Meeting the Neighbours (snakes, butcher sons and kangaroos on Tinder)

Down Under everything is out to kill you. Even the sun.

An estimated 10,000 venomous spiders inhabiting a variety of ecosystems. Ten of the most deadliest snakes. Some nasty things living in the waters. But every morning I fear the rooster.

I have to tell you he’s a dodgy little feller. And ugly too. He attacks you when you least expect it. I was letting out the chucks -like I do every morning- to feed them when all of a sudden he comes running right at me with his wings open. I had to knock him down three times with my food scrapes bucket until I suddenly realized I was holding a precious weapon. An egg.

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Me: I will drop your offspring, pal. So bugger off!

Turns out he’s just a big chicken. Especially when I come in with the wheelbarrow. You should see him run then.

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Every morning I consider it a miracle I survived another night. A miracle I wasn’t attacked by a poisonous snake or rolled up in a giant woolly web by an army of redbacks to feast on me for several weeks on end. But other than that, I am enjoying the farm life. I feed the animals, clean the house, mow the lawn, take care of the plants, …. Not one day is the same really.

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My very first chore on the farm was to fill up the horse water. Once I walked up there, with one hand holding the hose, I discovered a cockatoo had drowned himself in one of the basins. Grrreat. The sheep and horses stood there staring at me, all thinking: “What are you going to do now, city girl?”

Well for five minutes I didn’t have the faintest idea really. Eventually I went to go get a bag, climbed over the fence and scooped it up with a stick. Then I left it somewhere in the shed to deal with it later. I had to hurry to feed the chucks. This is where I had my first stand off with the rooster.

Another interesting encounter I had was with Olaf the goat. He jumps on you like a dog, follows you every where around; I tried to tell him already: Look Olaf you’re a goat not a dog, your hoofs hurt when you jump on me and you got them nasty pointy things on your head that perforate the hell out of me. The goat actually belongs to Jesse. She found him in the street, completely starved. She also owns a cat. Cheshire, is the name. I just saw two cheshire cats last Sunday night in an elevator at the Adelaide Hilton. A boy and a girl so drunk they had this crazy smiles on their faces. She was probably a hooker. And he looked very much an occa*.

Talking about bogans** (and I mean this in the nicest way) turns out there’s living a hot butcher’s son next door. His name is Alex, he’s like ten feet tall or so. Regular feet. Not his feet cause they’re gigantic as well. Turns out Alex lives by himself with a dog and a bird. No girlfriend, no kids, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get around. Everytime new backpackers arrive he makes sure to check them out. Especially the female ones. Found out he already got involved with some of the ‘farmer’s daughters’ (that’s how I’d like to call us female farm inhabitants). But this one isn’t up for grabs that easy.

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I did install Tinder, however. I had this crazy idea my Tinder would explode with hot surf dudes once I would arrive Down Under. Turns out that’s a bit of a HUGE let down. I even had to lower the age level to 23 cause once above 30 you really get the hopeless ones. It’s also funny how buff some of the men are here. They look like big, hairless kangaroos.

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Look at this dude showing off his pecs at the wildlife park in Victor Harbor.

I did install Tinder after meeting Noah, the other backpacker. He met his girlfriend Kelsey that way and they are just adorable together. Kelsey is so cool, she’s like Kristen Stewart’s younger sister. Definitely some screws loose in that upper chamber.

Noah is a strapping British lad who is -what’s in a name- a carpenter. If this world goes to an end at least he will be able to build us a proper ark. There are enough animals to take with us too. My room used to be his one year ago. That’s where he got bitten by a white tail spider. Its poison had burnt a hole of about a 2 AUD coin into his lower arm. He was putting on a shirt to discover seconds later a spider had crawled into his sleeve. It’s a pretty nasty scar. Occasionally it becomes an open wound again. Grose.

