She’s a M A N I A C

There are days I devour Netflix shows like an all you can eat continental breakfast. I indulge, overeat and get bulimic. When this happens, weird neurochemical processes take over my membrane and suddenly my non-fictional life sets itself in the middle of my new favorite fictional universe. When those two worlds intertwine in some heavy love making, this is what comes out…

A monstrously exciting read. 

“After ‘Penny Dreadful’ and ‘Girlboss’, Evelien Delgouffe turns ‘Maniac’ for her long awaited new fan fiction blog post” (Daily Planet) 

There was a time I posted a new blog post every week. Back then I was globetrotting. Running after adventure like a dog chasing its own tail. And guess what? Wherever I went, there was my tail! In Australia, in China, even in Japan. Of course I had exciting things to tell each week. Heck, I had exciting things to tell every day, every hour, every minute! But since life is back to the status quo, not a lot of exciting things happen to report about.

I go to the supermarket, I sit at home and write and with the money I make from writing I go to the supermarket again. It’s the circle of life.

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Even though I’ve changed the decor of my life to a new city, I still roam the streets like a moody teenager looking for a pattern. The pattern around which my life, and all life around that, is knitted.

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There was a time I believed in the pattern and I saw the pattern everywhere. I even wrote a book about the pattern. The book has been lying in eyesight for almost a year now. On the corner of my desk. Collecting dust and cereal crumbs.

The book I wrote was filled with hidden walls, double meanings, easter eggs and was a perfect blueprint of the labyrint in my mind which researchers like to refer to as ‘Mindlantis’, the final frontier.

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But lately, I don’t see the patterns anymore.

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You: “Are you depressed Evvy?”

Me: “Isn’t that just the default setting of human beings?”

You: “Err….”

“But why did you actually never publish your book?”

Me: “Because I sent it to 5 people and 1 of those 5 people thought it was shit so from then on I thought it was shit too.”
“Anyway, I am too embarrassed to send it to publishers. That book is all me. I couldn’t bear people to criticize it.”

You: “Ahm, aren’t you a critic in real life yourself?”

Me: “Who are you the ethical department??”

You: “No actually I’m down the hall with the unethical department.”

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You: “We have been watching you for a while miss Delgouffe.”

Me: “Yikes, and who the fudge are you mister Side Parting?”

You: “My name is Doctor Mantleray and I want to eat (…) errmm, study your brain.”

Me: “Oh yeah? And what’s in it for me?”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “Cutting-edge treatment of you neurological hypertheroidial amoebical mambo jambo… hysteria.”

“My colleagues from the unethical department look forward to meet you.”

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Me: “Unless there is some world class editor/ renowned publisher working in your little unethical club, I’m afraid I’m not interested.”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “What a coincidence. There is! His name is Owen and he will be happy to help you publish your book.”

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Me: “Errr, well…thank you, but never mind. I don’t think this version of my book is the definite one anyway… I should probably think about an alternative ending. As a matter of fact I should go do that right now.”

You as Dr. Mantleray : “If you work with us, our computer will do the writing for you. We will hook you up to our neuro-network and your book will be printed directly from your brain. Owen here, will just run the final checks on points and commas.”

Me: “Ok then mister Mantis…”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Mantleray”

Me: “Whatever. Allow me to rephrase my initial question: What’s in it for you?”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Once you begin to appreciate the structure of the mind, there’s no reason anything about us can’t be changed. Pain can be destroyed. The mind can be solved….”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “… And you will earn 50.000 euro”.

(15 minutes later)

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “Ow-keey-oki miss Delgouffe, we will now hot wire you to our neuro-network for a little test run. We will ask your subconsciousness a few basic questions. Consider it a warm up, before we proceed to subduct your future bestseller from your brain.”

“And a 5, 6, 7, 8!”

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Me: “Where the funk am I?”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “Your subconsciousness chose to wake up in Japan. You were here on the 16th of May, 2016. The real you has just witnessed a minor earthquake. Remember? You even put a message on Facebook after it happened.”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “The earthquake was actually not coming from Miyazaki, like news media reported that day, but was caused by a small bug in our computer system when we hooked ‘the future you’ up to our neuro-network. It happens all the time.”

Me: “That’s ahm… swell… doctor, but why am I here?”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Don’t ask me, ask your subconsciousness. Is this place also mentioned in your book?”

Me: “Yeah…”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Well there you have it! Now don’t be scared. Throughout this interview your subconsciousness may switch through different locations from your past. And potentially your future.”

Me: “My future???”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “Yes, as a matter of fact this is you in 6 years from now. Look! You’re a doting mother, covered in rainbows.”

Me: “No no no, take me back! Please take me back!”

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Me: “Where the fudge am I now?”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Err… it seems like your mind is a little disoriented. It mixed your time in Australia with your fascination for cosplay and fantasy, miss Delgouffe. Maybe it’s better we take this conversation to our pre-formatted offices. I will get the floppy disk and program us right in.”

“There you go. Better ain’t it?”

Me: “Peachy…”

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© Netflix – Maniac

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Now let’s get to the core of this mission, miss Delgouffe. First question: are you allergic to any kind of nuts, seaweeds or possibly gluten intolerant? Our chef needs to know, since you will probably stay in our facilities for more than 48 hours.”

Me: “No.”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “Ace! You’re now officially screened and ready to print your bestseller, miss Delgouffe. We will bring you into contact with editor Owen and you can discuss the next steps together while Gertie, our computer, prints out the full story for you and the rest of the world to read!”

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Me: “Owen, where are we?”

Owen: “We’re in an elevator.”

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Me: “Owen, I cannot be in an elevator. Elevators scare the living shit out of me. I have experienced severe trauma in an elevator!”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “What’s happening in there? Why are the radars turning like crazy?!”

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Owen: “Oh boy! You didn’t mention that fear in the intake conversation?”

Me: “They asked me about my fucking gluten intolerancies not about my Michael Myers vs. Laurie Strode relationship to elevators. Now get me the fuck out of here!”

You as Dr. Mantleray: “God Gertie, we’re losing her. Another prodigy’s about to go catatonic.”

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Owen: “Better?”

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Me: “Yes, thank you.”

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Me: “Hey I used to live on this corner! This was one of the first rooms I lived in when I moved to Berlin!”

Owen: “I know. This is 1 year ago today. Do you remember? You took this picture of yourself in your flat.”

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Me: “Yes I remember! I was writing… on my book.”

Owen: “I know.”

Me: “Wait a minute. Am I currently in there? Holy moly! Am I stalking myself??”

Owen: “Yes. What we need to find out miss Delgouffe is the simple neuro-dynamics of why you gave up on your book. Why did you throw something away you worked on for months? Why did it end up on a corner of your desk collecting dust and cereal crumbs?”

Me: “Jeez Owen… I don’t know. Maybe I’m afraid it’s not good enough. Not entertaining enough… After all I stick to true events. I didn’t even bother to use a lot of fantasy… It was just an immediate excerpt of my life. Past and present. And all the irony and double meanings I pretended to see along the way.”

Owen: “Pretended to see? What if what you saw was really there…?”

(In the meantime in the unethical department) 

You as Dr. Mantleray: “We have to stop the trial Azumi. I have to pull the plug!”

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Dr. Azumi Fujita of the unethical department: “No! If you do that you’ll risk she ends up in a vegetative state!”

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(In the meantime in neuro-land)

Me: “Nonsense Owen. I fooled myself. I’m a fool. And maybe that stupid book should just stay in the past.”

