Nando: the Reason I’m Here!
Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.
You would hear his jolly belly-laughs before you saw him. They instantly drew me over. I remember stumbling out of my bunk room, sliding the doors open, squinting my hungover eyes at the sun, not really in the mood to socialise. I’d been staying at a party hostel – the infamous LayDay of Canggu, Bali – where the hangovers were included as part of a package deal. I saw a new group of guys by the pool and walked over, curious.
I met Nando by the pool who I learned was with his other friends he was holidaying with from the states. He had the warmest smile and inviting energy, so I went and joined him sitting on the edge of the pool. We dangled our legs in the marbly, sun-screen blotched water, I introduced myself and we clinked our bottles of Bintang. After interviewing Nando as part of this project, 2 years on, I asked him how he remembers our first encounter and I couldn’t have put it better myself:
“The first memory I have with Alice is sitting by the pool talking about our dreams, fears and everything in between. It’s where I first learned of her passion for writing, and a moment where I knew I found a friend for life.”
We just clicked. Skipped all the bullshit like How long have you been in Bali, where next, who are you with? etc. and got straight into it. He was telling me about his business back home, how he started from scratch and built his dream space where he could teach kids gymnastics. He’d even borrowed money from friends to make it happen. His raw ambition lit something within me just then in that moment. He asked me about myself, what got me out of bed most days. And so we started talking about writing. He urged me to write and keep going with it, after I said something halfhearted about how I’d probably never do anything with it, how I’d thought about starting some kind of lame travel blog, but probably would never get round to it.
To which he replied, with passion: “You have to keep on writing. I can’t wait to read one of your books some day.” Well, touché, Nando, because you also have many stories to tell which I was lucky to learn recently, in said virtual interview. I asked him where the most special place was that he’d visited…
“This question is hard for me because each place has affected me differently for different reasons. Without question I loved the massive and sprawling fjords of Iceland. I geeked out over the diversity of human culture and technology in Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been humbled by history itself, staring through the gates of Auschwitz in Poland. Each of these places elicits a different feeling in me that is difficult to categorize as “the most special” because they were all special in their own way. That said, if I had to choose I’d say Budapest, Hungary. Because not only was the city fascinating, I also fell in love with a group of strangers there that I now consider family.”
I remember him telling me about his life-changing trip to the beautiful Budapest. He’d met a group of 13 people and clicked with all 13 of them – so this is pure proof: Nando is the common denominator here, people. Nando is the person who just clicks with everyone, and you don’t find many people like that on this planet.
“13 people, from 13 different parts of the world. We all clicked immediately. We were an inseparable squad that were also living our best lives within that week. 2 years later, 10 of them are in my hometown celebrating my 30th party. These people flew thousands of miles to hang out and party with me for my birthday after only knowing them a combined 7 days [pictured above]. It was the best gift I’ve ever gotten. And the love and effort given for my sake is something I’ll always cherish.“
I loved getting lost in Nando’s answers as part of this interview and one thing I totally agreed with him on was the following:
“It’s funny. Some of the people unique and most memorable people I’ve met – I don’t even know their name. What makes them memorable though, is that these certain people (usually unbeknownst to them) created a profound change in the way I perceive myself and myself in terms of others.”
Finally, I asked him what the 3 lessons he learned on the road:
- “Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. Explore the opportunities you’ve given yourself with confidence.”
- “Follow your budget. You might be having the best time of your life but math is math.”
- “Kindness is the best form of currency.”
To say any more would just take away from Nando’s brilliance. But I must end with one last thing on which stirred me the most in his answers:
“With Alice, I felt completely at ease. There was no judgement or expectation, only acceptance and appreciation for who I was as a person in that moment. It’s a feeling I won’t forget.“
For me too, that moment, that pocket of inspiration and aspiration and that feeling then of being fully seen is one I will equally not forget. It’s crazy to think that one conversation with a stranger can wake you up in such a small space in time. And so it couldn’t possibly be more fitting that Nando is the first story to christen this journey of nostalgia!
Thank you Nando for your laughs, zest for life, endless optimism and for sharing your memories with me.
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