Category Archives: Stories

2014 top 10 cornerstone events worldwide!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 19th December 2014

Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

In the usual ebb and flow of media waves, some events have certainly caught my attention and not necessarily the most talked about by the mainstream medias!

Here is a quick yearly retrospective of the best 2014 keystone events.

  1. With MacDonald’s closing all its restaurants in Bolivia, the list of countries where MacDo has been banned raises to 10 countries worldwide. The trend is in motion!
  2. India Declares Dolphins “Non-Human Persons” (February 2014). Some may consider this as an image cleansing gesture in a country where women’s rights are far from meeting any consideration standards, however it sends a clear message towards the protection of the cetaceans.
  3. Mexico strengthened Animal rights & welfare throughout the country and clamps down on animal cruelty overall
  4. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the cessation of the Japanese whaling program called JARPA II in the Southern Ocean, as it deemed the whaling program was not for scientific purposes (March 2014). This is a victory for the Sea Shepherds efforts and valiant campaigns against whaling for the last eight years!
  5. Shark fin soup sales drop (May 2014) after China bans Shark fins soup from official banquets and government receptions in December 2013. Again, some may think of China’sshark fin ban off official menus as a national image cleaning up gesture, but we have
    Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

    Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

    to admit that it has a positive influence on shark fin sales, which have lowered since. This is good news for sharks and for the ocean ecosystem as a whole!

  6. On June 3d 2014, 19 year-old Aerospace Engineering student Boyan Slat unveils the eagerly awaited results of his Ocean Cleanup project and confirms that the project is feasible! This is most certainly the best news of year 2014.
  7. The European Union reaches an agreement, allowing its member states to restrict or ban GMO crops in their territory (June 2014).
  8. On November 12th 2014 Seaworld reports a 28% income downfall compared to last year’s third quarter. A 30% drop in their shares price followed the day after the announcement. Since Blackfish official Premiere on July 19th 2013, Seaworld’s shares performance have gone down by 51%. This together with the closure of Rimini’s dolphinarium in Italy (May 2014) marks a raise in popular understanding that dolphinariums mean dolphin mistreatments and violent slaughter.
  9. California becomes the 1st US State to ban plastic bags! (September 2014)
  10. Russia officially and completely bans GMO foods! (November 2014)
Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

 

Overall, 2014 was a pretty good year for landmark events not only showing a raise in consciousness about key life themes but also showing a genuine will from the people to enforce a change in society worldwide.

We, the people, are the motion behind the change.

We are the change, so let’s keep acting!!

99% Ride: Story of a real hero cycling from North to South Poles for children

By Angelina Cecchetto on 11th July 2014

On 7th of September 2013 Dirk Spits, founder of the 99%RIDE Foundation, started a bike ride from Alaska, through all the American continents. His aim is to reach Tierra de Fuego, Argentina in the South Pole by mid 2015. Over 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) separate the North and South Poles and Dirk will cycle this distance in over a year and a half. Knowing of this fantastic adventure and challenge, I had to interview Dirk and ask him why he was doing this!

How and why did 99%RIDE come along?

–           Last year I decided to sell all my belongings and leave Holland, my home country to create the 99%RIDE Foundation to help children in less developed countries. We want to help people and especially children following the principles of the saying: ”Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

99%RIDE Breaking the poverty cycle

The concept behind 99% is pretty straight forward: 99%RIDE asks 1% of people’s time or donations whilst they do 99% of the hard work, that is cycling and getting involved in 13 projects in 15 different countries.

Why 1%?

–           I believe that people in western countries have enough time, money and knowledge, 1% of this doesn’t influence their own personal life, but it can positively influence many other people’s lives. A minimum amount for a maximum impact.

Whilst Dirk does the cycling, promoting his cause along the way, Wouter and Samantha are the media crew organizing the fundraisers for the foundation and making sure there is an agenda filled with presentations for Dirk to do. Their main aim is to raise awareness about the plight of millions of children in third world countries and help them in a positive way.

Any highlights of the last 10 months cycling you would like to share?

–           I did a presentation in Oregon in Portland, in front of families and children and following this a girl called Genevieve did her own presentation at her school and raised 23 USD. From the height of her 11 years, Genevieve, came to me to give me a pink envelope on which was written,“I am the 1%.”

