I woke up this morning feeling absolutely horrible. Fewer, ear infection, sore throat and beautiful racoon circles under the eyes. To make me feel better – tree hours bike ride on the schedule for today. I never skip workouts.
Mental masturbation lasted the entire morning. On the bike ride and even after I got back home, I couldn’t decide. Few days ago I found this cool place called Tulum and made a plan to go explore it. The place is located about 75 km from the ferry dock, so you needed some tipe of transportation to get there. I booked a rental car on the mainland and set my plans to get there after my training this morning. I would arrive to the mainland by ferry ($20), pick up the rental ($30 /day) and head towards Tulum. I would spend a day and night there and come back the next day. Drop off the car and return to the island for the Christmas Day/Evening celebration. I was not feeling well, but that wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not. Why? Where are you running? Why won’t you just slow down and take a breath? You can’t see everything in one day or week. Two different voices talked to me. One said – go, another said – don’t, you need a rest. It was interesting to observe two completely different perspectives within one mind. “Go explore. See new places. Meet new people. You are here only for so long. Don’t sit on your butt, pick up and go!”. The other side of Sasha said: “You’ve got a fever, sore throat, ear infection. You are weak and exhausted. Even if you go, you will not enjoy the trip. You need to rest. You need to train. Where are you always running? What are you running from? You will just waste the money. You already spent much more on this trip than originally planned”. Each side had legitimate points, which drove me crazy. I realized I was wasting so much of my energy on this mental masturbation, trying to decide. Travel is so selfish. You are hunting for new experiences to feed your forever hungry brain. More pictures! More action! The more places you visit, the more new ones open up. More, more, more… Me, me, me… Something’s not right. You can only take so much, until it stops satisfying you. Maybe instead of getting, you need to start giving…
All of a sudden I got an idea.
I’ve spent two hours going from one store to another in search for Santa Claus costume, however I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was asking anyone I could, where can I possibly find it, but people had no idea. I got a few suggestions of where to look at, so I went all around the island. Still can’t find the freaking costume. Not even a heat or beard of some sort. Only until I completely lost hope and gave up, the costume found me. On my way home, while riding along the street I spotted something red with peripheral vision. Looked over and I saw – A FREAKING CLAUS costume through the storefront!!! A maneken was wearing the costume. Jumped right in and said I NEED THAT! Got it.
I was so excited that I had the costume. I also felt so much pride in me – found a Santa costume on a Mexican Island, in the middle of nowhere.
Now I needed the presents. Went to the grocery store and bought almost all the candies they had. Did not look at the price and picked some good ones. I envisioned how great would it be to see the kids smile, run up to me and get a nice candy. I am on a mission here: BRING THE CHRISTMAS IN TOWN. Make as many people smile as possible! YAS, I felt the fire start inside of me.
As the sun went down, Santa Claus jumped on his Honda-deer and headed to the main square, where the christmas tree is. Pedestrians on the streets, drivers on the road – everyone were shouting and waving at Santa. He waved in return and replied “Feliz Navidad!” (Merry Christmas in Spanish). Main square seemed empty at first, however the “Christmas Agent” took this time to practice his combat skills.
Few kids popped up on horizon. Let’s get to work! We’ve got a lot of candies to give.
I was amazed how kids would come up to me – a complete stranger and HUG! Without a second thought they would run up to me with their hands stretched out and give me a genuine hug. I am not a hugger myself, and at first I was a little bit shocked. This little human beings totally flipped me out of balance. I forgot all the Spanish phrases I planned to say. I even forgot how to say Merry Christmas on Spanish.
I’ve met so many kids. Mexican, Canadian, American… some older, some younger. Some kids were more shy than others, however they all had one thing in common – the look in their eyes. I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility landed on my Santa shoulders. I could not break their faith in me – in Santa! My plan was working out – I WAS MAKING OTHERS HAPPY. Holly shit how great it felt. I became a hugger.
Some people would ask: “Why do you do it?” “Just to make people smile – to have fun. Isn’t it what life is about?”, I replied. “Did you buy all this: costume and candies just to give it away?”, some looked concerned. “Yes! Here, take a candy.”, I would say. “You are crazy…”
My new Mexican friend Breto – who accompanied me, kept on saying I was crazy. “Why crazy?” I asked. “In a foreign country, without even speaking the language, in front of so many people. I could not do that. You are a crazy Gringo”. He is right, I don’t even speak the language… but does it matter? Kids don’t need me speak the language. I just say Feliz Navidad!, give a candy and hug – everyone’s happy. You don’t need to do much and try to impress the little ones. They already think you are the coolest human being in the entire Universe.
Christmas in Mexico is a big deal and people party all night long. They go to church around 8 pm, then come home for a family dinner and go party from midnight till sunrise. Similar to out New Year’s celebrations. All night partying was not in my plans and I went to bed pretty early. Loud music was blasting through the night. It was a bit hard to fall asleep at first, but once I did, you can not wake me up even if you shoot from the gun next to my ear.
