A Travellerspoint blog

Life as a constellation map

Tomorrow I fly to Ljubljana to start my one month roadtrip that represents a celebration for the past decade. Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Netherlands and/or others too. Thousands of miles to make and dozens of friends to visit. Sitting now at my parent's porch, I feel like I owe it to the future me to try to express some of the thoughts and emotions I have been having over the past month. 30 days ago I left my flat in Porto and coincidently, June 30 2006 was also the day I left Budapest. Yes, I have a thing with memorizing days and dates.

If we look at a person's life, each day can be seen as a dot. Our whole life can be intertwined by all those dots, put together in some kind of constellation map where each dot (day) can be linked to another according to our perception of our own existence and significance we give to that specific linkage. Therefore, there can be different maps according to different perspectives of the same events. I like this idea of a constellation map because it perfectly depicts the confusion and randomness that life is all about. At the same time, isn't it beautiful to look to a clear sky at night and try to connect all those dots? I know that some people might prefer to see life as a linear succession of events which hopefully will unfold in some kind of orderly fashion to prevent drastic changes and turbulence. To me, that just sucks the fun out of life.

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I'm talking about this because I tend to connect same dates of different years and take some time to reflect about all the time in between them. For example, I'll return from this trip on August 29. Turns out that on August 29 2005, at the age of 22, I flew to Budapest to start my Erasmus year there and at the same time begin an unforgettable decade which will precisely end after a trip across Europe to celebrate it. To me, the magic and symbolic beauty around this is so overwhelming that I find it hard to put it in words.

However, I'm feeling peaceful and not having too many expectations about the trip. One thing I learned in the past 10 years is to embrace what life puts in front of you instead of focusing in what you are not having. No matter what, and assuming I won't fall from any cliff and die, this trip will be filled with incredible moments. This said, I'm still being flooded with images and visions that are flashing in my mind, somehow imagining upcoming moments of the trip. I've never been to Montenegro, but I'm already imagining that sensation of freedom while driving around its beautiful countryside. I can also vividly imagine a warm summer afternoon in Budapest drinking some beers and being surrounded by some of same faces from 10 years ago. That is such a cozy vision and it makes me so happy to imagine us all sharing old stories and reliving them again. Another recurrent image is that of me driving towards a big city at dusk, when all the lights are turned on, listening to some epic song and feeling overly amazed. These moments might not happen exactly like I'm picturing them, but it's great to imagine them before the real magic starts.

Back to the past 30 days, living temporarily with my parents in the village I grew up has been quite mystical as well. It put me in touch with memories that I thought didn't exist anymore. Some days ago I went jogging and suddenly decided to go out of my usual way. It was a nice end of afternoon, sun setting on the horizon behind the corn fields and suddenly I was that 12 year old kid cycling in those same roads and paths, twenty years ago. It was all so clear, so real even. All kinds of memories from my childhood were whirling in my head: my younger self, my younger parents and family, the houses, the fields, the seemingly steep hills that now were not so scary to ride anymore... It was one of those moments that I won't forget, those moments where we became visible to ourselves and an entire existence condenses in one indescribable moment of pure bliss.

In a nutshell, despite all the shit that happens in life, I can say that I couldn't be any more in peace with what I have made of it so far. And that's a good feeling to have hours before starting that kind of adventure that I basically live for. I'll be totally broke after it, but I couldn't care less.

Because my life is music, I will end with a song I recently discovered and will surely be in high rotation inside my car for the next weeks. I discovered this band through a good and recent friend of mine (yes, you know who you are!!!) and it's the perfect song to describe my current state of mind. The lyrics are so simple and meaningful at the same time.

