This chill summer I was working at the local camping place, just to keep myself busy... In the meantime my family came to visit me, for the first time in 10 years they had the chance to come visit me somewhere near and stay overnight for free ! This was possible because, 1 I live in Austria which is driving distance from Belgium and a pretty cheap flying ticket to nearby Klagenfurt, 2 I have an extra bedroom in our fully equipped apartment, and 3 a garden big enough to sleep my sisters and her boyfriends kids !
Therefore the summer flew by very chill and very quickly, especially when we decided in June to wait for a last minute ticket to Costa Rica in September.
We visited family and friends first in Belgium and then in Germany before flying from Frankfurt to San Jose, over Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). The rainy season was still going, so we headed first to the Caribbean cost, more specifically to Cahuita.
This sleepy village has a beautiful national park with a gorgeous white sand beach just a minute walk from our seaside lodge. What we didn't know right there was that we would see more wildlife here in this donation based NP than in any other part of this trip. We saw howler and white faced capucin monkeys, crab eating raccoon, leaf cutter ants, sting ray, two toed sloth, blue morpho and other butterflies, and several birds including humming birds.
We took a day trip to the more touristy Puerto Viejo, hired bikes and snorkeling gear and rode to Punta Uva to another great beach and underwaterworld.
Part 2 of the trip went into Panama, over a pretty easy border crossing, connecting bus to taxi to boat, onto Bocas del Toro, the main town of the same named island group. There is no beach at the main town, but this means lots of restaurants over the water, boat rides to other islands, happy hours by the water...
Katharina finished her PAdi Open Water course in what must be a record 2,6 days (too short), a record cheap 175 US dollars (including 2 free dives with little visibility), and a record bad quality and service (forgotten = skipped skills, very bad equipment like leaking regulators, waiting waiting, waiting, forgot to issue temp dive card, erased certification photo by accident...). I recommend everyone DO NOT dive with Starfleet divers in Bocas town, Bocas del Toro, Panama.
But she has got her ticket now and I hope we will go diving together soon. Part 3 of this 5 week trip went to the cloud forest reserve of Santa Elana and Monteverde. Because the rainy season was apparently over, there was no cloud in the cloud forest, which meant we didn't see many animals except for some birds and a green snake on our guided tour in National Park Santa Elena.
Time to hit the Pacific coast, we headed to Playa Tamarindo. Which is not such a good idea, because everyone warns you of danger. Danger to get robbed on the street, danger to get drugged and robbed in the bars, danger to loose your stuff on the beach when you surf, but worst of all, this used to be tiny village has expanded into a gringo development after the location became famous as a prime surf spot due to the Endless Summer 2.
Although I did get some nice waves on an early morning session, we decided to head for cheaper and friendlier San Juan del Sur just over the border in Nicaragua
This old fishing village has been enjoying a steady and healthy growth in tourism the last decades because of the good surf nearby, beautiful bay with sunset over the water, and the famous turtle arrivals on nearby beaches. After 2 days we already knew we wanted to spent our last 10 days there. Great dining, great place to stay (la terraza), good surf, nice beaches, rum and coke roof terrace sunsets, super chill.
And then we discovered the infinity pool of the nearby resort, where we sipped 2 dollar cocktails all day long while cooling off in the pool !
A great way to finish our trip, which was overall very good. Costa Rica is a bit expensive for what it is, especially park entrance fees, and accommodation isn't so good price quality wise. Bocas del Toro in Panama is pretty great for just hanging around and chilling, just as cheaper San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, with its great sunsets.
Price wise, our cheapest accommodation was a double room with private bathroom for 20 us$ (sleepers sleep cheaper, monte verde), most expensive 32 us$ San Jose (without bathroom). The double with bathroom in private apartment with fully equipped kitchen, sat tv, terrace with hammock, and rooftop terrace costed only 22 us$ a night in San Juan del Sur...
Time is up, and winter is coming near. I will work in the ski rental again, as the shop manager, which is gonna be lots of work and fun ! Katharina is working in the Cube hotel again, and we are dreaming already of our next trip, maybe Spain or Egypt in May ???
Keep on Tripping, Wim
Sunday 11th of April was the last skiing day here in Nassfeld - Hermagor. It was also my last working day in the rental shop ! On Monday I went with my colleages on a little road trip to Italy, mainly to eat and drink !
Also Katharina finished last Sunday and we both have summer jobs starting end of May, so its time for some relaxing, and of course some Tripping too ! We will visit Bratislava, Prague, Pilzen, Dillenburg, Balen and Salzburg over the next 2 weeks.