Today Santa operates at the beach. We went to the beach called Punta Morena. As expected, Santa on the beach attracted a lot of attention, not only from kids, but from adults. Even the owner of the beach club came up to say hi and thank me for engaging the public. She thought it was a great idea and asked to take a photo with her. Not only the business owner, but a lot of other people wanted to take a selfie with Santo Clós. It was a lot of fun, however hot! Santa stripped down into his red speedos and dove into the ocean.
I’m calm, grateful and for the first time in a while EXCITED!
Today I’m going to Hawaii, and not just for travel but for Ironman 70.3 experience. How many people get a chance to travel to the Big Island 🌴 and experience its beauty with their own eyes, not from the movies or the pictures? If you told me few years ago about all the places I’ll have the opportunity to see including Hawaii, I would laugh into your face. Impossible! I would say…
Toronto ✈️Chicago ✈️San Francisco ✈️Hawaii
All the people I met on my way to the Big Island 🌴 were really nice. Starting with the Uber driver, airport staff and border security officials – everyone met me with a smile and were really nice. I passed all the security checks in no time and there were barely any lines holding me back. Mr Gonzales – the USA immigration officer was so nice and kind. We even had a little chat about the Ironman race, after which he awarded my passport with a fresh US stamp and handed it back to me.
⁃ “Safe travels Sir!” He wished me.
⁃ Thank you mr. Gonzales!
Beginning of the trip looks promising. I thought to myself.
My flight to Chicago ✈️ got delayed, cutting the layover time down to 30 minutes. I better be fast. And I was. Running through O’Hare International Airport I was amazed by how pretty the airport is. Made it to the gate on time. 4 hours until I’m in San Francisco.
KOA airport is one of a kind. The are no roofs, no windows – it’s all opened under the bright clear sky. Planes, like cars are parked just outside of the gate.
I loaded my spaceship with all necessities, fueled up and headed onto discovery mission. In 3 days I drove around the entire island and explored pretty much all of the most attractive “touristy” places. I did not feel rushed and was able to keep my monkey mind still.
Out of pressing curiosity, I crack-opened up the visor on my space suit… and figured that there is O2 on this planet! It is so much richer and cleaner that my head got slightly dizzy. You can actually breathe it and not die! I de-compressed my suit…
I don’t need to carry heavy tanks with compressed stinky air on my back so I threw them off my shoulders.
I felt lighter, I felt taller! I need to to report back to the base about my discovery, I need to tell everyone how great it feels, how beautiful it is here! I need… I have to…. Do I?
“No Service” on my tracking device did not give me a chance to ping back my world. It remained still for two, three, four…. eight hours. I put it away. Wait, do I really need to report back? No. I’m here on my own, there is no chief, there is no boss. I might be even dead and no-one will know. I am FREE! I felt it before, this is freedom.
For the first time in a while I felt I could finally breathe out and sit back. I felt playful and more opened to people. I did not want to listed to any of my smart-assgurus on podcasts I’m subscribed to. I did not feel the pressing need to read any sophisticated books I brought with me. I did not want to think at all. I did not care…
Scary! I am lazy! Holly smokes, I need to get my shit together and get back to work. Think of everything you need to accomplish, think of your “duties”. I am missing out. I am falling behind the bus.
Wait, Do I?
“What?! How can you even question that? Are you insane? Of course you do”, the ego has woken up and put its heavy claws on my shoulders, pressing me to the ground. It felt uncomfortable.
Quietly I began question everything that seemed so important to me in the past. Every step I took, everything I did, every thought I had, every food I ate under. I felt that I found a place to escape. I can hide here and no-one ever will hear a word from me.
I can hide from my ego that been breathing so heavily over my shoulder, pushing me hard.
As I was getting deeper and deeper into the tropics, anxiety was also failing to keep up with me. The needs to prove, to show, to be recognized and validated had softened its grips on me…
Day #1 HILO: Rainy ☔️ side of the island 🌴
North and east sides of the island are pure tropics. Deep forests, rich wildlife and rain…never stopping rain.
Waipiʻo Valley Lookout
My IronMan buddy whom I met on a shuttle bus to the race suggested visiting this place, specifically for its beautiful sunrises 🌅. On the island 🌴 sunrise starts at 5:40. Got there on time, but face a 4×4 vehicle only restriction sign. Left the car and proceeded down the steep hill on my feet. Shortly I realized that I couldn’t go all the way down due to increasing pain in my knee after yesterday’s injury. Disappointed, I turned around and went back up. Had a breakfast up at the lookout point and enjoyed the view from the top.
My next stop was the Akaka Falls. Admissions: $5 per car / $1 per person. Young man at the register kindly notified me that they accept all forms of payments, from all major banks, besides the one that has “TD” logo on it. Guess which credit card I had?What were the chances that I would have only TD cards in my wallet?
I got lucky. An older gentleman behind me in line payed my admission of $1. Thank you Sir!
