesome. I am continuing to try and apply this philosophy to the rest of my life because I think that in the end, this will lead to true contentment. I don’t know what the “maths question” was or is, but I feel the answer was, and will be, the experience I had. If that makes sense.

This is not to say that we should not try and make things better or be clear on what we want to achieve, I guess it is mostly about being at peace with what your experience was, being at peace with your past.

No special reflective stuff in this post, I feel I have written a pretty reflective post right the way through in the end! Hope you enjoyed the intensity (the next one is not this deep!).

Up next, how Mexican wrestling changed my life!

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time!

Much love,

Nick

So…Cold or Hot Farm?

Bogota seemed like a good time for a bit of relaxation before the final month of Remote Year in Mexico City.

It kinda did…kinda didn’t work out that way.

After arriving in town, it was time to head straight out to Anapoima. Why head out to a random town over 3 hours outside of Bogota you ask? Well, my all-American, Bud Light drinking, football loving, red-white-and-blue bleeding buddy Ryan has a surprise Colombian connection. His uncle Charlie not only loves my name due to the clip below but was born in Bogota and has a lot of family around town. They just so happened to have a couple of holiday farms (or “fincas”) that we were obliged to check out.

So after a day that involved 2 ubers, a flight, a traditional taxi (yep lets shake it up!) and a 3 hour bus ride that turned into 4 hours due to…Colombia, I arrived at the farm at about 8pm ready to meet the crew.

And what a meeting it was!! I cannot thank everyone enough for the time at the farm. The way I was welcomed was something special. We ate, drank and were merry. It was a great time!

Speaking of special, this farm was pretty impressive. You know those farms that have a pool, volleyball court, outdoor pool table under a large cabana, table tennis table, basketball ring setup, pond with a deck fully equipped with hammocks, oh and an indoor shower on the top level of the house that had no ceiling…it was one of those! Check out the video to really get what I am talking about here! This was the hot farm, the one for summer days, and it was awesome.

Just chillin’ in the pool at the hot farm…

We then made our way back to Bogota and before we knew it…it was time to head out to the cold farm. The one for winter days. Equally as amazing in different ways!

I got to spend time now with the extended family eating traditional Colombian soup, playing the traditional Colombian sport of Tejo and going for traditional Colombian walks around the grounds (these may have just been normal walks).

Hanging with the family at the “cold” farm

Again, an awesome day was had by all and on the way back home we of course had to discuss, what was our favourite? Hot farm or Cold farm? That is the question! For me it was the hot farm. With a pool and a bunch of sporting activities I couldn’t go past it.

The rest of my time in Bogota went by fairly well. I was working a bit, seeing some of the sights and did manage to chill out. The weather was not the greatest so dare I say, a few Netflix sessions were had! (I now know much more about WWII after watching a documentary series on it)

Probably one of my favourite nights of my travels thus far did happen in Bogota though. Myself and 3 of my travel companions went out to meet a true local at her house to cook some traditional food. Maria Alejandra did not speak any English and with our Spanish not the best we knew it would be an interesting evening of communication. She talked to us about the different food from various regions in Colombia, gave us details of what she was going to make for us, got us involved in the cooking and even liquored us up with some aguardiente. By the end of the night we were speaking fluent Spanglish, had talked about where we were all from, knew all about her family and just stopped short of organising a trip for her to visit Australia.

From left to right: Avanti, Rachel, Maria Alejandra, Nicole and I
The main event for the evening!

The food was excellent and the company even better! Gracias Maria Alejandra!

The reflective stuff

It is amazing to experience the kindness and openness of others at any time but especially when you are travelling. It had been a while since I had been in a truly family environment after last seeing my family in August. To the Dunns, the Ydoate’s and Ospina’s, thankyou! Muchisimas gracias! I couldn’t do much more than send you the drone footage that I took of both farms to show my appreciation, but please know that I am truly thankful for everything.

Also, you never know when a stupid idea could really take off and lead to something hilariously special. If you had told me a year ago that I would be running an aqua aerobics class with a friend of mine, for his immediate and extended family on a farm, some 3 hours outside of Bogota I would have never believed you…but believe me…it happened!

Also, I just wanted to post this photo of my friend Spencer and Mike. Mike never likes to be a photo and Spencer is never smiling nicely in one. Spencer is also the biggest troll I know. For me this photo has it all, including a big black dog!

Smiling Spencer, Mike and I

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time!

Dead Man Walking – farewell to our dear Scottish Prince

For most people, the closest they ever get to seeing a dead man walking would be while sitting on the couch watching Game of Thrones, or maybe during a horror movie snuggled up next to a loved one, or potentially in a dream in the early hours of the morning. There are only a few people who have not only seen, but partied with a dead man, I can confidently say that I am now part of this group…

When I first met young Richard McDonald he was very much alive. He had a zest for life. He was a storyteller. A ladies man. A former athlete. An Instagram creep. Some may say he was a virile man. I wish that you could have met him in his prime, I know I wish I did, according to his stories, he was a sight to behold.

