Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Reinventing oneself

Some lessons I learnt after living for two months without a home and spending all my time on trains, planes, and friends’ houses (thanks!). A note for the random visitor: these are just scattered notes I write for myself, not a coherent post.

1. Communication

People seem to waste too much of their time communicating with digital devices. This is an old refrain, I know, but it is scary how people use their phones nowadays – and for what? I have been on trains where all the persons of a family of four never spoke to each other for the whole ride, because they were all incessantly looking at their devices. Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, emails, sms, Twitter, emails, Telegram: even me, I am inundated by applications to chat. I often think of a line of a certain Passenger’s song, we pretend to be friends on the internet when in real life we have nothing to say. As a reaction I have grown increasingly more inept at communicating with my phone. Forget long messages. Rather, I have elected four simple ways of communicating with you: (1) this blog; (2) a short sarcastic message, picture, or video to laugh about; (2) a handwritten letter, for those of you who really matter; (4) a flight/train ticket to come and see each other in person.

2. Smartphone apps, more generally

There was a moment of my trip when I was craving for a map of Berlin. Until that point I had been getting around anywhere just fine using googlemaps. Sure, the app was working well; but I realised it was my fourth time in Berlin and I still had no idea of how the city was structured and I could not even remember the name of the neighbourhood where I was staying. The way I use googlemaps is just to get to A to B and, as a consequence, I never memorise the information. I made a resolution for myself to start using old paper maps again – like these. It is not for a case that when I was still in Trento I had the ambitious project of creating one. (I failed, but not for lack of trying).

3. Being a guest

I received precious hospitality by Giallu, Martina, Pietro, Jonas. I learnt to wake up in the sun, listen to classical music, treat wooden objects with respect, prepare a smoothie, separate clothes in the laundry machine. But – hei – I am just not made for being a long-term guest. I feel like I am invading someone else’s space. So this experience confirms that I am a bourgeois deep down in my bones. The word bourgeois, as you know, denotes a person that takes for granted the sanctity of property. This brings me to point 4 of my diary.

4. Stuff

Niels, who is going to live with me in Torino in a couple of days, says that he wants to have his belongs packed in one simple bag. A-ha: nonsense. Living in Florence for three years I have accumulated an incredible amount of stuff: books, clothes, games, bikes, paintings, a scooter, laptops, tables, all sorts of technology. This stuff -material stuff, really- reflects my personality; in some ways, it is even an extension of it. This is why I feel so strange knowing that it is now scattered around six different houses (err – and I take the opportunity to thank again my friends for their patience).

5. Home

Material stuff reflects my personality, sure. There is another reason, though, why it is so important to me: it also captures a particularly happy period of my life. So now when I take up Bruti I remember the late evenings playing it with Dani; when I take that one glass of whiskey I remember the night when I was with Thomas and he knew he got into law school; when I look at the little school bus I remember of my improvised journey all the way to Denmark with Iris; and so on: you got the gist. Now – of course you realise I have been bloody sentimental about leaving my home in Florence, but I think that is for a reason. At the moment I doubt I will ever find a place so welcoming, so radiant, so relaxed as that. But then, who knows? When I got there in 2013 I had just experienced Brussels with Mindo, a truly marvellous flatmate and friend. So I was convinced I could not find anything better than that. In fact, half an hour after my arrival in the house Ada and I were fighting -literally fighting- over the consequences of Spanish colonisation in South America, leaving short of words both Jonas, who had rented the cheapest room but was forcefully assigned the most expensive one upon his arrival ‘because you are the last one who arrived and since we have already put our luggages in the other room it be a bit of a hassle to move them now, no?‘; and Dani, who had been accepted in the house at the last minute just because the girl who had been favoured over him turned out to be pregnant. It ended up going swimmingly: they are my closest friends now. So let us be surprised again.