Note to self: spiders hide in clothes AND sit on towels. I got a big black one crawling on my thumb the other day after I grabbed a towel to dry my hands. I jumped like two meters backwards. It must have looked impressive.

I also encountered the infamous Eastern Brown Snake. Sitting behind glass, fortunately. It looks so slow, stupid and harmless but looks can be quite deceiving. It is fast, aggressive and FATAL (the bio stated).

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I’m so close to reaching my inner Indiana Jones. I do hate snakes an awful lot since I’m here.

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I am living this farm life for four days now. Am in Australia for almost two weeks and already have I wondered: “What am I doing here?”

I wasn’t expecting existential questions until my arrival in China, two months from now. Backpacker Pierre has it too, occasionally, he says.

He is an electrician in France and is also having a bit of a ‘walkabout’. He’s been traveling way longer than me. He recently had a farm job in Sydney where he stayed for three months, he made loads of money there. As much as 10.000 AUD (!). He said the conditions were good but he likes it better over here. Samantha and Nick definitely got a fun, young household going on. Everybody contributes when they go to work and by the end of the day she makes sure there’s dinner on the table. I was really lucky I got this job. When I first reached out to Sammy she said they had just hired someone, and weren’t looking for another backpacker at the moment. Two minutes later she sent me a text to tell me she had changed her mind and looks forward to meeting me. I do wonder what got her to change her mind. Maybe because I had presented myself as a ‘young, easy going, hard working backpacker looking for a host with a good sense of humor’. People always tend to prove they fit right into that category. It’s almost as if they wouldn’t reply they immediately admit they’re stiff and boring. Seems like I have pulled a little reversed psychology there…

We did get to know each other pretty well on Friday. Sam and Nick threw a party and invited some friends over. Including the hot butcher. There was quite a lot of wine involved. And some green stuff called Midori. Anyway it knocked some people out pretty fast. We also had a taste of that farm lamb. It wasn’t until I licked my fingers clean I discovered what I had been eating.

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I should watch out with that once I arrive in China if I don’t want to end up eating cat or dog. Also: I had just started naming the sheep that day. I wonder if we had Angie, Carl or Forrest for dinner. I think I will just stop doing that since I learnt they will kill some more sheep next week. I won’t be surprised if there will be kangaroo on the menu later this week as well. Turns out the boys went hunting yesterday to fill up the freezer. I heard them arrive late last night and noticed there was quite some heavy lifting involved.

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Before I went to bed I discovered loads of spiders in my room. I even had to call in Noah to check if there were any white tails. He said they were harmless but one was pregnant and I swear it was disgusting. I tried to hoover it, but it disappeared. I think I will sleep with my ear plugs in tonight. I still have some from the plane. Or tie my hoodie real tight around my face. I don’t want those babies to hatch in my ears.

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Anyway, I should probably deal with this dead bird now. And take out the trash to the front of the ranch. I’m allowed to take the quad :-p

XO

BTW: I bought myself a genuine cowboy hat the other day. Looking like a real McLeod’s daughter ey?

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The Bluff, Victor Harbor

* an occa/ocker  : A thing or person characterised by their (usu. extreme) Australian-ness. Esp. refers to persons with heavy Australian accents and mannerisms. Typically used as an insult. See also bogan.
** a bogan : A person perceived to be unsophisticated or of a lower class background.

Farm life

So you will be glad to hear I’ve officially started working today. Enough with the free loading. Time to get those muscles rolling and earn my stay. I’ve currently moved to a non organic farm in Tooperang, about one hour south of Adelaide city. I have to say this place is pretty remote. Not to say right in the middle of nowhere. When I look outside my window all I see is brown grass (due to the scorching heat), trees and sheep. And every five hours you’re lucky enough to see a car pass.

