Monday, March 15, 2010

everything is possible - chapter 1

This is the first of a mini-series of six posts that I will publish on the following Mondays and Thursdays.

The posts will illustrate things that happened in my life that I once thought to be impossible.
The last post of the series will be about yet another thing that just happened (or more precisely is about to happen) that if someone told me a few years ago, I would have said:"no way!".

More than bragging and self-celebration (lots of that too), the aim of these posts is to inspire the readers not to limit themselves by the others' or their own beliefs, because... everything is possible!

Well, the first one had to be about the fact that I managed to drop everything and come and live in Maui to do what I like most.

A little bit of relevant history first.
I was hit by the windsurfing bug pretty early. I think I was 18 when a friend of mine got a windsurfer from his dad. Not long after that, I had my first own board. Not sure about the date of this photo... probably around 1983-85

After high school, I studied six long years as an engineer. It was a pretty shitty time. I didn't enjoy it, but somehow it seemed I didn't have any other choice. Family and in general society pressed me to do so and so I did. Here I am at the discussion of the final thesis, November 1988. How's those glasses?

After that, I worked one year for Ericsson in Naples and then moved to Rome to work for IBM.
Lately, thanks to the power of the social networks, an old friend contacted the classmates of the IBM training course for new employees back in 1990. He also retrieved a photo of the collection of all the company badges.
Number 40505, that's what I was.

After six years in one big corporation, I got hired by another big corporation where I started a carrier as a software salesman.
Another badge, another number.

One year (I think 1998) I did pretty good. The last day of the HP fiscal year (October 31st) at 6pm, after a very stressful day making sure that all the last minuted orders were received and processed correctly, I was at the coffee area when a secretary stepped in looking for me.
"Giampaolo, Nicola is on the phone for you"
"Nicola who?"
"Nicola Aliperti!"
Wait a moment... it's 6pm of the last day of the fiscal year and the bloody CEO wants to talk to me?!? Shit, I must have done something REALLY bad...

"Heeey Giampaolo, how you doing?"
"Ehm, pretty good... and you?"
"Good, good. Listen, I wanted to have the pleasure to announce you that you have been selected as a winner of the President's club this year! You know what it is?"
Some corporate bullshit, I though... "Kind of, but if you give me more details that'll be great!"
"Oh, it's the biggest corporate price an employee can actually win and it's awarded to the best 100 salesmen worldwide in regard to criterias like results, teamwork, positive attitude, etc..."
"Cool, thanks! But... what did I win exactly?"
"Well, this year it's a four days trip for two to Maui in April... you know, business class, luxury hotel and everything included"...

A few months later, the following dialog was held between my manager and me.
"Cesare, as you know I won a trip for two to Maui in April"
"Your business unit will have to process the costs of it"
"Well, I don't have a girlfriend at the moment (I was supremely dating though), but do you think I will find a girl that will want to come with me?"
"I have no doubt about that"
"Right. So I thought that instead of having the company spending money on a second airline ticket in business class, I could go alone, extend the trip for a couple of weeks (I had plenty vacation days to use) and use that money for accomodation, car rental and so on"
"Sure, no problem... as long as you stay within the cost of an airline ticket, I don't care."

So in April 1999, thanks to Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard, I landed in Maui for the third time.
Here's a shot in the bathroom of my unnecessarily luxurious room at the Four Seasons (the tuxedo was clearly provided locally for the Gran Gala...).

I had already been in Maui twice, but both times for shorter periods and in different times of the year. This time it was an 18 days trip and it was destined to change my life forever. The amount of fun I had, in fact, is beyond my ability to render it with words now. It was actually not only the fun I had in the water. It was the connection I felt with the energy of the place, the nature, the people.

But, every vacation has to come to an end.
I was sitting on a window seat on the right of the airplane when we took off from Kahului and flew over the north shore. Needless to say, it was windy and I could clearly see the colorful sails zipping all over the ocean at Kanaha. A few seconds later, while flying over Sprecks a couple of painful tears were coming down my cheeks.
A few more seconds later, while watching the sailors ripping at Hookipa, I took the most important decision of my life.
"I wonna live here and whatever it will cost me... I'm gonna live here!"