Then we will chill in our little house here, my parents come to visit in May and we visit Katharinas mom in Milano for a few days, and before we know, it will be time to work again ! I will be working reception at the local camping Schluga, who have a camping near the Presseger see, that only runs the summer months. Katharina will join the Cube again, they also open the summer ! So it looks like Austria is gonna be our new 'heimat' for the next while, and I'm loving it !
So Keep on Tripping, Wim
It goes fast when you work a lot. I just got 3 days of last month, and worked some evening shifts as well, so haven't been out spending, haven't been out snowboarding either. But now I am home sitting on my terrace in the sun and it feels great. I know the peak season is finished here, so March will be chill whith lots of days of, and with making new plans. What will we do in summer ? We really like the house here, and it looks like we have job opportunities if we want. So we wait and see what comes on offer here, before making a decision. I havent been contacted by the people of my last summer job yet, and they still owe me a bonus, so at the moment Austria seems to be the favorite option.
Will keep you posted, keep on tripping !
This is what a real Austrian winter season is like when you have a job here: You work 7 days a week, or close to that on the weeks when there are a lot of tourists. Then when it calms down a bit, you get 2 days off, and when lucky a 3rd one or a spontanous afternoon ! So my last day of in December was the 23rd, my first day this year was the 13th. Everyday I worked from 8am till around 6 pm, sometimes till 7pm.
But that is not all bad. You work so much that you do many hours and thus make good money, and furthermore, you don't have time to spend the money because you are too tired to go out and do something.
So on my first day off this year the snow was lurking and I finally took out my snowboard. I was afraid I forgot how it worked, but found out soon enough that I didn't, it went pretty well, it was awesome. Last Saturday Katharina had a day off together with me so we slept long(er), fixed the car light, washed a lot of dishes and went skiing/snow boarding.
These two weeks with 2 days of a week, and not that much to do in the shop anyway, feel like a kind of holiday. We are waiting for the big groups that will arrive in February. First a part of Austra comes over, then a lot of english schools the 3rd week. The last week its mainly dutch and belgians ! February will be another long stretch with no days off, unless... Unless I can make the days off planning, which I already tried to take over this week, partually successfull. I convinced my colleage Ingo that we can alternate, some of us get a day of one week, the others a week later. Only possible when half our staff is not summoned to go play ski teachers. So lets wait and see what February will bring. I just know March is gonna be a lot more chill, hopefully with many sunny snow boarding days for me, and maybe I try some skiing as well, that is if Katharina has the patience of picking me up everytime I crash...
Keep on Tripping in 2010
I have been a week in Austria and settled down quite completely. By Friday we found a nice appartment, for a very nice price. Lets just say most colleages in this area pay the same for a one person appartment, half the size of what we have.
Ow, and the appartment has a cosy wood stove in the living room, and a guest room in the back ! Then our house owner, the below neighbour brings us a new tv and coffe machine, and her son brings us a welcome bottle of Prosecco !
We opened the bottle of Prosecco today, because I got the one job I would have liked to get, in the local Ski rental and ski school place !
Haven't signed yet, but will let you know how it goes, tripping in the Austrian snow !
Mach weiter Tripping !
Things happen, also things can be different from what you expect, or different from what you hoped it would be.
My adventure in the Dominican Republic was rather short. The choices were mine, but the circumstances where mostly out of my hands. Ok, I did know I was running away again, you know, when a problem happens, you turn it your back, in stead of trying to face it.
So the idea was that I would go there and be happy, because the job was gonna be fantastic and the place to live great. Now, about the job... Promises can be broken, but what Dressel did and stands for is more than braking... The information about my contract was pretty good, I'll get a 2nd day off every two weeks after working there for 6 months, pretty damn great ! But nope, they dont do it any more. Plus working hours were at least an hour more per day than announced. Now for all of you who know my previous expereince with Ubizen in Belgium, you know I don't like companies that lie to me !
So Dressel was ment to be a no go, or better a no continue. Furthermore the job itself, teaching diving was not as I hoped it was. The whole romatic idea behind teaching diving was non existent there. Teaching the same group of students 4 days in a row is just great, its actually fantastic because it is fun, you can see progress, you built a strong student-teacher connection. But not with Dressel, they plit the working day in 5 pieces, 4 of which are a module, a pool session of some course, a demo, an open water sea dive, or a guided dive. So you're never a teacher for a certain group of students, you just do 4 tasks diving wise and finish the day with your paper work and some celanup.
