the end is the beginning

The best decision of my life. And I don’t know what the second best was, but it’s not close. A year ago I didn’t have a motorcycle license, had never taught a kid a thing, and didn’t speak a word of French. Now I’ve been a ski instructor at Vail, rode 10,000Km through South and Central Europe, and can almost fluently say “mon francaise, c’est pas tres bien”. I spent a night on the ground by my bike in Mljet (a nature reserve/paradise island in Croatia), I learned to do backflips (into water), read more than I did in college, swam in the Mediterranean a hundred times. I saw an F1 race for free (from afar), biked through Croatian islands, sailed across the Aegean, and contemplated more sunsets and sunrises than in my last ten years combined.

I met so many great people it’s hard for my brain to process how many people one can meet and care about.

Why did I stop? All this travelling has made me more human, more eager to contribute to the world. Travelling seemed like it was about to become a routine, I’m ready to contribute with more than my good humor.

So here I am, in New York City, figuring out what the best way to do that is.

Thanks to everyone that was a part of this, the good times spent together will not be quickly forgotten. Thank you for your smiles, for your help when I needed it, for being a voice that yells out how great the world is and how many great people are out there, ready to teach you something, and to be your friends.

If I had one recurring thought, it has been on how to make the world a better place. To me, it is key to realize we are humans before being anything else. We are ALL human, we ALL come from the same tribe millions of years ago. Thinking of ourselves as human instead of (American/Catholic/Hispanic/Arab/etc) will not solve every problem, but I believe it’s a good start.

Hope you enjoy the pictures… please keep in touch!

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So, here’s what I’ve been doing in the last month, I’ll try to keep it to one highlight per day (if you have only one minute, I suggest watching the videos from Siena).

One random thought before I start. Tiana, who I met in Cinque Terre, had an idea that I think is brilliant: “why don’t we call places by their real names in their original language?” in other words, Florence should be Firenze, Spain should be España, and Italy should be Italia. I’ll try to keep true to that one here. There is one that’s kind of problematic: Switzerland is called four different names (Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra) BY ITS OWN CITIZENS! I’ve read the history of the country, but I still cant believe how one of the richest, most educated, peacefulest (screw you autocorrect! I’m leaving in peacefulest), countries in the world is composed of states that speak four different languages, is land-locked, and divided by the Alps that must have made it impossible to cross in the not too distant past. OK, so here is my little travel blog from the past month…

Forte dei Marmi: the best two plates of pasta I’ve ever tasted: penne scampi and fish-filled ravioli with a shrimp curry sauce, thank you Luigi!

Meeting and instantly organizing a crazy night out in Florence with Rishav (India), Sara (Australia), Stans (Holland), and Karl (Canada), now known as The Pussy Posse… the greatest nights are better left pictureless.

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I met a pretty girl from Brooklyn, we had good drinks and great conversations, we kissed in one of those automatic photo booths, she left me two of the four pictures but forgot to write down her contact… some nights are better left as memories?

I spent like 10 minutes without blinking, looking at this sculpture at Piazza di la Signora, trying to figure out how the fuck did this guy turn a huge block of marble into three humans interacting like this?

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I swam at night in the Mediterranean at Riomaggiore, kudos to Tiana for coming up with the idea, sorry about the lacerated foot, hope it’s healing well.

2015-06-30 02.03.49 Sea Kayaking in Monterosso. 2015-07-01 19.12.36 Ridiculous sunsets in Cinque Terre 2015-07-01 21.13.18 2015-06-30 20.46.56

The 12 seafood antipasti at Tratoria dal Billy in Manerola, and the two plates of pasta that followed (smoked swordfish and truffle spaghetti anyone?)

Got caught up in the middle of the celebration of July’s Palio in Sienna… I can’t understate how absolutely insane these people are about winning that horse race. 

And that’s only the first week!

Drove 7 hours Siena-Marseille and the next day rode my bike 9 hours (7 hours road time) to Schweiz with temperatures reaching 38C. I met our family friend Rene and after a cold Swiss brewsky, we walked 20 minutes up the river that borders his farm, then swam back with the current, exiting to say hi to his local pals who were grilling by the river, and offered us a beer while watching the sunset behind at least 50 balloons in the distance. IMG-20150704-WA0005

Chilling next to the lake in Luzerne with Christin and her friends.

Riding across the Swiss Alps, alternating between 38C and 13C at the top of the passes, definitely the coolest bike ride yet. 2015-07-07 15.13.42 2015-07-07 15.14.12 2015-07-07 15.39.25

Canyoning at Chli Schliere near Interlaken with 15 California kids who just got out of highschool. Watch the video to understand the level of adrenaline this entails (I don’t have pics from that day, sadly)… I’m proud to say I pulled off my first backflip, another reminder 36 is not late to try new things.

Making friends with four Korean girls at my hostel in Salzburg, making due backpacking Europe with really bad English… respect.

Memorable nights in Brno with some Italian Biology PhD’s and Alexis the Cell Biologist from Singapore, traveling solo around the world.

Wien, where I met for beers with Lauri from Finland through We found ourselves having a pretty intense chat with an Austrian economist at an outdoor film festival. The economist had very strong views on every topic from the Greek Crisis to the potential bankruptcy of Germany to how the US Fed is controlled; and he would not be swayed by anything we said (or researched). After the guy went on his way, Lauri turned to me and said some of the wisest words I’ve heard:

“An argument is worth having only if each party involved is willing to change its opinion”

Watching a Queen concert on a giant screen mounted on a palace’s facade in Wien, talking about Guate with Mariana, una maestra del Austriaco. 2015-07-16 23.05.21 2015-07-16 22.58.58

I spent the weekend in Budapest, never ceases to impress with its architecture and sheer size. This time I got to experience a bunch of ruin bars: ancient or soviet buildings that were about to be run down, and instead were decorated and turned into some really cool pubs. One of the greatest weekends of my life.

what’s so cool about being a ski instructor at Vail?

