Imagine selling it all, dropping everything tomorrow and hopping on a plane with a one-way ticket to some far off place with epic surf. A place where you don’t know anyone, don’t know the people, the culture, the streets, the beaches … nothing.
We all imagine doing something like this but few of us have the balls to pull it off. Northern California native Ryan Teixeira has not only done so – twice – but also founded an adventure travel company U R FREE2B U, to give people like us that extra nudge to take the plunge.
Some might say that this sort of reckless abandon is better suited for beach bum beatniks with nothing much to leave behind in the first place. Not so for Ryan. He grew up in a traditional family with parents that instilled a strong work ethic in him at a very young age constantly working in their almond orchard or taking on side jobs. After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cal Poly SLO, he spent 15 years honing his skills. After he answered an ad on Craigslist for a CAD manager position, he found himself working for a company in stealth mode, where they developed the world’s first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells capable of traveling more than 250 miles per charge and going 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds – the Tesla Roadster.
In 2006, he decided to drop everything embarking on a four month trip around the world. He found himself wandering aimlessly in Europe, South East Asia and mountain biking through Australia and Costa Rica – no maps, no agenda. The experience was life changing. And despite returning to Tesla after the hiatus, he knew he belonged … out there. In 2009, Ryan decided to sell everything (except for his Ibis Mojo and KTM 530 dirt bike) and bought a one-way ticket to Brazil. Again, no plans, no agenda. He found himself surfing all across South America ultimately settling in Nicaragua.
The hard working engineer by day, extreme sports enthusiast by any other day, had found his raison d’etre. He had worked tirelessly with a team of engineers to bring positive change to an unflinching automotive industry. After eight plus years of complete dedication to racing motorcycles, he had tested his limits with the best of the best in the AMA 600 SuperSport after overcoming a poly-injury motorcycle accident years prior with an additional nine knee and four shoulder surgeries.
If shit is going bad and you are frustrated, it’s most likely your inability to see the whole picture … step back and think, “If I spent a lifetime in this environment … how would I view this situation?”
Ulupono Surf (US): The list of sports you’ve been involved in reads like an X-Games itinerary! When did you pick up surfing and what brought you to it?
Ryan Teixeira (RT): First, thanks for the opportunity to do the interview Rob, your words are too kind. I picked up surfing when I arrived in Brazil … I’ve still got a lot to learn but surfing really is a beautiful sport, fits my lifestyle now and I‘m all about it. My goal in surfing is to have my ocean demons resolved and be able to one day roost the planet with grace. Then, I believe surfing will be this whole different beautiful thing …
US: Surfing has a way of affecting your outlook on life – even for über logical engineers. Which begs the question, what possessed you to even consider the trip you took in 2006?
RT: It was a long time coming man … back in college (1990), I realized this cookie cutter lifestyle of college, career, house in the burbs, working for things and a safe retirement was both lame and a shame; I just didn’t know how to break out of it. I lived it for almost fifteen years and rationalized that way of life because it was a means for me to pursue my passions …
In 2006, I achieved my life goals. I just competed in the super bowl of road racing events at Laguna Seca with MotoGP. We just wrapped up the Tesla for pre-production. I was so sauced out from life and knew it was time to see if what my gut told me was true. Plus, I wanted to live like Indiana Jones just once in my life … so much so, it had been my ring tone for years.
US: I’m sure the ringtone was a hit at the engineering cocktail parties. When you came back, did you already know that it would be a temporary return? Were you already planning on that one-way ticket or did that come to fruition on its own?
RT: Chuckle … if you asked my friends and family this question, they would say hell-yeah … I wouldn’t shut up about Costa Rica. My intent was to do it one day, but actually what happened was a crazy three to four year roller coaster that involved racing, potential early retirement and then losing everything, a tragic relationship and I got off-route chasing exactly what I didn‘t believe in (money and a fairy tale life). I screwed up. Shit happens. I accepted full responsibility for it and the day I did that, the compass needle changed. Six months later, I submitted my two week notice, sold everything in four weeks and bounced like a super duper plastic ball.
US: So that was it then … well of all the places you’ve surfed, any one which really stood out?
RT: Mancora, Peru … point break. Breaks left over rocks and best at low tide. 50+ lineup with shredding locals, a few pros, fights in the lineup and it was Christmas/New Years time … I had only been surfing for two months and still on a long board. At low tide, sometimes you can be resting your leg on a rock and at least they were not sharp. I was WAY out of my league and self-conscious as all hell.
After a week of frustration a swell hit and it was double overhead. The vagina factor was at an all time high and I just sat there and watched the first day … completely uncomfortable with the fact that I didn’t have the “courage” to paddle out. The second day I couldn’t live with myself traveling all that way to Peru and I didn’t even paddle out to try just one. So I paddled out.
After taking a digger on my first attempt and never wanting to experience that again, I waited patiently for almost an hour working my position until I got it right … and when my wave came … I charged and dropped this screamer … man, I got semi-barreled for the first time and I could see the rocks flying by just a few feet beneath me … my soul was smiling. I haven’t had a wave like that since.
US: A lot of people don’t realize the sheer size of gonads required to surf certain waves. They see the pros on videos take the big drops and think it’s a cakewalk. Big days can really leave a mark – whether it’s on your head or in your head. It’s like the trips you organize. The notion of throwing yourself out there not knowing what’s out there.