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My hosts who own the farm, Sammy (Samantha) and Nick, are about my age and really nice people. I found them through Helpx. There was one thing in their advertisement that especially encouraged me to reach out to them: “If you are the type of person who likes to enjoy food and wine, who isn’t fussed about helping to clean, and do a few outdoor jobs with our animals we need to hear from you.” Well I do like to wine and dine. I just brought a load of wine from Nairn’s vinyard as a welcoming gift. Including the Moscato, a pink sparkling wine I think I will marry soon.

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The farm stretches out to 200 acres. There are 400 sheep who needs to be taken care of as well as some dogs, cats, chickens, goats, horses and cattle. This definitely is a busy place. Backpackers from all over the world fly in here to work in exchange for accommodation and food. They’ll help on the farm, leave again after some time, while some just stay forever. At the moment there are two backpackers here. Noah and Pierre. There are also two Australian girls here -Jesse and Jenny- who are staying here semi permanently. They’re sleeping in the large house with Sammy and Nick. I stay out in ‘the shed’ with Pierre. It’s a separate ‘house’ (made out of corrugated sheet) with two bedrooms and a kitchen. This is also a common room where everybody meets, eats and just relaxes and watch movies or play video games. I have a room all to myself with a double bed and enough place to unpack. Don’t expect too much of it. It is basically a small container unit but I feel very ‘backpacky’ in there since it’s super basic. Even though Sammy tried to make it girl friendly by putting towels on the bed accompanied by a little piece of soap and provided me with a mirror and a clothing rack, INCLUDING HANGERS. One week traveling and I was already getting tired of living out of my backpack. There’s also a fan, which will come in handy since I reckon temperature in this shed can rise up to 40 degrees. I’m really interested in what this will give in the morning. A toasted Evelien for breakfast, no doubt.

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Since I arrived on Australia Day, my hosts didn’t expect me to start working right away. “Just relax, unpack and put your feet up”. As I started to decorate my little room, putting some of my stuff up, I spotted some dead insects lying under the bed. No biggie. Until I suddenly started freaking out juuuuust a little. Two boxes in my head got checked: ‘dark’ and ‘outdoors’. This place could easily be a breeding spot for Redbacks (Redback spiders, related to the infamous Black Widow) and other dangerous arachnids. I suddenly remembered Australia is the country that resides 8 out of 10 of the most dangerous spiders and snakes. Everything here is out to eat you. I decided to tiptoe over to Nick and ask him about dangerous visitors…. without sounding too much like a city girl. “Ow yeah there are definitely some Redbacks out here”, he smiled.

Me: ” Out here, you mean outside?” (faint laugh)

Nick: “Yeah outside, but also in your accommodation unit. You can occasionally spot one in your kitchen. They’re quite shy though. They tend to hide and make their nest behind stuff in the cupboards.”

“NEST?”, I thought.

Me: “Say Nick, aren’t Redbacks …er… I don’t know….deadly?”

Nick: “Well not when you’re a young, healthy goose like you are (laugh). If you’re old and get bitten, you usually die. Once they bite you it hurts pretty bad and you will start to feel really sick.” (I’ve consulted Dr Google => In the final stage the poison can paralyze you and shut down your vital organs. This is when you die, red.) “I once got bitten on my lower back. The pain spread out to my crotch and it felt like someone kicked me rrrright in the nuts! (laughing loud)”

Me: “Uhu… So Redbacks are my main concern here. Alright. I can live with that. I will just look out for spiders with a red back then. I can do this.”

Nick: “Yeah you should look out for them whenever you enter the chicken shed, just look above your head for a second. Just to be sure. And if you see some piece of tin foil lying around make sure you lift it with a stick just to be sure there’s no brown snake lying underneath.”

Me: “THERE ARE BROWN SNAKES?” (This is the second most poisonous snake in the world, f.y.i.)

Nick: “Yeah and black snakes as well. They live in the water. As long as you don’t mess with them they’ll leave you alone. But yeah, when you get bitten by them the poison spreads kinda quickly and you could die from it. Might also want to look out for white tip spiders.”