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Owen: “At this point in time, when you were here writing in your flat. You also wrote a text message to a handsome looking guy you matched on Tinder. He answered you back and you met each other for the first time on Friday the 13th of October… In the real world, you are a few days shy of celebrating your first anniversary together… That same evening in this flat you listened to Lady Gaga because you had a sudden melancholy to her widely unacclaimed album ‘Artpop’. Today a movie with Lady Gaga enters cinemas and guess what… It’s a love story and she’s probably gonna win an Oscar for it. These are not random facts. I’m sure the Evelien from one year ago, who is now sitting in this flat, would have recognized this pattern.”

Dr. Azumi Fajita of the unethical department: “Dr. Mantleray we are gaining back her cooperation. The numbers are… growing impressively. Owen is actually getting to her.”

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You as Dr. Mantleray: “Of course. I knew we were not going to risk another McMurphy…”

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Me: “So the pattern really is the pattern, huh?”

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Owen: “Yes. And therefor I have to ask you one thing…”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Owen: “You can’t finish your book if you’re running away from your demons. It’s time for the Confrontation stage of this trial. You need to confront your biggest trauma in order to finish your book and unravel your pattern. You will have to take us to that deciding moment in your life. The moment that changed your life forever, the moment that also hurt you the deepest.”

Me: “Ahm Owen? Why did you change into a purple looking Yoda?”

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Owen: “Maybe because your subconsciousness feels more at ease talking to a stuffed animal. Ha! Check mate!”

Owen: “So to come back to my question…”

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“Are you willing to travel back to the most painful moment in your life and dissolve the pattern?”

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Me: “I’m ready for my therapy doctor.”

You as Dr. Mantleray:

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“And Owen’s not a doctor.”

Dr. Azumi Fujita of the unethical department: “Just leave them, James.”

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Me: “Brace yourself Owen.”

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Me: “For this emotional torture ride will take you to belly tingling highs…

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…and sickening lows.”

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XO

Congratulations! You made it all the way through! Thank you for reading and just for the record: I’m not depressed. This is merely a piece of fan fiction to show my deep appreciation for this great Netflix show. Check out my previous fan fiction posts on ‘Penny Dreadful’ and ‘Girlboss’ if you wanna discover more!

My ride. My fight. My life

In my last blog post I dropped the bomb on you by coming out of the closet with my resignation.

(Flashback)

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I’ve been getting some mixed reactions on that decision, but that’s okay. I still stand behind my choice. I haven’t been happier really. I have found the perfect balance between Work, Well-being and Writing. Something a lot of my colleagues are struggling with nowadays. I recognize that struggle and am happy I found my own way of balancing it out rationally.

Because, let’s be honest, I’m not going to make a decision like that and not have some kind of plan or idea of what’s next.

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But first things first.

At the end of 2016 I came up with a little challenge for myself.

I just got back from months of traveling and I wanted to sink my teeth in a new adventure. With the money I saved up from working at the bar I bought my first ever race bike and I decided to participate in amateur road races.

I have been hanging around in cycling environments since 2014. And riding a bike myself, has always triggered me since then.

With the help of Golazo, Energy lab and all the good advice I could collect from friend-cyclists, cycling journos and family members I kicked off.

Once I started training I realized there would be a long way ahead for me to actually participate in amateur competitions.

So I decided to participate in bigger road races first. Since they’re more focused on the experience and endurance. And less on rankings.

My training started in November, a little later than planned since I was still struggling with moving out of my apartment and stabilizing here in Antwerp after being on the road for so long.

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My first indoor mileage.

Then in December, I got the chance to go to Canada for three weeks and my schedule got postponed again.

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Neglecting my diet.

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Smoking the Christmas tree…

I was back in the saddle by January 10th. Combining trainings with working at the car show in Brussels for 10 days straight. It was a grueling attack on my limbs,

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but I had to get started since I was supposed to ride a big cycling event and I had less than 3 months to get ready.

There were times I panicked. Hyperventilated. There were times I lost faith. But at least three times a week, I was on my bike. Before shifts I rode 1 – 2 hours. And on Sundays I did long runs from 3 – 5 hours.

The big problem was, since I had never rode a racing bike before, I was scared to go outside in winter. I was scared to fall and get injured. So most of the time I was training indoors. On rollers…

Even though you build up a decent condition and muscle strength, it doesn’t help you to get balance and core stability on the road.

I knew I had to go outside asap. But I was fucking terrified of my clip-less pedals.

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I use a three-bolt clip-in system aka “the deathheads”.

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These things could proper kill you.

Apparently everyone is a little scared of them at first. It involves a little bit of a learning curve.

Of course I realized that a little too late….

Without testing them thoroughly, I immediately went for a first ride on a sunny afternoon.

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Clipped-in selfie taking. This is living on the edge!

I was riding for about 20 minutes when I had to make a stop at a busy crossroad. With the traffic lights being on red, I had made an excellent stop. I had put my left foot down, with my right foot still clipped in. As I was standing there for five minutes, waiting to lift off again, I realized there would be no way of crossing this busy road without pressing the pedestrian button. This button, however, was on the other side of the pillar. So I slowly maneuvered my way to it. While I was doing this, I started to lose my balance, tried to counter this by using my right foot, forgetting I was still clipped in and BAM!

There I was horizontally at the side of the road with my bike still attached to my feet while cars were racing by. I got back up and got away with some light bruising. I figured it was best to have that inevitable fall out of the way in order to improve myself on the road.

I continued my ride and didn’t fall after.

I figured I was ready for the next step.

I still regret the day I thought this….

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So blonde & clueless…

Next Sunday, I called up my parents to go explore some bits of the road race I was about to attend in a couple of weeks. I hand picked out some of the heaviest climbs. Since I figured I had to know them in order to ride them. We went to the ‘Muur’ or ‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen. A steep street paved with cobblestones, climbed every year by cyclists during the Tour of Flanders.

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The Muur is about 1K long. I started off great. I was cycling up and up and up. With every turn the road got steeper and steeper. At one point it felt as if all the power was flowing out of my legs. And they just turned into stone. I panicked, because I realized I was stuck to my bike and getting out of clip-less pedals on a steep climb would be total suicide. At least for a beginner like me.

I got out with one shoe but my weight fell on the other side, wanting to find support on my right foot but that one was still clipped in.

I smacked onto the cobbles like a bag of Belgian potatoes. The horizontal cyclist, I am.

I got back up again and fell over again! Getting back in the saddle on a steep climb with clip-less pedals is total suicide number 2. At least for a beginner like me…

I was starting to think this training ride was a bad idea.

A+ for guts. D- for cleverness.

But I didn’t come here to just quit. So I rode back. To the bottom of the Wall. And tried again. On my way down I fell again. Trust me, falling over and over again really weighs on your mental state of being. I was feeling pissed off and I was starting to feel really scared and insecure of my riding skills. Also: I was trashing my bike like crazy. My steering wheel was already crooked.

As I tried again I climbed and climbed and climbed and at the point where I fell over before, I anticipated and tried to get out of my pedals faster. I figured that would be a good exercise. But same thing happened. The fall was even more spectacular this time. I didn’t even feel like getting back on my bike again. I was so displeased, I walked my way down on my stupid clown shoes and called it a day.

My parents were there waiting for me and were worried about me participating after what they had just witnessed. Since this day was a measure for nothing, we figured we might get something out of it while enjoying some traditional ‘mattentaarten‘.

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A sweet pastry, made with matten paste or cheese curd. Something Geraardsbergen is very famous for. Something that could compensate this total waste of energy.

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The disappointment is real.

On my way back home I felt like shit.

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What was I thinking? You can’t tame a mustang just like that.

Did Jake just randomly jump on his Ikran and fly away? Don’t think so.

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I have to make the bond (starting 00:30sec) if I want to live and tell my grandkids.