Not too bad, for someone who needs to get some experience, and needs the money, and doesn't mind working by the sea, but without the 'beach is my office' feeling.
When I got into diving I wanted to live a beach life, earn less but enjoy more. And this was definately not the place to do that.
So what do we do ? Well, we fly back to belgium, we take our winter gear and then go to the Alps to find a job ! And in the meantime, I can face the problems I head and solve them, face to face, in stead of running away again and again. I have stopped running !
Keep on Snow Tripping !
Yes, I did it again. I made a lot of my friends and colleages jealous, because i choose to go for the adventure again. Ok, I am lucky to find a dive job I really wanted, and that I found it pretty quick as well. But the choice to go out there and live the adventure could be yours as well, or maybe you are aleady involved in a big adventure ?
Just do it ! Really, if you think this is the great life than why doesn't everyone choose to go for this kind of life ? The answer is usually that it is too late to do it, because of kids, girlfriend/wife, paying of a house, ... Ok, pretty good reasons, but that shouldn't stop you from going for it ! Adventure is hiding in every little corner of life. Resepct for all my firends dads and moms, for taking on the adventure of raising kids !
But hey, that is not my choice of adventure, after all the trips and adventures I have been in, it would be difficult to step down and go live 'normal', whatever that may be. So yes, I did go for it again, choose to pick up my diving career where I left it 20 months ago.
I will fly the 4th of november to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, then travel by taxi to Bayahibe, on the south east coast. I will work for Dressel Divers, a professional dive company that has dive centers near several Iberostar resorst in Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Mallorca !
If all goes well, I will soon be teaching in Dutch, English, French and Spanish. With some practice I hope to improve my German and Italian teaching skills as well. Keep on Diving ! and...
Keep on Tripping !
Back in cold Belgium I didn't hesitate for long, I need to get back to the sun and sea. Not so difficult you would think, but also in the tourism industry there are more job hunters than positions at the moment (damn crisis). So for me to have a chance as a dive instructor again, a lot depends on what languages and experience the dive centers are looking for. On the Padi members website there are several new posts daily, but since I am not a captain, and don't speak japanese or russian, I seem to have less chances.
I did sent my curriculum to several dive centers looking for someone like me, or similar to me, but I guess I am not the only one looking and so far the response hasn't been what I hoped for. But some did respond and I hope to soon change my top banner to 'Tripping Diver', and change the weather forecast to some gorgeous location somewhere in the Carribean !
I keep searching, maybe I can find my endless summer after all !
Keep on Tripping !
It is september, all the kids went back to school, but, we still have one camp running ! The Billabong surf camp keeps going, tomorrow the last bus is arriving and 43 guests will have a blast of a time. Most of them are students who will go back to uni straight after this week of surf and fun. For me and Katharina it means we can start packing. Packing up the office, writing evaluations and guidelines that FlowTrack can use towards next year, planning our own new adventure after this one !
Thats where there are still some difficulties... We did look for some jobs abroad, but we are quite picky. We want to work in tourism, and in the same place of course ! So we looked for some dive jobs where they also need someone for front office, sales, ... Or maybe find a management couple job, at a resort or something similar. We did encounter interesting job opportunities, even one for managing a private island, but most of the times we lack a bit of experience, or we are unlucky not having an American green card...
But we keep searching, and maybe we can have our own endless summer !
Keep on Tripping !
When we have a day of, we have to disappear from the camp. If we don't, people keep asking us stuff, like little questions. But if they ask me something every 20 minutes, I don't feel like having a day of.
So we take the car, some beach stuff and drive to some nice beaches, places where most of the other crew never went. Last week we discovered a beautiful place just west of San Vicente, a triangular beach, and there even were some waves breaking, too bad I didn't take my surf board with me. When the weather isn't so good we go to a town, or into the mountains. We checked out some historical buildings, a walkway tot a waterfall, stuff like that. Most importantly, I give my phone to Jasper ! Because this phone is the contact phone for almost everything and needs to be available for 24h !
Keep on Tripping !
Tomorrow is 2 weeks since D-day. That means it is another changing day, another day when buses arrive bringing new guests, and buses go to take satisfied, suntanned, partied out guests back home !
How do we keep it running smooth ? We use people in key positions, to be responsable for their camp, or there division (cooking/bar/surf). Well, that is the idea. Because for some of these people it is not very clear how they have to do their job. Most of the group camp responsables try very hard to do their best, but still make mistakes because they didn't know how to present or handle something to the groups.
