The Upside of Down

Words by John Angiulo.

There is no up without down. When we realize we are traveling around a world in space where down just leads to another up and up leads into space, up can really be a down and down can lead right into up.  And in a world filled with downs, it’s important to be able to see up and down as parts of each other. You may be wondering what the hell I am talking about and that is a fair question. 

What I’m talking about is the idea that all crisis can be a blessing and all blessings can lead to crisis. Blessing is basically positive and crisis is negative but wisdom is seeing them both as two parts of the same whole. I see this trend in all of life. The challenge is the opportunity whereas the opportunity becomes the challenge. I’ll give an example. 

I’d had just spent two weeks in Nicaragua and was ready to head home. It had been a great trip but I had a next adventure to be on and the idea of my own bed at home for a few days was a comforting thought. I’m rarely very tired but after walking up and down 30 degree mountain sides morning and night and surfing all day, I was preeetty damn shot. Like I said, I was ready to be home. 

Of course, on the way to the airport the tire to the truck driving me blew out. In the scorching heat, and with assistance from a friend nearby, we finally got the wheel back on the truck. By this point I’m watching the clock a little more closely and was beginning to get anxious. We were on the road for thirty more minutes and, woop-woop, cop pulls over the driver. The officer says something about him doing something I can’t comprehend and then goes and sits in his car. He wastes a ton of time and gives the driver a ticket. 

I finally get to the airport and by the time I get past the massive line of people before me, it was too late. Flight gone. There I was with two backpacks, a surfboard and pretty much nothing else. I had to be strategic with my next move because funds were limited and the place I had just been was three hours away. 

I began to get that sweaty, heated, panic feel, when you screwed up and don’t really know what your options are. The idea of sleeping in the airport sucked until I realized they closed at night and that wasn’t even an option. The hotels nearby put me in a strange predicament; I didn’t want to stay where I could afford and I couldn’t afford where I wanted to stay. I felt things were going badly, to say the least. 

 I looked around at the people around me. It seemed extremely unlikely anyone had an answer for me. I thought for a moment of anyone who might. The only other people I knew in the country were three girls who I’d just met, that were in a nearby city. 

After calling the place I had been staying and after a bit of explaining, I got the number of one of the girls. I called her up with my phone battery dangerously low and told her my situation. Luckily, they invited me to where they were. I hopped in the first cab and took a drive to Granada, which I knew little about. 

Upon arriving I found out that Granada is the oldest city in the new world, the first of the cities built by the conquistadors when they came to the Americas. The architecture is beautiful, the art is timeless and stunning and the food is five star and cheap. Its now one of my favorites I’ve ever been to in all the world. I spent that night touring the town with the three epic ladies that had seriously saved my ass (staying alone in the managuan motel was not a fun prospect). We had drinks all over, ate at an amazing restaurant and they even gave me one of their hotel rooms for me to sleep in. 

It was an amazing experience and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. I wouldn’t have gotten to experience that if I things had been going according to plan. If that small crisis hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have had that amazing blessing. No down, no up.  I’ve looked back and noticed that a lot in my life and in life in general. Those things we think were terrible shape us to be people of character and those things we enjoy so much many times make us addicted, imbalanced or lazy. 


Surfing has always been the love of my life, but it has taken me away from many other productive pursuits. I had a daughter very early in life, which I thought was going to be the most challenging aspect of my life. Now I know my daughter to be the greatest blessing in my life and one of the most fun and exciting parts of it. 

The reason I say this is I figure after traveling I should have something valuable to bring back, and in this case, this is it. We live in a world right now that is jamming tons of information down our throats each moment. The only way to cut through information is with wisdom. Wisdom is seeing balance in each moment, understanding crisis as potential blessing and blessing as potential crisis. 

We have tons of challenges in our lives, for many of us as individuals, and for all of us as a species. It can be overwhelming.  But if we can imagine how these things can make us stronger, allow us to grow and learn more, then they won’t seem negative. Then we can come to see this difficult and transitory period of our lives as period of unparalleled opportunity. 

Just like when we travel, life is a story and it’s not the ups that make a story great, but the downs and the ups that come after. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. If you can see down as up and up as down, then you can remain balanced and wise in each moment and make the most of each decision you get to make. Through these decisions you help impact the world simply by the quality of how you live your daily life.

Remember, up can really be a down and down can lead right into up.  And in a world filled with downs, its important to be able to see up and down as parts of each other.


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