First I need to gain confidence on my bike, being outdoors. Only then I can try on the climbs clipped-in. Starting with the little hills. Then the big monuments.

I need to fucking learn how to walk before I can run.

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Then it dawned on me. One year ago I was riding bikes in Australia and China. On the left side of the road with kangaroos crossing, through busy Chinese streets with no traffic rules whatsoever. Was I scared then? No way. Why? Because I was wearing sneakers.

If this is the only thing weighing me down for this challenge, then why should I risk hurting myself, my bike or other people participating? If I’m not confident on my bike, because of those clip-ins then this race would be total mayhem for me and everyone involved. I couldn’t take that chance. I much rather have my full confidence and lose all the pulling advantage clip-less pedals offer. My strength is in my legs and mind anyway.

After feeling bad for a day or two, I regained confidence. I had no other choice. I had decided to ride an other road race the week before my big challenge. I figured it would be a good final rehearsal. The ride would be 90 K. But the furthest milage outside (the hundreds and hundreds of kilometers on my rollers not included) was 25 K!

So the day before the race I went to Linkeroever to warm up.

And did a 50 K ride in a little over 2 hours.

Turned out it was a good preparation because the next day I managed to complete the 90 K in Gent-Wevelgem. The final 40 K I had to face tough wind which really pulled down my average speed. But another participant warned me in advance and advised me to spread my strength.

Type Gerrit from Bavikhove .

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“Make sure to save your strength. The final 40 K there’s heavy wind.”

Roger that! My team mates from Cyclokorsakov were already putting the muscle in the mustard from minute one. But after 17 minutes I detached from my group and rode solo for the rest of the race. Also facing the wind solo. My neck and shoulders were cramping up so bad from battling Mother Nature. The final 10 K were killing me. I was hoping to find a fat arse to tug myself behind. But Gerrit was nowhere to be seen.

One minute out of wind can make a world of difference for your recovery.

That and many other things I learned from that first official ride.

  • Don’t grab your drinking bottle during descents, for example.
  • Nor on cobble stones.
  • Also don’t bite your tongue on cobbles or you’ll bite it right off.
  • Always warn if there’s a car coming. And make flight attendant gestures with your hands to make other points across.
  • Make sure you drink enough to avoid muscle cramps. I made sure I had a sip every 15 minutes. I had one water bottle with me and one bottle filled with some hydrate mix to provide me with the necessary salts and minerals during my workout.

At provision there’s also a chance to refill your water bottle. And at Gent-Wevelgem there were big tanks with green stuff to keep you energized too. It looked as if the Ghostbusters had put Slimer in different containers. It smelled like the eighties too.

After 4 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle I reached the finish and it felt as if the weight of the world fell of my shoulders. I was extremely pleased with my result and felt ready for my big challenge the week after.

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I knew I would have to dose my efforts in the week to come, though. Especially since I had to work and stand on my legs all day.

On Wednesday I went for a nice and easy 30 K ride.

And on Friday I did a quick recovery ride of only 45 minutes.

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On my rollers. For old time’s sake…

I was almost ready for my big adventure. Almost. I just needed to loosen up the muscles and fill my energy tank with some healthy greens.

Luckily there was a fresh juice shop right at the end of the street where the massage place is.

=> Antwerp Thai Massage, Museumstraat 8, 2000 Antwerp
=> Fruxino, Museumstraat 1, 2000 Antwerp 

I had one more day at the bar …

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And then it was off to bed! I had set my alarm clock at 5 am. I wanted to be at the start at 7 and it is advisory to eat at least 2 hours before commencing a training or a race. 5 minutes before the start I like to eat an energy bar to keep me energized until the first provision. Usually two hours in.

I had 1 cup of coffee an two shots of espresso to give me that extra energy boost. The good thing about coffee is that it makes you hyper. The bad thing is that it makes you have to pee faster. And with bib shorts, that’s not an easy thing to do. For evident reasons…

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APRIL 1st, D DAY 

I felt like a clueless soldier rowing a boat to Normandy, signing up for a suicide job.

Due to some delay on the way, some administration and a pee break at the start, I left at 8 instead of 7am. It was raining, a little bit cold, and the sky was 50 shades of grey.

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The first 30 K were psychological warfare. My goal was still a long way ahead of me and I wasn’t feeling confident I would make it. I wasn’t impressed with my legs, I was losing precious time on the climbs and the cobbles, and I realized I would be in the saddle for at least 6-8 hours. I was trying to pep talk myself into it but I missed the clue on why I was doing this.

#clueless.

At 30 K we had our first provision and there I made the click.

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At provision you can find all kinds of food displayed for you. It’s easy to overindulge. I am still experiencing which foods benefit me and which don’t, but I find gingerbread to be easy digestible and quite enjoyable too. So at the first provision I had a slice of gingerbread and a cereal bar and a sip of orange energy drink.

At 77 K we had another provision right before the Koppenberg. There, I figured I would be in need of plenty of fast sugars so I ate a slice of gingerbread, a sugar waffle and a slice of banana. I also stretched for 2 minutes since I was experiencing some mild strain in my lower back.

The sugar sure did it’s job (not on the Koppenberg, since there were too many people and everybody had to walk up) but in my fifth hour I conquered 3 climbs in a row. I was impressed. It felt as if I had pressed a hidden power button.

During my final provision at 100 K I had a light meal consisting of 1 banana and 1 orange.

I was carrying a Powerbar which would come in handy in my final hour.

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I can’t stress the importance to stay hydrated enough. You lose a lot of water during an intense workout and your muscles need this to recover. I tried to drink a sip of water with some added minerals each 15-20 minutes. As a result I stayed surprisingly fresh. Even after six hours I still wasn’t tired of riding.

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Especially since I saw some riders at the side of the road bending over, rubbing their legs, pointing at their bikes, being too stiff to pick them up. I also saw a lot of riders being carried away by ambulances with broken bones. Also on the climbs riders fell over due to their clip-less pedals.

I knew the 141 K was in reach. The finish line was pulling me in like a lasso. The last 10 K, right after the impossible Paterberg, I was racing to the finish line at 30 K/hour. I felt so energized, I just had to give my all and ride myself empty until the very end.

I was living in my head the entire time. I was seeing flashbacks of my life. Of this past year. How, EXACTLY one year ago, I was riding a bike in Beijing.

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And how, today, I was riding my own race bike during Flanders’ most beautiful road race. Over paved cobble stones where Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Boonen and Sagan would suffer (and even fall) the next day.

I was amazed about how my life keeps taking unexpected, but exciting turns. And how much it energizes me.

I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.

From the chain smoking journo I used to be. To the independent world explorer I became. And the Sporty Spice I am now. What a rollercoaster ride it has been.

And it felt great I was doing all this on my NIKES.

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These sneakers have led me over mountain tops in Australia, through rough roads in Tasmania and through intense Kung Fu training in China. The CHI is in these shoes. And that April 1st, the CHI was with me. Shifu Gao, my Kung Fu friends (Celine, Audrey and many more), Tasmanian Cannibal Helmut, Sammy and all my other Tooperang farm friends, Goedele and Nairn, my gorgeous girl Steph … all of them were there to encourage me and push me over that finish line.

I was pleased with the symbolism. It made the circle complete. It almost brought me to tears.

All because of a pair of iconic sneakers.

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First never follows. I like doing things my way. Make my own rules. Blonde/Clueless-style. I’m stubborn like cobbles.

Mac Miller

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I know there’s a lot of undiscovered potential inside of me. Inside all of us.

And I am going to explore this to the (Air) max.

On and off the bike. Who knows what other things I am capable of. It feels rewarding to discover myself in new ways. And I couldn’t be more proud of where I am today.