For example, an arriving group talks to a leaving group and hears about an activity we tried, but we don't want to try again (because it didn't work well). The new group asks the camp responsable if they can do this activity as well, and she says 'probably'. So the day of the activity a problem arrises as this activity is not happening and as a result the group is not happy. That is when I come in and talk about another option, apologise, etcetera.
So the key positions are so important, thats why we get people back who worked here last year. Which is a risk, because the motivation of new people is significantly higher than those of the comebackers. But somtimes you have to choose experience over freshness !
More photos coming soon,
Keep on Tripping !
The first group of guests, 54 sport uni students, has just left!We, and they, had a superb week. The sun was shining every day, the bar was running smoothly, and the parties were great. Just the waves were lacking a bit, the last few days. And boy, these guys can be noisy. After the Friday party in Solaire the noise was so loud, on the street, that the camping owner got out of bed to come and complain...
So that was week -2, the first test of our new bar, of the night canyoning and the Suances party night out. Most reviews we got back were superb, especially the cook deserves his moment of glory ! But some other feedback will be used to make these camps even better, good is not enough, we want to be excellent.
Also the building team has not been sitting still, they have build camps 2, 3 and 4 and are almost ready to be used ! Next Saturday we will have 5 groups, with over 130 guests and a week with 87 surf lesson hours, 3 city visits, a snorkelling trip, mountainbiking, climbing, canyoning, bbq's kids parties and more...
So after my day of (today), I will be focused like hell, to finish everything before the real D-day, 3rd of July !
Keep on Tripping !
The camp is growing, slowly but steadily. After a few days of good weather we could actually build up the crew area and first base tents, like the office and kitchen. Since 3 days we also started working on the bar ! This year the bar is going to be the master piece of the individual camp.
We rented an extra piece of terrain on the side of the old
camp, giving us a bit more space to play with, and a breathtaking view ! Just a
few more days and the first guests arrive, so we have to finalise stuff now
really. Still to do in these days: Get an internet connection, connect the
toilets, build some walkways, order the first food and drink supply, adapt the
planning, get the guest lists, fine tune check in procedure, evening activities
and more .
And then its not finished yet, two weeks later the group camps have to be ready as well. So the buildup team will still be building non-stop, except for some welcome days of in between. Yesterday we enjoyed a free day, and I went driving around with my girlfriend, to the little fishing village of Llanes, and after to the beach in meron, for a nice spanish lunch. The evening we had a nice surfsession and went to bed exhausted but satisfied with adventure. Keep on Tripping !
Tuesday: After a long drive on Monday and Tuesday we finally arrived in sunny
Spain ! The feeling to be here again is pretty undescribable. Katharina and
Susi, who drove here with me in there car, are super enthusiastic, and
ready for the summer ! They can't wait to get started. But they will
have to wait.
Wednesday: The first trailer arrived, but there was a little problem. The keys for the locks we put on last year, are still in Belgium. No worries, Jose Andres , the camping owner, loves a bit of problem solving by manpower. With just a hammer and a piece of iron, he smashes open the 2 locks in no time.
I get the two girls, and with a big smile we put together the roof of the 2 big tents. Finally they can do some work.
The same evening we wait and wait for Jasper and the other builders. We wait till almost 3 am... Time for a beer and a quick chat, tomorrow we can really finally start start.
Thursday: We started, and how. We just got ready to start working and the belgian trailer arived. A lot of new material has been send over, and this truck needs to get on the road again today, so we al start unloading tents, surfboards, kitchen gear, bikes and all into the tents we prepared. By 3 o'clock I prepare a nice tuna sandwich lunch with fresh fruits for the guys. Everyone looks alreay exhausted, but after this energy boost we also unload half of the first truck, and then a thunderstorm hit us. We escape to our bungalow and call it a day. Tomorrow we need to finish emptiing the trailer by noon, and buildup a crew area so we can move out of this tiny bungalow. 7 people is a lot, so tomorrow we will start the real camping adventure...
Although the winter season ended pretty early, I really enjoyed it. The hotel was great, the snow superb, the company excellent. But summer comes near and I signed up again for the surf camps of FlowTrack, where I was responsable for the group camps last year.This year I am officially called Head planning/coach. Whats in a name, I think planning and coaching will be my main priority, but running most of the organisation and day to day operations will probably be in my hands for some part as well. I will leave to Spain the 1st of June, so I can join the buildup team to start building the 4 camps we will be running this summer.