Me: “Say Nick, this is maybe a -haha- silly question but…Just to be safe here…. Are there any hospitals in the area??”

Nick: “Yeah there’s one a 15 minute drive away. But if you get bitten just call 000, it’s the Australian emergency number. They’ll get here quicker than a kangaroo on anabolic steroids.” (That’s not exactly what he said, but I forgot his exact words. Farm lingo. Not that easy to follow.)

Me: “Right… Anything else I need to look out for?”, I hardly dared to ask.

Nick: “Well, bush fires tend to occur in this area. There recently was one only 5K away, which is really close. If you see one arriving, just take your passport and run.”

Djeez, they should have put all THIS in their ad. What did I get myself into? Sure ‘adventure’ looks nice on paper and in Instagram hashtags but I could experience some serious pain here or end up an all you can eat spider buffet. I decided to keep the insect spray really close that night. And to sleep with one eye open. I kinda felt some melancholy bubbling up when I thought about my other host family. And how lucky I was to have stayed with them for free for a week. In a house with actual doors, air conditioning, … Safe enough to raise a baby so safe enough for me. But that’s why I embarked on this trip now didn’t I? To avoid curling up in comfort zones. I’m sure my stay here will be something to never forget. If I live to tell the tale, that is. What is really reassuring is that Sammy and Nick are putting up numbers of hospitals on the refrigerator as we speak. Apparently I am the first backpacker they have over who started asking about hospitals in the area…

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Anywho, I should be going now. Second barbie of the day is about to take place. I must be a real Aussie now.

XO

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Definitely don’t want to run into this guy. What makes it more interesting: it’s actually very small. I was looking for a big ass spider in my room earlier. Guess I’ll check more thoroughly later tonight.

Good bye Port Willunga

First week has passed and it’s time to say good bye to the host family in Port Willunga. I’ve had a wonderful stay with Goedele, Nairn, baby Finn and Weimaraner Lucy. I could easily stay here for another month, but it’s about time I find a job and work for my food and accommodation. Since today’s Australia Day we decided to take the barbie out and have our final lunch together.

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willunga.jpgI’m really going to miss this lovely family. My bike and pink helmet. Maccas (McDonalds) where I spent quite some time on the internet and of course this wonderful beach. Yup this is definitely a place I will never forget.

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BTW: Yesterday we went snorkeling in port Noarlunga. I jumped off the jetty (about 5 meters high) into the deep blue. It was only later I found out there was a 7 meter large shark spotted around Adelaide’s coast just last week. Gulp.

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XO

Tourist Down Under

So why Oz? Even though Australia is an expensive country to travel, there are ways to make it more budget friendly by making yourself useful. Australia is made for backpackers. For about 400 Australian dollar you can obtain a working holiday visa and you’re good to go and work as much as you want for a maximum duration of one year*. More if you fix a second year visa. It is the best way to sponsor your trip since you’re traveling and making money at the same time. Plus, they’re a one-way ticket to new skills and experiences that will shape your future forever. Keep in mind it can take up to four weeks to get your working holiday visa fixed and you must apply for a visa in your home country. With me it only took half an hour to get a visa granted. They must have been desperately needing workers at that time.

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It is advised to start looking for work before your departure. However, I didn’t apply for a job before I left Belgium. I figured it didn’t make much sense since I didn’t know where I was going and employees want to know when they can use you. If you cannot tell them when you will be at their service, they will just ignore your email and find someone else. My tip: Once you arrive, just look for a decent wifi connection and start looking for work on your laptop. Send out a couple of emails, make some phone calls and within two hours you will have things to work with. I installed myself at a McDonalds near a local shopping mall to use the free wifi there. (Well you do need to buy a milkshake or something, it’s courtesy.) Once I had some interesting contacts I quickly ran over to Coles to buy a new SIM card for only 2 dollars. Very easy to install and much cheaper roaming rates. Once you install your new SIM you will have an Australian number so you will be easy to reach. No worries: your contact numbers, Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook apps just get updated so you don’t have to inform your entire phone book that you have a new number. They won’t even notice.

