Repairing the phone, buying a kitebord, borrowing a tent, researching visas and vaccines, opening accounts, saying goodbyes and countless other tasks kept me busy till the last moment in Bucharest. Friday morning, 7th of August, Alex came to pick me up. I filled his big car with kitesurfing equipment for a month in Gokceada and one backpack for traveling around the world for a year.
Gokceada is a turkish island in Aegean Sea, 700 km drive from Bucharest. It has a few more than 8000 inhabitants. At 30 minutes walk from the small village of Eselek, there is a windy gulf. It is inhabited in summer by a few hundred kitesurfers and windsurfers, living right on the beach in tents and trailers.
We got there late at night and installed our tents while everybody seemed to be asleep. We finished the day with a beer, at Volkite, the only bar on that beach. We sat on some giant pillows and Alex went quiet like he was falling asleep. A moment for me to reflect on the fact that my year-long adventure was just starting. After 12 intense years of projects and short vacations, I will be traveling the world for a year, disconnected from my work in Bucharest.
Each time I had the impulse to prepare the round-the-world-book-writing-trip, I reached the same conclusion: It will not work unless I give it enough clear space in my mind. But my head was filled with the things I needed to accomplish before I could leave. So, I set 20th of July as a deadline to close everything in Bucharest and decided that I would only think about the trip after I get far away.
Gokceada’s kitesurfing gulf is a good, far-away, place for asking the right questions and allow for the space the mind needs to process them. So, I will spend my first month learning kitesurfing, living in a tent on a windy beach and preparing the round the world trip.
First week was about accommodation with three new things:(1) life on the island, (2) being a full time world-explorer and (3) kiteboarding.
The life on the island. Alex, Tibi, Bogdan, Victor – the familiar faces related to my life in Bucharest – left Gokceada this week. I don’t have a car and a few other useful things life on the beach requires. I depend on people I just met for borrowing a pump, sharing a ride to the town to get water and food, with sunscreen and kiteboarding advice and even for a place in the shade. People are helpful to me and to one-another. There are some evenings when 20 people join for a dinner with fish and calamari cooked on the spot and there are spontaneous morning gatherings around tea and coffee. Relationships are important for the little aspects of daily life here. It is as I imagine life in a tribe. And unlike the rhythm of my normal life in Bucharest, governed by the clock, calendar and to do list, life rhythm here is paced by the wind, the sun and hunger. I guess this is the first hint that simple things in life like eating, sleeping and washing will be different and not so simple this year.
Full time world-explorer. I have no fixed destination and nobody awaits me anywhere. I plan my trip with Google Map zoomed out at max. The world is too big for a year. I could have reached this no-brainer before but right now it is almost tangible. I’m asking practical questions for next months: “How hard can it be to go to Iran?”. Start in New Delhi or Mumbai? How is New Zeeland different from Australia? Should I reserve more time for Africa or for Latin America? How do I get a visa for China in Istanbul? Working from an island in Turkey, figuring out a way to travel around the globe, the world never seemed more unknown and more interesting and Europe so small in comparison. I made some progress with the trip: I did a 2 day research on round the world tickets and decided there are not the best option for me. I will buy plane tickets as I go. And I start with India, have 10 major stops on the way and finish with Russia. I will share more details about the trip, soon.
This morning I went to the showers and overheard a discussion about learning the waterstart. Everything in this gulf is about learning (to kitesurf) and the process is visible. You see some people training with the small kite on the beach, others body-dragging in the water or learning to water-start. Random people give you feedback. “Push the bar” is the most frequent thing you hear. People talk about kites, boards, wind, waterstart, and other kite-related stuff all the time. It is a constant, intense, self organized collective learning process.
Skateparks, snowparks and (kite)surfing beaches are great places to study learning at its best. John Seely Brown studied big wave surfing and Dr Tae draws parallels with skateboarding. For the architect of learning environments, this is highly valuable material to understand and model. But this kitesurfing stop is not for the learning architect I want to become. It is for the kid that wants to have a break and play.
Towards the end of my high-school years I was good at rollerblading. I pulled off some tricks that I was proud of and my fellow rollerbladers praised. As a result I was sponsored and invited to participate in contests. Rollerblading was pure learning, fun, self expression and community life. The most important thing I learned back then was not rollerblading but becoming good at something I cared about. It was self directed and community powered learning, every day for a few years. Every session was about learning some new trick or perfecting another. It is an experience that shaped my learning instincts, the most important being the confidence that I can learn anything.
Learning a new extreme sport brings back that powerful experience. It is fun, it keeps me in flow and it is also feeding my passion about “the art of learning”. I missed having time to really let myself be absorbed in learning a new skill and put all the books and articles to work. And it’s great that as I prepare to refresh my professional life as an learning architect, it get’s me back to the original source of this passion.
This are the highlights of my first week arround the world. I had to return to Romania for a few days to say goodbye to somebody I may not see when I get back. I will resume my kiteboarding training camp this week and leave from Istambul to New Delhi on September 11.
Disclaimer: For the moment, I mainly write for myself. Writing helps me think and make sense of what is happening to me. Publishing it forces me to articulate my thoughts more carefully. I do it without the pretence to be relevant for somebody else (yet), although I would like it to be. At least I hope to satisfy the curiosity of my friends about what am I doing.