Once I reached the finish I was so pleased with my rodeo, I just wanted to fall into my parents’ arms and hug them. Too bad they were nowhere to be seen. I found them 45 minutes later napping in the car 5 K from the finish… emoji

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They made it up to me by taking me out for dinner immediately. I needed to refuel and it’s best to do this somewhere between 1 and 120 minutes after your workout.

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Taking this to bed.

The next day I enjoyed washing my bike and watching the Tour of Flanders for pros.

I was happy to see Gilbert win. And to have Greg as his runner-up. I also think Niki is kinda cool too. I love to hear him talk.

The Tour of Flanders had a fairy tale ending in many ways.

I’m going to enjoy the moment for the days to come, and keep on training and riding. Next goal is to get better, faster and stronger on the bike.

Time to master that clip-less pedal learning curve. Helmets and seatbelts on everybody.

Can I clip it?

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Yes I can!

Peace out

XO

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The beast of competition

HI-DE-HOO!

You: “Well Ev, you’re cheery. I thought you would be having the ol’ travel blues since you got back from Canada. Plus: looking at where you were last year, you probably will be full of nostalgia.”

That is correct You-san. Facebook does punch me in the face with anniversaries of precious moments I lived last year. January 29th it was one year ago I was standing on The Bluff overviewing one of the most amazing views of my life. Yesterday it was the anniversary of the first time I drove on the left.

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And I will be confronted with many more precious memories in the weeks to come. But blue? …

I kinda like the color blue.

It also happened to be the color of the car I represented at the Car Expo in Brussels a couple of weeks ago.

As you may know, I returned from Canada on January 9th and the next day I was already attending training sessions to become a car sales(wo)man for MINI.

I applied for the job months ago and around September I found out I was hired. The company even had so much confidence in me they put me responsible for their newest model. The European premiere of the new and improved MINI COUNTRYMAN.

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I could totally see myself driving this ‘Island Blue’ baby on the left side of the road.

It kinda gave me some cold sweats knowing I would be in charge of one of the most sought after models of the event, but I was honored they confided in me.

Hell, I wouldn’t if I were them!

But there I was. Friday the 13th of January. All dressed up to sell my car to the audience for the next ten days.

Our team would work long days. Getting up early in the morning, walking and talking for at least 9 hours straight, driving home, eating and going to bed at a reasonable hour to repeat everything the next morning.

It’s like living in a bubble with very little to no time at all to do anything else.

Actually….

It’s kind of like participating in a big cycling race!

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You get together every morning for team briefing. By that time you’re already fully dressed and equipped for another day on the super hero front. You will kick ass. You will not shark around. You will get the job done. And by the end of the day there’s the sweet release of food and sleep.

Plus: there is a classification. Every day there is a team winner. Someone who did the upmost. Someone who deserves the 24 hour title of ‘Sales(wo)man of the day’. Presents are handed out. Stats are being showed.

And every time we would be reminded of one thing: to aim higher each day.

It was the first time I was engaging in something this competitive. And I was feeling something inside of me I had never thought I possessed: the beast of competition.

Even though the newspaper business was and is a very competitive business too, I never really played my cards that way. I just did my thing in the hopes it would all turn out well. Sure I was happy whenever I would have a scoop someone else didn’t have, but I easily could have lived without that adrenalin rush. It was just a nice little extra on top of the rest of the work.

But now, the tables had turned. I was eager to do a great job. To kick ass and to make me, MINI and the agency  who got me this job, proud.

Battle mode on √

The setting was great. I was in charge of the most adventurous car. I found its identity to be more than meets the eye. Still a MINI, but also spacious, well thought out of the box. I identified with this car. I figured if I would throw in a little wit, a little charm, I could sell this puppy like sweet cherry pie.

But my car was a Diesel. So I started off a little slow too. I was assured I would attain my top speed in no time and from then on be unstoppable. On my third day I was doing so great, I was convinced I would become ‘Saleswoman of the day’.

The next morning I was all ready to receive my prize. I was cheery and confident and ready for another day of ass kicking.

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“I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky”

Team leader: “Okay team, let’s look at some statistics from yesterday’s leads. As you can see, you are doing a magnificent job! We are attaining our goals and even going the extra mile. Sales team, I am extremely proud of how you’re doing. And yesterday one person in particular did a great job and deserves to be sales person of the day. That person is…”

Me: “This is it, this is my moment of glory.”

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Team Leader: “Mike!”

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I didn’t understand. Mike told me he had a bad day yesterday. And here he is, being elected to Salesman of the day…

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I was feeling so low. I knew I shouldn’t let this get to me. I’m doing a great job. If the rest won’t acknowledge that, I will just have to keep doing what I’m doing until they do.

After a brief zen meditation in the toilet…

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I decided to continue the work I was doing. Soon as the visitors arrived, I was back in the game. Dispensing all the valuable information people wanted from me in Dutch, English and French. Interacting with children and showing them some cool features.

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And then there it was. The thing that melted all my sorrows away. The cutest little baby in a pink baby carriage.

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Me: “Oh my! Aren’t you the cutest little baby in the world!” I reached out my hand to pet it on the little head, when it suddenly turned around and changed into an absolute…

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MONSTER!

The little bitch (it’s a dog, I’m allowed to use that word) bit me right in the index finger and kept holding it between her little, but very sharp, teeth for a good 10 seconds.

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I screamed. When the dog finally let go she was barking and making a scene as if I had just molested her. I didn’t know what to do or say, and was keeping my hand behind my back, rubbing my thumb over my index finger to find out if it was bleeding or not. I didn’t want to look at it since I already fainted once from a bleeding finger and I didn’t want it to happen again. I had a goal to attain! And Sales(wo)men of the day don’t faint!

Owner: “No, no, no you can’t do that! Not while she’s in her carriage.”

Me: “Well good God woman! You could at least have a sign or some warning attached to her stroller!”

Maybe this was the sign. Maybe, this little calamity, was my warning to not get too caught up in the act. And the chihuahuas muzzle was just a metaphor.

All day I was out of my element because of that dog.

Eventually I generated some leads but I wasn’t at my best. The next morning I wasn’t elected. But that was no surprise.

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I decided to lick my wounds and just focus on the job. After all, helping people find the car of their requirements was already pretty rewarding too. And that night we would order pizza for the entire team. So I had something to look forward to.

Our outfits were sent to the dry cleaners and everybody was just wearing jeans and sneakers to the occasion. I was wearing the black bear I scored in Canada. Read: the faux fur I bought at Value Village.

Team leader: “Woah Evelien, thats a pretty big coat.”

Me: “Yep, I’m a pimp in real life.”

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Bitches call me Gator

I took a slice of pepperoni pizza and considered talking to our team leader. After all, two days had passed since my little bathroom tantrum and I still hadn’t made it to Saleswoman of the day. Almost everyone of our team had already been elected. But I was staying neglected.

Me: “Say…. Team leader. Does the fact that I haven’t been ‘Saleswoman of the day’ yet, a sign that I’m behind in the classification?”

Team leader: “Not at all. You’re doing a really good job. We always try to make everybody Salesperson of the day at least once. The fact that it takes a long time with you is because we think you don’t need that reassurance as much as some other people on the team. We kinda presumed you were pretty confident about what you did.”

Me: “Yeah, totally…”

I wanted to disappear behind a pizza box. I had been such a fool. Getting carried away by my emotions.

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I should have known by now to never doubt my work and what I’m capable of.

The day after, this trooper got named Saleswoman of the Day. I got a beautiful pen and an applause from my team mates. By then we were already a strong team and that was the biggest reward to me. To be part of that. And to help each other get over the finish line in one piece.