Genevieve 99%RIDEThis was one of the most beautiful and certainly one of most emotional moments so far.

Dirk who is cycling an average of 110kms (70 Miles) a day with a 50kg (110 lbs) bike together with Samantha and Wouter who are organizing all the ground operational and PR work are simply truly amazing people who have decided to make a positive difference in this world.

We can all make a difference.

Children of Mexico

Should you wish to join 99%RIDE and contribute in time, money, knowledge or anything else, you can follow them or contact them.

The great thing about 99%RIDE is that they follow up on the interventions they have done in different places and you can view many of their contributions via YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

I wish 99%RIDE all the very best of success in their projects and as Dirk would say:

Adventurous Regards!

99%RIDE

Travel, wander, gone! Travel around the world without taking a single plane!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 25th April 2014

Photography:  © Ayack

One of the great things when you work your way around is that you meet fascinating people and one of them is my good friend Ayack. I met Ayack when I was working in Tulamben, north east of Bali island in Indonesia. Ayack journey is full of adventures, life changing encounters and wild experiences.

It all started in Ireland in 2006, after an Erasmus exchange that was to seal Ayacks thirst for new horizons. After this successful exchange, Ayack set its sail to East Africa where he completed a Masters in Geography and Urban Management and Development studies. Stepping out of his comfort zone and facing racism, Ayack managed to adapt pretty well, stood up to the challenge and successfully completed his masters. The logical next step after this was for him to go on to a Doctorate but he decided to decline the student grant and to take off for the world instead!  And this, without taking a single plane!

Photography:  © Ayack So what was your main motivation when you decided not to take a single plane?

–        I didn’t want to go for the «easy way around» and I wanted to keep my carbon footprint to a strict minimum. But above all, I wanted to give Time back to Space. I wanted to set myself in a purely geographical approach, as Geography is the encounter of Time and Space. I wanted to follow the approach of these Arabic Geographers who used to move around the geographical limits of the Land such as Muhammad al-Idrisi or Ibn Hawqal. I also wanted to escape France and its never-ending crisis.

How long did you think it would take you?

–        2 years maybe 3. It actually took 5 years.

How many countries did your travel through?

–        About 40 but I didn’t really count.

Did you take anything particular with you in your travels?

–        Yes, I took Purification Tablets (Potassium Permanganate) to purify water as I didn’t want to buy plastic bottles. I also brought a machete and a harpoon but these were confiscated by the American customs. Actually, I got more stuff taken away from me by authorities than thieves!

What challenges did you face during your travels?

–        In Colombia, 300 grams of cocaine were placed in my bag whilst I was going through a body search. I had to argument with the guys for a few hours not to get arrested. In the Bahamas, I was fishing with a Hawaiian sling and I got chased by two huge bull sharks quite obviously interested by the fish I had caught, so I let go of the fish and saw the two bull sharks feasting on it. I didn’t hang around too long after that and went back onto the boat.

–        When I was crossing Kyrgyzstan with a couple of horses, we went through an area ridden with horse flies that were harassing the horses quite badly. At some point, the horses totally flipped out and started galloping away quite frenetically. In the process I fell off together with most of my equipment for camp. I managed to gather most of it back and set off running after the horses. I was quite conscious that I was in the middle of the wilderness and that without the horses I could en up stranded there. I found myself confronted with myself and I was on the verge of flipping out just like the horses had done. I had 2 ways to react: give up or keep going so I just started running in the same direction the horses took and after about a mile, they were within sight again! I knew that eventually, they would stop running but I didn’t know when!

Photography:  © Ayack

Have you travelled through all the oceans?

–        I have not crossed the Indian Ocean but I have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 5 months and the Pacific Ocean in a year and a half. I took 2 boats from Panama to Tahiti and then Tahiti to New Zealand with the Infinity crew.

Did you travel through the Amazon?

–        Yes, I travelled through the mighty river, which brings life there and saw breath-taking red blood sunsets over the jungle. I also crossed through El Mirador in Guatemala.

What are the strongest moments of your 5 years travels around the world?

–        Moments in the wild, the Mayans Pyramids over the canopy, the volcano of Tambora, storms in the Strait of Gibraltar, the horses running away in the Himalayan foothills, the Australian desert and its bush fires.

What would you say the travels have brought you?

