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…When I Learn to Fly

  1. “I’ll make my way back home when I learn to fly.”
    -Foo Fighters, Learn to Fly

Friends,

I’m coming up on 5 months abroad now, the last three of which have been in Nicaragua, and, seeing as I just returned from a visa renewal trip to Costa Rica, it’s safe to say I don’t have any immediate plans to go back to Canada. I do have plans and intentions but the only person I’ve really opened up to about my intentions is fellow film-maker, Alex Loubert, but even that was a few weeks back and plans have refined since then. So for whomever is interested I’d like to elucidate upon the plans which have been formulating in my head. My intention here is to not only clarify my intent for friends and family, but to give some advance notice to those who may wish to collaborate on the ongoing art project which is my life.

OVERVIEW

Over the next two years I intend to improve myself and broaden my skill-set in order that I may live on the road indefinitely, making money as I need to and not being tethered to the balance of my savings. Also, should I ever return to Canada I want to have a skill-set which will allow me to live on my own terms and not on the indulgence of an employer.
(In the words of Cam’Ron: “Nobody gonna pay you like you pay yourself.”)
Also, and this is of equal import, I wish to improve myself while at the same time seeing as-yet-unseen parts of the world which I have always yearned to see. Perhaps at the end of this excursion I may be ready to put down roots and stay in one place.
No promises though…

WHERE TO BEGIN?…

About a month ago I spent a few days at Momentom Collective, a yoga and circus focused artist residency in San Juan Del Sur co-founded by Gabrielle Buenaciudad and Therese Lowton.

It was an eye-opening stay as I was immersed in a culture of incredibly high-functioning, supportive, positive and open people. Being there really fucked with some obsolete programming I have been holding onto for years; I kinda felt like I was short-circuiting at times as I internalized possibilities for myself which were fundamentally rooted in trusting myself and my intuition. I realized how much I second-guess my inclinations and how much this tendency has stifled me and postponed my full flowering, no homo.
(*On that note, living in Canada, especially near Toronto, with its “progressive” SJW culture, has been degenerative for my psyche, especially when compounded by working in tv/film where I felt pressure to be inoffensive due to the collaborative nature of the industry. I certainly don’t wish to offend anyone but being removed from the industry, the city and the country fills me with a sense of freedom to speak which I ironically haven’t felt since I was in the military. Go figure!).
Since my time there (Momentom) I have made a concerted effort to be trusting of my inclinations and urges and to be deliberate rather than furtive in my overtures.
It’s actually a lot of fun as a big part of it is just saying whatever is on my mind. As a role model I look to Archer and just pretend I have Asperger’s -I say some real funny shit sometimes. Bartending at Surfing Turtle has been great for this because its a license to be deliberate about opening people up and the best way to do that is often brutal, hilarious and honest observation.

But, back to the topic of self-improvement….

My friend Brandon Gowe is fond of saying, “Always have at least three hustles.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, but three is a bare minimum. Right now I:

-Sell jewelry (Occasional)
-Get paid to teach yoga (Occasional)
-Chop a dime here and there (Occasional and illegal)

As you can see my bare minimum three hustles need work. Here is what I intend to do….

NICARAGUA

I have been living in #CarpeDiemEcoProject helping my good friend, Ghislain Beauchamp build the eco-resort he has been dreaming of opening for years. We get closer and closer to completion every week and things are quickening now with large-scale construction projects commencing this week which will see the camp overrun with local contractors and carpenters as well as the usual group of volunteers building with cob.
However, the reality is that it’s getting late in the season and he has floated the idea of closing the place down for the year as soon as mid-May as opposed to June as in previous years. So, using that as a rough timeline I’ve begun to plan life after CDEP.
As mentioned, I’ve been working part-time at #SurfingTurtleLodge and I’m enjoying it immensely, so I’ve naturally thought about switching to full-time. That idea certainly has some lustre and I’m not 100% against it because it would be great hostel-work experience which will be valuable for the next two years (more on that soon), but right now I feel pulled in a different direction.

HONDURAS

Pursuant to my goal of improving myself through a broader skill-set I have set the intention of heading north to Utila, Honduras and doing a divemaster certification. Apparently it can be done for about $1000 USD and it would be a pliable skill anywhere I went in the world with a coastline. Also, Utila is a paradise chock full of reefs, whale sharks and beautiful people. Being in Central America you hear a lot of grape-vine talk about hot places to go and this is one such place which is thankfully something of a hidden gem still. As a bonus, when I mentioned it to Ghislain, a dive instructor who had lived and worked there 5 years ago, he mentioned he was thinking of going back in May for a visit. This would be amazing as I would have a knowledgeable and experienced travel companion and good friend to roll with. Fingers crossed!