It’s a short 20-30 minutes walk through the rainforest and the waterfall is worth seeing. You might also want to bring an umbrella with you’re afraid to melt.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
From the falls, I continued driving along highway 19 for about 30 minutes to get to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.
$20 will got me on a ~1hr 30min walk averaging about 1.25 miles long.
Absolutely gorgeous place. Plants and flowers are outside of this world. It almost feel like they can bite you if you get too close.
Icing on the cake is the endpoint of the walk – the scenic view of the ocean from the rocky beach. I have no words to describe how beautiful it is up there. Unbelievable!
20 minutes drive from botanical garden is another falls that caught my attention. It is located in the town called Hilo, on the east side of the island.
Whats the best way to explore a new city? On bike or by feet. Pulled out my bike off the trunk and went on the ride around the town up to the falls and back. Got caught up in a pretty bad rain, but it only added to experience. The rain was warm and the town was wondering. You can get from one side of the town to another in less than 30 minutes.
Got to the falls, completely wet. No hiking, no admission to pay.
Stripped down to my shorts and went into the rainforest to find the spots worth remembering.
Lianas hanging down from huge-huge topical threes. Following the waterfall sound, I shortly found the way out to the falls on the other side.
Waterfall is a-ma-zing. Upstream, there are some little ponds with clear water which I had to swim in.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The more south you go, the less of the greens you see. Landscape rapidly changes from leafy green to rocky black.
Admission into the park is $25 and it’s valid for a week, meaning you can go in’n’out as many times as you want for 7 days from the purchase date.
Kīlauea Shield Volcano is one of the very few active volcanoes 🌋 in the world and major tourist attraction in this park.
A scenic view of the crater reminded me Grand Canyon in Arizona, but in a smaller scale. Steam comes out of the cracks inside the crater, reminding people that this is an active volcano.
I also got lucky to witness the full rainbow over the crater.
Kīlauea Iki Crater
The next stop at the park is Kīlauea Crater. Trailhead isabout20 minutes down, 30 minutes up. It’s a 4 miles moderate-easy hike. Easy on the way down and respectively hard back up.
When you reach the bottom of the crater you find yourself on another planet. It is unbelievable! This hike definitely worth the time and energy. At the bottom you continue walking throughout special hiking signs right on top or hardened lava.
Holding Sea Arch
It’s been a long day and I found myself about 2 hours away from hotel, on the opposite side of the island. I’m tired.
I’ve got some food on me. I’ve got gas and water. I don’t have any kids, commitments or anyone waiting for me back, therefore there is no need to go back to hotel. I decided to proceed exploring the island and sleep in the car tonight. I just need to find a good spot to park and figure out the plan for tomorrow.
Constant “No service” made me go back to the roots and pull up the park map I’ve been granted at the entrance. After careful consideration of all potential overnight spots I headed towards the ocean. I picked the Holding Sea Arch as a good spot for overnight stay because I can meet the sunrise 🌄 there in the morning. It’s a slow, scenic 40 minute drive along the road called “Chain of Craters”.
Woke up at 5 to meet the sun. 20 minutes hike through the lava took me closer to the pacific ocean, where I patiently waited for the sunrise 🌄. Unfortunately weather had a different plan and washed my face with warm tropical rain. Still, the view was outstanding. I’ll be back for more.
Day #2 KONA – West & Sunny 😎 side of the island 🌴
About 2 hours driving away from volcano park and you’re on the west side of the island – the sunny side. I stopped at the town called Captain Cook. Air temperature rapidly increasing and the sun puts its warm rays on my face.
Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Captain Cook has the landmark called by the name outlined in the headline that I can’t even pronounce. It’s a national park and my first stop of the day.
The park is gorgeous! White sands, tall palms and crystal clear water makes you feel like you are back in the summer. One day entrance fee is $25 per car and $7 per person.
The park has about 10 km hiking trail that goes along the beach. You are on the wild goat’s land here 🐐. To keep my blood moving I went on an easy 7 km run through the park and hiking trail. I’ve seen at least two dozen goats jumping back and forth across the trail. I was looking at them, they were starring at me.
Jaw-dropping Snorkeling: Honaunau Beach
Right by the park is the beach called Hōnaunau and it is known for its snorkeling. Exactly what I needed after the hot run.
A little beach grants free snorkeling access to the public. All you need is a pair of goggles and the ability to stay on top of the water for at least a few minutes.
Pacific ocean is so warm! The water is crystal clear. You can see all the tiniest fish and corrals from tens of meters above.
Do not just jump straight into the water!
There are a lot of dangerously sharp corals on the bottom that look like the balls full of needles.
There is a non-official designated spot for entrance. People call it a “Two Step” place. Ask the locals if you can’t locate it yourself.
The second you put your head down into the water you feel yourself as a french explorer Jacques Cousteau. Fish 🐠 and corals I have previously seen only in documentary movies about wild ocean life. A-MA-ZING!!! And it’s totally free.
