Hang Gliding over Rio de Janeiro

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“Are you ready, Peter!?”

“Yes!”

“Three!”

After 5 days of cancellations due to dangerous wind conditions, I can’t believe I am finally here; standing over half a kilometer above the ocean-side Barra da Tijuica district of Rio, strapped to what appears to be a giant kite.

“Two!”

Although the car ride up the mountain certainly revved up my sympathetic nervous system, in this moment I am surprisingly calm and focused.

“One!”

As practiced mere minutes prior to the actual takeoff, I begin to sprint as fast as I possibly can towards the cliff edge.

Running alongside me is Paulo, my hang gliding pilot.

Within about a dozen frenzied steps, there is no more ground beneath my feet. My body goes from an upright running posture to a horizontal one, lying suspended in my harness.

Hundreds of meters below me are trees, a highway, some homes dotting the mountain side, beach-side high rises, and the Atlantic ocean.

Surprisingly, I don’t make a sound as the reality of the situation sinks in.

Instead, I say calmly to Paulo:

“This is phenomenal.”

As we get closer to our beach landing, I look up towards the cliff from which we launched and see Marina flying down after me.

After about 7 minutes of flying it is time to land on the beach, a process that goes more smoothly than I would have ever expected.

Above me Marina and her pilot, Marcus, are circling above the beach, getting close to make their landing.

Just as my own mere minutes before, Marina’s landing goes off flawlessly.

“I want to do that again!!!” yells Marina as she runs over to me.

And if it wasn’t for the cost, I’m sure we both would have.

Next time, we’ll have to up the ante; skydiving is definitely in our near future.

(Enjoy a short video of my take off below)

Peter

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Travel vs. Vacation: which is better?

What a surprise! Another flat tire!

Since the first time I vacationed sans parents (Daytona Beach, Florida back in my final year of high-school) I have come to realize that travel and a vacation are two vastly different experiences.

One-week getaways to sunny and often all-inclusive destinations are a wonderful way to get away from the monotony and stress of the daily grind.

I’ve had many great vacations over the last decade that allowed me to recharge my batteries and thus return to the daily grind with renewed vigor (Cuba is a personal favorite for this purpose, though Mexico and southern California come VERY close).

During these short breaks, the last thing I want is more stress induced by any potential hiccups in the itinerary.

I want everything to be arranged for me; for my hand to be held from the airport directly to the buffet at my all-inclusive beach-side hotel.

I want my daily schedule to be comprised solely of swimming, lying on the beach, and generally relaxing. (I must admit that both Marina and I are only capable of doing this for about 2-3 days before we become stir crazy and begin doing excursions to explore beyond the boundaries of our resort).

Unfortunately, on such vacations, while I spend my days relaxing and sipping fruity drinks out of a coconut, the only personal insight I tend to glean is that I really enjoy lying on a beach sipping fruity drinks.

Not the most earth-shattering of revelations.

On the other hand, when roughing it through under-developed countries, challenges are essentially guaranteed.

I’ve personally found that during these challenges – broken down buses, countless hours on painfully uncomfortable transport, extremes in climate and altitude, and the all too common illness one develops in these trying situations – I gain a tremendous amount of perspective.

The more arduous the circumstance; the greater the personal insight gained.

Although I am generally one to complain when things go awry, sometime in Bolivia (by far the toughest country I have travelled through) I began looking forward to travel hurdles because I knew how much I could gain once that hurdle is surmounted.

In fact, now that we are staying in an ocean-view condo in Rio, enjoying the beautiful weather, the great food and fresh fruit juices, getting around the city seamlessly using the network of public transport, etc. I almost miss the hassles and difficulties of our prior destinations.

As you can tell by the relative dearth of posts on this blog as of recent, I have little to say beyond the fact that I absolutely love jogging by the ocean each morning and following these runs with a delicious acai na tigela.

Thankfully, over the past 3 months of often trying travel I have already come much closer to answering many of the questions that loomed back when I finished my PhD.

While I’ll write more on these insights in the near future, for the time being, I think I’ll enjoy my vacation.

Peter

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