Città vetrina

Per decenni il turismo di massa è stato considerato una risorsa fondamentale per lo sviluppo economico e sociale. Oggi in molti luoghi è evidente il contrario. Ho scritto un articolo sul tema per Unimondo che poi, in un certo senso, è la continuazione ideale di quello che ho rilanciato qualche giorno fa. Qui però parlo di turismo in generale e di come abbia trasformato Las Palmas, come altri luoghi, in un concentrato di hotel, ristoranti all’ultima moda, bar con le insegne al neon. Lungo Las Canteras, una delle più grandi spiagge urbane d’Europa, i grandi marchi delle multinazionali hanno rimpiazzato i fruttivendoli, i negozi di barbiere, i mercati, i fornai. E’ un esempio di gentrificazione, un termine inventato nel 1964 dalla sociologa Ruth Glass per descrivere quello che stava succedendo a Londra in quartieri operai come Islington, dove a partire dagli anni Sessanta si trasferirono molte persone delle classi più agiate costringendo i precedenti residenti ad andarsene per via dell’aumento del costo dell’affitto. Anche a Firenze, la città che mi ha adottato da qualche anno, lo spostamento in periferia di varie facoltà e centri culturali ha ridotto gli affitti regolari nel centro storico in favore delle rendite rese possibili da Airbnb, aprendo così le porte all’idea di ‘città vetrina’. Se volete leggere tutto l’articolo, potete farlo su Unimondo.

Nomadi digitali

Internet ha avuto un impatto enorme sulla vita professionale di coloro che un tempo venivano chiamati ‘colletti bianchi’ o lavoratori da scrivania: ormai la maggior parte delle comunicazioni avvengono via mail, le riunioni si svolgono su skype e i documenti si condividono su dropbox. La diffusione di questi strumenti ha facilitato il lavoro di molti; e in alcune situazioni lo ha completamente stravolto. E’ il caso dei tanti miei coetanei che ho conosciuto l’ultimo mese, vivendo a Las Palmas di Gran Canaria: sono giovani che hanno deciso di sfruttare appieno le nuove tecnologie digitali e la diffusione dei voli a basso costo per svolgere il loro lavoro da bar, caffetterie e biblioteche pubbliche di paesi esotici. Conducono il loro stile di vita in modo nomade e per questo sono chiamati ‘digital nomads’, nomadi digitali. Ne ho scritto un articolo per Unimondo, che potete leggere cliccando sul link.

Face-book

After giving the talk I wrote about in here, I realized I must to re-think the way I write about people. I want to collect all the stories I write in a coherent container; and I want to put a picture next to the text. So I started my own face-book: I went to buy a Polaroid and I started using it. These are the first pages of my facebook.





  

I am still missing a text for Marco. I will write it soon.

And, yes, I wanted my Polaroid to be white. Unfortunately a flashing pink was the only colour available in the shop where I was. So here she is, my funky new camera whom I decided to call Dara, which is a local aboriginal name.

Democrazia diretta

Lasciando da parte Svizzera e Lichtenstein, i due Paesi dove se ne fa da sempre ampio uso, nei Paesi dell’Europa Occidentale si sono tenuti piu’ referendum negli ultimi venti anni che in tutto il periodo dal 1950 al 1995. Anche in Italia questo strumento è sempre più utilizzato: solo quattordici i referendum fino al 1990, ben 80 quelli che si sono tenuti da allora fino ad oggi. L’Economist ha chiamato questo fenomeno “referendumania” e ha provato a spiegarne le ragioni, legate principalmente alla crisi dei partiti tradizionali e al tentativo di far sentire i cittadini maggiormente coinvolti nell’esercizio della cosa pubblica. La democrazia diretta, in effetti, stimola il dibattito. Ma che tipo di dibattito, esattamente?

Ho scritto un articolo su questo tema per Unimondo: lo trovate qui.

Stories that move me around

Last week I gave a short and simple presentation for Atlas on the topic Why do we travel? A talk about the kind of stories that inspire us to continue exploring our environments and its remote cultures. The talk is part of a new series of events that we decided to call Science of Travel.