"I walked with Jesus and he would say
"Oh you poor child, you ain't comin' to me no way
You've found Heaven on Earth, gonna burn for your sin"
But I think I'll be in good company down there with all my friends

Well I got around to thinking 'bout what Jesus said to me
Cos if Heaven's like this, then that's the place for me
Long, long time between now and my death
And I gotta have my fun so I've chosen what's best

Well, here it comes
Here comes the sound
The sound of confusion
The sound of love

So listen sweet Lord, forgive me my sin
‘Cos I can't stand this life without all of these things
Know I done wrong, but I've Heaven on Earth
Know I done wrong, but I could have done me worse

Well, here it comes
Here comes the sound
The sound of confusion
Well, here it comes
Here comes the sound
The sound of love

Here it comes
Here it comes
Here it comes
The sound of love
The sound of love
The sound of love

Jesus please meet me at the centre of the earth
Cos these wings are gonna fail me and I could have done me worse
Yeah I could have done me worse
Yeah I could have done me worse... "

Posted by ZackFontang 01:36 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

All is violent, all is forgiven

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In days like today, I forgive you Portugal.
I forgive you from preventing me to achieve my full potential and accomplish great things.
I forgive you for the system that paralyzes and destroys everything that it's good and valuable.
I forgive you for being close minded.
I forgive you for not valuing merit.

I forgive you but maybe it's time to move on.

Posted by ZackFontang 15:09 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

Those pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours

Imagine that one of your favourite bands makes a new album and before showing it to anyone, decides to organize small listening parties for a limited amount of people in only 5 cities around the world? Imagine that one of those cities is the city you are living in and you are one of the lucky few to get a ticket for such event? Imagine that they decide to take you to a beautiful place by the ocean at dusk, hand out an ipod and let you enjoy their music freely? Imagine also that the guys from the band hang out with you after the event and you get to spend a night you'll hardly forget? Sounds amazing, right?

All this happened to me this last Monday. Words cannot begin to describe what I felt and still feel about such experience and such moments. I was one of the 7 persons who attended the event, together with two members from the band and somehow I feel we all now share some kind of ethereal bond that is beyond any human understanding.

I'm talking about a post rock band called Caspian, from Beverly, MA. I've got to know their music only last year, in an amazing concert at Hard Club, here in Porto. I remember that it was on a sunday, a perfect summer day. I read about the concert, checked their sound and it was love at first sight. And later in the night, what an intense and emotional concert it was for me. They had conquered me forever. Little did I know that one year later I would be part of such wonderful experiment and talk with them about music and other stuff over a few beers, on another wonderful summer night, in Candelabro, a place where I spent other unforgettable moments before.

I guess I first started listening to post rock around 2005. It started with Explosions in the Sky, but I don't remember how I got to know them. Back then, I was drawn to the instrumental and melodic sound, usually in a crescendo towards a huge wall of guitars and distortion. I guess that mixture between melody and noise, peacefulness and heaviness, always fascinated me maybe because that's a metaphor for my own way of existing. I also remember that in that time, long and instrumental songs would only seem appropriate for very rare moments of my life. I guess I was too young then, but over the years the sound kept growing inside me and I kept discovering new bands and becoming more and more connected with that type of music. For the past 5 years, post rock is a huge part of my life and it has been the perfect soundtrack for some epic moments I lived. That's the beauty of it, it makes me feel epic and larger than life. Post rock music can turn a random drive between work and home into a decisive moment where all answers are revealed and life gains a whole new meaning, where I feel glorious.

As usual, I'm getting lost with my thoughts here...back to May 2015.

One thing I loved the most about Monday was that it didn't feel like 2015. It felt like being a teenager in the late 90's or early 2000's. Being surrounded by people with a genuine passion for the band, talking about rushing to buy tickets before they would sell out and the excitement of getting one, sharing opinions and music in general and feeling that kind of connection that you can only feel when you speak the same musical language. Noticing that people were more focused in living the moment rather than take pictures and all that stuff that destroys any magic these days. Maybe it's me, but that's so rare these days, to have all these elements combined at the same time!