Over 10 months or so, Rich and I shared some great times together. In many respects, he was the younger brother I never had who was 8 years my senior. On a night out, Rich was the captain and I was a poor excuse for a first mate. We also had a friend Ryan who would usually find himself overboard, but that is a story for another day.

The three amigos (Ryan sans life-vest)

Rich was a fan of adventure, but never two nights in a row. Hangovers hit harder these days. He would not suffer fools, but was always up for educating people on his favourite topic, the stock market. Whether we were walking the streets of Prague or driving in a van through the desert in Morocco, you could definitely say that Rich was an educator.

You may think that some of this is painting a slightly less than positive image of the dearly departed Rich Mac. You would be wrong, Rich came as a package, and even if you didn’t agree with all of him you couldn’t go past the amazing generosity, warm nature, inquisitiveness and openness that made up the rest of the man.

I knew we had lost Rich a few months before the funeral. He decided that he would be sailing back home, back to the UK, back to the rain and darkness. Some thought that the light and warmth that Rich brought to any situation would help thaw the cold of London but I knew that even for him, it would be a tough task…this was the end.

While we still had him, we decided to make sure he knew he was loved. We organised what Rich understood to be a casual dinner. Just Rich, myself and Ryan wearing his life-vest. Tacos were on the menu and we all enjoyed a beer or two. In classic Rich style, he was up for something sweet after dinner. Her name was not Brenda, or Flor, or Fernanda, or Allesandra, he wanted a waffle or crepe to close out this Thursday night before the voyage back home began the next day.

This was not how things were going to turn out…

We walked up the street with Rich thinking dessert was on the cards only for him to notice a big party bus (otherwise known as the “funeral home”) parked on the side of the road. When he saw it, he laughed at the image on the back, made a wise crack about how the picture of Jesus looked like me, not knowing that the image of the messiah on this bus could not be more appropriate.

I for one was comforted to know that the messiah was with Rich on his final journey

As we got closer and closer, reality set in. Richard could see everyone who he had travelled with for almost a year waiting for him to board the bus. He was shocked and uncertain, tried to resist the pull of the grim reaper and found himself cemented to the spot. However, in the end, you cannot cheat death, it comes for all of us and it was Rich’s time. So with a gentle push, I guided him onboard and to the sound of melancholic bagpipes from his homeland, we laid him down to rest.

It was time for the ceremony to begin. I called for everyone’s attention and the congregation fell silent. Ryan read a lovely eulogy, fit only for the best. People wept at his fine words, laughed at the memories he recalled of the good times and were perplexed by his life-vest.

Dead or alive, he always wore a smile

Rich lay motionless on the floor of the party bus and everyone pulled out their funeral cards. I think we all took a moment to look at his beautiful face on one side of the card, taking in those piercing eyes for one last time before turning it over and reading out The Lord’s Prayer…

That was when Rich’s tears began. The cold hard truth of his demise hit him right in the chest, in his heart, in his spirit. His naked emotions exposed like his naked body was to his final lover. But this was when the night got truly weird…

Richard rose from the dead!

We don’t know if it was the music, the booze, the bus or the impending adult entertainment that made him stand to attention, but he rose from the dead. The night was one to remember with people dancing on top of the bus, reggaeton music blaring and feminists cheering on strippers.

It was only fitting that the night ended where so many of my other nights with Rich ended, at a night club. Being Thursday it was a quiet night for the club, who even on Saturday’s were not used to the undead walking through the door, but we continued on until the early hours just the way Rich would have wanted!

Nightclub backdrop for our last photo together, rest in peace our Scottish Prince

Later in the evening Ryan had well and truly slipped overboard with the life-vest unable to keep him afloat. True to custom I made sure to get him home. Rich was standing on the corner of the street while myself and Ryan drove past waving at him in a cab. Not the way I envisaged saying goodbye but sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you expect.

Farewell friend, you will be missed. We almost made it to a full year together, only for you to stumble at the final hurdle. I hope we get to see each other in the life to come, and for your sake, I pray that there is a nightclub in hell, because we both know that’s where you are going.

As always, take what you will from this post and good luck if you run into the undead in your travels.

Much love,

Nick

 

Medellin Madness

It has been little while since I last posted an update so here we go!

After 30th celebrations and enjoying the coastline of Lima it was time to say “Adios Peru” and “Hola Colombia”. I was especially excited for this as it gave me the chance to catch up with an old university friend from when I studied in Copenhagen way back in 2011. Alejandro, it was a pleasure, you haven’t changed at all, which makes me wonder why we are still friends?  I have to admit that Alejandro was a pretty good host and I couldn’t imagine anyone better to drink ridiculous alcoholic concoctions with while riding horses through the Colombian countryside! Feliz cumpleaños!

Alcohol, a few friends, 11 horses and a donkey. Not a bad afternoon!