Science of Travel.jpg

I started by asking the question of Doug Lansky: why did travelling go from this to this? One answer to this question is that travelling has got a lot easier: not only in the sense that there are more planes and means of transportation available to all; but also in the sense that the experience itself has changed. The spread of global brands like tripadvisor, hostelbookers, hostelsworld, mcdonalds, marriot’s has transformed tourism into a much more accessible, impersonal, standardized experience. Nowadays we can find the very same venues in all the main tourst locations around the world and when we use them we know exactly what to expect from our journey. This, of course, makes the life of travellers much easier.

At the same time, easy tourism defies the original purpose of travelling. Travelling was always a way of loosing ourself, to be disoriented, so that we can understand ourselves better. In fact, travel was always a spiritual experience. It is not by chance that some kind of voyage figures prominently in all the main monoteistic religions: Moses travels to Mount Sinai too get the ten commandments, Jesus travels across the desert to find himselfm, Mohammed’s first encounter with God is in Cave Hira, and even buddah becomes the Buddah when travelling in the wilderness. Religions show us the transformative aspect of travel. When we are disoriented, our thoughts are amplified and we establish a more unique connection with what is around us. So now it should be clearer why travelling with technology and relying on mass tourist destinations and global brands… is not really travelling at all. As Chelsea writes in her 1 year without a cell phone, ‘I didn’t want to have Google Maps at my disposal, pull up answers in the palm of my hand, or browse through the Top 10 Places to See on a screen. I wanted to touch the shoulder of a stranger and ask for help, get local advice, hear stories firsthand. I didn’t want a search bar telling me where to eat‘. By contrast, the millions of people who travel this way are more like consumers walking into supermarkets than travellers experiencing surprising destinations.

How can we have a more authentic travel experience, then? Relying less on technology and going for something hard is a good starting point; but it is not only about being more connected to nature than to the internet, though. It is also about doing something hard, as opposed to something easy. Many people nowadays walk the Camino de Santiago looking for something that is not predictable, and not standard. Hardness gets us moving – and it brought us to the moon: it was JFK who famously said ‘we decided to go to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard‘. Tough obstacles make for nice stories.

This is why, when I set off for a trip, I go with the objective of writing one short story about one person I will meet. It is not much about the act of writing: it is more about changing my mindset and actively looking for encounters. This is how I learnt to pay more attention. But then, of course, each of us has a different way of looking for and telling their own stories. In Gran Canaria I met a variety of creative persons. Marco, for instance, does it by playing music: his Kamelen Goni is a means of fostering encounters and transmitting his feelings. Abel uses the light to write stories through the photos of his camera. Silvia paints. I write. At the end of the day we all travel for a story.

Scattered notes from Gran Canaria

I landed in Las Palmas on August 5th. The first impression was bad: horrible architecture and horrible tourists everywhere. It felt like a place where I did not really want to be. After a few days I realized that of all my trips, this is definitely the most alienating city where I have ever stayed.

And yet, even Las Palmas has its charm. It makes some sense, now that I think of it: after all, I came here to volunteer with Atlas, a local association that is trying too make Gran Canaria a better place. My accommodation was in its headquarters, if we may call it so: Atlas Las Palmas, a hostel is situated in one of the most degraded neighbourhoods of the city and one of the only ones that are not affected by tourism: La Isleta. Only a few hundred meters away, Las Canteras is the biggest urban beach in Europe. It is packed with elderly people and young couples: not exactly the kind of place I fancy.

My memories of the first days are related to the community life in the hostel, the concert organized by the association there, the surfing sessions early in the morning, and the tons of digital nomads, that is to say those young fellows who only need a laptop and an internet connection to work: they come here in huge numbers and live in Las Palmas for six months or a year. Thinking back of it now, I realize in those first days I was still trying to get acquainted with this bizarre reality and finding a role for myself.

