Saturday, six in the morning and I lie in bed wide awake. Some people may call this frustrating, but I love it. For me being able to get up early in the morning gives me the opportunity to watch the early morning sun with a cup of tea while the world around me is still fast asleep. My phone remains silent and I don’t need to worry about people trying to reach out to me. It’s time to just be me and enjoy the time I have. Maybe even sit down and start writing my blog. During the week I scribble down some words in my notebook while I sit on the train to work, but this just ends up being a patchwork of texts and words representing a small part of who I am. On the one hand I realise how lucky I am, on the other hand I feel lost in a society that dominates life every step along the way. I want to truly feel life, not be numb to the world around me. Nothing makes a day more beautiful than sharing a smile with a stranger and getting a glimpse of a life that isn’t yours. I don’t want television to tell me about the world we live in. We all know they only tell us part of the truth. Of course, all these things are not ambitious. Apparently, to be ambitious you need to aim for the best job, make sure to get a big house and have a life filled with luxury. In these times I think it would be good to reframe this word, ambition. Maybe it would be better to aim for a happy and fulfilled life and call that ambitious. Maybe, ambition shouldn’t be related to money and power. Maybe, being happy with who you are and what you do is truly ambitious. It for sure isn’t an easy thing. It’s a constant battle to look inwards instead of to the world surrounding you. We live in a hard world and the battle for happiness isn’t an easy one. So many people in society fail while giving all they have. Don’t fail. Be ambitious and aim for whatever life feels right for you. People will try to stop you, people may have a good reason to hold you back, but you will never know if you don’t give it a try. Don’t sit back and except what is. Choose for what may be.
Starting to ride a motorbike as a girl seems to turn out to be quite the story, a story that started in 2017 with driving lessons as these are obligatory in Belgium. First question: “Have you ever ridden a motorbike before?” I thought by myself, obviously not, that’s exactly why I am here. Luckily, I only said out loud a polite “No, I have not”. Apparently they didn’t have many cases like me who hardly know anything about riding a motorbike. Lesson 1: ride in a straight line and make a turn before you hit the wall at the end of the terrain. No problem with that straight line, but the wall started to come close pretty quickly and that damn bike didn’t want to turn. Or was it actually my first example of object fixation having my eyes locked on the wall ahead?
It was a steep learning curve, but after my first 2 hours I rode slalom, figure eights and they even let this little danger hit the road for the first time. If I am honest I don’t remember getting anywhere above first and second gear. Afterwards I went home happy and proud with some bruises here and there because that bike just liked falling right on top of my leg. Obviously, the bike was all to blame.
During the rest of my driving lessons I broke a clutch leaver, had trouble with a stuck gas cable and got a few close looks at the underground of the driving terrain. That gas cable definitely was the most scary of experiences! Not holding my gas cable anymore, flying through the corner at about 80km/hour and trying to do the emergency deviation anyway with the instructor screaming I should really slow down I finally came to a halt with my front wheel in the bushes. Luckily this experience just ended with me having the privilege to ride the instructors bike back home while he battled my bike along the road.
Despite, or maybe just because all this, I passed my driving tests one week later. Ready to hit the road. Well, I was ready, my bike not really. A couple of months later Jonas, my boyfriend was able to fix up his old bike for me and I was ready to roll. An old, but very cute Yamaha Virago 250 accompanied me during my first 3000 kilometer. Then practice was over as we bought a one-way ticket to India with a year of riding different motorbikes through Asia ahead. I discovered India and Nepal riding a lovely Honda Unicorn. Vietnam and Laos on top of a Honda XR125 and parts of Thailand on a Honda CRF250. A year and 18.000 kilometers later I ended up back home where I bought myself a proper commuter bike, an old BMW r850gs.