Aside from catching up with old friends Medellin has a lot to offer. I do feel sorry for the “paisa’s” (people from Medellin) who constantly have to hear about Pablo Escobar. It is seriously amazing to see how the city is coming back. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Comuna 13. Only 5 years ago it was too dangerous to enter this area of the city, think Brazilian favela. Now they run tours in the comuna, speak freely about its history, have breakdancers performing all over the place and the street art is impressive!

Jamie being a star! Peace!

We also got to play tejo, a traditional Colombian game which is kind of like explosive bocce. Hit the little gun powder sachets with your heavy metal “tejo” and BOOM!! I don’t think there would be many things better in sport than when you throw something and cause an explosion (check out the video!)

There were side trips out to Santa Fe de Antioquia with two of my favorite gals Michelle and Chrissy, and even a waterfall rappel on the outskirts of the city.

Chrissy “fixing” our van that broke down on the way back from Santa Fe De Antioquia

When you go to Medellin you cannot leave until you have visited Guatape and climbed the 600 or so steps to get to the top of El Peñol. The glute busting hike is worth it for the views at the top. They say that it is the best view in the world, and it is pretty special, but “they” obviously have not been to Australia!

I realised that I didn’t get any good photos from the top, so here is one of myself and Ryan in the carpark…you get the idea

We also stayed out at Guatape at a friend of a friend’s hostel. Rafa was the ultimate host, taking care of us at his amazing new setup right on the water. We got to hang out with his family, eat delicious food, visit tiny towns and ride on the top of this car. Muchissimas gracias Rafa!!

Hanging with Rafa and the family just outside the little town of San Rafael

A huge highlight for me was finding my favourite place in the city. A spot called El Social. If you want a great local, fun, casual experience, look no further. This bar was the best, especially after a bit of aguardiente! Honourable mention must go to “La Cabana de Recuerdo”, a little traditional place in Envigado with 6 older gentlemen singing classic songs and playing guitar all night. They were only outdone by the matriarch of the bar who got up to sing a song every now and then to make sure everyone knew who was boss!

Hanging with the crew at El Social. Juan (bottom right) broke his chair and fell on the floor while getting in position for the photo and decided to stay there!

A word of warning when walking around the streets in the centre of town. This is not regarding pick pockets or any other traditional awareness that you need to have. The most important thing to be mindful of as a relatively young man are middle aged, very forward, Colombian women. You know you are alive when they look you straight in the eye and yell “oooohhhhh GRINGO BUENO!!”. My friend Brendan and I laughed it off but truth be told…I know I was a touch afraid! Justified…I think…

Probably one of the funniest stories of the month was meeting a connection to Valencia. It seems that there is no way that I can escape the pull of that city! We were sitting at a fast food joint at 2am only for two extremely drunk couples to walk into the place. I was there with my two housemates and after a few minutes one of the girls decided to sit at our table…the guy who we thought was her boyfriend was not impressed!

Anyway, after a few minutes of chatting it turns out she is from Valencia, her sister dated one of my good friends Pascual and she may/or may not have stolen a cheeky kiss from another friend of mine in the group. After this realisation we sent a photo to the Valencia crew who were very impressed. Finally, we found out that we lived in the same building, on the same floor across the hall from each other. The world is big but oh so small!

The people you meet at 2:30am!

The reflective stuff

Just a short one this post – You never know who you will meet and the connections you will make in the most unassuming of places (e.g. a fast food place at 2am) so be open, be friendly and welcome the unexpected!

Also, give back. Helping to build a vegetable garden for the kids at a local school was awesome. Good luck Las Golondrinas!

I want to thank the two idiots that I lived with during the month, Ryan and Will. I knew I would get an insight into American culture with these two and can I just say…it was an education. You are both clowns!

One final thing to mention is that I saw a dead man walking in Medellin, more on this in my next post…

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time!

Much love,

Nick

Lima, Lima, Lima…January, my 30th Birthday Month

So 2017 turned into 2018, and 29 turned into 30 soon thereafter! Hopefully you have seen my last blog about the lessons I have learnt at the age of 30, if not check it out here.

As for January…it was all about Peru!

So to cover the standard questions.

  • No, I did not go to Cusco, do the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu. I did it 3 years ago and yes, it was awesome!
  • Yes, I did eat a lot of ceviche…and loved it
  • No, I didn’t get robbed in Lima. The place is brilliant!

First thing to be said about Lima, it was fantastic to be back on the coast. Being from Sydney, I have always had the coast nearby and even if I couldn’t physically see the water simply knowing it was there had a calming effect. Looking back on the places I have been in the last year or so, this month in Lima was the first time since July (in Valencia) that I have been back near the water and boy was it welcome!

Lima, coastline, surfers…what more could you want?

The best part about being on this coast was we were able to surf at the beaches in the city! I am not a great surfer but I gave it a red hot go, ended up becoming friends with Fernando down at Makaja beach, a 10min walk from my apartment, and was shredding in no time! (By shredding I mean avoiding waves too big for me and getting up on ones I could handle)

I also wanted to do something special for my 30th birthday and saw that the longest (not the largest) wave in the world was 8 hours north of Lima in a little town called Chicama. So I assembled a crew and off we went. Overnight bus into Huanchaco, chill out on the beach for a few days in a sweet apartment and then out to the wave in Chicama on my birthday.