So I worked hard for a couple of more years, and managed to put enough money in the bank to afford a year off (having sold a record deal of 1.7 million dollars of software licenses to Telecom Italia Mobile helped).
On November 1st 2000, I gave notice. By contract I had to work three more months after that and my last day of work was January 31st 2001. As of today, that was the last time I wore a tie.
I will never forget what I felt when I took it off in front of the mirror at my house: "this could be the last time you have to wear this stupid shit!", I said loud and proud to myself.
It felt good, you guys... it felt really good.

It wasn't easy though and the Italians will understand this better than the Americans.
In the States, in fact, the job market is sooo much better and people quit, move, change way more often than in Italy.
Quitting a well paid job with a brilliant carrier path (whatever that means) was considered a crazy move by most people I knew.
I actually did it in the safest possible way. The CEO promised that they would hire me again upon my return and I found a new tennent for the lovely studio in Rome that I was renting with the agreement that if I had come back after one year, he would have to move somewhere else...
My window is the closed one at the lower left.

On February 2nd 2001 I landed in Maui for the exciting start of my sabbatical year.
Two weeks. Two weeks was all it took to figure out that I was not going back.
Everything tasted so bloody fucking real!
I didn't have a company car anymore, instead I bought a 1994 Buick Century station wagon (in the photo with a couple of friends camping on its vast hood).

Even though it kept breaking down on me, I was the happiest man in the world while driving it on the Hana Highway loaded with windsurfing gear.

Oh man, so many things happened, so many anecdotes I could mention... but that would go beyond the scope of this first post...

Stay tuned for the next chapter on Thursday and try to guess (maybe with a comment) what is the last "impossible thing" that just happened (or more precisely is about to happen)...


Niclas said...

Strange... ...yesterday I thought I'd ask you for the story behind your move to get some details that might help myself with my own decisions. Then you come with a story in several chapters beginning with this one :) Excellent, so looking forward to the rest.

I have some rather large obstacles to overcome though if I ever should decide to move or stay there for longer periods in life, having two kids, their mum, my girlfriend and her two kids and their dad, as parameters in this difficult equation. I certainly will go there more times, but the thought of moving struck me and Ninni after just a few days in Paia...

Jamin said...

hmmm - you have been adopted by a heir to the royal Hawaiian kingdom, which means you are technically the ruler of Hookipa? Congratulations on living the dream! Have you sold the movie rights yet?

Sharon said...

Oh Jesus-are those the early days of your 'mainland shoes' in pici #4?!!!

Compelling first chapter, in the next do you expose that you wore Teva's and Speedos at Hoo'kipa? If so PLEASE let there be photographic evidence of that!

Lano said...

Mayor of Maui?

Editor of a Windsurfing Mag?

World Travel writer for Windsurfing / SUP magazine, all expenses paid travel to the world best spots all the time, first stop Adelaide!? Peroni's on ice!

Anonymous said...

Big Thank you for Sharing. This is very inspiring! Hope to join you in Maui but only if i can close a couple of million dollar deals like you do!

Anonymous said...

Giampaolo, thanks for sharing that story, really appreciate! I know I will never do that step because of two kids and family and stuff and I´ve made my peace with it - this is a good life too! And I would not move to the USA anyway, I prefer Europe for living. I DO look forward to coming for three weeks this year though! And I managed to cut loose from that ridiculous corporate life by starting my own business and disposing of all ties!

My guess on the impossible thing (good cliffhanger) is you seriously start KITING.

Cheers, andreas

Nord_Roi said...

I don't know..but I can't wait to read it!

Luca said...

Getting married, GP?

cryx said...

Hi cammar ... I have started in 1984 too ... but i did not find the courage to change my life and I am still a number.

Surf also for us!

Larr f/ Vail ... said...

That you are getting married ... to "Just one woman",
ok, more impossible to "Just one guy" ???
LOL. I see you on the moon before the above actually, either of the above. Ha.
I'll stay tuned to see if I am right. Is there a prize ???
Love your blog.

Scott said...

Great post, GP.

Catapulting Aaron said...


I love this story line. I, too, have made sacrifices and life changes to live in a place I love where I can better enjoy the wind and water. It has been the best move of my life! I totally empathize with this post.

I can't wait to read the next!


Sergey Menshikov said...

Awesome story - thank you for sharing1

Carles Carrera said...

Very inspiring story!!!

You had the balls to do the move, while 99% of us don't.

Bill said...