I spent most of my second week in Artenara, Spain’s second highest village at 1200 m on the level of the ocean. Here the association owns El Warung Cave Hostel: I was in charge of keeping it running. I arrived to Artenara at about las 2 de la tarde: in an almost unbearable heat, some workers were slowly setting up a stage in the town’s main and only square, while the speakers were playing traditional Spanish music. The village was about to take its usual afternoon break. I would soon be forced to do the same: after lunch the temperature reaches 48º. Artenara is a surprising place: “El espectáculo es imponente. Todas aquellas negras murallas de la gran caldera, con sus crestas, que parecen almenas, con sus roques enhiestos, ofrecen el aspecto de una visión dantesca. No otra cosa pueden ser las calderas del Infierno que visitó el florentino. Es una tremenda conmoción de las entrañas de la tierra; parece todo una tempestad petrificada, pero una tempestad de fuego, de lava, más que de agua”. This is a writing of Miguel de Unamuno, poet, writer, novelist and academic who served as rector of the University of Salamanca -where I shortly studied Spanish in 2010- before being removed by the dictator General Miguel Primo de Rivera and sent in exile to the Canary Islands – it was 1924. Just like he did when staying here, I went for long hikes, I enjoyed the surreal silence, I observed the changing colours of the sun on the rocks, I ate in all the local restaurants (three of them), and I spent much time reading and meditating with Sombras, the hostel’s cat. But mostly I tried to make sense of the geography around my cave, tracing Roque Nublo, Roque Bentayga, Cruz de Tejeda, Cuevas del Rey, Mesa del Junquillo, Acusa Verde, Acusa Seca, Montaña de Altavista, Tamadaba.

Back to Las Palmas on my third week I finally spotted some intimate aspects of the city. Las Canteras by night is populated by Arab women dressed with their veil. One of the most iconic pictures of this trip, not an actual picture but a shot I captured with my mind, is that of two foreign tourists walking next to two Arab women. The former are fat, their shirts barely cover their stomach, their walk is heavy and uncertain; the latter are shining in their coloured veils, elegant, slim, their walk is proud and certain. When I participated into some neighbourhood council meetings of La Isleta I discovered that here, just like in Italy, it is only elderly people attending these forums. Youngsters like me communicate on the internet or on their phones, but do not take part into this face-to-face decisions. Yet another example of how the modern world – capitalism and technology – are making our lives more lonely, while also eroding political participation.

My disappointment for politics was tempered by a genuine excitement for arts: many of the travellers staying at Atlas are artists who produce music or paint. Marco has a beautiful attitude and he plays in Vegueta, the city’s old neighbourhood, interacting with all those who pass by. His instrument comes from Mali, where he has lived for a few years. In October he will go to San Francisco and his plan is to buy a bus and drive all the way down to Brazil – while stopping to play music with the other people who want to join him on the bus. He is one of the persons who inspired me the most; with him, and just for my records, I would also like to remember Rodrigo, Antonio, Laia, Cruz, Silvia, Chelsea, Kristina, Susi, Thomas, Chris, Asier, Matias, Claudia, Giulia, Alessandra, Anderson, Amalia, Luca, Olivia, Dimitri, Jose, Mattia, Josito, Clara, Rey, Narandian. There is one person in particular whom I will remember, though: Manolo, who started and runs Atlas in an effort to produce a living example of economy for the common good. Right, the association: what was I doing there? My main task was that of creating a document incorporating the values and the projects to explain it to all the people who, just like you, might be curious about it. You will find the result of my work in this other post.

I left Las Palmas a few days ago, only now that my local vocabulary was starting to grow bigger and larger. For instance: (1) panza del burro is the veil of clouds that constantly covers Las Palmas and produces a spectacular view when seen from above. Every time I would drive to Artenara I would cross it right in between and then enjoy the spectacle of the cloudy ocean right beneath me; (2) azotea is the rooftop terrace of each house, a place for socializing and getting together; (3) vento alisio is the wind blowing from Morocco and Western Sahara to the islands and producing humidity and blurred colours (4) Guagua is the name of the local buses – sweet, isn’t it? (5) papas con mojo is the special -and only?-dish of the island; (6) Artenara, Ierai, Dara, Tamadaba, Arucas, Firgas, Tejeda: all of these are names in the aboriginal language, that is the language spoken by the inhabitants of the island prior to the invasion of the Spanish colonizers in 1402. Last but not least, I learnt a new word in English, a term I could have used countless of times: pearling. This is an ancient and dangerous technique that involves pearl hunters jumping out of a ship and diving nearly 100 feet in a single breath. Nowadays, when surfers are wiped out by a wave, it looks like they are diving into the the ocean looking for pearls. So we call it pearling. But in my case you can also call it a wipeout or a nosedive.