You can look for jobs at various places. Some people aim for a more high profile job in sales or advertising. But most of them end up selling crap from door to door or answering phones in a call center. Yikes. Since it’s summer in Australia, I prefer looking for jobs outdoors. Picking oranges, avocados, grapes, … Helping out on a nursery farm, taking care of sheep, chickens, koala bears,  …. If you like to get your finger nails dirty harvesting and farm jobs are the way to go. You can find these online through Harvest Trail, Gumtree, Helpx, … or look for advertisements in your nearest hostel. Helpx (www.helpx.net) is actually a very good website to find work through hosts. Basically the idea is you work 4-6 hours a day on their farm and they provide you with food and accommodation during your stay. For me it is the best way to go about since you hardly spend any money. I much rather have food and accommodation covered than seeing the dollars flowing on my Australian bank account. Plus with homestay work you don’t have to file for an Australian tax number (since you don’t pay taxes because you don’t make money) nor do you need an Australian bank account (since -again- you won’t make money). You just offer your two hands for free food and a roof over your head. Plus: you get to meet lots of interesting new people and see how they live. Also: they can provide you with tips on what to see in Australia and what to avoid. If you’re not keen on living in people’s homes: with Helpx you can check out the reviews from previous backpackers so you know who to trust. Another (similar) thing is WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms, a loose network of national organizations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms). But I heard a story about a guy paying a lot of money to get to a farm, somewhere in a secluded area, only to learn there was no farm there. It was just a scam. Scams are common and as a (clueless) backpacker you are an easy target. Some fruit pickers end up getting paid 2 dollars per hour. Also: do not trust advertisements stating ‘seeking female backpackers only’. You can bet your razzies that some perv is just out to rape you.

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Since seeking a job can be a bit stressful I advise you book your first week accommodation in advance. That way you have a place to stay to come up with a game plan and you don’t have to worry about your night’s rest. You will need it when you get those muscles rolling on the farm. I, however, suffer from a serious case of sleep deprivation. I haven’t slept for two days straight because I’m still hungover from jetlag and -maybe also- too excited about all this. My head is constantly busy processing all these new impressions and encounters. Luckily I’m staying with the nicest people. They feed me well and look for fun things to do while I’m there.

So the ‘working experience/sponsoring’ part was a big reason for me to start my trip in Australia. Also the fact that you have to get from A to B with 20 kilos attached to your back and rely on your own resourcefulness was a big ‘travel turn on’ for me. There is also a social side to the story that triggered me since it wouldn’t hurt to learn to be a bit more outgoing. I’m kind of a hermit at times. Most people heading Down Under want a total escape from their existing role, while some are looking beyond, to the future, hoping to develop skills in areas which are relevant to their chosen field. This is where the ‘walkabout’ comes to mind. Walkabout historically refers to (and I quote Wikipedia) ‘a rite of passage during which male Australian Aboriginals would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months to make the transition into manhood as a deeply spiritual awakening.’

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I too see this as a spiritual journey. As it probably will bring my mind, body and soul closer together creating more of a balance in my life. Most backpackers just don’t give a fuck about finding inner peace and just get drunk, shag and do about anything for money. I heard one guy cleaned another guy’s house naked in order to pay for the rest of his trip. And lots of female backpackers turn strippers to increase their travel budget. Apparently mostly French girls. They’re not so prude anyways.

XO

* Like all things in life, there’s an expiry date. You can only apply for a working holiday visa up to the age of 31. Deadlines everywhere!
Piece of advice: Apply for a visa yourself, don’t ask some agency to do it for you as it doesn’t cost you anything. Except for 5 minutes of your precious time and concentration. Apply for visa here ==> https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/417-

The great and powerful OZ!