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You: “Talking of cycling, how is your so-called cycling career going?”

Me: “I thought you’d never ask!”

I am glad to announce I will be participating in quite a challenging race in less than 10 weeks to come. I have been training really hard and hope to be ready just in time.

Everybody around me has been really encouraging.

At a recent family outing -where I wasn’t present- my mother was telling her kin about my participation.

Kin: “Err..the chance she will make it till the finish line is pretty…”

My mother: “Small?”

Kin: “Non existent.”

It was only days later I found out about their little conversation.

Well let me tell you all a little something about Evelien Delgouffe:

SHE DOESN’T QUIT. 

End of story.

I am a MINI Saleswoman of the Day (Yes, you get to wear the title for the rest of your years, it’s kind of like being Miss Universe). I may appear small on the outside. But I am surprisingly powerful on the inside.

Plus! I have the advantage of a hidden engine.

You: “A hidden engine in your bike frame?!”

Me: My mind.

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I have grazed skin on my ass. And my lady parts feels like punched lasagna. Don’t tell me I won’t make it until you suffer from one of these discomforts yourself.

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“Wouldn’t you be better off putting more energy in a career than shitting away precious energy for some cycling interlude?” Someone recently asked me.

My answer:

I need this.

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This is a way to re-energize me for my professional life.

Don’t forget I was near burnout by the end of 2015.

I wanna return healthy and fit.

I have been healthy and fit for some months now. From the moment I left for Australia it felt like the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. I was driving in Australia hoping one day I would be like those amateur cyclists I saw riding on the side of the road. In the hot summer sun. Free. One with the outdoors. Fit.

One year later I am training.

My bike makes me feel good about myself. Gives me the energy I need. Makes me strong. Healthy and young. Bikes keep people young, people!

But most importantly: my bike reminds me I have no limits.

I will never take “No you can’t” for an answer.

I am a believer.

It’s my default preset.

Like the ‘Mini’ who kept believing he could be a ‘Maxi’.

That’s what gets me through all my challenges. Whether it is writing stories, going on far away adventures or selling freedom on four wheels.

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The day after the Car Expo ended, it was officially Blue Monday. Last year I left for Australia on Blue Monday. I wanted to leave on the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday was -just like my Countryman- an Island Blue Monday. Filled with good vibes and memories. The 1390 liters of maximum trunk space. And that suited me just fine…

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Always remember to live in the now. And appreciate what you’re doing now. Even if it’s planning a holiday, prepping yourself for a night out with friends, making your first home made lasagna (sorry if I ruined this for you). It’s precious memory making. SO LIVE NOW. You probably will never get these moments back.

Also: don’t be afraid to be competitive or fight for what’s important to you. Even if it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. You will never know for sure, until you try. People will always try to knock you down. Unfortunately, it’s their default preset. When they do. Just remember to:


1) Not give a fuck

2) Get back up again.

XO

The cycling of life

Writing January 2015. My editor gives me the look. The look he gives everyone who comes up with a lousy idea in a bid to try something new, edgy and different for the paper.

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Editor: “Look Evelien, I admire your… ahm… creativity? But we’re not gonna turn you into a cross cyclist. Why the heck did you came up with that idea anyway?”

Me being deadly serious over here: “Because I want to challenge myself, write about every detail and make people think, push them to step out of their comfort zones. In which ever way they want to.”

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Editor: “(shakes his head with a big male chauvinist grin on his face) Let’s not, okay?”

“Now, let’s ‘cycle’ (ha-ha)

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back to the daily reality guys. There’s been a murder 40K away from here. The wife apparently stabbed her husband with a pair of scissors and then tried to commit suicide but failed. She is now in the hospital where … ” His voice blurred into the background where it eventually muted. I was in my head. My silent bubble. My turmoil.

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Dreamer.

My choice for becoming a cross cyclist came forward out of frustrated ambitions, melancholy and heartache.

I wanted to rise above myself. Reinvent myself. Be proud of something I achieved.

I felt so damn ordinary.

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Stuck in a daily routine. One where no one seemed to allow me to break free.

Not on my terms at least…

I was a woman shouting in the desert.

The idea was so pure and simple. And many times commercialized throughout my childhood years. I’m a kid from the MTV generation. And all I wanted was to be Made.

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But nobody seemed to listen.

I gave in. I decided it maybe wasn’t the time or place to become something else. That maybe they were right, and I should just go back to being normal. “Being normal is already crazy enough.”

… They should just execute people who dare to say that out loud.

A couple of months later I crashed. Hard.

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I had become so restless, I just couldn’t walk away from it any more. It was the big elephant in the room. Stampeding. I was looking for so much more. But I didn’t know what exactly. Or where to begin at all. I was scared as fuck.

It’s like jumping into the deep blue without knowing you can swim. Or end up piranha bait.

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Worst.Movie.Ever.

So -as you loyal readers of the blog already know- I quit my job and bought a ticket out of here. The furthest place I could imagine. Australia. And see from there.

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<Seeing from there>

People blamed me I was running away from things. As if it was a bad thing.

But there are two ways to look at the picture here. What does an athlete do? Does he run away from the start? Or does he run towards the finish line?

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“Touché”

In my head, yes, I was running away from something.

To run towards something else.

That made sense to me. And that’s all that mattered. No matter how tired I got of explaining myself to family, friends and coworkers.

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On my travels I adapted a minimal lifestyle. I shared a shed with deadly spiders, slept in the passenger’s seat of a car, drove around the Sunshine Coast in a Mini Moke, kept the social encounters to a bare minimum, threw away clothes, insecurities and comfort zones. I let go. Trusted.

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I read somewhere that people who trust things to faith are happier.

I ended up in China in a Kung Fu school to gain more self confidence and defensibility. Better reflexes too. I reached Japan and realized I was out of money. I worked with what I had. And the universe helped me out with the rest. My long travels brought me back to cycling this summer. I was back in the circus where I got hooked on adventure and fell in love with bicycles two years ago while I was working as a one-time Tour de France reporter. The cycle of life…

And the idea grew back on me.

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TDF 2016

I want to ride my bicycle.

And participate in amateur road races.

Starting now my life will be concentrated to two wheels. Almost two years too late. But better late than never.

The greatest ticket to freedom, excitement, endurance, self knowledge, and the occasional fall on the face.

A metaphor for life.

“You make every tomorrow faster by acting today. So even if you aren’t at the same level as everyone else, there’s only one way to get there and it’s by staying optimistic and giving it a go.”
(Ella Cycling Tips)

Let’s not kiss the asphalt on the first date. Nor the hood of a car. Or the side mirror of a big truck.

Note to self:

Stay real.

Stay alive.

Stay on your bike.

XO

BIG SALE / 

COMFORT ZONES

They’re all out of fashion guys. I’ve stepped out of mine. People are stepping out of theirs. (Have you checked out srprs.me? It is the best invention ever!!! Well… Since the wheel, obviously. People are purchasing holidays without knowing where they’re going. I think I will treat myself to a surprise trip for my birthday this month!)

Why do we build up comfort zones? Materialistic ones and psychological ones?

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Just think about all the junk you could get rid of. And how much you could actually gain from it.

Namasté all the way!

XO

You: Ahm Evyy?… Aren’t you forgetting something?

Me: Ehh…What?

You: Weren’t you supposed to tell us all about your new boyfriend you referred to on Facebook?

Me: … I just told you all about him.

You: (…) Is … Is your bike your new bf…?

Me: … Mmyes.

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To be continued.

The Sunshine Coast

I’ve always wanted to stay at a motel.