I will, at some point, return to Gran Canaria and learn more. Would you like to come there too?

Atlas Gran Canaria

In this post I summarize the philosophy, the history, and the projects of the Atlas association of Gran Canaria, with whom I have been volunteering with over the last month of August 2016. I drafted this text together with Chelsea.

***


OUR PHILOSOPHY

Ours is a campaign for sustainable travel as an alternative to mass tourism. We exist to re-think the act of travel, promote encounters, partner with the local community, and build exchanges for experiences, not just excursions. Join the campaign!

OUR HISTORY

Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands in general are a favourite destination for many travelers, making it a popular place for mass tourism to occur. In 2015, almost 12 million of international tourists landed in one of the seven islands of the archipelago. Mass tourism is generally considered to be an opportunity for local development. Yet, the benefits of mass tourism are highly concentrated. Economically, for instance, an estimated one in four of the tourists who come to the Canary Islands arrive as part of all-inclusive vacations rarely venturing out of their hotels. In fact, the rate of unemployment in the Canary Islands stands at nearly 31%, being one of the highest in Europe, in spite of the enormous influx of tourism arriving to the islands every year.

The “Tourists Go Home” movement in gaining momentum all throughout Europe and in many places in Spain. In Gran Canaria, this movement is already creating a tension and a difficult connection between local residents and tourists. Atlas began with these things in mind. We wanted to create an association that would promote an alternative to mass tourism: when large cities shout #TouristsGoHome, we extend the invitation #TravelersWelcome. When Atlas was created in the Summer of 2015, we built our story and our practices upon the foundation and common objective to start a campaign involving travelers with the local communities and local communities into the experience of travelers.

THE ATLAS CAMPAIGN

Atlas exists at the core of a dynamic web of relations involving an expansive, yet closely-knit, network of global and local associations and NGOs as well as volunteers and travelers. This is what we call ‘the Atlas campaign’.

The Atlas campaign is based on a partnership between travelers and the local community, which has three characteristics. First, it is Open. Our association welcomes and encourages alternative travellers from all over the world to come together in collaboration and as a community of volunteers, artists, researchers, writers, students, entrepreneurs, and those simply looking to take a vacation in an accommodation that offers more than a bed to sleep in. Second, it is Expanding. As more and more people are joining in we are making a greater impact. Not just within the community, not just within the lives of those who contribute their time, talents and financial resources to it, but also on a larger scale, situating our campaign within the global movement to re-think travelling and its economic, social, and ecological impact. Third, it is Equal. We believe in and stand for equality amongst all parties involved in this partnership, the campaign does not embody a vertical hierarchy, using and share our strengths equally. The Atlas campaign is open, ever-expanding, and horizontal.

DOC1

The projects of our campaign are geared specifically toward Gran Canaria, but are situated within a broader context. Our campaign is part of a global movement for alternative travelling as an alternative to mass tourism. In 2012, the number of international travellers in the world crossed the symbolic threshold of one billion for the first time, and forecasts of the UN’s World Tourism Organization predicts that the two billion mark will be reached by 2030. These constantly increasing figures show the enormous potential of traveling for global change. Yet, the impact of mass tourism is economically concentrated, socially uncertain, and ecologically detrimental. Our campaign is part of a global community that encourages individuals to use alternative travel for social, economic, and environmental benefits.

In 1995 the Charter for Sustainable Tourism was adopted at the first World Conference on Sustainable Tourism, held in Lanzarote, one of the seven islands of Gran Canaria. This historic action took place under the auspices of UNESCO, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the leading associated international organisations and related programmes, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the MAB Programme (Man and the Biosphere), the World Heritage Centre, the European Commission and the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development. Twenty years later, in 2015 a new Charter for Sustainable Tourism was signed by the participants at the World Summit on Sustainable Tourism meeting in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Basque Country, Spain. We share the objectives of these international charters in carrying global tourism towards more responsible ways of conducting and conceiving this activity; and we promote concrete projects serving this aim.

