A Life Made of Great Mistakes

 

I met Deano at the base of a small waterfall in Costa Rica, outside of a small town named Uvita. I had trudged for an hour on a hilly dusty road in punishing heat, the type of humidity that sticks to you in. A thin layer of dust mixing with sweat began cementing itself onto my body I was ready to wash it off. Once I arrived, there were already a few other people in the small, pristine pool at the base of the waterfall. I watched young boys with primate acrobatics climb up the slippery rocks and propel their bodies over the falls. And as I jumped into the cold water, I felt myself become clean again.

As I pulled myself out of the water and onto the dry rocks, and I started packing my bag and dry my hair, this American guy came up to me. He asked if I could take a picture of him in the waterfall and handed me his GoPro, which I did because taking photos for strangers there is a silent understanding in the travel community where everybody asks and everyone does it, and you are always appreciative. Even if you are disappointed with the uninstagramable photo you get back. I gave him his GoPro and started doing a recording, “Hey guys, me again I just wanted to give you guys a quick update. I’m in Uvita, Costa Rica at the base of a tiny waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It’s so magical here.” As he kept talking into the camera, I was like whoooaaaa who is this guy, and I wondered what he was doing this for. As he finished and my body began to prune, he started chatting and I quickly got swept up in his tsunami of words, giving me the details of his trip. He had been bouncing around Central America following his internal compass that changed as quickly as the wind, with no clear direction.  It was one of those interactions were pausing to mention our names would have only slowed us down.

As I started to carry on with the rest of my day he asked,  “ Aren’t you going to jump back in?” in a slight drawl that made me feel welcomed. He had the face of a man who has been through a lot, but still sees each experience like it’s the first time and I felt like I could maybe learn something from him.

I travel out of lonlieness, which is ironic because I am alone most of the time, it is an aspect I have always tried to escape but finds me wherever I am.

“ Well, what are you doing for the rest of the day?” “Well I was going to check out the whale’s tale later” “Can I join you?” He asked. “Sure!” I said. “Ok let me just go to my hostel.” We hitched a ride with a local who brought us higher and deeper into the jungle as we made small talk in our broken American accented Spanish. Once we got out of the car and as I waited for him to retrieve his bags, I walked up to the elevated outside patio, perched up so one could peer into the layers of the jungle. It wasn’t until we were done at his hostel, ready to carry on with our day that I realized we hadn’t even exchanged names yet.

It’s fun to look back at a moment when you meet someone, not knowing the future effect they will have on you, looking at what you know now. Deano and I ended up spending a significant amount of time together, bouncing in and out of each other’s adventures for the next few weeks. I wasn’t able to interview him then, so this is a Skype recording done when we were both back in the states. Here is his story.

Life often tests our resilience- how well can we survive through the unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events we all experience in life? To be able to survive is great,  but that doesn’t always indicate growth. What about those who get broken down and grow even more from those negative experiences?

What would you do if everything you worked for- successful company, healthy body, living in a great city-was suddenly taken away from you? Many survive the setbacks of unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events and are able to return to a normal life. But what about those who not only get back to where they were at but grow even more? Who sees life for the fleeting opportunity that it is and take these setbacks as a challenge to grow? We call those people antifragile. Deano’s story is the quintessential example of being antifragile- living in LA, having a budding tech company, being at physical peak and then all of that was taken away when he got into a horrible accident.

After a year of physical therapy, instead of returning to the grind, he packed his bags and took full advantage of his newfound strength and the opportunity to do what he was never able to before. Deano bought a one-way ticket to Central America, lived abroad, learned Spanish, hiked erupting volcanos, jumped over waterfalls and experienced the robustness life has to offer.

Later that day we ventured out to a corner of the beach where the waves come in at an angle, and the sand juts out into the bay in the shape of a whale’s tail. Seriously, it looks like a giant whale’s tail, it’s so bizarre. It was low tide when we decided to go out to it. An hour passed in what seemed like a few minutes as we walked the line of sand dividing the Pacific shore from the rest of the world.

We walked slowly through the thinning foliage alongside the beach, and the shade from the trees relieved us from the blistering Costa Rican sun. The small talk began to peel away with our clothing. He opened up about how his universe had been thrown into chaos and was taking time to travel and reflect, fulfill some life goals before heading back to the States.

I felt comforted being around someone who felt tugged in lots of directions at the same time, never knowing if they will all someday converge. He also had a few years on me which I thought it was brave for him to go out, at a time when establishing your career is so imperative in the States. It’s always affirming when you meet people who have decided to take themselves out of their element to figure stuff out, who are just as lost…. no I don’t want to say lost….. maybe directionless, or wayward, who are just as wayward as you are and are OK with taking time to figure it out.

Once we were at tip of the whale’s tail—at the point farthest from shore—the tide started to rise. Extreme risk takers are rare, but I felt like my conversation with Deano was helping me figure out what I wanted in life. How much further could I travel? How many more risks could I take before burning out? Was I like Deano—someone who needed chaos to survive, like love or water?

Suddenly the bags we had put down were almost under the ocean, at risk of being swept away as the sea rushed in around us. In the distance, what had once looked like boulders in the sand were now floating pebbles. We hurried back to shore, the tide lapping our calves.

Talking to Deano about how life just sweeps you up sometimes, made me feel focused, and connected, like I had just found a tiny piece of my puzzle. Few people bring that feeling out in me the way he did when we walked back to shore along the edge of the world, ready to fall off.
In this episode, we discuss,

  • How he became an entrepreneur
  • How he got into a motorcycle accident
  • Why he chose to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to hike volcanoes
  • What he learned from his accident
  • How he perceives his body- post accident
  • Why he wanted to learn Spanish
  • What it was like to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to live in Latin America
  • What his travels taught him
  • Listen to his stories and adventures while traveling through Latin America
  • His perspective on how the universe tests him
  • How he became anti-fragile

 

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