POST-HONDURAS

The next for-sure mark to hit after Honduras and divemaster cert would be North Africa. Timeline-wise I’m thinking I would like to get there by late 2017 or early 2018. My intention is primarily to see the Sahara and roughly re-create Santiago’s journey from “THE ALCHEMIST,” but there’s flex on start/end points and route.

To begin with, how to get there? Well, right now the most appealing option is to hop on a yacht in the Caribbean and work as crew to get across the Atlantic. That would be dope and satisfy a longing to do a trans-oceanic voyage. Ideally I would like to end up in Spain where I would begin my Alchemist journey in Andalucia, possibly after hiking the Camino de Santiago in the north (Lukazs, Tom, let’s do this!!).

Another way I might make my way to Spain would be less direct -heading to Mexico, then up the Baja California, through Cali, Oregon, Washington and BC finally seeing the Pacific Northwest that has enchanted me for so long and possibly working as a weed trimmer there if its the right time of year -As far as trimming goes, it’s great coin, but I’m more interested in doing it for the experience before everything becomes legal. In any event, once I got back to Canada I would finally hitch-hike across Canada like I’ve been intending to for years, stopping briefly in Ontario before jumping off to Spain to begin aforementioned Trans-Saharan Caravan.

#NOTHINGISWRITTEN (NORTH AFRICA)

I’m gonna immerse myself in the desert and just get consumed by the wasteland. But I’m also gonna take my time with it, working at hostels, doing workaways, woofing if possible, learning the language and making my way incrementally across the northern part of the African continent to the pyramids. If possible I would like to do more apprenticeships with jewelers, learning local styles and improving my skill-set. In Morocco, my first country after Spain, I intend to head to the Atlantic coast there and check out the fledgling aurf scene and see if my divemaster cert could be put to use.
In the desert itself I wanna go to an oasis soooooo bad. Oases have always enchanted me so I’m gonna live in one.
For the record, I am quite frightened of possible run-ins with extremist groups like ISIS but I figure I’m gonna be more of a curiosity to them than anything. I have joked that maybe they’ll kidnap and force me to make jewelry for them which would be kinda dope, but I was only half-joking: I wanna find out for myself who’s out there instead of just believing the news. Maybe I’ll write an ethnography.
If it turns out they do want to execute me I’ll try and see the humor in it and laugh on the way to my execution -it’s the only victory we can truly have in life.
This whole African excursion is gonna be gully and by the time I get to Egypt I will be ready to begin the next phase: INDIA.

PSYCH! SAUDI ARABIA…MAYBE…

I wanna see the Arabian desert because for me it represents a wasteland more inaccessible and dangerous than that of Northern Africa. Seriously, going there scares me not because of the harsh conditions but because of the strict observance of Islamic law. If they catch you slippin’, well….. Let’s just say there’s nothing scarier than an establishment that will kill you with impunity for perceived transgressions and all the while believe they are acting righteously *cough* police *cough*…
No guarantees on this one but it’s definitely a possibility.

INDIA

I have been teaching yoga for a while, and I’ve been practicing it for years, but I have yet to get certified and thus learn much of the associated theory. Certification will also lend more credibility to me when I apply to various hostels and hospitality locations looking for work. And really, what better place than India to learn yoga? There are many great places here in Central America to get certified and I will certainly broaden my yoga skill-set over time here, but remember, an important part of these next two years is seeing places I haven’t seen. So as well as getting my cert I am going to see India , feast like a king and maybe buy a monkey. Who knows!?

SOUTH-EAST ASIA

Finally, I will make my way to SE Asia. You know, it’s a wonder I haven’t been here yet. For some people it’s their first exposure to backpacking, but even after more than ten years of excursions its uncharted territory for me. As far as self-improvement goes, all along the trip I will be developing my massage skill and reiki aptitude, and here in SE Asia I feel like I could really develop my Thai massage skill-set. Beyond that I’m not sure what I want from this place (food), but I know I gotta see it as it will (mostly) wrap up all my loose ends of bucket list places to see.

EPILOGUE

I’m not sure who I will be when this is all said and done and if I will be ready to buy property and build something of my own, or if I’ll want to come back to Canada or if I’ll want to pursue trips to Patagonia, the Peruvian desert, Antarctica, Eastern Europe, etc. (The bucket list never actually ends) I can literally do anything I want to do. My biggest challenge is aiming high.

So if you don’t know now you know, nigga(s)!

EPI-EPILOGUE

I owe special recognition to two very important people in my life who have precipitated a great desire for growth within me.