The crew cruising on the Chicama break with our local guide Diego . Shaka’s getting thrown out for the longest wave in the world!

First thing that I learnt as a 30-year-old was just because it is the longest wave in the world doesn’t mean that you will be able to ride it for the longest time. If you were an average surfer yesterday at the age of 29 you will most likely be the same average surfer the next day at the age of 30. I did manage to get up on the wave and in the video above, there is some average footage of an average surfer on a sweet wave. That surfer, you guessed it, is me!

I have to say a massive thankyou to Geraldine, Michelle and Ryan for everything throughout the days we were up in Huanchaco for my birthday getaway. Super chilled and a lot of fun. I can’t imagine having more fun with 3 other people dancing drunkenly in a small surf hostel until the early hours of the morning.

Geraldine, Ryan and Michelle. So much love for these legends! Great crew for my 30th!

And while we are doing public thanks, a HUGE thankyou to everyone who contributed to videos and sent messages for my 30th. I loved it! An especially big thank you must go to my sisters who put together no less than an hour and 8 min feature length film of people wishing me all the best. I loved it!

Finally, there are two things I should probably mention.

  • I landed a part time remote job where I will be working to help victims of human trafficking and slavery find remote work. The company is still being put together but definitely a great thing to be involved in
  • I went to the number 5 restaurant in the world, Central. Good but not great, definitely an experience. Was it just that my palate was not used to the different flavours? I had a similar experience at Noma (former number 1 restaurant in the world). It left a hole in my wallet but eating at a place like this every 7 years I think is ok!
Chillin’ at Central with head chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz

The reflective stuff

I had a goal for my birthday, that was to do something that I would never forget. Surfing on the longest wave in the world I think classifies as an unforgettable day. There is something to be said about achieving small goals like this in your everyday life. Often, it feels like we look back at what we have achieved, think of the big things and remember how awesome, draining or satisfying they were. These achievements can seem like grandiose feats where we really needed to strive to succeed. At times this view of the past can make it challenging to think about what we can achieve in the future, due to the effort we perceived we exerted previously for success. We can easily forget exactly what went into these successes though.

Just tickin’ of those bucket list items with these legends!

When I recently reflected on this, and really thought a bit about it,  I found that for many things, what it takes to achieve something is simply organisation and sustained commitment. And often, not much more than that.

I looked back and it felt that even for the big things it really can be boiled down to me doing the stuff I needed to do, doing it when I needed to do it, and not quavering in the face of challenges. This realisation should fuel us all to get where we need to go. Just a thought, take what you will from it.

Also, I have said this before, but your life really is made up of people and not much else. It was crazy to watch a video for over an hour with people from various stages and parts of my life. Family, friends, university, football, work. These clips were made by people all over the world who are important to me and for them to take a moment to send me a little message to wish me all the best was something that was unforgettable and seriously humbling.

So good to have locals in town. Thanks Luke and Elyse for a touch of home!

Thanks to everyone who made the month what it was especially our local contact in Lima,  Gabriel, the other Remote Year group Kublai (who were also in town), some special guests from home, Elyse and Luke, as well as everyone already mentioned in this post. It has been real!

Thanks for everything Gabriel! Looking forward to the next surf together brother!

As always, take what you will from this post and catch you next time!

Cheers,

Nick

 

 

 

Nick’s 10 tips at the ripe old age of 30

So I just turned 30…the big 3-0, the third level, the new 20 so they say…

I thought that it would be a good time to reflect on what it is that I have picked up in the last 30 years that could be of value. I also am writing this so as a 60 year old I can reflect on what I learnt, or thought I learnt…

I’ll go from the least “deep” to the most “deep”, so strap yourselves in (for just a few minutes)

Nick Tip 1: Sleep with your phone off and out of reach

This was one that I was really good at when I was back home because I had a good old alarm clock. Travelling though, your phone kind of becomes your everything, including your alarm clock. However, having it on and next to your bed does make it easier to justify those facebook/Instagram sessions late at night and first thing in the morning…

But Nick, what about emergencies? I can tell you, as someone who has just slept through an earthquake with a housemate yelling at me to wake up that I will most likely be completely useless in an early morning emergency. Also, doesn’t everyone have their phone on silent? That buzz is most likely not gonna wake you.

So, unless you have a pregnant wife, sick partner in hospital or are a doctor on call, do yourself a favour and switch your phone off when you sleep or at least put it in airplane mode. Plus, switching it off for 8 hours a day will most likely increase the life of your phone. Boom!

Nick Tip 2: Take care of your teeth

One of the best ways to save a big bill at the dentist, and everyone likes nice teeth! We will come back to this one.

Just a couple of handsome gentlemen flashing their pearly whites!