CURRENT PROJECTS

The projects of the Atlas campaign are organized into four streams that compose an organic framework for alternative and sustainable travel built on an invitation to enter the island of Gran Canaria, re-think the way we travel, connect with the people and with the place, and explore further.

The first stream of the campaign is the network of accommodations. This represents an invitation to enter Gran Canaria and discover local neighbourhoods and small villages that are situated outside the main tourist routes, in lesser known, authentic, and surprising places to stay. At the moment, Atlas has four accommodations. Atlas Las Palmas is a large hostel that was opened in 2014 in La Isleta, a local barrio that has not been directly affected from by the mass tourism coming to the island’s biggest city. Acusa Seca Cave House is a six-person accommodation that was opened in 2015 in the most isolated cave village on the island that was the site of an aboriginal settlement. El Warung Cave Hostel is a ten-person lodging that was opened in 2012 in Artenara, the highest mountain village of the island. Agaete Hostel is a ten-person hostel in a fishermen’s village on the coast that will be opened towards the end of 2016. The network of accommodations is designed to encourage conscious traveling aimed to bring a positive social, ecological, and economic impact for the local communities. All the accommodations that are currently working featured on national newspapers: El Warung in ElDiarioAtlas Las Palmas in LaProvinciaAcusa Seca Cave House in El Pais.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.17.30 PM.png

The second stream of the campaign is made of the activities. This is an invitation to re-think the way we travel. The activities include, but are not limited to: Taller de Ideas: a series of talks on contemporary social issues; Science of Travel: a round of presentations given by the volunteers who come to work for Atlas; informative documentaries; concerts featuring local artists and bands; fair-markets. The activities are designed to reflect upon the impact of traveling on local communities and inspire individuals to invent their own journey.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.09.01 PM

The third stream of the campaign is made of the festivals. This is an invitation to create connections in the course of a three to five-day event. At the moment, Atlas is part of the organization of two festivals. Las Palmas Gathering, a five-day festival started in 2015 where alternative travelers and boat-hikers tell their stories and hike together. Alife Artenara, a three-day festival of yoga, music, meditation, and hiking started in 2016. The festivals are designed to promote community lifestyle and establish a profound connection across participants, as well as between participants and the setting where the festivals take place.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 8.37.42 PM

Finally, the fourth stream of the campaign is made of thru-hiking. This is an invitation to explore the most remotes parts of island traveling only by feet and by boat. Atlas is currently promoting two trails. Canary Islands End-to-End is a project to foster the use of one of Europe’s longest and least known Grand Randonnees, the Canary Islands Trail, or GR 131, a seven-island trail that can be done in less than a month hiking through coastlines, volcanoes, mountains, plateaus, deserts, pine forests. Agaete-Artenara-Tamada Trail is a three-day hike from the Pacific Ocean to the highest village in Gran Canary and the second highest village of Spain. These experiences of thru-hiking are designed to give all travellers, from the most trained to the least experienced, the opportunity to embark in a unique journey where their feet are the only engine.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 8.37.36 PM.png

The projects of Atlas have expanded quickly over time. Today, the aim of the campaign remains that of promoting travel as an organic experience, covering different aspects of sustainability. The realization of these projects has been possible thanks to the collaboration of local associations, travellers, and volunteers alike. In fact, whether you’re staying in our accommodations, volunteering for the month or attending an informative discussion on our rooftop terrace, we desire to express together a concrete idea of alternative tourism aimed at creating learning opportunities for empowerment, growth and global understanding.

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

All those who share our philosophy are welcome to join the campaign. There are different ways to become involved.