They have this fascinating atmosphere hanging around them and weird stuff always end up happening in motels. At least from what I learned from movies like ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’, ‘Me Myself & Irene’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’. I wasn’t actively looking for a motel room, I just stumbled upon a great deal through Booking.com that offered me a 70% discount.

I wasn’t expecting much even though the reviews were excellent. I just figured they were filled in by drug addicts, under-traveled older couples and poor people who were just glad to have a broken TV they could slam the hell out of. I was at least expecting cockroaches, stainy carpet and a leaking shower. But I just figured -coming from a shed, a car and a caravan- for the first time in two months I will have a room all to myself, with a queen size bed, a shower, a kitchenette, a terrace with pool access, a private beach access, a TV set and an all you can watch movie library. Oh and free WIFI too. To me this place looked like heaven.

And it was even BETTER!

It was incredibly clean. No carpet, but tiles! Clean tiles! Free cookies, tea and coffee, even fresh milk. Chilled water, tiny bath soaps, clean sheets, nice mattress, the pool in front of my door step, an extra bed to put all of my stuff on, a couch, …. I love it so much I contributed an entire blog post to this place.

Well, at least 1/3rd.

You: “So a piece of heaven for 70% discount…. What’s the catch here, Ev?”

Well ahm… every hour a plane flies over really low and it’s kind of really loud (…)

Apparently the Sunshine Coast airport is just 5K away.

But I think it’s just A LOT OF FUN.

It feels like I’m right in the middle of Top Gun or better Pearl Harbor!

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(Nurse Evelyn)

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Go Rafe! Go get them Japs!

(To the Japanese community: I’m just in character here, I have all the respect for you and your reasons to go to war with America and killing off Danny. Even though I cried a lot when that happened.)

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Pic of dying Danny

The ‘Pacific Palm Motor Inn’ is rooted in Marcoola. It’s a very small town, but centrally located to get to some nice Sunshine Coast hotspots. Well, if you can get from A to B easily. Since I don’t have a car, I have to be resourceful. Take a bus. Trust my two Hobbit feet. Or -maybe- hitchhike. I’m still very sceptic about this subject. But maybe one good opportunity is enough to make me flip the thumb.

But for now, I just decided to keep myself busy in the surroundings. I heard the sunrise is supposed to be amazing at this mountain top called Mount Coolum. The base was only 2km away from the motel. Okay, quick math: the sun rises at 5.45 that means I will have to get up at….4.40 and leave five minutes later.

You: Yeah right, who gets up in the middle of the night to catch a sunrise?

“Well, me… (jerk)”

When I opened up the front door that morning it was pitch dark. I couldn’t see a hand in front of my face. The entire way I had to use my tiny flash light, looking like a burglar since I had my black hoodie on to shelter me from mild showers. Since I didn’t want to walk next to the main road, I didn’t want to get run over like a wild animal, I followed the beach path. In other words: the unlit path.

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For about 35 minutes I walked into the darkness surrounded by weird noises, bugs and other things jumping on me or either rushing away into the bushes. At first I thought it were snakes, until I almost squished a toad that was just sitting in the middle of the road. When it hopped in the bushes the sound matched the soundtrack of the past 30 minutes. Phieuw, they’re just toads. When I arrived at the base of Mount Coolum the sky was already clearing up and the sunrise was just minutes away. I was rushing to catch it on the top and almost tripped over some slippery rocks. It was a steady 25 min hike upwards. When I arrived to the top, all bewildered from the branches brushing against my head and hair, and all sweaty from the humid climate, there was no sun to be seen. It had decided to stay under its covers. Yo wake up you big lazy ball of lava (*), this is the Sunshine Coast, you’re supposed to be on every day!

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(*) The sun is composed of hydrogen and helium plasma. It is much hotter than lava. Actually it is a big ball of hot gases.

Tough break, but still a good place to have breaky.

An hour later I was enjoying a well deserved coconut cappuccino at a coffee place nearby. Over that cup of coffee I started thinking what I should do with my time here in Marcoola. Since I had just done the major attraction and still had 6 more days to go. I decided to just chill for a change. Enjoy my pool and private beach, walk the area a bit, maybe go all the way up to Coolum Beach. Around 6 K away. Just nice and easy. Relaxing instead of rushing from A to B and draining my energy levels. There, that sounded like a deal. We even shook on it. Once I arrived in my motel room it was only 10 am and I was already bored out of my mind. I had just finished the dishes when someone knocked on the door.

Tiny voice: “Room service.”

I opened the door since I was standing right next to it and saw the wrinkly smiley face of what appeared to be the female hotel manager. Personally looking after my cookie, coffee and towel needs.

Wrinkly smiley face: “So what are you up to today, love?”

Me: “Well I don’t know, I was asking myself that same question actually.”

Wrinkly smiley face: “Oh are you into markets? There’s a market at Eumundi.”

Me: “Yeah I heard about it, but it’s a 2 hour bus drive even though it’s just 30 minutes by car. “

Wrinkly smiley face: “Oh and you don’t have a car?”

I looked at the vacant parking spot in front of my doorstep, sighed, and said: “No. No car, unfortunately. Say, you don’t happen to know if I can rent a bike here somewhere, do you?”

Wrinkly smiley face: “Well I can ask my husband if he takes you to a place where they rent out stuff. Maybe you can have a look?”

Me: “Coolness, thanks a lot wrinkly … I mean friendly lady. I’ll come by the reception at 1 pm.”

I decided to have a little tanning session by the pool first.

JC

When we arrived at the shop I met up with a guy named Tim. Turned out he only rented out scooters….And Mini Mokes.

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You see a Mini Moke is like a buggy, a golf cart even, but for on road purpose only. It’s built out of Mini parts -hence the first part of the name- and ‘Moke’ is an archaic dialect term for donkey. It goes up to about 80 km per hour. 90 if you really push it. They stopped being produced in 1993.

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Me: “Err… I don’t know Tim, I was actually looking for a bike. Like a mountain bike or something. Besides this is way too expensive. I’m on a budget here.”

Tim: “Well I’ll throw in this day for free, since it’s already 2 pm, and I’ll give you a ten percent discount on each day because you’re staying at the Pacific Palm and I’m hoping to do future business with them.”

That little pooch was smiling at me like a little minion. I could already picture all the fun we would have together.

minionMe: “Okay Tim, I’ll take him!”

After some paper work Tim handed me over the keys. And therefor access to the super high way towards new and unforeseen adventures. Well not really the high way, I had to stick to the scenic routes since it only has 4 gears.

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When I switched on the engine I noticed just a miiiiiiinor detail however:

THIS THING IS A MANUAL?!

Thinking bubble: “I – I – I’ve never driven a stick here in Oz. It’s already hard enough focussing on the left driving.”

My conscience: “Errr.. I don’t know Evvy, are you sure you wanna do this??”

Me and my conscience having a mental debriefing: “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this. But I already filled in the form… I will have to try and see…We can always pull out if I don’t make it to the end of the street.”

Tim: “Something the matter?”

Me: “Err no, no everything’s fine! Say ahm Tim, does this thing come with a helmet by any chance?”

Tim: “No…”

Me: “It’s just, I noticed it hasn’t got any airbags…And tomorrow’s the 13th…”

Tim: “Your seat belt is your safety net. (knocks twice on the roof) Have fun!”

With those words I head off. And… I got the hang of it in no time. I still don’t know how I did it. But I found my way back to the motel effortlessly. Shifting gears, watching the road, driving on the left… Sometimes I just really surprise myself. The next day I was out of there in no time. I drove all the way to the Glass House Mountains, a one hour drive away. Quite challenging with all the steep inclines, winding roads and strong downhills. I felt like I was in an amusement park. The occasional showers made it even more challenging as well as losing navigation signal on my phone, almost running out of gas in the middle of nowhere and other cars pushing my ass forcing me to pull over.