First stop of my great adventure: Australia!

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As you know or may not know I left for Australia on monday January 18th. My happiest Blue Monday to date.

After a flight of almost 20 hours, I arrived safely in Adelaide around 10 pm. I found a place to stay with my best friend’s niece where I currently have a room and a bath room all to myself. Heaven. Today I went to have lunch at Rosey’s with some fellow Belgians and went for a bike ride to Willunga Beach. Pink helmet included.

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Not only locals say it’s the most beautiful beach in the world

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Cheers!

XO

Murphy’s law

The days before you leave on a big trip, you will have to accept Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. In one day my cell phone, sim card and tooth broke.

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Thank God I could fix an appointment with a dentist 48 hours before my departure. Thank you Joris Wilmaers for giving me a ‘holiday smile’ again. And for giving me a contact number from your friend in Hong Kong.

XO

Shit motherf*cker f*ck shit

When you travel to the other side of the planet, the last thing you want to think about is paying your bills. But -as you know too damn well- every month there is a new electricity bill, a new phone bill, a new down payment on your mortgage due… So I came up with the ingenious plan to leave my bank card at home.

Wait, what?

It’s like Monopoly. The only thing you need to do is appoint someone who holds the bank. In this case: my mother. She always keeps a calculator in her hand and an eye on her finances. Why she never became an accountant is beyond me. Anyway. I’ve promoted her to be my personal financial supervisor. The only thing she needs to do is monitor my finances. Is my rent being paid on time? What about the person who is renting my car, did he pay on time? Unforeseen costs => she pays them for me with the money on my account. It is a dream scenario.

But wait, don’t I need a card?

Sure I do, how am I going to survive otherwise? Let alone enter the country since Australian authorities need a prove that you have sufficient funds to survive in their country.

Well, you open a new bank account, get a new card and only fill this up with ‘travel money’. That way you don’t have to worry about bills and other costs that may or may not flow from your account, you have your own money for all travel, fun and, well, the occasional emergency.

HOWEVER

I applied for my ideal scenario on the 29th of December. The card should have been in my mailbox by, let’s say the following week + some extra days because of the holidays = the second monday of January should be no problem. Exactly one week before my big departure! Perfection. However, by the second Tuesday of January the card wasn’t in my mail box. Care to guess what I did?

a) I freaked out

b) I immediately phoned the bank to ask them to send the card ASAP!

c) I went to the bank and punched a random lady in the face

d) All of the above (except for c, which only happened in my imagination)

You guessed it: d.

So I phoned the bank telling Magda (my personal contact) that I haven’t received the card, that I had just checked the mail 5 minutes ago and asked her: what should I do now???

As helpful as Magda is, she immediately ordered a new card saying it’s not normal the original one had not yet arrived and hopefully the new one would arrive by Friday. Worst case scenario on Monday. In an even worse than worst case scenario onTuesday, when I will be flying somewhere over the Indian Ocean already.

I kept my fingers crossed and continued with my day. It looked like the best thing to do since I was leaving in less than ONE WEEK. I went to buy contact lenses at the local eyewear store when suddenly I got a phone call from my mom. “Great news, your card has arrived. Your father had emptied the mail box this morning and forgot to put the mail in the hallway like he always does. Instead he left it on his desk upstairs.” Great! Yes! Halleluja! Hare Krishna! Happy Chanoeka! I speed dialed Magda to tell her the wonderful news. I hear her typing things in her computer when all of a sudden it seemed like I had lost Magda. “Hello, Magda, you there?”
Magda: “….Aaahm yes, I see the card has already been annulled since I ordered a new one today… I’m afraid this is irreversible. The card you received is useless. We have to wait for the new one now.”

Wait, WHAT?????

Me: “What do you mean irreversible? A broken vase is irreversible, Magda, and even then there are ways to glue everything back together again so no one will ever notice! There has to be a way that this can be reversed? It has to, IT HAS TO!”