–        Naivety, innocence, suspicion and a definite will to keep a certain capacity to stay enchanted by new horizons and the immense beauty of this world.

©AYACK All Rights Reserved

Magic encounter with The Big Underwear Social Tour!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 11th April 2014

What happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico! Well, having lived in Mexico, I normally abide by this principle but for once I decided not to, as there are some encounters in life that we have to share. May it be for the sheer magic of the encounter or the sheer magic of the harmony you can’t but feel with some people; my encounter with the Big Underwear Social Tour was definitely one of these!

©2014 Angelina Cecchetto

I met Irmi and Brady, who are the 2 main artists of the Big Underwear Social Tour, in a small fishermen’s village on the Caribbean side of Mexico where I was spending New Year’s Eve celebrations with friends. A few days later, having to catch a bus and a ferry to go to Belize to dive the Blue Hole, I met with Brady’s daughter Rosie who very kindly offered me a lift back to Playa del Carmen in “the bus”.

When I saw the Big Underwear Social Tour bus – a 1978 AmGen retired city bus that Irmi and Brady marvelously refurbished to fit their project – my eyes started glittering with joy and a big smile travelled through my face. This bus seemed to me to be the bus of happiness.

The Big Underwear Social Tour (BUST) is not just a bus, it is an inspiring itinerant artistic act founded by Irmi and Brady in 2010. They now travel across South America for about 6 months of the year in the bus and for the remaining 6 months they perform at festivals and corporate events in Europe.

©2014 Angelina Cecchetto

When I saw and entered the bus, I was in a state of happiness and excitement that only children have the privilege to feel. I felt privileged to be in it and to share some life moments with some of the most beautiful people I have been very lucky to meet in my travels.

Behind the great artistic show, there is a deeper message in the BUST act and philosophy that touched me particularly and this is a message of true Freedom and Altruism. Altruism towards people and the planet.

When I asked Irmi and Brady what was the main message behind their act and lifestyle, here is what they replied:

–       We are exploring the relationship between money and friendship. We don’t understand the evolutionary changes in our societies. Friendship and family is one thing. Strong family ties are another form of racism, they give you a border (look after our family and not the rest of humanity). Money has become more and more important and is taking away the friendship opportunity. Facebook, is symptomatic of this.

The second main axis of their philosophy is Nature conservation.

–       We often try to inspire people to pick up garbage as we find it to be an international emergency.  Sometimes we go around picking trash from the beach, do local initiatives to try to inspire local people to pick up the trash themselves. Some people just drop things in the street or just anywhere. Before buying new things at the supermarket, go and see if you can find it around you, this gets people together and strengthens friendship. It’s better than making corporations richer.

©2014 Angelina Cecchetto

Exploring the relationship between money and friendship, what a vast and fascinating topic! Irmi and Brady who hosted up to 14 artists when they did their first tour with the bus, have explored the boundaries between money and friendship more than anyone else maybe.

For me, Irmi and Brady incarnate a notion of Hope. They are two independent and talented artists who decided to live free mentally, physically and morally from a constrictive norm and are successful in doing so. They also teach us all a great lesson of altruism in the act of sharing space and taking time to have quality time with others and using their skills and talents to bring attention to the critical situation the planet is in and try to inspire people to act about it.

For what they do, I respect them and thank them. I am very grateful I have spent a couple of days in the Big Underwear Social Tour bus with Irmi, Brady and Rosie, they are some of the most inspirational, altruist and free artists I have met so far.

I wish them bons voyages!

Into the Wilderness: interview with Frank Dias

By Angelina Cecchetto on 7th October 2013

Copyright Frank Dias

Copyright Frank Dias

When my friend Frank Dias did some online research to find inspiration to design his own tattoo he was far from imagining that this would lead him to Alaska and film his own documentary “Into the Wilderness”. I interviewed Frank in order to share his amazingly lucky adventure into the wild!

It all started when Frank was doing some research online to try and find some interesting ideas to design his own tattoo. With Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight” Batman film in mind Frank was looking for designs or images around the theme of swarm of bats. His research soon led him to a Nissan special edition “Dark Knight” car.  At the bottom of the advert page, there was a message stating “How much of a thrill seeker are you? Take our test” Frank clicked on it and the “Juke Built to Thrill” competition page opened up with an online test to take that Frank passed quickly. He then went through to the next step, which was to describe his most adventurous thrill of a lifetime. Deeply inspired by the story of Christopher McCandless which was both related by the book “Into the Wild” written by Jon Krakauer and the movie directed by Sean Penn, Frank mentioned that his thrill would be to go to Alaska to follow in the footsteps of Christopher’s hike into the wild to get to bus 142 and to question what adventure truly meant for him.