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After one hour I finally arrived at the tourist information center of The Glass House Mountains. I had already climbed the biggest obstacle of the day, and it was just getting started. I was over the moon I got there safe and sound. The two guys at the counter helped me plan out my day. They were 70+ and could have easily been mistaken for twins. Identical tourist information outfit, even the same shade of grey hair and matching mustaches.

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They supplied me with other brochures for the area once they found out I wanted to roadtrip the Hinterlands. I had no idea what the Hinterlands were 24 hours ago. If it wasn’t for wrinkly smiley face, randomly mentioning them, I would have been clueless about them.

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Apparently it’s still a well kept secret in the Sunshine Coast. Tourists do go there, especially the older ones, but mostly locals enjoy spending time in the little towns, national parks and amazing lookout points. See you don’t need all the planning in advance. It’s a waste of time and it eliminates the element of surprise.

Tourism office twins: “So you’re traveling by yourself? It’s not often we see a solo female traveler coming here. Especially not one driving a Moke. How did you get a hold of that?”

Me: “Long story. And I gotta be back before dark!”

I could already picture other backpackers sticking close to the shore. Surfing the Gold Coast, getting drunk or high at Byron Bay. Doing these busy tours to Fraser Island. Well fuck Fraser Island. Who wants to visit a breath taking all sand island with a 4WD if they can’t even drive those big sand jeeps themselves? Why would I go on a guided tour if I can manage my own tour just fine. That day I had a blast. I walked for hours, enjoyed my lunch break with an amazing view and drove back before dark. From now on I’m really roadtripping by myself. And all possibilities lie before me. Well it takes a little time to reach them, especially if they’re on the top of a steep hill, but I’ll get there!

The look on people’s faces when they see me drive by is just hilarious. It reminds me of one of those fair carts I used to not get enough from as a kid. It’s funny cause I thought about going to Landsborough, the largest commercial go-cart track in Australia, and maybe an amusement park as well. But this is the all-in-one experience. Roadtrip, fun, me-time, sightseeing and adventure.

By next year I’m sure travel agencies will have made it into a thing. Moke safaris or something.

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I will put a video online shortly. Make sure to check it out on the official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/blondeclueless) and while you’re there give us a like 🙂

If you’re looking for an authentic experience on the Sunshine Coast I would definitely recommend a Mini Moke selfdrive. You will only be the second tourist to ever do it and it has been hands down the highlight of my trip.

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Isn’t this a beaut?

The next day I continued cruising the Hinterlands. I encountered some very nice sceneries on the way, great national parks, nice little towns to have a coffee stop, … At a certain point I decided to have a stroll in a town called Nambour. Apparently this used to be the beating heart of the Sunshine Coast with lots of quirky vintage and vinyl shops. In recent years Maroochydore took over the sweepstakes. Leaving Nambour in a turmoil. The rent went through the roof, forcing shops to either relocate or close business turning it into a ghost town that attracts more junkies than tourists. Apparently drugs is becoming a big issue here. Even though they just erected a big methadone clinic, they can’t seem to get these kids off the needle.

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This is a needle I couldn’t stay off of myself. These treats are to be found right here at the Sunshine Coast at Sunshine Sunshine Espresso in Currimundi

“If these kids ought to be unemployed, they rather do it somewhere where it’s nice weather”. Talking is Leigh, he’s the owner of BackBeat Records, a record store tucked away in the streets of Nambour. And the handsomest 57 year old I’ve ever laid…

… my eyes on! Gee, disturbed mind much?! He was wearing the typical Elvis short sleeved Memphis shirt with knee shorts. Every bit of his body was clad with colorful rockabilly tattoos. And his greasy hair was pulled back nicely in a full quiff. I started talking to him after I asked him if I could take some pictures of his shop for my Instagram account. He is originally from New Zealand and has a son my age who has traveled the world by himself as well. Even though he used to be a recluse as a kid. Leigh very much supported him traveling. It had opened him up to the world and kept him off the bad track.

Leigh: “A lot of young people are fighting depression these days. It’s good that you decided to travel to get to know yourself, make up your mind about where to go instead of locking yourself up, fighting demons. Sometimes the answers just can’t be found in your own bedroom and you have to just explore those horizons. I had a depression happened to me once. Luckily I climbed out of there by myself. I was unemployed and came to the coast to be unemployed and surf all day. Nowadays lots of young people come here to be unemployed and use drugs. If they don’t have money they steal. We’ve been getting lots of complaints recently. Locals are starting to worry, leaving town. Or die, since the people who live here are mostly retired.”

Leigh had touched a very important subject there. A lot of (young) people are very much struggling with mental issues. In my opinion society just puts a lot of pressure on them/us. Pressuring us to find jobs, start a family, buy a house, making the economic system turn full throttle… With disregard of our mental health.

Especially my generation is suffering. We are brought up believing that anything is possible, we can attend any university we want, pick any career we like, earn whatever wage we prefer. A big house and two cars? You name it, if you work hard, hand in your freedom and give up your personal life it’s all yours. Some people end up working hard their entire lives and start living once they’re 50+. But some people don’t get past that busy crossroad they reach in their early twenties. They stare to all those different directions and the image turns black. They freeze. And the longer they stand there, frozen, the more their self confidence melts down the drain. They lose faith. In themselves. In their future. The more society confirms the idea they’re not achieving, not applying, simply throwing away all their possibilities, simply being useless. The deeper they sink.

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The worst feeling in life is failure. And the only cure is achievement. We tend to look for this in a job, a family life, a big ass TV, … . Some end up using drugs. Because it’s the only way to get that confidence back, feel like they can conquer the world.

Well if you’re standing on that crossroad and feel lost, get even more lost. Go travel. Find out what drives you, what excites you, what fires your engine. Use some time to grow within yourself, to broaden your horizons, and open your narrow mind to see that some of the obstacles you deal with can be conquered and you possess that power to do so. A lot of people I know feel they aren’t succeeding in life. They feel like everybody else around them is doing so much better, they even included me to be one of those ‘in charge of everything’-people. Well if there’s one thing people are really good at: it is keeping up appearances.

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We love to make others believe we have the best jobs, the most compatible partner, the brightest kids, … Facebook and other social media are a big instigator to other people’s unhappiness. It’s a place where people throw the sprinkles of their lives right in your face. But maybe those sprinkles are sitting on a pile of shit, instead of a Chocolate Fudge Sundae? No one posts pictures of a rainy day. But believe me, nobody lives on the sunshine coast either. Everybody has his or her cross to bare and even on the Sunshine Coast showers are part of the daily life. They even happen 5 or 6 times a day. Heavy and abrupt. But after 5 minutes the sun comes out. And that’s the comforting part of it. And besides. 365 days of sun wouldn’t be much exciting either, would it?

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I was getting a downpour here at the top of Mount Ngungun the other day. A colleague commented on this picture, saying that rain is underrated. Let’s turn that into the quote of the day. Or the week even.

Let the sunshine in, don’t be a recluse and close yourself off from the world, the safe surroundings of your bedroom won’t give you the answers. But don’t get scared away by a little rain either. Take the good with the bad. And when things go wrong, just remember there’s something good or even better on the way. Just have faith. And let go.

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Mental health is one of the most important things you can possess guys. If you lose your marbles it’s all downhill from there. I am typing this while Australia Today is reporting about a guy in Cairns who has just stabbed his wife and mother in law to death this morning. Apparently when authorities arrested him, he was laughing.