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There’s gotta be something good about it because as my final days on the mountain wound down, I got this melancholic feeling in my head, and I’m sure it wasn’t just the hangover from another night of drinking craft beers from Edwards’ Crazy Mountain Brewery, or Eagle’s Bonfire Brewing Co, or (my favorite) Fort Collin’s New Belgium Brewery.

What’s the biggest difference between being in Vail and my “old life”?

I’m tempted to say it’s the bubble of security and happiness (everyone just seems to be in a good mood in Vail, and most of those who weren’t, left halfway through the season), but it’s not; the biggest difference is in the POED (Percentage Of Epic Days). As a businessman in Guatemala I’d get 2-3 epic days a month, but Vail offered at least 2-3 epic days per WEEK. There were too many to name here, so go to my FB page to get a feel for what I mean (skiing, working, powder days, partying, ski racing, concerts, après drinks, cookouts at my place, cookouts with the Argies!, golf, snowboarding, working with great kids and families).

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OK, just one! on a powder day, ski hard with my friend Bruno and his brother, grill hot dogs at Blue Sky Basin for lunch, then keep skiing until 3:30pm, head to Chair 3 and hike for 10 minutes over Game Creek, then ski out of bounds on untouched powder down to a town called Minturn. Walk a few steps with skis on your shoulder to the Minturn Saloon for margaritas and southwestern food. What a day!

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Dec 31st 2014: Another Epic Day I posted on FB

But what made it so special? was it the nightlife?

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No. The ratio in Vail is so bad, it even freaks out the girls… one girl friend of ours accurately compared going to bars in Vail to being “a wounded gazelle surrounded by lions”. So, maybe I went out a lot, maybe too much, and we definitely have great stories and had great bonding with friends in these underground spots (literally underground, locals rarely party in “above ground bars” those are reserved for tourists that pay $12 for a drink). But definitely, very definitely, the nightlife is not what made this special.

Working with kids?

I thought I’d come here and have all this time left over for reading, writing, researching, working out, partying… but I found out quickly that being a ski instructor is a real job that takes physical and mental energy, responsibility, and even carries some stress.  Just imagine being in charge of 11 9 year-olds, in a snowstorm, in the biggest ski resort in the US; half the time you’re worried you’re gonna lose a kid, the other half you’re worried about them getting hurt.

NOTE: there’s so much on teaching kids and the lessons I learned, that I decided to do a separate post on that, coming soon.

Working outside? Manual labor?

I think this is the biggest reason some people become instructors for life, my friend Mark quit his successful engineering job in construction projects two years ago and told me “I will never go back to working indoors, unless a physical or financial situation comes up that forces me to” (most on-mountain jobs, including ski instructing, pay poorly, and getting injured on the job, training, or free skiing are very real risks). By being out on the mountain, I definitely felt a strong, beautiful feeling of freedom, something I think is pretty universal and should be sought by all humans.  I’ve felt it in my expeditions in Guatemala and abroad, and is something I believe so much in that I invested in Green Rush.

The manual labor aspect was interesting, it gave me an immediate feeling of productivity and service. When my job required me to be a server for my kids at lunch and cocoa breaks, I couldn’t help but compare myself to Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged, earning her living by cooking and housekeeping for XYZ XYZ (read the book!)… what can I say, I might be a romantic.

How about working among all those ski bums?

I had this preconception that ski instructors would be great athletes who loved to ski, but who’d have relatively low level of education… couldn’t have been more wrong! Most ski instructors at Vail have a college degree and lots have masters; for example, this was my group for my second day of training: Mik, a retired surgeon and now an investor who moved to Vail, instructs part time and donates 100% of that income to the Wounded Warrior project. Michael, an architect who designs local homes and businesses (also a part timer). Steve, an economist from the University of Chicago who decided a desk job wasn’t for him and now is happy working as a server at a high end restaurant and teaches part time. And my now great friend Rebecca, a Nuclear Engineer who worked on aircraft carriers for a few years, and is now off to get her MBA.

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And then, there’s the friendships…  at the start of the season I had zero friends living in Argentina, now I have at least 20 from Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza, Ushuaya, Rosario, Neuquén, and whatever the name of Maru’s town is.

I’ve made some friendships that I think will continue forever like Rebecca and (in no particular order): Ian, my first roommate and friend, who’s so into living life, and who made me reflect on conserving resources and that we don’t need a lot of material stuff to be happy. He used to eat red meat only once a week, citing that the land used by cattle would not be sufficient if all humans would want to eat meat every day. Chris, a Chemistry major who seems quite contempt to be a ski instructor and camp counselor for kids in the next few years; Jeff, taking some time between his masters in Accounting and his job at a firm in Denver. Valerie, a Jersey girl and Political Science major who just spent two years teaching in Spain (and I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes back for two more). Mark, architect from Oxford (or was it Cambridge? he’s gonna kill me!) who just graduated and maybe was just killing some time until he looks old enough to be an architect. Omar, who’s supposed to be 18 but acts like he’s 36, he’s on his way to University of Chicago.

It’s kinda stupid to write about just a few because I’ve made so many friends, and even more stupid to write a sentence on each when I could write a book, but this is a blog post and we wanna keep it short and fun.

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So, in conclusion, I can’t say what specific thing made this experience so great. Would I do it again? Probably not next year, maybe when I retire, like Mik. For now, I feel like I’ll find something where I’ll make a bigger impact, somewhere outside of the bubble, or maybe I can try to bring the bubble to many others. Could we all live in one big bubble?

(Having fun with old friends… thanks to all that visited during the season, it made it even more special!)

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