In most places in Asia they are not used to seeing a woman riding a motorbike. Often girls and woman would silently creep up to me, ask me about the bike and have a sit on the saddle. Meanwhile, the guys would approach Jonas telling him it would be better to take me on the back of his bike. Cheaper and safer. These are the things you kind of expect in Asia, but being back in Belgium I noticed prejudice is as easily found here. For example, when I go to the shop they tend to try to give me the wrong stuff somehow assuming I am probably wrong about the bike I ride. Other times people just assume we travelled through Asia with me sitting on the back of the bike and occasionally I have come along people telling me it’s not smart of a girl to ride. Not sure where this comes from. People may be concerned asking questions like “Isn’t the bike too heavy for you?”, “Aren’t you a little small to ride such a bike?” or “Wouldn’t it be easier to ride a chopper kind of bike that is closer to the ground?”, but I suppose asking is learning. The bike is properly heavy, but I am not planning to topple it over too often. The bike is high, but most of the time I don’t need to reach the ground and if I do need to stop I just need to find a good place and slide of my saddle a little so I have one foot firmly on the ground. Lastly, I don’t think it really matters which bike you ride as long as it gives you comfort and joy.
That was my bike story that has only just begun. All I can say is, go out and discover. Do what you want without fearing it may be impossible. Ride a motorbike, don’t ride a motorbike. Stay at home to take care of your children or go to work and aim for the top. Go out to discover the world or stay where you are and let the world come to you. Whatever you choose to do, there will be prejudice and judgement, but in the end life can only give you something if you have the courage to ask for it.
Things have changed, that much I am sure of. To start with, it is a new year, but honestly, I don’t think that really makes a difference. In a few days time I went from a full-time biker to a daily commuter. An hour sitting on the train in the morning followed by sitting behind a desk all day to end up back on the train for another hour. As my job, I am taking a closer look at how the food industry influences our life and our health on a daily basis, so that’s pretty damn interesting, but staring at a computer screen all day is quite the challenge. My brain likes all the new information, but my eyes start to hate me by the end of the day. Consequence? Here I am with my notebook on my lap writing down my blog instead of directly typing it on the computer. It is weekend, my eyes need a break from screens and my body is ready to go for a ride. That brings me to my good intention of 2019: I want to keep on riding my bike at least twice a week. Straightforward and simple. Is it raining, freezing or snowing? I don’t care. At the end I forget about the cold. It’s always the sense of freedom, adventure and joy that sticks.
Talking about the weather makes me realize how easily I am influenced by it. A drizzly and grey day makes me feel down, a snowy day makes me feel enthusiastic like a little child, a thunderstorm makes me feel wild and free and a sunny days gives me the feeling I am ready to face the challenges ahead, whatever they may be. I should probably share with you that today is a drizzly day for sure! Beware for what comes next. No, just kidding, I get by. Pondering about everyday life. Why people do what they do. Why people don’t do what they would like to do. The dominance of fear in our lives. Politicians trying to making things worse. If you don’t vote for them a lot of people will lose their job, money will be wasted and you’ll end up being unhappy. Keep the multinationals dominating our world, keep the corporate world making the decisions because money rules instead of common sense. The climate change debate is in full swing in Belgium. People have hope, politicians agree by saying how everything is impossible. Things are more complex than they seem. Everything can be solved with economic growth and innovation. Don’t touch our economic model, it’s our only saviour. Meanwhile, the only thing I hear behind what they say is the big money talking. Silently I feel we are burning together with our planet. People are unhappy, people live in fear and people think they need to buy more to someday reach fulfilment. Hello economical model of growth and innovation, I don’t think you’re doing that good a job. Maybe I am wrong, but I am pretty sure many among us wouldn’t mind using public transport more often if it was cheaper and of better quality. Pretty sure more people would like to ride their bicycle more if they wouldn’t feel like risking their life every time a car races past just a few centimetres away. Pretty sure people could one day feel richer with less stuff. So instead of focussing on how our lives will be ruined trying to write a better story for us and the environment, remember you aren’t a multinational company. There is a happier future ahead in a cleaner world. The only thing keeping us from heading in that direction is the corporate multinational world painting a picture trying to scare us as much as it scares them. Don’t be scared, just move one foot forward and then keep going.
