There’s a dope little park in Lisbon, up on a hill, and all the old men hang out shooting the shit. In the middle of the park is a twisted, spidery tree whose branches would hang over onto the ground, except that the city built a metal awning that – simultaneously – lets the tree’s branches grow horizontally out from the trunk and at the same time creates a roof of branches covering a little cluster of benches.
It’s a dope tree. It looks hundereds of years old, all gnarled, but low. I sat under it reading, and a bunch of 15-year-olds came up and asked me something in Portugese. I shook my head and kept reading and they moved to the bench behind me, then climbed up into the tree and just sat, hanging out.
Now, there’s one question I ask myself more than any other question while traveling, and I was pondering it at that moment, “what the fuck am I doing here?”
I thought, Maybe I should ask those kids what there is to do around that area. I answered myself, “What, are they going to tell me where all the good climbing trees are?”
it took me about 5 seconds to realize that’s EXACTLY the kind of information that I’d love to have abroad.
A year later, Azure and I came across the “Chiang Mai Sports Complex,” a sprawling group of fields and buildings and courts and one gigantic pool. It’s an Olympic sized 50-meter pool (there are only 2 of them in the Puget Sound area, as far as I know), it’s CLEAN and there was nobody there. I don’t know why – maybe the Thai aren’t big swimmers, maybe the ex-pats don’t know about it, but it’s a gorgeous pool that should be packed. And it’s not. At the most there were about 5 people swimming.
The best part of this thing is that there’s an Olympic-sized set of dive platforms there as well and throughout the pool area there were zero lifeguards to try to keep me from doing stupid things and hurting myself.
I’ve never jumped from that high up. 10 meters, I think, it was a monster. I stood at the edge of the platform and looked down and just couldn’t believe how high it was – my knees were shaking and adrenaline rushing the whole time. I know I can’t sit there and try to rationalize it, to convince myself to go off – so my way of beating the fear is to just not think and just step off the edge. But when you step off the edge of this thing, you wonder to yourself, “What the fuck am I doing? There’s nothing under me!” And you fall. and you fall. and you fall. and you accelerate the entire way and when you finally hit it’s chaos. I hit and my arms & feet stung and my ears popped and water rushed over me and threw me into underwater flips… then I surfaced, and floated, and let the endorphins do their work. But here’s the amazing thing about falling from that height: I did it 7 or 8 times that day and EVERY time it was just as thrilling. I didn’t want to jump, my knees shook, I decided it was a bad idea while I was still falling… every single time.