One month later Frank received an email that he was about to delete but thankfully the header read “You have been shortlisted for the “Juke Built to Thrill” competition”. He then went on to meet the production people in the London headquarters and was selected with 4 other people out of a pool of 12000 participants and ended up being the lucky winner of the competition! Very excited and also very well prepared Frank took off to Alaska to hike the trail that Christopher McCandless had walked in 1992.

How many people where you and at which time of year did you film the documentary?

–          We were a total of four, Mungo the cameraman and film director, Kevin and René, two local guides from Denali Backcountry Guides and myself. We went to the stampede trail in July of this year.

What is the underlying aim of “Into the Wilderness”?

–          It is to question what adventure means for me, but also to try and understand Christopher’s motivation, inspirations and realisations and to pay my respect to a young adventurer who sadly died – to visit another human being last resting place.

What challenges did you encounter on the way?

–          The hike was rough but the two main challenges were crossing the River Teklanika and the hundreds and hundreds of mosquitos! The River crossing was quite an adventurous step for me which I’ve never done before. There were dangers involved in that. In 2010 a young Swiss woman died trying to cross it. Thankfully thanks to Kevin and René’s experience everything went well. The other challenge I didn’t expect was the omnipresence of hundreds of mosquitos following us everywhere. Thankfully again, René and Kevin had brought us some protective anti-mosquito suits.

What special equipment did you have with you apart from the mosquito suits?

–          Extra pairs of shoes, water filtering device and waterproof gear and bags.

How long did it take you to walk to the bus, your final destination and what did you feel when you saw the bus?

–          It took us two days to walk to the bus and when I got there I felt quite emotional. It was quite an emotionally powerful moment to see the bus and everything in it left as it was when Christopher had lived there.

What learning did you take back with you from this experience:

–          It made me have a greater appreciation of enjoying each moment whilst you can. Always go with the perspective that you can have an adventure anywhere as you never know what life is going to bring you. I also came to agreeing with Chris that happiness is only real when shared – which is what Chris came to the conclusion of after his many days in isolation.

Do you think there is a message that we could take from Christopher’s experiences and decisions?

–          Yes, doing your own rite of passage – when you challenge yourself to become an adult and to find out who you truly are. In our modern society the rite of passage has evolved to a point that it has practically disappeared and with it a basic element of ourselves has been dissolved over time. Also, when going out on an adventure, be prepared, use common sense and stay alive, you’ll want to share your story with others!

Maybe as his own rite of passage, in 1990 Christopher McCandless decided to leave civilization. In April 1992 he ventured into the Alaskan wilderness to find peace and solitude and to be at one with his great passion for the wilderness. He may have had questions that he needed time and space to find answers for. He stayed in Alaska 112 days and was mainly living of berries and hunting and whilst out there he came to the realisation that true happiness is only real when shared. He realised that the most amazing adventures and the most beautiful experiences are only really so when you can share them with someone, so he decided to go back to civilization and his family. However, on the way back River Teklanika had greatly swollen up due to thaw and had turned into a deep, fast and very strong river which he nonetheless tried to cross and nearly drowned in the process, he finally gave up the idea and went back to what he called his “magic bus”; the bus that he had found in that great immensity of the Alaskan wilderness and which offered him shelter for the days he lived there. Whilst gathering his food, Christopher may have ingested something that ended up poisoning his body, (you can read the latest theory on this in the New Yorker). Realizing Nature’s might and adverse side, he continued writing in his diary until he eventually rolled up in his sleeping bag and passed away.

Filmed and directed by Mungo, Into the Wilderness is a beautiful documentary retracing the footsteps and the poignant story of a young adventurer who escaped civilization to realize that happiness was only truly meaningful when shared. Mungo’s photography pays tribute to the uncompromising and raw Alaskan landscape beauty.

The film will be released in thirty selected cinemas throughout the UK, from the 14th October to the 30th November as part of a set of short films for the Adventure Film Festival. So if like me you love adventure, nature and inspiring stories, do go and watch Frank’s film and the others!