Magda: “I … I’m sorry there is no way. You will have to wait for the new card. Hopefully it will arrive by Monday, then you have a couple of hours to take care of it before you leave.”

Me: “A couple of hours? Every minute counts on Monday, Magda! I cannot deal with this right now!” Or at least, that was what my exploding head was saying. My mouth was blabbering: “Okay Magda, … I understand… This sucks. This sucks big time.” – end of conversation.

Shit motherfucker FUCK SHIT! This could have been so perfect, my card arriving on the exact day I started panicking. A little less than a week in advance, what a lucky break! And then you realize that probably at the very moment you were phoning Magda to mention the card hadn’t arrived, the mail man casually drops it in the letter box and your dad takes it to his desk upstairs…. The universe is putting me to a serious test here. I’m getting borderline from this.

If I had waited 5 minutes, or had just asked my dad: “Hey big guy, was there anything in the mail for me today?” Maybe he would have said: “Yes, your card arrived” And this doom scenario could have easily been prevented. But nooooo, I was too impatient yet again. And yes, at that point you just want to speed things up because -you never know- maybe it got lost in the mail and the sooner you ask for a new card, the sooner it will arrive. Next time I will check the letter box every minute, I will ask everyone in a 5km radius and check on every desk, behind every closet, inside every drawer -even the one where my parents keep their ‘underwear’- before I phone anyone or annul anything.

I am now going to scream into a pillow.

And wash my hair.

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(Update: the card arrived on Monday morning, the day of my trip. It took 15 minutes to deal with everything. I even had enough time to have lunch with my parents.)

XO

Why?

“Why are you doing this?” This must be the question I got asked the most these past few weeks. Friends, family, colleagues, …. Everybody was looking for a reason. There had to be a reason in order for them to grasp the fact that I am quitting my job to go live at the other end of the world for a couple of months. Well, that reason is as various as non existent. Yes, a combinations of things has triggered my urge to travel. I probably have a serious case of FOMO and an acute hunger for experiencing awesome things. And things probably got a little too predictable for me back home. It’s strange how much I get stressed from routine and how calm I become when I embark on an exciting mission like this.

I just need to be challenged in life. And if I don’t get that challenge, I will look for it myself. I am not looking for myself, for the record. I am not looking for big answers, I am just doing my thing. The thing I feel I need most at the moment and that is to explore, experience while trying to expect the least possible -which is really hard when people keep saying you’re going to meet the Australian of your life. I am not unhappy; I just want to prevent myself from falling asleep. I just want to get a taste of as much as possible. I think people are capable of doing a lot more than they think. And it’s not because you make one choice in life, you have to stick with it till eternity. Never give up on a good thing? Sure. But if you feel the need to explore and develop new skills, you have to power to go do that. I see this journey as an investment in myself. I choose a life less ordinary.

This is what I want my life to look like, like the best meal I had in Hua Hin.
All different plates, different tastes, some mild, some spicy, some sweet, some sour.
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More info on my journey: see menu ‘About blonde/clueless’, ‘Get Started’ and ‘Are You With Me?’

XO

My encounter with cave man

Before I embark on my big adventure I’d like to take a second to look back on 2015. A year where I took a leap of faith (literally by diving 27,5 meters vertically down a slide at speeds up to 60 miles per hour at Dubai’s most legendary water park) and my life took some unexpected but very exciting turns. 2015 was a year of metamorphosis. I turned blonde. What a shocker. I got transformed into a fairy at Tomorrowland, became a survival chick in Slovenia, got in touch with my inner gay icon in Ibiza and continued channeling my inner geek at comic cons. It was the year where I became the person I will enjoy to be the rest of my life. However, I doubt I will stay a blonde.