Nick Tip 3: Don’t pay much attention to social media

Ironic I know, as you probably found this link on some form of social media. But you only see the top 2% of people’s lives online. Therefore seeing 50 of your friends top 2% makes you feel like everyone is having a great time 100% of the time (don’t question my maths). In reality, their reality is similar to yours.

We all do this, you won’t be able to find anything on my social media pages detailing visits to the doctor, my gradually diminishing savings balance or just general uncertainty about life. Make sure you keep the 2% in mind when perusing your social media.

Nick Tip 4: Donate your time to something worthwhile

Don’t think I really need to go into this too much but I remember the Christmas where I realised I really didn’t need anything and got more joy out of giving gifts. I don’t say this to sound like a saint, it just happened and I remember it clearly.

Whether it be dogs, the elderly, a hospital, youth programs, whatever floats your boat, get out there and get those warm and fuzzies people!

Nick Tip 5: Sometimes things don’t work, and dude…that’s cool

Try, try, try again they say. Try some more. Persevere! Absolutely….but also….

In the words of Clint Eastwood, “A man has gotta know his limitations”. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is step away from a situation or goal, this allows you to focus on other things that are very deserving of your time.

Giving up playing football seriously was hard for me, coz it was all I knew for a long time. Then I started playing with my close friends, had beers after the game and had more time for my family and friends, started playing bass guitar and everything else you can do with an extra night a week where I wasn’t training, as well as saving hours of travel on the weekend playing locally rather than all over the city!

Nick Tip 6: Listen to your body

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Go and see a doctor. I am pedantic about this stuff to the point where I think I have caused some psychosomatic health issues for myself (try steer clear of that though).

As my grandfather used to say though, 90% of recovery is the correct diagnosis. Hardly the ancient greek wisdom that Stelios Vianellos was famous for but you can’t argue with it!

Nick tip 7: Embrace the weirdness of goodbyes

I love airports, bus stations, train stations basically any place that involves a lot of people moving places. It excites me to see everyone on their own mission to get somewhere. In the last 10 years I have experienced some goodbyes in these locations, which obviously makes a lot of sense. I revisited Stazione Central in Milan after a heartfelt goodbye there 9 years prior and it was a strange feeling to be back. Strange to think that life had changed so much and so little. I did just stand there and take it in for a second. (Told you it would get deep!)

Having said that, some goodbyes have happened at the most unusual moments, on a random street corner, in a back room of a bar or even happened and I didn’t realise that it would be the last time to see these people or a specific person. That last situation can the best, most natural and least dramatic.

It is weird to be standing opposite someone staring down the barrel of the real possibility of never spending time with that person again. All I can say is try to embrace the weirdness, say what you need to say and enjoy that moment with them.

After travelling with this guy for the last 9 months I will sadly be saying bye to someone who I know will be a lifelong friend

Nick tip 8: Remember that your past is as significant as you make it

I spent a lot of time, especially in my early 20’s, thinking about things that happened in the past. Stuff that happened at school or with significant others really had an impact on me. It wasn’t until I realised that it was me who was creating this kind of unhappiness and that I could see things for what they were, nowhere near as significant as I made them.

After that…life became a lot easier!

We all have our own shit to deal with. Relative to someone else your shit might be a bit less than their shit. Irrespective of that, shit is shit and you gotta clean up your own as best you can. Try take the significance out of it.

Nick tip 9: Be content

In keeping with the shit theme from my last point, shit happens, more than you realise. Just have a think back and each year you can probably see a health issue that held you back, a relationship breakdown (romantic or not) that fell apart and affected you, something career wise that was a little less than good or a combination of them all. The list goes on.

Recognising that these things happen should make you truly appreciative of the moments when everything is just right. We are in a constant state of change and transformation, nothing is forever so when all the pieces are fitting together, relish it, cos my friend, most likely the puzzle will change!

When things are working out pretty well, enjoy it! Even if you are just going for a random walk in the Bulgarian woods

Nick tip 10: Know you have an impact

I am not saying this in a grandiose “you can impact the world” kind of way. You can, and you should but here I am saying it in a “speak kindly to the guy serving you at the café” kind of way. Simply being polite and demonstrating some self-awareness (which ironically seems to be mostly about how you interact with others) ensures your good vibes ripple out into the world.

I also feel that we have a huge impact on ourselves. Seems logical but for instance if you have said that you will take care of your teeth and never floss, then every day you have evidence that you don’t do what you say you will do. This is not good for us, shows how fragile our integrity can be, and can ripple into other parts of our lives.

So recognise your impact on others and yourself, and floss your teeth. Told you we would come back to this one!

As always, take what you will from this post. Hope you enjoyed it!

Much love,

30 year old Nick

(amazing how this all came to me in a flash, just as I ticked over the age of 30!)

 

 

Soy Argentino, soy Cordobés!

So after a massive month in Buenos Aires it was time for a change of scenery and a bit of chill time in Cordoba. For those who haven’t heard too much about Cordoba, it is the second largest city in Argentina and is located in the heart of the country.