El Warung, Artenara

Mia sconosciuta lettrice,

Ti scrivo da una grotta piccola-piccola dove mangio formaggio di capra e bevo una birra prodotta dal signor August K. Damm. Sono ad Artenara, un paesino incastonato nella pietra vulcanica delle montagne canarie. Qui tutti vivono nelle grotte: mi pare di poter dire che questo e´l’equivalente spagnolo di Matera. Solo che ci troviamo nell’Oceano Pacifico, sulle coste tra Marocco e Western Sahara

Sono finito qui dopo che a maggio avevo letto un articolo su El Pais. L’autore parlava del lavoro di una associazione locale per sviluppare un tipo di turismo alternativo a quello che sta distruggendo quest’isola bellissima, ponte tra Europa, Africa e America. Sai che qui si fermano la maggior parte dei navigatori alla volta delle Americhe? Nel corso degli anni sono passati coloni, avventurieri, esploratori e corsari. Fu qui che si fermo’ Cristoforo Colombo nel 1492 prima della sua traversata verso l’ignoto; e anche Francis Drake attracco´a Las Palmas nel 1595 per sottrala al dominio spagnolo. (Non ci riusci’). Ancora oggi l’isola ospita ogni anno a novembre le navi che fanno rotta verso l’America in una regata mondiale; e con le navi arrivano centinaia di ‘boat-hikers‘, cioe´persone che offrono manovalanza sulle navi in cambio di un passaggio attraverso l’Oceano.

Sto divagando: quel che voglio dire e’ che tu, cara lettrice, probabilmente non sapevi nulla di tutto cio’. L’immagine mondiale delle sette isole canarie e´legata al turismo di massa. La sola Gran Canaria attira tredici milioni di turisti all’anno. Sono persone che vengono principalmente per il clima, che e’ mite 365 giorni l’anno; e per le spiagge. Allo stesso tempo, pero’, Gran Canaria e’ la regione con il tasso di disoccupazione piu’ alto della Spagna. Il turismo di massa si concentra a Las Palmas e negli enormi resort nel sud dell’isola. L’associazione di cui ho letto su El Pais ha come scopo la promozione di un turismo alternativo che dia maggior risalto alla storia delle isole; alle culture locali; alla diversita’ paesaggistica e ale attivita’ all’aperto. Per farlo ha creato tre ostelli: Atlas a Las Palmas; El Warung ad Artenara; e una cueva per famiglie e piccoli gruppi a Acusa Seca. Negli ostelli si ospitano scalatori, ricercatori, artisti, hikers, navigatori; si organizzano concerti, seminari e cineforum, camminate, yoga, sessioni di surf. Chi viene ospitato, come me, contribuisce a far progredire gli alloggi e a organizzare gli eventi.

Devo pero´ammettere, cara Lettrice, che arrivato a Las Palmas la prima impressione non e’ stata positiva. Avevo provato a non crearmi aspettative, ma sono stato sconvolto dalle colate di cemento, l’orizzonte torrido, l’edilizia selvaggia, la spiaggia urbana infinita e pienissima, le trivelle a poche centinaia di metri dal lungomare, i negozi tristi e anonimi. Parlando con gli altri voluntari ho scoperto che la mia e´una sensazione condivisa; eppure quasi tutti tendono a tornare. Delle persone conosciute ad Atlas, Las Palmas, almeno la meta’ erano di ritorno per la seconda o terza volta. Ho iniziato a comprendere il fascino del posto leggendo alcuni libri: tramite i testi e le foto ho scoperto l’enorme varieta’ di queste isole, dove ci sono la piu’ alta montagna di Spagna, il terzo vulcano piu’ grande d’Europa, deserti e spiagge.

Ho anche conosciuto meglio i ragazzi che stanno qui e ho capito che posso imparare molto da Rodrigo che e’ un trentasettenne brasiliano che ha lavorato per anni nel marketing e fa surf; Silvia, che avra’ circa venticinque anni e fa dipinti vegan per giornali del settore; e Chelsea, che penso abbia la mia eta’ e scrive per giornali online. Sono tutti digital nomads, cioe’ persone che possono lavorare dove vogliono perche’ per farlo basta un computer portatile e una connessione a internet. E’ un pensiero che non mi attrae: ho sempre pensato al lavoro come a una attivita´necessariamente sociale. E tuttavia quella dei digital nomads e’ una realta’ sempre piu’ diffusa in questo mondo globalizzato e ipertecnologico e io vorrei capirla meglio. Gran Canaria e’ il primo posto al mondo per tasso di digital nomads: la vita qui costa poco, fa caldo e ci sono spiagge praticamente ovunque.