First would be Ghislain -meeting him and visiting his project last year was a very serendipitous experience for me and he embodies qualities that I aspire to embody myself. He is a skilled, positive, hard-working, dynamic individual comfortable with himself as a man and as a member of a community. It is by the strength of his will that the culture of CDEP is what it is. I admire the dude and feel honored to count him among my friends.

Second would be Marijo Lariviere. She is one of the most talented people I know whose ability to thrive anywhere in the world with her skill-set has inspired me greatly in my current path. Whether it’s yoga instruction, hair-dressing, jewelry-making, etc… She has so many valuable practical skills that it really made me reflect on what I bring to the table, what I could offer others (manual labor, carry a gun), and realize that I could do better. She made me aspire to improve myself if only to be of greater service to the people around me.

In closing I want to say I can be better than I am. I don’t say that with self-denigration or regret but with optimism, love for myself, and excitement to see the man I am evolving into.

I hope you enjoy the show too.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Division of Labor

Friends,

I spent the last month of this past winter in Nicaragua working at Carpe Diem eco-village.

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It’s a project where volunteers can go and live for free in exchange for working roughly four hours every morning on the various eco-friendly construction projects being undertaken there. Given that it is a place where you are learning these processes for free it is actually quite a good deal as you leave the place enriched.

While it is not an intentional community proper, I did learn some things about human behaviour and initiative that I imagine would carry over. As I ultimately hope to live in such a community, I have wondered how people would sort out who does what and what would motivate them to do it when the monetary incentive was removed.

There are two primary lessons I learned:

1) The Culture Dictates Behaviour

Ghislain, the owner and originator of the project described to me how during the first season of the project he attracted a lower calibre of volunteer -people who wanted to come live for free but didn’t much care to fulfill the work obligation, preferring to go out boozing every night and recovering every day. It was an uphill battle, but as a start-up project he had to take what he could get. The larger problem was that when new volunteers would show up they were shown a culture of lazing and idleness and would either be turned off or fall into the same habits.

When this next season began in January he resolved to not indulge such behaviour and even had to ask some returnees to leave after the first day -a difficult choice for someone whose vision demands helpers. But ultimately this discernment paid off as the small core group of hard-workers attracted more people and inclined them to stay longer. I can attest to this as I initially passed through CD in early January 2016 (the beginning of the season) and opted to return in mid -February after finishing my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America -that’s how impressed I was by the culture there. I stayed a month upon my return and was impressed by not only how much got done, but also by the work ethic of my peers.

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It even brought out the inner maker in me and I frequently took
on small personal projects which I’m not always wont to do.

Still, it’s kind of funny to muse that if these same peers and myself had showed up last year, our more idle and lazy traits might have been nurtured too. But, by changing his standard he changed the culture of the camp into something more congruent with his vision. That’s powerful and profound.

2) Everyone Will Find Their Place

One volunteer showed up during my month there named Nina. Nina was a 19 year-old German girl who was neither diligent nor motivated when it came to work. Mixing cob, building walls, preparing food -these were all things that she would only make the most gestural efforts at, and those efforts only when she wasn’t too sick to do anything but lay about in camp.

At first I’ll admit I looked at her a bit resentfully as I carried heavy loads of building materials around and scraped the shit out of my limbs gathering the thorny firewood for our cooking fires. Quickly though, I overcame this resent because I am a firm believer in the maxim, “What you eat don’t make me shit’ -or simply, as long as you’re not posing a detriment to me it’s not my business. When I got over myself and my ego in this manner I could look at Nina a little more dispassionately and objectively. What I saw was that while she laid about she was engaging and playing with the young Nicaraguan toddlers who lived next to us and who would always wander into our camp to observe and play. It occurred to me that if this were an intentional community where people were having children and building lives, I would be grateful to have a Nina around -someone who relished being with kids and playing with kids…

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…and not simply just acting like a kid.

Then I thought about myself -for the duration of my stay I woke up at 5:45 every morning to get the fire going and the water boiling by the time people started waking up 6:30. On top of that I would do the wake-up alarm by singing at the top of my lungs every morning. Nobody told me I had to but I wanted to because I wanted to have breakfast and coffee before work started at 7:30, and of course because I love singing. As well, I always gravitated toward gathering firewood and building fires -I just liked to do these things and they needed to be done.

On a similar note, my friend Marijo usually did meal prep because she was good at it and liked to do it. Nobody said she had to.

And I think this is the larger point. I saw people finding their equilibrium and their place within a society in a very natural, very organic way. And this gave me hope that the community I’m looking to build and be a part of one day just might work.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

Carpe Diem Eco-Project: https://www.facebook.com/carpediemecoproject/?fref=ts

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