A Return To Dirtbaggery

File Aug 21, 7 24 13 AMAnother morning on the move.

There is literally nothing to complain about when it comes to my job. I go to exotic places with the world’s best surfers and do three things that I truly love — surf, write and travel. And travel well. We stay in hotels with AC and WiFi and pools. We have guides. We know what wave will be best on a 280 degree swell when the tide is pushing in the morning and we’ll get there on time and effortlessly because we have drivers. It is, by most practical measures, the best job in the world and I am grateful for it everyday.

But last week I noticed something. The 2016 Grom Games trip had just wrapped, we’d checked out of our $900-a-night villa, our drivers were gone and I was on my own with 10 days to fill. I started feeling a latent sense of discomfort. Where will I stay tonight? How will I get around? Where should I surf? These aren’t actual problems, of course, just normal feelings of being out of your comfort zone. And it felt good. Because the forced mindfulness and rush of solo travel is intoxicating in a way that isn’t possible when you can stare at your phone for 45 minutes and get to Uluwatu. It’s a discomfort that promotes living. Promotes adventure. Promotes increased usage of the word “yes.”

IMG_7686SURFING’s very own, Taylor Paul.

So when a friend asked me if I wanted to see a band I’d never heard of, I said yes. And when I went to the pre-party for that concert, and bumped into Nick, a buddy I studied abroad with 10 years ago, and he asked if I wanted to go to a neighboring island for a swell, I said yes. It was a strike to the same wave I didn’t want to go to with the groms. Why? Because it sounded like a pain in the ass. At 2a.m. the following day we boarded a ferry with a backpack and a boardbag and found a sleeping corner. We slept.

File Aug 21, 7 23 54 AMAppetizing?

The next few days were spent in a remote area, where six makeshift “hotels” are set up to cater to the sporadic flood of surfers that visit with each swell. Surfers that are willing to endure the heat — without cell service, WiFi, running water or sit-down toilets — for the chance to get really, really barreled. I hadn’t traveled like this in years, and there was a moment, laying in bed after the morning session, as I watched the sun dive through the slits of the thatched walls, when I felt a satisfaction that I’ve never had on a trip with the magazine. I was hot. I was bored. My reef cuts were filled with dirt, because everything was dirty. But I’d just gotten really, really barreled, and I’d done it on my own and on a whim, just like I used to.

The swell faded and we hopped back on the ferry to return to Bali. My ticket home was for Tuesday, and I reflected on a good run — a successful, comfortable work trip and a barrel-filled, dirtbag strike mission. When we got back into cell range, Nick checked the forecast. A new swell — on Tuesday…Standard.

“You wanna change your ticket and go to Java with me?” he asks.

Yes. I do. And so I change my ticket and all it cost was the $30 reissuing fee and a downgrade from business to economy, which is fine, because it’s where I belong. –Taylor Paul