Captain’s Cook Monument Hike
20 minutes drive north from snorkeling place was my next stop. Swapped my swimming gear for sneakers 👟 and continued exploring Kona by feet.
3.8 mile hike with challenging 1400 elevation gain on the way back. This is what the sign said and it didn’t sound too good considering my knee injury.Going down was fast and easy. At the bottom you will face another scenic view straight from the movie of a perfect life.
Make sure you bring your snorkeling gear. Right by the Captains Cook Monument is a fantastic snorkeling place. The place is quiet and deep, hosting a wide variety of wildlife.
William was the name of a guy I met at the spot. He was undoubtedly convinced that he met a really special fish that he had a conversation with. He also mentioned he is a fish himself and that was a reason why he could talk to his aqua friends. The size of his pupils gave me an idea of what was going on.
Going back up was not as bad as I thought it would. In fact I barely broke any sweat and made it to the top quite fast and easy. Garmin showed 9 km worth of 1200 feet elevation gain.
Magic Sands Beach Park
The sun goes down as well as my energy level. I’m 85 km away from my bed, which is about 1 hr 20 minutes drive.
I’m facing the same question as yesterday: Go back to hotel or camp elsewhere?
What will I get going back?
A shower 🚿
Few tomatoes, chicken breast, rice or oatmeal with peanut butter on top
A human bed with pillow and a blanket
What will I get for not going back?
Experience of camping at the beach like a homeless man
Free hypnotizing sounds of the most expensive waves in the world
Fresh ocean breeze
Save about 1/3 of tank worth of gas and 3 hours of my life driving
Decided! Sleeping at the beach 🏖
Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone State Park
Round trip took me 2 hr 33 minutes and put 17 km on my body’s odometer. It’s not the easy hike. Elevation gain is about 2000 feet.
First 30-40 minutes you hike up the paved road with about 10% incline. Enjoy, thats the warmup. Next, you step on a black unsaved road filled with volcano rocks and sand. Hiking boots would come handy here, but regular sneakers also worked out good for me. (changed my mind later…)
There are 12 markers on the route, which will lead you to the top. It’s a bit hard to navigate some of them. Just keep in mind that if the trail you follow flattened or going downhill, you are on a wrong trail. On a way there its all uphill.
*CAUTION! Don’t watch if you eat!
Due to its popularity around the world and limited living space on the island I developed two major assumptions about the life on the Island.
Firstly, I assumed that the job market is really competitive here and it’s nearly impossible to get employed even as low-skilled employee. I assumed that you need to be a highly motivated and qualified professional to get hired at one of the local businesses to at least make a living.
Secondly, I believed that the rent and real estate prices are sky high. This assumption let me to believe that a regular, mid-class person, could not afford to buy a piece of property here.
None of my assumptions got validated. Any here is why:
The most demanding skills or qualifications are responsibility, self-management and motivation. This observation I borrowed from the guy who lived on an Island for quite a bit and went through the job hunting process himself. He said that employers are hungry for people that would simply show up. “Those who have at least a little bit of brain and discipline worth more than gold here.”, were his words.
Real estate market IS expensive. However it’s not much more expensive than in some major American cities. If you have at least $50k in your savings for a down payment, you can can afford a decent condo, or even a house in the area that is not too far from civilization.
It looked, sounded and felt that local inhabitants simply don’t care. They are truly chill and laid back. They are different than people in big cities. People value money much less here.
You don’t move to live in Hawaii for big houses, expensive cars or fancy clothes. You come to the Big Island for fresh water and clean air. You come here for life.
I am sad to fly back to Canada
I really enjoyed my time in Hawaii and I changed my view on a lot of things that were important to me. I hope to return sometime next year and when I’m back, I will not book a hotel stay. Instead I will camp throughout my entire visit. I will also rent a bigger car, preferably a Jeep or any other 4×4 vehicle that will allow me to explore more remote locations.
For now I want to leave me thoughts and feelings about this adventure as is. They will be different next time, I will be different…
Spartan race is over and it’s time to sit back and relax. While still in Quebec, visiting Montreal is a must.
Highlights of the trip: 1. Mont Royal 2. Old port of Montreal 3. Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal 4. “Stereo” night club 5. Bota Bota
Interestingly, when I asked locals to suggest places to see, they mention a spa. Apparently it’s a high end place, called Bota Bota. Located underground, right on the Old Port’s pier. Unfortunately I haven’t gone there, but it’s on my “Want to see” list for the next time I come. I love spa’s, steam rooms etc.
This is not the Canada I know. I’m in Europe. Everything is in French, road signs, restaurant menus, the language people talk – I’m in France 🇫🇷. Architecture, streets, cafes and bars.
Beautiful people! No only girls and females in general, but also men are just such a beautiful human beings. Is there is a “perfect human “ factory in Montreal? Kids, women and men are dressed with such a good taste and style. Every person that passes you by, leaves a trace of smell of perfume that could make your head turn. Without extravaganza I got so much aesthetic satisfaction from just watching people around. I’m in Spain 🇪🇸 back again.