First thing I noticed about Cordoba was it was BLOODY HOT!! Not being on the coast or by a large body of water, as well as us having no air conditioning in our apartment, made for a pretty steamy month of December.

The difference between Buenos Aires and Cordoba was drastic. The city was less frenetic, the people were super welcoming and dare I say there was a little bit of a relaxed country feel going on. I needed a bit of down time and Cordoba, you had me a “hola”!

So what the hell happened here? Well, let’s get into it!

Hablas español?
I love the Spanish language and wanted to get past the basics. After 2 weeks of intensive language classes my Spanish definitely improved and the confidence is up. I am still not comfortable with people saying that I “speak fluent Spanish”, I am absolutely far from it, but if you need someone to fumble through something for you I might just be your guy! Thanks so much to Santiago and Pamela for helping this gringo out!

The language school crew!

Everywhere we have been I have met some awesome people. And Cordoba, you delivered the goods! Coti and Jou, our contacts in town, really did sort us out with everything we could need. On one of our first night’s in the city Coti had dinner with myself and my two friends Mike and Josh. We proceeded straight past the small talk and got into solving the world’s problems. I knew immediately how much of a hero she was! Not to be outdone, with Jou, from the first handshake, fist bump and football chat I knew I was onto a winner!

Jou, myself, Coti and good ol’ Michelle

Sometimes you are lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with good people. At other times, the interaction is brief but the impression is great.

A group of us headed out a couple of times to the Argentinian countryside, (the Sierras) with a proper gaucho (Argentinian Cowboy). Marcos was one of the most welcoming guys you could imagine. We met in mid-December and he couldn’t believe how much of the asado I ate. We then met again on Boxing Day where he hosted us for the night. When we saw each other for the second time he embraced me with a big hug and an “ohhhh amigoooo” as if we had known each other for years. One of the biggest privileges of the month was him allowing me to cut my own piece of meat from the asado he prepared for myself and 20 other people. Huge moment, huge memory, hugely Argentinian!

Hanging with the gaucho of all gauchos Marcos and our other host Cesar while drinking fernet and coke out of a cutoff coke bottle

Speaking of being Argentinian, there is a tradition in Cordoba that I absolutely love. When students graduate from university their friends take them out onto the street, cover them in flour, juice, eggs, champagne, pasta sauce (you get the picture) and then parade them around the street in the back of a car. With us being in Cordoba at the end of the calendar and academic year, we would see this happen every day. 

Coti thought it would be a great idea to do this with us. I was up for giving it a go and thought that I could use this as my graduation from Argentina. Check out the video to see how this panned out!

Successfully graduated from Argentina

Who doesn’t like Christmas?
We had a big Christmas celebration on the 24th of December. This was perfect timing for me as it was at the same time that everyone back in Sydney was celebrating Christmas day. I managed to avoid a lot of the Christmas separation sadness by spending time with everyone and working away on the grill for 3 hours. We ate, we drank, we were merry!

Just me, a grill and an idiot…

Now I couldn’t leave Argentina without playing a little bit of football. Through my friend Christian from my Spanish class I was able to play a game with a heap of Argentinians. It was probably my most Argentinian moment ever! We even experienced a box of fireworks go off accidentally on the field next to us. You know you are alive when you have a firework explode about 5 metres from you after a football match!

Finally, they say that you are not truly part of Cordoba until you are given a nickname from the locals. After running around on the soccer field with this group of Argentinian legends I was referred to as “Flaco” (the “skinny one”). Between that and my Argentinian graduation, I feel pretty comfortable calling Cordoba home.

The reflective stuff

You never really know what you are going to get from a place. I loved aspects of Cordoba and wasn’t a fan of others. Having said that, I know I would never have come to Cordoba if it was not for it being on our Remote Year itinerary. Now that would have been a tragedy. I would not have met the people I met, cooked with a gaucho, improved my Spanish and ultimately graduated from Argentina!

It is a cliché but remember be open, be interested and be inquisitive, you never know what is on the other side of the door.

On to Lima!

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time!

Did somebody say Asado?

Well what can I say, another month, another continent! Time to leave Europe and North Africa and head to South America! The 14 hour flight from hell on Alitalia was well worth it!

First things first, being in a city where I can understand basic conversation is a huge win! In the last few months in Morocco, Serbia and Bulgaria I became really good at looking at people with a smile and a subtle shake of the head trying to communicate “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy”. My Arabic, French, Serbian and Bulgarian are non-existent so being in Argentina, this was a nice change!

As for Buenos Aires itself…what can I say?

Representing Valencia in Buenos Aires

One of the first things that come to mind is MEAT! Choripan (chorizo on a roll, but it is so much more than that!) and the mind blowing asado for me ARE Argentina. I became a regular frequenter of the local choripan place near our workspace and ate more than my fair share of steak.

Lesson from this meal…make sure you actually confirm you have ordered parrilla mix rather than just drink beers for an hour-and-a-half, apologies boys!