For those of you who would like a taster, here is the trailer:

 

INTO THE WILDERNESS TRAILER from Black Diamond on Vimeo.

Extra-ordinary tales: the first 12 year old Ironman rescue diver girl!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 20th September 2013

Meb Ziegelbauer getting ready for the Ironman Rescue 2013

Meg Ziegelbauer getting ready for the Ironman Rescue 2013

On the morning of the 8th of September Meg Ziegelbauer, 12, woke up at 3.30 am to head to Lake Monona, Wisconsin to be part of a crew of seven Rescue Divers assisting the 2500 Ironman competitors who had to swim 2.4 miles in the lake. The challenge of lake Monona swim, beyond the water temperature which on average revolves around 70°F/21°C, is that part of the race is against current. The seven rescue divers were divided into two boats and followed the swimmers progression. Overall the swim went rather well with only about 10 out of 2500 participants having to be rescued for exhaustion. To qualify for the final stages of the Ironman, the competitors have 2 hours 20 minutes to swim 2.4 miles/3.8 kms with a fair bit of the way against current.

Meg who started diving at 8 years of age, was part of the crew to rescue the Ironman swimmers. Non recue divers may wonder how it is possible for a 12 year old girl to rescue Ironmen competitors. To that, experienced rescue divers would reply that a water rescue involves techniques and equipment which allow a smaller person to rescue a bigger one, and thankfully so I would say!

This being said, as a dive Instructor myself I must pay a huge tribute to Meg’s courage and attitude which are frankly amazing. At 8 years old, Meg started diving in local queries with her dad, Greg Ziegelbauer who has been a diver and who has rescued people for years as a professional firefighter. Whilst quite a fair amount of adults are scared or reluctant to dive even in clear, warm tropical waters, Meg aged 8 went down to poor visibility and cold lakes and queries waters! This is not a small achievement.

I interviewed Meg about what she thought of the Ironman rescue experience and what were her future plans:

What did it feel to participate to the Ironman experience?

–          It was kind of cool, quite interesting!

Would you do it again?

–          Yes definitely, I would like to do it next year and the year after, every year if I can.

Do you remember the first time you started diving?

–          Yes, I was kind of scared of the deep end and really cold as it was in April but in the end I really loved it! My dad started diving for firefighting and got me into it.

How many dives do you have?

–          200.

What are you plans for the future as far as diving is concerned?

–          I want to become a Dive Master, then an Instructor and then I would like to become a Navy Seal* as women have just been admitted to become Navy Seals. If I can’t get to do that, I would like to become a Marine Biologist.

*For the record, to become a female Navy Seal, you have to do between 50 to 90 push-ups and sit-ups in two minutes. 10 to 18 pull-ups and run a mile and a half in 10 minutes. Swim 500 yards/460m in 12 minutes, sidestroke.

What is your motivation?

–          I like diving, and helping people.

To conclude I would only say one word: admirable!

Diving lesson learnt: when you dive in a school of anchovies, watch your back, your front and collatorals!!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 13th August 2013

Two divers named Shawn Stamback and Francis Antigua got the fright of their lives when they nearly got snatched away by two enormous humpback whales who suddenly surfaced out of the water to feast on a school of anchovies. This happened a few weeks ago off the coast of central California. The two dive buddies who were surrounded by a school of anchovies never thought that two enormous humpback whales would simultaneously jump out of the water by their side! They both instantaneously thought the other had been swallowed by the whales.

In areas known to be populated or popular with whales, boaters are  advised to stay at least a hundred yards/meters away from whales and this explains pretty clearly why. This is certainly a dive experience they will both remember for quite a while, not to say for ever.

Lesson to learn for us divers: when you dive near a big school of anchovies (or any school of praying fish, I would even say) watch your surroundings and keep an eye underwater until you get back on board!

Happy and safe diving to all!

The Ocean Cleanup project: the best intention of the century!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 17th April 2013

There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.

Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.

The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.

The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch.  In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.

A very good example of plastic recycling has been made by “Method” a producer of cleaning products who marketed a dish soap whose container is made partly of recycled ocean plastic[1].

According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.

I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.

Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.

Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:

http://signon.org/sign/ban-non-biodegradable.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=1333790