This morning I thought I saw a monkey sit on the lamppost. Sitting on the toilet I miss the gecko’s crawling on the walls, but I am damn happy there is no risk of finding cobras in my laundry basket or scorpions crossing through my bedroom! When these thoughts pop up in my head I automatically start to smile. These small realizations show how the world is totally different for everybody. Some people never need to worry about what is absolutely normal for others. I remember when we left Asia behind and went to New Zealand my first thought was, “I can walk outside during the night without having to worry about snakes crossing my path”. Believe it or not, I felt pretty relieved with that realisation. The life we are used to in most Westernized countries is incredibly safe. So safe, we don’t realise anymore how safe it is. Instead, we close our lives off from each other and lose track of ourselves. These days I haven’t been writing that much because I got lost doing everything that ‘had to be done’ while telling myself I would do the things I like doing when I was done with the previous. Obviously, I was never done and there was always something else to do. It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in all those actually not so urgent things. Waking up with this realisation I sat down and decided today was a day I would write, listen to music and go for a walk.
When you think you don’t have time it’s funny how easy you can suddenly spare time for something urgent such as getting your sink fixed. You thought there was no time left and suddenly there they are, hours to do what has to be done. So maybe, it’s not the lack of time, but the way we priorities that is the real cause of the problem. Don’t get this the wrong way, being back in Belgium I realize life is busy. For some busy may even be an understatement, but the number of people fighting burn-out and depression is staggering. Honestly, it scares me. Thinking about this, change becomes a necessity. We measure the growth of our economy, but we forget about the people who make it all happen. I refuse to believe this is the only way and I fight to avoid being part of the depressing statistics. Fight with me and make your life a good one. Take care of yourself, because without you being you there is no way forward. Give everything to make your life the way you imagined it to be instead of giving everything for something you don’t believe in.
Joy is not because of doing certain things, it’s because of the way you choose to do them. Do you hear the owl sing at night? Do you listen to the water while you take a shower? Do you enjoy the smell of fire burning in the fireplace? Something won’t make you happy if you don’t let it.
Sometimes I don’t feel like going for a short ride with my motorbike because of the struggle of putting on all my winter gear, but putting this aside and doing it anyway is the best way for me to regain a smile on my face. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything in the world that I know of that makes me happier than spending time with my motorbike. If I didn’t know about the struggle of needing at least a little of money I would ride towards the horizon without looking back. Live the world instead of letting the world live me and drain away my energy.
That’s one of the things I find hard being part of the society we live in. It drains energy, spits out creativity and ignores the alternatives that could be found. A money machine where people become merely numbers. Opinions aren’t important if they don’t make profit, politics are just a game of who can scream the loudest with the most attractive lies and positivity is an attitude of the delusional. Give all you have and get a little money in return. Give all you have and spend your money on a self-reinforcing idea of what life should look like. Earn, spend, put money aside for when you get old and go through life with each day similar to the other. No alternative because you still owe the system money for your house, your car and your fancy phone you thought would change your life. Maybe a little stereotype, maybe a little true. For you to decide.
Anyhow, currently there is no alternative and the only way to change is from within. Don’t lose your creativity. Find your joy. Go for a ride, do something you love and just for a little moment forget about what should be.
This week I took my r850gs off-road for the first time. Well, actually I went greenlaning for a while, practiced shifting gears while standing up and had some fun slithering through the puddles. Having ridden motorbikes through Asia I noticed that somehow I felt completely comfortable and the only urge I felt was to continue and learn. Learn and become a better rider. A rider ready to take on the world that lies ahead.
You don’t have to go far for an adventure. If you choose so, every day can be the exact amount of adventure you want it to be. Make every day a day you look back on with a smile. Get into bed with that positivity society tries to take away from you. A little victory, because it is the little things that make life beautiful.
Lost in a spiral of words, sentences splashed together and stories in despair. No beginning. No ending. Just words, ideas and feelings lingering around, waiting to set foot on paper or take part in the endless love affair of life.
From nothing to something. From thin air into reality.
From far away to a place called home.
It is a strange thing to come home. It’s like getting lost while knowing where you are. Coming back home is part of the journey as much as leaving, yet people don’t talk about it with the same sense of curiosity and adventure. In reality, the journey never stops. Looking at the ordinary with new eyes suddenly opens new doors, new options and a new way of living. Me isn’t the same me from when I left. Me isn’t the same me from yesterday. Slowly I move along with time making a distinction between what is important to me instead of simply urgent, a distinction that easily gets lost in between the storylines of life.