A culinary surprise for me were definitely the mollejas/sweetbreads/gizzards. Yep you read that right. One of the best things I have ever eaten were the sweetbreads from La Carneceria next door to our apartment building. Sweetbreads cooked on the barbecue with a sweet glaze on sweet corn bread, duuuuddeeee, sweeeeeeet!

La Carneceria changed me for the better, sweetbreads for life!

But what would Argentina be without a little football? I managed to get to three Argentinian Primera División matches involving Banfield, Boca Juniors and River Plate. At each match we were supporting the home team for a few reasons but the main one being that no away team supporters are allowed in the stadiums. The violent reason behind why this is a rule sucks but I have to say I kinda loved one sided support! The stadium is truly a fortress!

At River Plate’s stadium El Monumental with the boys

Unfortunately it seems like we were bringing some bad luck with us around the stadiums. We went to Banfield with my friend Gerladine’s family (who are awesome!) and in an uninspiring game they drew 0-0 with last placed Temperley. We paid 12 times the face value of the Boca Juniors ticket, had the time of our lives with some of the most intense, awesome fans I have ever seen and they lost 2-1 to Racing Club. We sat high up in the stands watching River Plate and saw them lose 3-1 to Newels Old Boys. I have to give credit to the fans though, they all kept chanting non-stop, especially Boca Juniors. I have never seen a team concede a goal, go behind in the match and after literally 2 seconds of a pause to digest the goal, chant like their lives depended on it. Absolutely brilliant!

Hanging out at one of the spiritual homes of football, La Bombonera!

Like many of the cities we have been in it has been so good to meet new people, whether they be our Remote Year city team (much love to Juli and Santi), people from the workspace that we worked out of, random people we met along the way or friends of friends. I couldn’t have asked for them to be more welcoming and open. Spending time with these locals really defined my experience in Buenos Aires. Thank you guys!

As awesome as meeting new people can be, there are also times where reunions are exactly what you need. Huge shoutout to my friend Gwen’s boyfriend Craig who brought my drone to Buenos Aires with him. Drones are illegal in Morocco so I needed to see how I could get it to Buenos Aires cheaply and safely. In my last couple of days in Belgrade I shipped the drone to Craig in London. He trafficked it across the globe for me without us ever having met. Hands down one of the best guys you will meet! (He also didn’t know about the drugs I had stashed in there)

Ironically one of the best events of our first month in South America was actually a North American celebration! Thanksgiving lunch with everyone was a great experience! This was my first thanksgiving and my American brothers and sisters really did pull out all the stops. The turkey was succulent, the stuffing to die for and we ended up with some sufficiently drunk people in the afternoon due to the all you can drink deal that we struck with the bar who hosted us.

Selfie with the thanksgiving crew

It was awesome to see everybody share their culture with guys like me who have never experienced this holiday. The mood was just perfect and it was great to see the differences and similarities in how people celebrated the day. The key commonality though, seemed to be, just eat and drink as much as you can. Dare I say, after the day was done, I may have felt a little American myself…but let’s not get too carried away!

The reflective stuff

It became clearly apparent to me that we all need to know our limits. I mean this a couple of contexts.

Similarly to Belgrade, Buenos Aires every now and then did a number on us! Being in the pitch black of bars with music blaring, to then walking out into the silent sunlight of the street was something that I never got used to and don’t plan to. It really was off-putting. Also, going to the rooftop of our building at midnight to have a few pre-drinks before entering a club at 3:00am was a battle. Let’s be serious for a second, 3:00am to start your night out is pretty outrageous. I love you Argentina but still don’t understand exactly why this is the case? I know I sound like a grandfather and don’t get me wrong, could do it every now and then but sometimes you need to have an evening where you eat 8 empanadas and watch Netflix (that did happen).

Remember how I said it was great to feel that I could understand the basics of Spanish conversations in the street? Well this basic understanding does not extend to knowledge of the geography of any Spanish speaking city or the ability to communicate detailed directions.

I was hailed over by a middle aged couple in their car and asked for directions. Instead of saying “I’m sorry, I don’t know the city very well” I walked over armed with my basic Spanish and good intentions. I thought I could find the street on google maps and show them how to get there. That plan fell through pretty quickly when I struggled to understand which street they were after and my google search came up with results in another city over 3 hours away. All I could do was revert back to my “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy” face.

Does this mean I won’t continue to try to help people out? No. Did it provide me with enough motivation to enrol into an intensive Spanish language course! Yes! More on that in my next post!

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time.

Much love,

Nick

 

 

 

2 boats, 20 Spaniards…and me! Viva La Brigada!

In the last week of July 2017 I was fortunate enough to spend 7 days at sea with the entire Brigada.

Who are “La Brigada” you ask?

They are the one and only crew you need to know in Spain. For those who follow my posts you will know that I have a special connection with Valencia and this group of guys. You can find out more about La Brigada in this previous post.