Every Starbucks has an added “Cafe” word in front of it. I was fascinated to notice that none of the fast food places I went in for the “washroom” has obese people in them. I don’t actually remember seeing any crazy oversized people I’m so used to seeing from living in the states for the past few years. None of that here. Concentration of running and cycling people is austonishing. In this regard Montreal can easily compete with Paris. The city is an active city for sure. That probably explains my observations of overweight people, or to be exact – the absence of them.
Talking to people is pleasurable. Everyone seem to be so kind and happy. Bonjur! Sava? Mersi! Damn I like it here. I don’t even mind learning French.
Am I just seeing what I want to see? Am I wearing the pink glasses and things are not as bright as they appear to be here? Would I still like this place if I went and moved here?——One of my favorite places in the States is Austin, TX. Montreal, QB is my favorite Canadian City by far.
I sit on steps of my house, tighten laces on my sneakers. A big trip is ahead of me and it begins right now. The phone buzzes in my pocket – a message from Airbnb. The owner is asking me where am I and how soon will I arrive to his place today. Wait, today?!
I realized the mistake I made: I didn’t encounter the time zone difference and the fact that it’s overnight flight ✈️. I reserved my stay from 25th, however I won’t arrive to Spain till noon of 26th. Overpaid for extra day at hotel.
Lesson Learned: Pay more attention to the dates when booking hotel. Lesson Price: $33
Instant Karma or How I saved and lost $100 within one minute
Take out extra weight from your oversized luggage right before checking it in.
Put it somewhere to the side, where no one will steal it.
Put your suitcase (bike box) on check-in scales ⚖️. (most airlines limit is 23 kg). See 1 kg overweigh.
Smile and be extra nice to airline employee behind the desk.
She allows you to get away with it, which saves you $100.
Window of opportunity: Airline employee checks you in, prints the boarding pass and sends you to oversized luggage department. This is you window of opportunity. On a way there you have a chance to sneak the stuff you previously took out, back in. Oversized luggage guy does not re-weight your bag. His job is to make sure you don’t have a bomb in it, so he only scans it through x-ray machine. (Note: If your box/luggage doesn’t fit into the scanner, you have to open it for inspection).
Pre story: Plane tickets I purchased through “AirLingus” were the cheapest economy and did not allow any luggage besides the carry on. Few weeks before departure I called the travel agent and requested a quote for adding an extra piece of luggage: “sports equipment”. The quote was $140 for round trip. Rip off! I thought to myself. I’ll risk at try to check my bike box at the airport as a regular piece of luggage. I bet it would be cheaper. Wrong.
Since I purchased the cheapest ticket, adding just one piece of luggage costed me $100.
“How are you going to pay, Sir?”
Ughhh I am mad… Travel agent quoted me for spots equipment $140. I thought it’s too much and decided to try my luck. I tried, I lost.
Lesson Learned: Don’t mess with airline baggage policies. Play by the rules and pay the price. Check in your luggage online, prior to departure. Check the weight requirements to make sure you don’t overweight. Lesson Price: CAD $600
Now that I payed the money, lady at the register looks at my Ukrainian passport and with expression of confusion on her face asks me:
“Sir, where is your VISA to Spain?” You must be kidding me, I thought to myself.
“Ukraine is part of European Union, as well as Spain. I don’t need a VISA to travel within EU countries.”
15 minutes later she confirmed my statement and printed the boarding pass. This is all good mental training Sasha…
Called the travel agent to get a refund. No luck. Also the agent kindly notified me that I have only two hours layover in Dublin, before my second flight to a final destination. If I miss it, I won’t get reimbursed. Okay…
What’s on a line if I miss my flight:
I loose the money I payed for the ticket. I don’t get reimbursed. I loose the money buying another plane ticket.
I get late to the race expo which closes at 5 pm. I don’t race the IRONMAN, which is the whole purpose of this trip. I loose a shit load of money.
This is all good mental training. Stay calm…
Question: I’m flying back the same way I got here. Where am I supposed to get Irish VISA and can I get it in 2 days? Fuck I’m so mad and tired…
How surprised I was to discover at the Dublin airport that I am not permitted to Ireland without VISA. The officer told me that neither Russians or Ukrainians can travel to Ireland without a VISA. And he has the right to refuse me from entering and send me back to Toronto. Instead I’ve been give a warning and a stamp in my passport. The stamp gives me the right to legally be on a land of Ireland for 24 hours so I can catch my connecting flight to Spain. He said this is on my file now and if next time I come to Ireland without VISA, I will be sent back to where I came from.
With my oversized luggage I’ve been sent to the back of the terminal. It’s dead silent there. Me and one more guy are the only two guys how are brave enough to fly with our bikes internationally. Looking at the watch – 6:08 am. The gate closes at 7:10 am.
In this one hour I need to:
Collect my luggage.
Go through the customs 🛃.