Excellent post!! Its great to see the stories of transition what for most seems "impossible!" I had a similar experience where I first lived as a beach bum in Hatteras, moved to DC to don short hair and a tie, then returned to Hatteras after my 5 year urban tour. Though, technically still wear the "corporate hat," at least the tie is gone and slaps, shorts, and a t-shirt replace K Coles, kakais, and a collared shirt. The beauty of full time teleworking!

PS: love the short hair pics!

Anonymous said...

good post thanks for sharing.
my guess...... a new rewarding, hired by hawaii meteo to back up uncle pat (or maybe he is leaving the job.
good luck on your future.

Joe Agliozzo said...

Nice post - can't wait for the next installment. I also hope you cover your "evolution" in watersports - windsurf, longboard, shortboard, sup, kite?, etc. You need a lot of different watersports equipment to take advantage of all the conditions on Maui, right? :)

Anonymous said...

You've been invited on an all expenses paid windsurfing/surfing trip around the world to be documented on film?


Mega said...

GP this is a great post, I think most of your readers have either gone on a windsurf adventure or dreamed of doing it.

I know I have often wondered what your back story really was

Thanks for sharing

keep living the dream

NC said...

Great post! Great Blog !! If we all had your courage ! Maui would be very very Crowded !!

You got A sponsor !!! if I were A
manufacturer. I would grab you. Great sailor ! Great exposure !!

Keep living our Dream !!!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely fascinating post GP - I'm so glad you've lived The Dream
very few people have the balls.
Reading the comments, at least you only left parents/siblings behind, a much more difficult prospect to uproot wife and children. Responsibilities make life different.


Cris said...

hi GP,

great story. i follow your blog almost daily and it makes me feel like i'm almost in maui myself...

i think we all know it would be impossible for you to leave maui - which means you must be getting married. congrats?

Kate said...

Good one! Very inspiring....
Waiting for the follow up:-)

C-you on the water!

mads said...

Sitting in a class about linear algebra, reading your blog, instead of paying attention to the professor.. Think I would have left this place, if it wasnt because you get payed for studying in DK..

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

I moved here in November 2009 after visiting here at least once a year for the past twelve years. At the end of each of these vacations I too sat in the window seat and cried, feeling like I was betraying myself by going back to California. Back to my life, which as you explained "I did not enjoy, but somehow it seemed I didn't have any other choice. Family and in general society pressed me to do so and so I did".

For years I told myself, (like you) "I wonna live here and whatever it will cost me... I'm gonna live here!"

My last vacation here was in August 2009 for 15 days and at the end I went home, sold all of my belongings and was here by November.

I own less than I ever have, make less money than I ever have, but I am happier than I have ever been.
I am living MY life and doing the things that matter to me. Bliss!

Anonymous said...

sient'amme' ti chiamo io!
Sei un grande.

Stevo Keyboards said...

I had an inkling about this story but you did a wonderful job telling it!
I look forward to the next segment

Morley said...

Giampalo, maybe weird, maybe because you write succinctly, but the long version is almost EXACTLY my picture of your journey from what I imagined from the short verion in that little bio 'about me' thing on the right side of your blog!

You obviously allow many others to live vicariously!

Ray said...

Whoa, this is all sounding awfully familiar right now, even the pictures! Gotta get back to Maui!

flykatcher said...

What a cool story of a really good bloke !
Prediction of everything is possible..
your Italian job contacted you and you can work for them living on Maui.

cammar said...


I'm overwhelmed by the response!
Thanks everyone for the comments, please keep them coming. And the guesses too... clearly I'm not going to say if someone guesses right or it will be the end of the game.

The problem now is that I created very high expectations about the following chapters... I better stay home Wednesday night and write some worthy shit!
(because of course I haven't written any of the next chapters yet...)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Great post! It impressed me your strong and quick decision to remain in Maui, and your "responsible" way of leaving your job. I leaved my job in a much more irresponsible way and still not sure were to go...but now sure about what I like and what I don't (respectively the ocean and the offices!).
Keep going and make other people dream.

my guess: do you learned surfing?


Andrew said...

Very cool story - looking forward to hearing about the rest and the big news! Did you get a part in "The Windsurfing Movie II"?

Anonymous said...

Mò vene 'ò bbell'.......

Anonymous said...

my guess: "GOING BACK" ;-D

Manuel said...

Dreamming from your experience... from an actual IBMer, I can understand you clearly.

Maybe you end make me see doing something like that is really possible.

You´ll never sail alone!