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Change was in the air that 31st January of 2014. Me and my best friend Cedric kick started the New Year on a beach in Dubai. He lived there at that time and since I didn’t see him that often and I had just come out of a break up, Dubai seemed the best place to start the new year fresh. Little did I know he was going to be the most important person to me that year. A few days later he moved to Antwerp after he got an impromptu job offer. We were like Bonnie & Clyde and embarked on one hell of a ride. We partied all over the world and infiltrated the underground gay scene. Yes, I stood amongst quite a lot of bare chests in 2015. Especially by the end of the year when I went to Thailand to cover my final story: 48 hours on the set of Temptation Island. In Belgian news stands soon!

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But my most remarkable and inspiring encounter was with a cave man in Mokri Potok, Slovenia. Where I was sent to meet up with Angelo, a guy who traded his everyday life to live and survive in the Slovenian bush with his dog Lana and other forest creatures. Even though I only stayed with him for a week, I got infected by his freedom, his way of thinking, openly and without prejudice. Without fear. Having faith in what will happen. Or not happen.

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A few weeks before my departure to Oz I met up with him in Belgium. He had just gotten some fresh ink at the local tattoo parlor and was preparing himself to survive in more extreme environments. While we were enjoying our drinks in a densely populated bar in the city, we were both in the woods. He with his heart. Me with my thoughts. At that time I was fretting over my future, stuffing my face with comforting carbs and basically freaking out over what I was going to do with my life. I just knew something had to happen. The further away from home, the better.

“What did you want to become when you were a kid?”, Angelo asked.
Me: “Ahm… an R&B singer?”
Angelo looked at me while raising his left eye brow. You should know Angelo is a wild man. He has a full, pitch dark beard, his wild manes he keeps up in a messy man bun and he carries an interesting cologne of wet dog and camp fire.
Angelo: “Okay…Try to visualize what your dreams were when you were younger, when every possibility laid before you and every door was an open one.”

Me: “I wanted to see the world… And have long hair.”
Angelo: “Voila! There you have it, this is why you’re restless.”
Me: “Because I don’t have long hair?”
Angelo: “Because you feel you’ve been neglecting some of your childhood dreams. Then what are you waiting for? For love to come knock on your door and take away all your dreams? For you to hatch out a few kids and end up divorced five years later? The doctor to tell you you have cancer? For you to become an old lady with a stick and huge glasses?”
Me: “Hey, don’t mock my glasses!”
Angelo: “I’m just saying you don’t have anything keeping you here. Except for excuses.”
Me: “But where do I start? I don’t even have enough money to travel to far away countries. I don’t even own a backpack. (on the edge of hysterical) I have never opened a travel guide in my life!”
Angelo: “Then write your own. When you visited me in Slovenia I noticed you were not there completely. Physically yes, but your head was somewhere else. It was only when I read your story in the newspaper I understood your head was processing every little detail and my mind was blown. You can write, kid. Use that talent. You have a voice that people want to hear.”

I shook my head. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? Me? A clueless girl from Belgium.
Me: “There are so many people who write travel stories, great travel stories, I can never transcend that…”
Angelo: “Well you just said you don’t read them so you will be unique in whatever you do. Stop looking at the problems and try looking at the possibilities. Right now you’re at the foot of the mountain and it looks like the Kilimanjaro to you. It’s only when you’re at the top of that mountain, you will see that it’s just a little hill.” Angelo would make a convincing graphic novel charachter. “Think about all the amazing encounters you will experience, the lessons you will learn, the skills you will acquire. You will see, when you want something really bad you will become a magnet. You will start to attract things where you’ve been dreaming about for a very long time.”

Then and there I knew Angelo was right. Then and there I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands. One week later I booked my trip. One month later I’m typing this while I’m sitting in seat 43K, going 559 miles per hour with a bit of turbulence. I guess this is what my life will be like the following months. Fast, occasionally rocky. But hopefully with a smooth landing.

XO

(Find the PDF’s on my encounter with cave man in the menu. Sorry it’s in Dutch.)