Find my way to another terminal.
Check myself and the bike in. Get the boarding pass.
Drop off my oversized luggage at the special place at the airport.
Go through security check in again
Locate and get to departure gate before it closes.
Even if I already got my bike, I highly doubt I could make it… Baggage carousel doesn’t move, the guy that was waiting with me left. I’m standing there by myself thinking of how deeply in shit I am. I’m desperate.
Can I do anything right now to change my circumstances? No I can’t make my bike box suddenly appear here. I can’t claim express line to the plane. At this point I can only control myself. Watch your breath Sasha. Deep breath in, slow breath out. You have the tools, you know what to do, you’ve been training for this.
It’s all good mental training…
Carousel make a horrible noise and began moving. Please, let it be my bike, please. I turned away from the carousel so I don’t die from burning anticipation. Baaam! something heavy landed. That’s my bike. Now, RUN!
Made it to the check in. Only few people are in the line, I’m second. Young girl at the desk, good. This time I’m not going to mess around, trying to save myself some euros 💶. I was ready to pay almost any money to just get to Spain. Approaching the scale I put a stupid smile on my face.
“What’s this?”, she asked.
“Sports equipment”. Saying it felt like pleading guilty in front of the judge, who’s about to announce the price I have to pay.
“Put on scales ⚖️” 25.5 kg = 75 euros 💶
“Sir. How are you going to pay?”
Paid the price, but didn’t feel bad. I was ready for it. She looks at my passport, flips few pages, turn around to her coworker and shouts:
“Nina, Ukraine to Spain ok?”,my heart dropped.
“Yes…”, Nina responded.
Thank fucking God!
The girl hangs me over the passport with boarding pass and with a cute smile on her face says:
“The Gate closes in 20 minutes. You better hurry up if you don’t want to miss your flight ✈️.”
And I run, again.
Dropped my luggage at oversized luggage area in 2 minutes. The guy was nice enough to help me lift it up. Ran up to security check. Dammit! The line is huge! Came up to security guy:
“Pardon Sir. I’ve got a flight in 15 minutes”, pointing to my boarding pass. Without any extra questions he said: “Follow me”. He let me through priority line, cutting in front of all the people. I felt myself like a rock star 🌟
Made it through security in 5 minutes. Made it to the gate in another 10. Breathe out Sasha. Great job!
Shuttle bus took me straight to the car rental place. It’s a 15 minutes drive from the airport. The line was huge… waited for an hour for sure. Starting to get worried if I can make it to the race expo before registration closes at 5 pm.
Lady at the register looked at my drivers license and notified me that they can’t rent me the car with this license. It has to be international.
You must be kidding!
Eva Marquez is the girls name looked at me and said to wait. She went to her boss and few minutes later came back with great news. They will make an exception and allow me to rent the car even without having a proper license. Thank God!! However she repeated few times that if the Polizei stops me, and checks my documents – I’m in deep shit.
I also mentioned to her that I’ve got a huge piece of luggage that I would try to fit into the car before I sign the docs. We headed to the parking lot and without even opening the trunk it became clear that there is no way that my “Thule” bike box will fit into Fiat 500cc (if you know what I’m talking about =))
Icing on the cake was that Eva upgraded with with a bigger car (4 door Toyota Yaris) for no extra cost. Am I a lucky one?
Exhausted but grateful I’m on my way to Marbella (50 km driving)…
Lesson Learned: to rent the car in Europe you need to have International DL. Regardless to how tired you are, smile and be nice to the people you interact with. Being a dushbag won’t help you at all, but being nice can make your life easier.
Highlights of the Trip
The race is officially over, however my mind and body are still racing. Trying to slow down, however the brake pedal fell through the floor. Maybe I can’t slow down, but I can stir, so I get out the house for an easy ride on my bike. I need to keep my body moving, otherwise I’ll just fall apart by the evening.
Sun rise began around 7:30, just at the time I left the hotel. Streets are empty, all tourists are still asleep – perfect!
Mornings in Marbella are chill. It’s 13 Celsius, however cold breezy winds from the sea make make me shiver every time the wind blows. Keeping the cadence high to stay warm.
I didn’t have any particular route in mind so the sea line was my only guidance. Riding towards the sea I could not stop enjoying all smells and sounds. Every block and every neighborhood has its own smell and set of colors. So many flowers and trees… Absolutely gorgeous place to be in.
The walking/cycling path goes along the beach line. The sand is clean and the water is clear. Hundreds of fancy restaurants stretch along the path making my eyes wonder through the windows. I got so much joy from this early ride. I think I am falling in love with this place.
Old Town, Marbella
Later in a day I headed off to the “Old Town”. Got myself a cute German guide who took me around the best places in the city center. I was already amazed by the beauty I’ve seen in the morning. I would be hard to impress me now… wrong.