RT: It’s so many things wrapped into one … but you’re right … ultimately it comes down to rediscovering how awesome people are, what a douche bag I can be in contrast and I evolve because of it. I am a completely different person than I was just nine months ago because of traveling. I am grateful to the world and every cool person I interacted with for teaching me so much.
US: And thus became U R FREE2B U …
RT: The idea came about from three directions. The first stems from my experiences traveling nine hours a day, every day on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere and then racing motorcycles for so long. In both cases, at the end of the day I knew exactly who I was. I could either accept it or do something about it. I always chose to do something about it. Now, I’m at this place in my life where I want to share what I’ve learned with others; give back what I gave myself. Thirdly, I wrote this personal mission statement about three months ago that led to me discovering my purpose in life and the natural consequence was creating U R FREE2B U … to give people the same opportunity I gave myself; to discover the world, to discover yourself and have a blast doing what you love … like surfing, biking, climbing.
If anything comes out of this interview, I hope your readers spend quality time writing a personal mission statement. It will transform their lives … it will get them pointed in their own unique direction only if they genuinely give it a go … like dropping in on a big wave. Amazing stuff. Scary too.
US: And my impression is that theme is carried over to the trips you organize – “amazing but scary” … in your words, not another eco-friendly, “I’m leaving a small carbon footprint” fad!! Excellent.
RT: Pretty simple. Give men the opportunity to be men … and it comes from staring the lion in the eyes with a spear in hand and giving it a go or running for the hills like a crazed lunatic with shit flying out your ass … either way, you have fun, you experience, you feel ALIVE and you discover who you are. Traveling through foreign lands hits it at a different angle that requires maturity, social skills, open mindedness and reflection just to get through the day!
Our adventures really are a shortcut, the quick fix to the long-term problem of living a meaningful life … you just can’t figure all this stuff out reading books, working all the time and taking little weekend getaways to the mountains. Like surfing … you HAVE to paddle out and charge.
Our mission is to provide all of that.
The people that sign up are kick starting their lives … they are hitting the reset button … they are stepping it up a notch in their respective sports and they want to do it in a way that aligns with their core … being a man and doing the things they love in exotic places they have been dreaming about their ENTIRE lives.
It’s interesting when I share this with other guys that are well traveled … after about thirty seconds of telling how we are going to cross the Darien Gap, come face to face with hostiles, attempt something that very few have done before and figure it out on the fly … their body position goes insecure instantly and their skepticism quickly turns into, “Man, I think I need to do this?” Traveling around solo is one thing … do it in a situation where all signs say you are going to fail is a whole different ball game. Most guys, including myself never really broke out and put our lives on the line and it may just happen on our adventures or it may not. Who knows? And that’s the point and why I am training. I‘m totally prepared to put my life on the line for my clients.
US: Now the travel form submission on the website is starting to make sense. It asks questions about the number of overhand pull ups I can do and my resting heart rate.
RT: I personally respond to each submission with careful consideration. I want to build friendships and know each person. I want to give them an experience of a lifetime and in order to do that, I have to get to know my clients … it gets the conversation rolling … plus, I want to ensure it’s a fit and people are in good enough shape to paddle out.
US: So what can one expect from a FREE2B adventure? Let’s say he’s your average middle-aged surfer, snowboarder, skater dude that can hold his own but doesn’t necessarily turn heads in the lineup. He’s not exactly in Olympian shape. In fact, he could probably do with a bit more cardio. He spends 70% of the week plugging away in front of a computer, a cog in a pretty damn big wheel, looking forward to the remaining 30% and jonesing for some escape. (And, no, he doesn’t run a surfing website.)
RT: I would tell this fellow brethren of fun not to fret about his abilities … but if he shows up out of shape … it’s gonna be tough love man. Expect to live day by day, not knowing what the next day is going to lead to … even the Guide hasn’t been to most of these places. Expect to become intimate in foreign lands, to get your pedal on … to surf far away breaks that you only see in magazines and expect who you are today to simply be challenged across the board.
Definitely expect to return with stories, high on life and most likely bent on reversing the work/life balance you mentioned to spending only 30% of your time plugging away on a computer and 70% of your time living the way you want to live.
You might just do what I did … sell it all and live the life you really want to live. Why not?
Go read, “The 4-Hour Work Week” by author Tim Ferriss, it really is a game changer.
US: “Why not” … truly the million dollar question, Ryan. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more gigs out there like FREE2B. Kudos to you for pulling this off. Any parting words of wisdom for the budding adventurer reading this?
RT: Thanks Rob, I appreciate the compliment. My advice is pretty simple.
Be cool … and not with your hat off to the side screaming I’m a spoiled American retard cool.
Just be a cool, good person … be humble … listen more than you talk. Respond rather than react. Be a considerate observer. If shit is going bad and you are frustrated, it’s most likely your inability to see the whole picture … step back and think, “If I spent a lifetime in this environment … how would I view this situation?” And of course, don’t make plans … it can ruin everything when it doesn’t pan out … be cool … and when you feel scared, uncomfortable and alone … that’s the signal to grab the spear, step forward … stare the lion in the eyes and practice courage.
US: Thanks Ryan … I looking forward to hanging with you in some random corner of the world.
RT: No man, thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to do this. You are welcome to come along any trip you want. Seriously, let‘s do it. I’m thinking Africa … you down?
US: Hang on – that 24-Hour Fitness membership card has to be around here somewhere …