Am I happy being back home? Yes I am. Would I be happy to leave again? Immediately! For now I am finding joy in the little luxuries of life. Baking my own bread, watching the sun go down, being able to go to the shop and choose what I want to buy, riding my new old bike to work, moving into a new apartment and sitting down on a sofa. Believe me, don’t underestimate the luxury of having a sofa! That’s something we discovered being on the road for a year, sofas are hard to come by! Have I felt sad and lonely? Obviously! Suddenly you’ve seen your friends, found a job, told your family about your adventures and moved to your new place and all that is left is endless time. Time filled with thoughts, fears and dreams. Emptiness ready for a new start. At times, a difficult start.
Things like being home, happiness and pain aren’t static. Nothing really is. They’re simply life’s way of showing you who you are, who you can be and who you want to be. Don’t try to be beautiful like somebody else, be beautiful as you!
Back home, back in Belgium. Life has been on the move. Life has been feeling like a labyrinth. One day it feels as if I am on track, the other I realize I am completely lost. We made it to the stage of finding a place to live, but now the job finding challenge is on. The urge to earn money can be pretty overwhelming, but if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that I don’t want to get stuck in a job I only do for the money. With not a lot of money left on my bank account this feels like being pushed into a road with no end, but on the other hand it is be an opportunity to start life the way I want it. Instead of working to live or living to work, I believe work should be something that fur fills you, complements you, something that’s an added value to who you are and to the people around you. We learn so much during our education, but do so little. Society, social media and newspapers somehow categorise people into failed or succeeded, good or bad and happy or sad. What isn’t discussed very often is the grey area, the area of dreams and the area of uncertainty. The urge to escape from uncertainty. Choose a job you don’t want and get certainty in return or decline the job and continue without knowing what is to come? A harsh decision, a decision only you can make for yourself. A decision I am struggling with. Do I want to keep on running along trying to keep up with time and miss out on the beauty and joy of everyday life or do I want to start moving along ticking away time my way with an aching uncertainty of what the next day will bring?
Since we’re home I feel I am not completely the same. There’s this feeling, this little stress monkey inside of me, jumping about, on the one hand struggling with the uncertainty, on the other hand embracing the freedom it offers. Difficult decisions that will take time, but at the same time make me realize how lucky I am to be in such a privileged position of being able to make decisions. Every decision we can make in life should be a source of joy, as many people in this world aren’t fortunate enough to make choices.
Forgive yourself for not knowing what to choose, trust the path you are following, embrace the perfect chaos that you are and know that every choice you make is a little bit of freedom.
Take one step at a time, but keep on walking.
Opening my little jewellery box I find you there, ticking away time second by second and minute by minute. One year has gone by and you haven’t stopped. While I was moving through a faraway world without you, you silently kept track of all that was and could be.
My grandmothers watch.
A reminder of childhood and of an untameable world, a reminder that if I think something is worth it I should go for it, a reminder that there is only forward. Now is the time! The time to tick away your own story. Silently, hidden away and maybe one day out loud for the world to see. Whatever you want or irrespective of how badly you want it, life will keep on ticking its story. Unnoticed it will go by until one day it may be gone. Don’t let it disappear! Nothing is worse than the realisation that it slipped away and there is no turning back.
Ticking of life goes by with highs and lows, smiles and tears, achievements and failures, but at least it is a sign you are truly living.
As a child we expect so much from the world. Every moment is awaited full of excitement and untamed joy, but then we grow up. The twinkle in those young eyes fades away and is replaced by a hidden smile. Much to often dreams are replaced by routine. Curiosity answered by how things should be. No more questions asked. Walking in line, life goes by. Living suddenly became the main goal of life.
I cannot help but wonder, what happened along the way? Where did that twinkle go? Where did that untameable spirit go? Maybe I am stuck in a dream struggling to wake up, scared to see what the world has become, or maybe it is time for every one of us to think about the choices we make. Why do we make them? Where do they take us? Is this a step that will bring us closer to what we always expected from life?