Manolo, il ragazzo che ha creato e tutt’ora gestisce l’associazione, vorrebbe che i digital nomads si integrino meglio nel tessuto sociale del posto, interagiscano con i locali e portino una crescita sociale e culturale, non solo economica. Io vorrei fare qualcosa in questo senso; ma potrei anche aiutarlo a sviluppare l’idea del percorso GR131, un trekking di oltre 500 km, da Lanzarote a El Hierro. Sette isole nell’oceano, fino a 3700 m di altezza nel punto piu’ alto, circa 28 giorni per percorrerlo tutto. Manolo spera di trasformare questo percorso uno dei piu’ importanti d’Europa. Mi sembra perfetto.

Per cominciare sono stato mandato ad Artenara, a El Warung: un ostello in una grotta a oltre mille metri di altitudine. E’ stato il mio regno per gli ultimi giorni. Un regno bellissimo. Dai riflessi del sole ardente sulla roccia vulcanica nel pomeriggio al silenzio surreale dell’enorme vallata davanti alla mia grotta al tramonto: e´tutto impresso nella mia memoria.



Ora mi preparo a tornare a Las Palmas: dobbiamo organizzare un concerto sul tetto dell’altro ostello, quello cittadino. Poi mi occupero’ di raccontare storie per il cammino che taglia attraverso l’isola. Ieri sono andato a esplorare i sentieri vicini, ma ho esagerato: sono sceso fino all’Oceano. Alle 14.00, dopo sei ore di cammino e una temperatura di quarantatre gradi avrei potuto morire se non fossi stato raccolto dalla macchina di Jote e Jose, che passavano di li per caso.  Il polipo che ho mangiato nel pomeriggio mi ha ricompensato di tutti gli sforzi.

All my aces are on the floor

I have always liked to have people around, but the circumstances of life are such that I find myself more lonely than I used to be. Fai di necessità virtù, they say. I still dislike loneliness; but there is one specific instance when I can appreciate living on my own (Dee do de de dee do de de I don’t have no time for no monkey business) and that is when I am on a bike.

So here we go again. At the crossroads of Valais and Ticino, the Granfondo San Gottardo is one of the hardest cycling sportive events of the year. For me, this race had a special gist for three additional reasons: (i) it takes place in Switzerland, where I have been living for a few months this year; (ii) it is harder than the other races I have done before, with 110 km and three mountain passes to climb for a total of more than 3000 m of elevation; (iii) Nicco and Giallu had decided to come with me, so we could be together just like last year in Trentino. To this, it must be added that I am in the middle of a tumultuous process of moving out from my home: I was relieved to have such distraction.

Onto our road trip with Nicco and Giallu then! We drove from Florence to Ambrì and we planted our tent in the airport. After a very wet and sleepless night we got up at 6AM, had a heavy breakfast and started our race at 8AM. Up to San Gottardo, Furka, and Novena. This is how my race went on Strava; and this is how it went in pictures.

 

 

It went pretty much as we expected. San Gottardo is smooth and pleasant; Furka is long and steady; Novena is consuming and never-ending. But we finished! Even Nicco, who got a flat tyre on the descent from Furka and spent about 45 minutes looking for a pump. I rode my bike for 4 hours and 42 minutes, with two long breaks at the feeding points, crossing the finish line at 2:40PM.

In the evening we drove to Neuchatel and the next day we visited Montreux and cruised through the San Bernardo pass, Aosta and Genova. We arrived in Florence in the middle of the night and I have been packing up my belongings ever since.

 

Racing a Gran Fondo was one of my resolutions for 2016; I have now raced three. This is it: all my aces are on the floor. In the coming months I won’t have time to train properly and I won’t have the determination to do all the sacrifices that the preparation for a Gran Fondo requires. So farewell to my bike and all of that: what a ride it was.