During the entire flight from Berlin to Gran Canaria, my mind burned with anticipation. Hours of luxury beneath the sun on the beach. Long sunsets shared with beautiful women around tables bursting with unforgettable food. Early morning walks with nothing but water making sound as the waves lapped against my feet.
Instead of relief from the miserable winter landscapes of urban Germany, I found …
More of the same.
Gran Canaria, as obviously gorgeous as it is, had been fated with the same damp and cold weather I thought I’d left behind.
And at the risk of being melodramatic, the wind biting at my hotel window tore a hole in my heart. Here I was in paradise, and yet shivering in my bed because it was too cold to go outside. When I did go outside, I had to restrain my jaw from shivering as I walked up and down the boardwalk.
Worse, although my window looks out onto the ocean, the Internet didn’t work in my room – something disastrous for someone who works 100% online.
Okay, I admit it. I am being too melodramatic. Even in the cold, Las Palmas is a beautiful place. And being a member of the so-called “Digital Nomad” community has let me experience its warmth on several different local and international levels.
Case in point:
I’m arrived on the island to shoot a video course called The Habit Mastery Formula with Jimmy Naraine. And since I’ve long had Sven (the man behind the very blog you’re reading now) as a contact, we got to meet and spend several fun hours hanging out.
Knowing Spanish as well as they do, both Sven and Daniel provided helpful bridges between my pained attempts at ordering food in Spanish. They both patiently corrected my foibles in an informative way. They both clearly love. the language. More than that, they both own it. You can see how they own their adopted Spanish homes in the lines around their eyes.
Jimmy Naraine arrived a few days after me. He pounced the island like a tiger, constantly in pursuit of new and exciting people and places. We ordered food at a restaurant and within moments, Jimmy had the waitress under his spell. Half an hour later he had me performing magic tricks for the massage girls we found soliciting clients on the street. Minutes later, a large circle of people have crowded around to watch me manipulate the cards and coins I carry everywhere.
My fingers struggle with my props in the chill air. But the forces of misdirection were strong and I managed to entertain them all and leave them hungry for me.
Later, Jimmy brought a bunch of people together in a restaurant. Amidst servings of bottomless pasta and pizza, we meet the owners, staff and his colorful friend Laura. Two of her students from Ireland join us and Daniel teases them about their age by asking them their opinion about Justin Bieber.
He makes the mistake of mentioning that I’m Canadian and soon I’m talking about the true origins of our youngest superstar. In the most serious tones I can muster, I feigned vengeance against all who slander the boy wonder.
These four Irish eyes seated across me widen as I talk about how the Keloid Institute unlocked the preserved DNA of the ancient beavers that once roamed the Canadian forests. I described how scientists used a long needle to inject the beaver genes into the placenta that would become a YouTube sensation.
I couldn’t stop myself from telling this absurd story. I explained that it was in fact “YT-rays” from the YouTube signal itself that activated the beaver blood in his genes. It’s only poor pronunciation that has led us to call him Bieber instead of Beaver, and strangely, these girls humor me all the way to the end of my tale.
There was also a filmmaker named Edmund Piunow from Poland and Seph Pennock from Positive Psychology Program and the Netherlands at the table. The researcher is concerned with the meaning of meaning so the conversation turns philosophical. Before long, the Irish girls reconsidered their opinion of me once they heard that I can actually hold serious conversation. But before things get too serious, we paid up and made our way to a club somewhere mid-Las Palmas.
With my gray hair and beard, I somehow managed to mesh with the crowds of first-year college students packed into small rooms on the upper floor of an old building. I watched in wonder as the bar staff dumped quarts of rum from bottle after bottle into large plastic cups followed by tiny squirts of cola as the music boomed and everyone waited in anticipation for the opening of the basement dancehall.
In one of the rooms I found Laura and it turns out we both studied at York University in Toronto and. We both share an interest in languages and memory. We talked about the 401, the noisiest freeway in North America, and suddenly the club didn’t seem so loud.
In a corridor, I met Sara and we jousted through a bilingual conversation in which I understood (I think) that she’s studying to be a cop. Maybe we liked each other, but soon I found myself pulled downstairs by another Sara who introduced me to her crew. We dance, but never for longer than a minute before this Sara skips off to drag someone else into the fray like some bird in a Disney jungle movie assembling the natives for a choreographed number.