Difficult questions, but how can we expect to find joy if we don’t dare to ask them. Too often decisions are made based on fear rather than passion. Fear is easy. Even though we don’t like it, it lingers around in our head and wraps itself around our heart. Fear of being alone, fear of what may be, fear of the future and fear that the past may catch up. I am no different. I am terrified about what is to come. I am more than scared to return back home. What will happen? What will life be like? How will I cope being at the same place for so long with a head filled with dreams and an untameable heart urging me to leave and keep on going?
Questions hard to answer. Doubts that scare me. No one that can give an answer except the future that lays ahead. Being on the road for about a year, I know one thing for sure, there is more to life than you expect. More possibilities, more options and different futures that can become reality if you choose them to be. It may not be easy, it may be unsure and it may be unconventional, but does it matter if that is what you feel is right for you?
With this I don’t mean to judge. Every dream and every goal is a good one, as long as it is a conscious decision. We all like to judge other people for what they do, but it’s not because it isn’t what you would do that it is the wrong thing to do. Wrong and right have a major grey area that is hugely influenced by who we are ourselves. People dream of a house and a child, people dream of a major career, people dream of working as a postman and people dream of climbing the highest mountains. I dream of seeing the world, being in nature and sharing this with those who would like to listen.
Every dream fills a place on this planet and non is more or less than another. Every dream is equal. That’s exactly one of the beauties of dreaming. Every dream and every life is an added value to the world, we just need to open our eyes, look up from our phones and take a look around to see it.
Another place in this world, another continent.
The perks of being back in a westernised country are many. Dry public toilets that have toilet paper, the food in the supermarket looks familiar, beaches are clean and roads are in good condition. Yet at the same time, many things are to be missed. People live their lives in a more closed off manner, no fruit shakes, no milk tea/chai and no cheap hotels. Eleven hours in the air and suddenly there is a part of the world that looks so familiar and yet everything is different.
Cuddled by all the warm clothes we can manage to wear and that have been hidden in our backpacks the past 10 months we set out to discover New Zealand. A country of intense beauty, winding roads and of course of ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Instead of motorbikes we this time ended up in a campervan. Maybe a campervan is an overstatement as it is, well, tiny, but it’s perfect to conquer the small unsealed roads, sharp corners and keep us warm when temperatures drop below 0°C. Even though it is tiny, it has a ‘port-o-poty’ (read: a toilet that fits into your hand luggage), a sink, fresh water and a grey water tank. To make things even better we have a gas stove to get some proper cooking done! Summarized: it’s a travellers (messy) dream on wheels!
Given, it doesn’t make my heart beat faster and my toes curl of excitement as a motorbike does, but it’s yet another experience I can add to my list. And instead of cooling you down it keeps you nice and snug in winter!
Anyhow, enough about the campervan, let’s talk about New Zealand! Our gateway to Oceania. Honestly, after a few days I fell in love. It felt like home, but better. Villages separated by endless green hills, century old forests and emerald blue bays. Green villages, small houses, cute houses and enormously friendly inhabitants. The first time we asked for a little information this ended with chocolates, home-made biscuits and fresh eggs of which we prepared a delicious breakfast. Up till now the kindness of people has been overwhelming!
We have been living every day intensely. Outside in the cold, but with a breathtaking scenery. If there is a place that will convince you life is beautiful, it will be here! I wish I could master the words to describe such beauty, but it’s utterly fur filling. Pure joy, intense love and never-ending peace. The perfect location for a fantasy filmset as the difference between myth and reality is easily forgotten. It kind of reminds me of Scotland, but then remoter, bigger and wilder. The forces of nature can’t be overlooked!
Around Rotorua the earth is boiling, bubbling and spitting steam up into the air. Warm water sprouts out of the earth with a curtain of steam lingering between the trees. Where are those demons? Where did the dinosaurs go exactly? No avoiding the question, what else is out there?
Who are we but mere visitors in a world of immense power. Let’s tread lightly! Let’s rejoice and be happy to be part of what can be so beautiful!