I have to confess that I have an incredible admiration for anyone able to create something artistic, especially music. My dream is to spend most of my time surrounded by artists (I mean real ones, not posers of phoney arrogant pricks who think they are better than the others) and people that use art to make questions, to make statements or simply to create something that put us all closer to the divine and transcendent. I'm not an artist nor have I been able to create something so far, but I never stop searching for those moments of revelation and creation. Art and nature are probably the most noble things that we can enjoy during our lives.

Nature. In this good year of 2015 I found a renewed love for one of the most beautiful places in Portugal, Gerês National Park. Been there two times in the past two months and both times were transcendent and ethereal, although for different reasons. Since my last time there that I've been thinking in writing here about this old man I found there, sitting on a rock on the top of a hill.

I was driving around to show the views to a dutch friend of mine and I parked the car at some point so we could enjoy the scenery. By coincidence, I stopped close to some rocks where this old man was sitting very graciosly, eyes looking at the horizon. As usual in small places, he stared at us, strangers, as we walked by. We said "good afternoon" to him and sat a few meters ahead, overlooking the valley beneath us and feeling the timid rays of sun passing through a foggy sky.

A few moments later, he spoke to me. I don't remember his exact words but I know how I was so overwhelmed by the peacefulness, kindness and serenity his voice emanated. I was instantly touched and I felt so happy in that moment. Something happened there, although I'm lacking words to properly describe it. Maybe it's a part of my inner self longing for a life away from the turbulence of the city and dreaming of a simple, slow paced life.

Anyway, I want to immortalize that moment. I want to keep it present somehow, to rememeber it and perhaps use it as some kind of ethereal place for hope and dreams. As if in the voice of that old man lies my own salvation.

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This month of May was definitely special. I had some other amazing moments that made me feel alive. It's good to feel alive.

I write this words in this fucked up caffé next to my flat here in Porto. I've been here very often to write or work in my laptop since I moved to Porto. It's full of drunk people sitting by the counter, but somehow I always felt comfortable here. I guess it's because this place is what it is, it's genuine. There's no posing nor pretention here, just reality as raw as it can be. People don't look at me, they let me be. I'm just a person, just like them. I guess that's what I love the most, to feel like I'm seen just as a person. Out there in society, people tend to qualify each other in other ways, I guess. Or maybe I'm romanticizing too much my view about simple people. But I'm again getting lost in my thoughts here.

Today is the 28th of May. I realized today that in a month I'll be leaving my flat and Porto, towards an unknown new life. Lately I'm more focused into savouring the little pleasures that made my life better over the past two and a half years. I'm feeling something similar to what I felt in 2012, before abandoning my flat in my hometown and travel to the States. I guess that, unsconsciously, I plan things all at the same time to represent a drastic change in life. I probably need those changes, every once in a while. Sometimes it is hard and I fear a little bit, but experience has proven me that this is the period right before the magic happens! So I'm looking forward to the magic this Summer.

However, to add to all this mixture of anxiety and excitement about how my life will be after my roadtrip around Europe, this time I'm also not sure about what I will be doing to make a living. Long story short, after 7 years putting all my passion and energy into building something beautiful, tomorrow I will have a decisive meeting with the Mayor of my hometown. Starting from scratch in 2008 and having some of the worst tennis facilities, I built a wonderful spirit between the kids, coaches and parents and we became the biggest club in the region (with over 20 clubs) in terms of number of children and teenagers. Now I need that effort to be duly recognized and supported by the city public institutions. But I'm affraid that in a society where merit is not taken into account, I won't be able to continue motivated in pursuing my dream and bringing tennis to as much people as possible.

Somehow, I also feel like it's time for me to leave the comfort zone and start over, somewhere else. In tennis or something else. There's so much life out there to be lived, so many things to experience, so many people to meet. And maybe I need or belong to a different kind of life.

As I was typing, this is the song that came on my iTunes. Haven't listened to Josh Rouse for a long time, but somehow it just perfectly fit the mood.

But I also wanted to end with a song from Caspian, which is the first song of their first LP, The Four Trees" (2007) and it's called "Moksha". Moksha is a central concept in hindu traditions and can be interpreted in different ways, but they are all glorious. It's a perfect name for the first song of a first album. It's also one of my favourite from them.