As the only non-spanish member of La Brigada I have to thank Pascual and Chimo for opening the door for me to enter the group and invite me along on this trip!

La Brigada!

This adventure was in the works for over 6 months. In January 2016 I was added to a WhatsApp group chat to keep across everything that was happening regarding organisation for the week. I would wake up every day back in Sydney to at least 100 messages in Spanish talking about logistics, boats, food, boat crews and anything else La Brigada oriented. With over 20 people in two sailing boats travelling from the Spanish mainland to Ibiza and Formentera there was a lot to talk about!

After months of planning, the day finally arrived to pick up our boats and sail to the islands. We spent days in the sun, swimming off the back of the boat, going out at night and somehow making our way back to the boat on our little zodiac/dingy in the early hours of the morning.

I debated what was the most appropriate way to write about the week and I felt the best I could do was hit you with a summary of points that will give a feel for what life was like for one week with 20 other guys on two boats.

Out and about at Beso Beach in Formentera with Pepo, Pascual, Chimo, Hugo and Joseka

No shitting on the boat

The first and most important rule of the boat. With one toilet and 10 guys this toilet was about to be destroyed, the boat was going to stink and there would have been some serious hygiene questions asked when we brought the boat back to shore.

We therefore had two options, do your business in a bucket and throw it out the back of the boat or…go for a morning swim and release the demons.

I personally was a fan of the later. Once I got through this the first time I have to say that this became a rite of passage that I looked forward to everyday. Clean snap! Just watch out for where the current takes your efforts, it may pop up a little closer than you expect!

Dare I say, it did become a competition to see who could release the most impressive of demons…

Clean bathroom = a happy crew!

Improvisation and thinking on your feet

Sometimes you cannot find your zodiac/dingy to get you back to your boat. Sometimes you are stranded on a beach at 2am. Sometimes you have to “borrow” another person’s dingy in order to get back to the boat and then find yours later!

Finally, sometimes your name is said by a random Italian girl a few meters away from you, while you are sending a WhatsApp voicenote to your girlfriend. There is then some serious explaining to do (true story, this actually happened to one of the group, an Italian girl was talking to another guy on the beach who coincidently had the same name!! Poor Pablo! To Pablo’s girlfriend, you have to believe him, it was a serious misunderstanding!).

Eating well

One of the most important things to La Brigada is food. We must eat well! From marinated muscles, jamon serrano and beef fillet, we had it all! Special mention must go to our resident chefs for always taking care of business. Chimo, Hugo, Edu and Migel, impresionante!

You gotta eat well to sail well!

Along with the chefs there was also the cleaning crew predominantly made up of myself, Pascual, Pepo and Joseka. Boys well done on getting out the back of the boat and scrubbing those pots, pans and plates. We only lost one plate to the sea as a result of girls in bikinis on other boats distracting us from the cleaning process, which I think we can say was a good result for 7 days!

Enjoy life

Similar to eating well, a key tenant of La Brigada is to enjoy life. Take your time to get from one place to another, eat paella for about 3 hours with your friends and soak in what life has to offer you.

Cheers to you…

I thought that this would also be a good place to highlight a few special awards…

The Piti Master – Pepe – for always making sure not only he, but everyone else had a cigarette when needed

The Naked Man Hugo – I love you brother but I probably saw a bit too much of you. Having said that, thank you for making us all feel very confident to take off our clothes and get back to nature. Pretty much every one of us had an open air naked moment, you are a visionary!

The First-ish matePascual – for always being eager to help, sometimes leading to not so desirable consequences. I think of all of us Pascual was the only one that was “lost at sea” with a broken zodiac and a titanic struggle to find our boat at night. On our last day he even had to swim for 30min to the boat at 10pm to make sure we made it back to Denia on time! A true seaman!

The Man with a PlanChimo – with an amazing ability to not be affected by a late night Chimo was always first up to get us moving, keeping us on schedule and well feed. A true Brigada hero!

The El Capitano Andy – who else could this go to but our “Patron”?!?! We would have been lost without him…and his dance moves

The reflective stuff

Probably my favourite moment of the trip happened while we were cruising from one beach to another at about 10pm at night. Pascual was at the bow of the boat and called me over. We were chatting after having had a few drinks with the boys, could see the lights of the islands and hear the sea gently swooshing under the boat as we sailed along. We both couldn’t really believe that after meeting in Copenhagen studying together 6 years ago we were on a boat sailing off the coast of Spain. Pascual turned to me and said he was really happy I was there, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Additional to this, another member of La Brigada, Edu (Yuyu), came over afterwards just to say he was really happy I was part of the group. This was a relatively new friend who I felt I had known for a long, long time. For me, this is what life is about!

These guys have been so great to me every time I have been in Spain, I cannot be more grateful!

Sure we had fun and partied but this was the best moment for me.

In the words of Hugo, “Viva España, Viva Australia!”

And I might add, “Viva La Brigada!”

As always, take what you will from this post, I hope you enjoy the video, and see you next time!

Nick