I got aesthetically overdosed just after first 10 minutes walking around the Old Town. Every corner, every building, every shop or restaurant is unbelievably beautiful. Where are the filming crews? I felt myself as I’m in some sort of movie. Unbelievable! I couldn’t stop taking pictures… Beautiful place, beautiful people!
Today I am headed to Malaga, which is about an hour drive east from Marbella. Parked the car, grabbed my backpack and went on to adventure.
Bazar. Mercado Central de Atarazanas
I love farmers markets and this is the place I had to go to. Loved it! Everything is fresh, everything is clean and nicely decorated. Perfectionist in me was amazed and fulfilled joy from seeing how fruits and vegetables are not just stacked on the shelves, but perfectly aligned one to another. How much time does it take the seller to setup his shop in the morning, handpicking each strawberry. Bravo!
Payed 3.50 euro for a can of olives and headed towards the beach. I got so much joy from just walking through the street. I realized how few words I operate with to describe the beauty around. Magnificent! Manifique! That is for sure now – I am in love.
Cathedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
Certainly a beautiful sight-seen, but nothing more than that. Maybe because I am not a religious person, I didn’t have any butterflies in my stomach or experienced feeling blessed from being there. At such places I usually like to meditate, which is what I did and shortly left the cathedral.
There are two admission tickets options: just the inside: 6 euro (4 student) or the inside + tour around the roof 10 euro (7 student). I explored both the roof and the interior and did not regret. If you find yourself in Malaga, it’s one of the places you must see.
It is located right on top of the mountain, at the city center. The word “alcazaba” means “citadel,” and the one in Málaga is best preserved example of a Moorish citadel in Spain. It’s about 15 minutes walk up the stairs which will bring your heart rate up quite a bit. Once on top, you will have to pay the admission fee of 3.50 euro per person and it’s CASH ONLY. I didn’t have any cash on me. Lady at the gate apologized and with regret told me that they don’t accept cards and I would have to go all the way down stair and find ATM. I went through all of my pockets, however all I’ve found was 75 cents. I turned around to exit the line… A second later, girl that was standing behind me in line handed over the ticket. It was really nice of her and I could not be more grateful for such a gift at that moment. Gracias Madam!
The views from the fortress are outstanding. There is also a cute little cafeteria inside, where you can enjoy some coffee or a drink, hiding in a shadows of the trees.
Oh, almost forgot! All beaches are nude beaches =) I’ve been to the beaches in Marbella and Malaga and found that so many girls sunbathe top less. Absolutely with no shame or the slightest sign of concern they take off their bra and let the boobs free. Kids, teenagers, young and old people around get a chance to witness what the nature gifted the girls with.
Do you want to get rich?
What is it that makes one man rich and another barely survive from paycheck to paycheck? It’s all about mindset.
How is the mindset of the the owner of this McLaren or any of the yachts parked in the port different from mine?
What does he think about when he wakes up in the morning or goes to bed?
What’s does he talk about with himself, his wife or friends?
What is he afraid of?
What makes him excited and happy?
How does it feel to be standing on your own multimillion dollar yacht and finding absolutely no one else around in the opened ocean?
How does it feel to have your Lamborghini parked right by the entrance to the most expensive restaurant in the city?
What is it like to be welcomed as the most important person in the world anywhere you go?
What does people wish you on your birthday? How they look at you?
So many questions running through my head…
Since the childhood I’ve been raised to hate rich people. I’ve been programmed to believe that the only way to acquire wealth is to steal, to jump over other people’s heads. That’s not true.
It made me feel bad every time I desired more money. It automatically put me into the “asshole” category of people. I felt embarrassed to tell people what I truly wanted, I even felt ashamed to think about getting rich.
That’s a total bullshit!
I want to get rich! I want to see what’s on the other side. I want make so much money that I won’t be able to spend through my lifetime. I want to be respected by the most impactful and wealthy man of this world. I to be the founder of one of the richest families in the world, the dynasty of Tereshchuk. I want to leave my kids with a legacy. I want my reputation to go ahead of me and my name to be recognized all over the world.
I want…. shut the fuck up and go back to work! You’re not that kind of breed. Forgot where you’re coming from, village boy?
The way back home
The trip back home promise to be as fun as it was flying to Spain. Getting back is the entire process that consists of a lot of steps and variables that I don’t have influence on. The fact that I’m flying to Ireland without VISA makes me feel nervous.
Stay calm Sasha…
First, I need to return the rental car. If I do it before 7 am I’ll be charged €40 because it’s outside of opened hours. The gate closes at 7:10 am and the flight departs at 7:40 am. I am not going to pay!!! Let’s see if I can return the car at 7 and make it to my flight on time. Airport is 15 away from car rental place by shuttle bus.
To make it happen I went to the airport at 6 am to check in my bike and print my boarding pass.
Second, I need to get permission from airline stuff to get on board to fly to Dublin. Airlines are being penalized for letting people fly without visas and the penalty is $30,000 per person. Because of that they can easily refuse to print my boarding pass as I don’t have any documents that would allow me to enter the Ireland.