People on a stage dunked ping pong balls into beer cups while the DJ’s assistant tossed squeezy clown noses out onto the dance floor. I made an eye patch from mine and stumbled half-blind into a Spanish sing along to a popular song. The heat was finally on and sweat poured from my body as I bounced along with the crowd.
I lost track of everyone I arrived with before connecting briefly with Sara again. She didn’t accompany out into the street, which is probably a good thing …
Even with the compass on my iPhone, it took me almost an hour to find my way back to the hotel. I overshot my passage to the beach by almost a mile and after the heat of the club, the cold wind I’d been cursing felt now a blessing.
The next morning, Daniel and I convened for breakfast in a fruit bar and finally saw the sun.
Laster, Sven picked me up in front of my hotel. I am expecting a BMW or Mercedes, but he drives a gray jeep with an electric young woman named Helena at his side. As we got underway, it becomes clear to me that the two clearly enjoy each other’s company in a profound way. I enjoy speaking with them as we tear up the highway in a game of mistake-riddled Spanish, German and English.
Sven took us to the highest peak on the island of Gran Canaria. My ears popped under the pressure, bringing back pleasant memories of my mountainous upbringing in British Columbia.
But instead of the clear skies and sunshine associated with this island, we still had weather more like March in Canada. Rain falls from the sky and patches of snow shield the sides of the road. In some places the white stuff was deep enough to excavate snowballs, so we stopped and played around, Elena twittering with delight.
Sven told me that snow on the island of Gran Canaria is almost never seen and a matter of wonder for the inhabitants. Indeed, many people joined us at the peak, nearly invisible to us in the wind and fog.
They tolerated the cold only as long as they could before disappearing back into their vehicles. But we stayed.
Gesturing into the maelstrom, Sven did his best to point out where I would be able to see the ocean and Tenerife on a sunnier day. I vow to come back to Gran Canaria just for that.
We experienced better luck down on the coast. We wound around and around the roads, Sven offering several times to stop if the twisting made me sick. But I’m at home navigating treacherous mountain terrain and stare down the cliffs with delight once we’re out of the fog.
We ate in a delightful restaurant on the shore in a village where nearly every building is painted a blinding white. I performed a few magic tricks with the tail of a dragon in my view as we waited for the food. I could taste the freshness of the ocean in the paella, even if it put more than a bit of inflammation in my joints.
Next, we climbed to a mountaintop restaurant with stunning views of the terrain. The restaurant caters mostly to weddings and indeed we found a large group celebrating a holy union with yet another magician struggling through his linking rings routine against the wind.
After driving back down the mountain, we saw a bit of urban life as we dropped Helena off at her dance class. Las Palmas is a labyrinth, and as in Berlin, one wonders just how poor people can be so poor with so many thousands of cars lining every inch of the streets.
We visited two last locales: the top of a volcano and a view from a small park located just in front of a retirement home. Even from way up high we could make out the home of an old man who lives at the bottom of the volcano. I imagined what that must be like living in that hovel, somehow so primitive and sophisticated at the same time.
Our last stop involves taking in some coastal views while standing in the shadow of a retirement home. In the moment, I recognized that Las Palmas must be a very fine place to die. It was still cold, but the skies had cleared and from this view the northern contours of the island revealed a wonderful spread of hilly, semi-arid coast. I was still wishing for better weather, but felt convinced that even without it, I wouldn’t mind repeating this day on the island for all eternity.
But as with all days, this one had to end. I trundled out of Sven’s jeep and into my hotel where I tumbled into bed and slept until midnight. I typed this report in the darkness of the hotel restaurant with the waves and wind pulling the rain from the sky as if starving for it.
The next day, the sun came out in full force. Finally able to start shooting our course, I got so excited that I forgot to bring suntan lotion to the shoot.
But as we followed the guys carrying the camera equipment to the top of Machu Picchu, I didn’t care about frying beneath the sun. The camera guys told me they could color correct my sun-burned face in post-production and so I allowed myself to enjoy the mountain island air as if I’ve been born to make videos about living the life while crouching on an ancient stone precipice overhanging the void.
I probably was.