It's late. Time to go home and sleep. As always, Thoreau comforts me.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Posted by ZackFontang 14:19 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Highway of endless dreams

I guess that a trip only becomes real when you book your flights. That's what I've just done.

This summer, I'll be back on the road. I'll start and end in Slovenia, will try to drive around the Balkans, then head up north towards Hungary, Poland and the Baltic countries. On the way down, I'll drive across Germany I guess. It's never too much to make a stop in Berlin!

All is uncertain, all is possible. I have no plans, just endless visions of the road ahead of me and hopes to see some familiar faces.

Now it's time to start thinking about the playlist for this trip!

Posted by ZackFontang 17:16 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

I WILL PREVAIL!

This post might seem a bit random and out of the blue but as I can't yet externalize my thoughts to a concrete person or group, I am shouting out loud to all and everyone who wants to read whatever I'm gonna write.

There are different ways to live our lives. I know how I like to live mine. Keeping it simple. Making it special. Treasuring the little but extremely important things. I'm always for the underdog. I value superation and resilience. One moment of deserved glory is pure bliss. I am all about DIY (do it yourself). Small record stores, indie labels, small cafes, small bookstores, DIY tennis clubs. In my opinion, all those persons around the world that dedicate their lives to their passion and build something with it, are the ones that make this fucked up world a little bit better. They dare to follow their dream and they stand for their values. They do something meaningful. I loathe the emptiness of the corporate world. I hate profit oriented motivations and all that fucking shit around that evil thing: money.

Working in sports, I'm all about the olympic motto: Faster, Higher, Stronger. I focus in being good, not better than the others. Being better than the others is just a consequence of being good, not the the other way around. I put all my passion in my fucking tennis school, trying to pass those values to all my students and their families and everyone that knows ETCAF. And since I started, in 2008, that I've seen my little "baby" become one of the biggest passions in my life and the one accomplishment I'm most proud of. No one can take that away from me.

ETCAF is a product of one vision I had and I built it alone (sounds arrogant, but it's the truth). Over the years, I got no support from no official entity, public or private. No one cared. But still we strived and grew. We grew from zero and with zero investment. We added value to the city and tennis only with our passion and hard work. My greatest luck was to have wonderful parents who always gave me confidence, a great groupf of kids and their amazing families who believed in my vision and share the same dream, bringing their friends and families to our club and transmitting them the ETCAF spirit. I also have the luck to work, since 2011, with a coach that completed integrated this spirit and has been the best "right hand" a leader can have.

But still, everyday is a struggle, like every small business owner struggles to keep his dream alive. And once in a while, rumours circulate that my club is gonna be put out of business by greater powers, with means and connections to build a better, bigger and more modern complex, with topo notch facilities. These greater powers are not based in merit or anything. Just money and power, in itself, expressed in having the right connections with politicians, for example.

Today is one of those days. Again, there are rumours I'm gonna be facing tremendous competition from a new state of the art private tennis club in my hometown. With the help of the city hall, who doesn't give a fuck that we are making an incredible work, expressed in the high number of students and also having some of the best players in the region.

In days like today I get fucking scared, I admit. But I feel more alive than ever as well. I feel that I am invencible and that I will prevail against everything that is wrong in this world. "Bring it on, motherfuckers", that's what I think. Because I do something good, with no second intentions besides sharing my love for tennis with other people and make kids happy.

ETCAF has a huge soul. I even had friends all over the world buying our hoodies (i'm forever grateful for that, best thing ever). I love all my students and families who are part of that spirit. They are my greatest strenght and the steam that keeps me going. But the world is full of injustices and we never know what the future brings.

I don't know much right now. I just know that my life is as uncertain as it always have been.

BUT I'M FUCKING RELENTLESS!!!! (BUMMMM, drops the mic and walks away) :)

Posted by ZackFontang 10:58 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

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