Checking in with Ryanair was a nightmare. Come here, go there. Show me your boarding pass. You need to check in online. You don’t need to check in online. Pay €75 for your bike. Show me your passport, show me your tickets, show me your Canadian documents. You don’t have VISA. Bring your bike there, go back pay here…
I’m getting angry 😡 Stay calm Sasha.
7 am – returned the car. Can’t believe it costed €5.60 to rent the car for 5 days.
7:10 am – the gate has closed
7:15 am – arrived to the airport. RUN !🏃
7:20 am – security check. Problems with the lunch I packed 🥗. Take everything out; put it all back in. RUN !🏃
7:25 am – passport control. Passed😁 RUN !🏃
7:30 am – in the plane ✈️
Holly smokes I can’t believe I MADE IT!
In fact the bike saved me. Arriving to the gate the first question I was asked if I am the one who have the bike checked in?
“YES! That’s me!”
“Ok let him in”, lady at the desk told security person to open the door and escort me to the plane.
Being greedy, proactive and fast saved me €40. While running to the gate I lost my jacket with headphones in the pocket. I would appraise this loss in €20. Plus it costed me a hell of a stress which is hard to quantify.
Net gain €20. Did it worth it? No sure.
Notes: Self-awareness I developed with meditation allows me to recognize the moment I get angry or frustrated. It gives me a chance to choose my responses to situations and people. Self-confidence helps me to stay calm under pressure. I know that no matter what happens I’ll find a way, I always did. In tough situations my brain fires up on all cylinders and it will take me out of the craziest places with minimal losses.
My fears in regards to not being permitted to enter to Ireland 🇮🇪 did not come true. Visa officers in Dublin were really nice flying in and out. My passport got another hit with the stamp and I crossed the border.
“Just make sure you have the visa next time you come. Safe travels Sir!”
I felt relieved. Last push and I’m back in Canada 🇨🇦.
This was a hell of a trip. Few days worth a lifetime… There are so many things I am grateful for, that I feel the need to list each of them.
I am Grateful for:
My buddy Kelly, who was nice enough to host mr. Blake for a week.
Airline employee at Toronto airport that let me board the plane without Irish VISA. Without her mistake my journey would end without starting.
The money that bought me the experience of traveling and racing in Spain.
Irish immigration officers that let me into the county without VISA twice. They had the legal right to turn me around, so my trip would end very short.
Making it to the connecting flight to Spain on time and all the airport stuff that helped me to cut the lines and make it happen.
Getting to the race expo on time, before the registration closed.
Eva Marquez, the rental car employee who not only let me rent the car without international drivers license, but also upgraded me with a bigger car for the same price.
A great deal on car rental. It costed me 5.60 euro to rent the car for a week plus 35 euro for gas. Up until I dropped the car, I couldn’t believe I would actually be charged 5.60 total haha.
Airlines not loosing or damaging my luggage and having my bike in proper working condition for the race.
The opportunity to stay comfortably at the really nice hotel and not a shithole.
Completing the race safe and without injury.
Extremely grateful for MY BODY that allow me to experience the Ironman. It didn’t fail on me during the race and took all the beating.
My coach Renee, who not only prepared me for this challenge, but was always supporting me mentally along the way.
All those few people who expressed their support and words of encouragement.
Endlessly grateful for my father. The support I got from himand his wife Nadia. I am also grateful for the support from my brother Stepan.
Meeting Kira. And a chance to explore the city together. Grateful to have like minded person next to me and a chance to share thoughts and emotions with one another.
All the free parking spots I have found while traveling by car.
For the girl that payed my admission fee at the Fortress Alcazaba.
Being a good driver and not getting into the car accident or scratching the vehicle as I opted to insurance.
For making it back to the airport on time and catching the flight.
For all the people that gifted me their smiles and helped me along the way.
Last but not least.
Money Lessons Learned:
Luggage fees ate 95% of my money. By taking the risk and trying to save I lost €300. If you fly with extra piece of luggage, check it in before the trip. Don’t do it at the airport.
Withdraw enough cash while at home, from your bank to avoid ATM fees.
Shopping at the grocery stores and cooking your own foods saves A LOT of money.
Parking in big cities is expensive. I would rather get myself a coffee instead of paying the parking fee. Make yourself a rule: free parking spot = cup of coffee.
If you’ve ever dreamed about touring through the mountains of France or spending a week biking the trails in Whistler, you probably thought about whether or not you can fly with a bike. The answer is yes! Use my step-by-step instructions on how to bullet proof your bike for traveling on a plane.
What you will need
Bike Case. I am using Thule RoundTrip Sport (link).
Use a pedal wrench or hex key to unscrew the pedals from the crank arms. Rightpedals loosen by turning counter-clockwise, left pedals loosen clockwise. Applybike grease to the new pedals and screw them in at an even 90 degree angle. Right pedals tighten by turning clockwise, left pedals tighten counter-clockwise.
2. Place chain onto the large chain ring at crank.