I will be responsable for some 'administrative' buildup, which includes getting the toilet blocks organised, getting an internet connection for our camp office, getting all the documentation and software ready for the catering, surf and bar teams, the planning modules, etc, but I will also cater for the builders and follow up on inventories and such...
So hopefully the weather gods will be in good spirits the next few weeks, because building up 4 camps goes way easier when the sun is shining !
I ll keep you posted on my life at the surf camp
right here, so keep on Tripping !
The old blog can be found here.
This has been the most snow rich season here for over 20 years. Lucky me ! It has just been fantastic riding on some days. I remember the crazy powder bowls in New Zealand, but there you needed to walk an hour or more to reach the start of a clean bowl. Here we have been leaning back on clean powder hills almost straight from the lift. They are not the longest runs, but connecting all little and large tracks together it is just pure powder pleasure. Especially in Ehrwald, crossing right from the top two seater lift, it is just pure surfing pleasures. I set my bindings as far apart as I can, and it feels like riding a wave, just leaning on the backfoot, taking just a few turns, using only the body balance.
Two days ago it snowed so much that half of the runs were not prepped, so we didn't even have to go off track for pow pow. But fresh pow pow also means that it has been snowing a lot, so visibility hasn't always been great. The few sunny days we had were usually way too warm, making the snow slushy in the afternoons, and icy in the morning. Great for apres ski at Otto's pistentreff though, with sunglasses and gluhwein !
The work has been good too. Some weeks we had real active groups, lots of party people who took the apres ski pretty serious ! Others liked to do more on their own, with no need of the animation team. The coming week-end there is a special incentive with the normal guest (39 pax) and an extra group of 54 people. The latter need an extended program so we will be very busy this week-end, with a Quiz, abseiling in the hotel and snow cycles on the slopes !
I put some mixed <HREF="HTTP: designtimesp="4532" target="_top" winter2009.html? www.tripping.be>pictures of this winter, check it out, and...
Keep on Tripping !
I have been 3 weeks in Biberwier Austria now. Me and the other travel rep, Daniel, stay at the modern Cube hotel (google it), which is pretty comfy ! The snow is just outside, the music pumpin and the apres ski very Austrian. The latter means serious Tiroler apres ski music, dancing on the tables, half liter beers and Jaeger shots in between.
But we are getting used to this 'way of life' and call for alcohol free days, most days of the week now ;-).The snow has been really good the first 2 weeks. Lots of fresh pow pow, followed by some sunny weather. Lately it has been pretty cold, freezing up the slopes in the afternoon, which in turns means you better have ice skates and a hockey suit to go downhill. Another solution is to start the apres ski early, alcohol frei of course.
The guests have been fun too ! The first were mainly from Thomas Cook and Neckermann itself. Luckily we left a really good impression so they are going to sell these short and midweek skitrips like hot cookies ! We have guests arriving Saturday morning, who leave on Monday. And another group of maximum 40 pax arriving Monday, leaving next Saturday.
We do the welcoming, apres ski, a ski safari, a quiz, a nightwalk, and answer any questions to provide the guests a nice holiday ! So far so good, we still have time to go on the slopes and have some fun. The only problem is the hotel. Although it is great, the management doesn't mind overbooking my room and the busdriver's rooms. Which meant I already moved 3 times in 3 weeks, moving again on Thursday and Wednesday... Hopefully this issue gets solved, and then this job is just pretty perfect.
Enjoy the snow and ... Keep on Tripping !
Its Xmas time and everything is getting alright. Just got my contract for the winter job and a commitment towrds the summer has been made. Looks like a lot more tripping is coming up for 2009.
2008 had some more tripping since the last time I wrote. To make it short, a lot of shit happened, an accident, or 2, a lost court case, terminal illnes... And when I was finally escaping misery and belgium again for 7 weeks, the plans for Australia got cancelled last minute... So I made my own escape with 19 days of Moroccan surf and 10 days of Roman culture ! The surf in Morocco was great. Definately a place I will go back, with some friends and good waves. In Rome I visited my friends Sofie and Laura. Great to see Laura again after 6 years. Still the same and lots of laughs and good memories. Sofie is working for 4 months in Rome and is enjoying the local culture and food a lot, and trying to understand the somewhat complicated italian way of life, or better the way italians make life complicated !
But now up to Austria, where I will be the rep for Thomas Cook shortskis at the Cube hotel in Biberwier ! Lots of riding and lots of apres-ski guaranteed. Australia might come up after that, before another 4 month stint in Spain.
So all the best for 2009, and ... Keep on Tripping!!!!