Keep safe. Keep sane. And here are some more inspiring quotes from the greatest motivational speaker of all time.

XO

Investing in the future

(Caution 1: this is an even longer read than the previous one)
(Caution 2: this may contain nudity)

At least once a week I’m having an off day. A day where nothing excites me and I’m stressing over my budget, my time left in this country and the traveling choices I have made and am about to make. It’s usually a Monday, Tuesday or -in this case- a Wednesday. I just came back from walking the Story Bridge (1000 steps and 80 meters above the Brisbane river (it is enough to kill you, people have tried it)). I had imagined it to be a James Bond kind of adventure with lots of adrenalin, action and stunts since the description on the website was already very exhilarating, but if my heart rate would have gone any slower, I swear I could have fallen asleep then and there.

I had stepped into a tourist trap. One that had cost me 79 dollars. I didn’t even get one decent photo out of it AND I got insulted since the guy at the counter gave me an XL overall. I mean WTF??

Money is definitely on my mind here in Oz. Everything is just so damn expensive. Your accommodation (a dorm you usually share with minimum 6 people) costs at least 30 bucks a night and then you still have to pay for food, public transport, a coffee on the road, postcards and stamps, data for your phone, washing powder, and the occasional recreational activity such as renting a bike or hiring a kayak. Traveling is all a matter of keeping yourself active and entertained. And usually that doesn’t come for free.

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When I look at my billing history I get these crazy premenopause like hot flashes. Then I continue cursing myself for not traveling just a fraction more money conscious. For having that big bowl of amazing bircher muesli in that cute little coffee place instead of using that money to buy a large bag of muesli and some yoghurt of which you can eat an entire week.

It’s a tough balancing act. I don’t want to hold myself back too much either. I still want to enjoy myself. And I am already sleeping in hostels to keep my budget down, not because I like them. I don’t want anything to do with them or the people that live in them. I don’t participate in any of the social happenings, happy hours or bingo nights. I much rather have a picnic in the park by myself. (I have an interesting story on that later, hold on!)

I don’t know why but wherever I go, I like sticking out like a sore thumb. My curiosity always makes me end up in weird places.

Instructor (who very much looked like Daniel Craig): “You’re a tourist? Why the fuck do you want to come to a boxing class at 7 in the morning with a bunch of sweaty men?”

Me: “Errr…”

Honestly, I don’t know why. ‘Why’, is a question I can’t answer. Sometimes my feet just take me places, and my head just follows.

Well, that boxing class was one of the best memories I have about Melbourne. That and the rooftop cinema. People often have the feeling they have to do all these ‘AMAZING, EXCLUSIVE, TEMPORARILY LOWERED IN PRICE, NOT TO BE MISSED’ sightseeing tours to make their trip worth wile. Of course everybody is free to travel differently. But for me, it’s like white bread. It just doesn’t still my appetite. I like to do trivial every day stuff while traveling -‘TrivialTraveling’, damn it that would have made a great name for the blog!- I think it’s the best way to the local heart.

As you know I don’t follow any tour guides or Lonely Planets while I am on this trip. I just walk around -mostly for hours on end since my coordination isn’t all too good- and eventually something will attract my eye and curiosity. Thus happened the first day in Brisbane. I was walking around town -since the hostel wouldn’t let me check in before 2pm- and ended up on the wrong side of Boundary Street. I was looking for the graffiti wall with the infamous angel wings (I do follow the Instagram accounts of some Australian cities, to see what some of the highlights are) but instead of turning right, I went left. It was a fiercely hot day and when I realized the neighborhood started to decommercialize since all of a sudden there had stopped being coffee bars on every corner. I paused at a white house whilst trying to connect to Google Maps. As I’m waiting for the navigation to show me where I messed up, I look up and see that I’m actually standing in front of a Greek Orthodox church. On the right side of the door there’s a sign saying ‘all welcome’. See, that’s asking for trouble. They were pretty much begging for a clueless blonde to enter.

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The next morning I decided to roll out of bed early, put on my Sunday dress and head to church. While I was walking -it was a firm 45min walk- I thought I’d better come up with a fake background story. Something about my grandmother (God rest her soul) having Greek roots or something. Just in case anyone would come up to me and ask why the hell I am attending a Greek Orthodox mass. In Greek. (..)

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But then again, who will come up to me and talk to me anyway? It’s a church, people are there to be with God. Not to start socializing with a 20 something girl.

Boy, was I wrong…

Two minutes almost every soul in there knew my name. The ‘master of ceremony’ (don’t know what else to call him) even introduced me right at the beginning of the mass. I felt like the honorary guest. Even though guest speaker Elias travelled all the way from Greece on his leather sandals to give an elaborate speech on how the Greek Orthodox church community had helped so many people in Greece when the country was dealing with the financial crisis and the refugee crisis (…) Sincerely sorry to have stolen your thunder there, Elias.

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It surprisingly took me about half an hour to ask myself the question: ‘what the hell am I doing here’.

The master of ceremony’s name was Peter. He was Australian and did the guiding in English. He was also the keyboard player, singer, occasional preacher, … and the loving husband of Heather, who was honored to sit next to me since she thought I was wearing such a pretty dress. My 4 dollar Op Shop find sure is getting compliments over here. She was completely fond of me once she found out me and her mother (God rest her soul) share the same name. I didn’t get the feeling Heather was overly religious. I thought of her more as the supporting wife to a man living his life in honor of God. A wife who had settled for second place.

(Peter enthusiastically telling a story about his early life being full of sin) :

“I was in a horrible place in my twenties. But thanks to the love and power of God, I turned that around and traveled further than I could have ever traveled. Now I am looking for my next journey and that is (childishly points his index finger towards the ceiling) all the way up there!” (chuckles)

I glared over to Heather to see what her feelings were on this subject. But she was glazing at her song book like she had just suffered a minor stroke.

After one hour and 15 minutes the mass was nearing the end. But first there was -of course- the sharing of the bread. In catholic churches usually only the priest is the one lucky enough to have a sip of that church wine. Here, they started handing out tiny glasses to everybody. And it wasn’t just cheap wine, it was port! Delicious port!

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Pic of port!

There was also a saucer with actual bread (non of that cardboard stuff we get). Someone could have thrown in some Tzatziki and we could have had a party in there! After the service everybody kind of wanted me to stick around but I decided to carry on with my day. The fact that they accepted me like they did, without asking WHY I attended, filled my heart with warmth for the rest of the day…

When I came back in the hostel that afternoon -I was sharing a female dorm with three other backpackers- they had all left. Even the Claudia Schiffer lookalike from Germany, who was supposed to stay another 2 weeks. She was so kind of leaving her leftover beer nuts near my bed as a sober goodbye gift.

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I was touched by the gesture since backpackers usually don’t share food. Everybody stores their stuff in the common kitchen. You have to put your name on your bags otherwise things will either get stolen or chucked out. The Claudia Schiffer lookalike from Germany had it happen to her the other day. Her bag with all her cutlery, containers, food, cereal, … was suddenly nowhere to be found. Of course that was a big drama. Backpackers who live on really small budgets hang on to those bags as if their lives depended on them. The other day I bought myself some groceries and labeled it -as instructed- with my name, departure date and room number. Instead of putting ‘Ev, Eve or Evelien’ on the bag, I decided to go for ‘Big Al’. A strong butcher’s name. I reckoned no one would want to steal food from a guy who sounds like a man with a big appetite. And a small temper.

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As I sat on my bed in an empty dorm, I checked the tan line the silver ring on my left middle finger had left. It reminded me of a little thing happening at the end of the mass when Peter dug up a giant silver coin out of his pants pocket and handed it over to Elias as a donation. Apparently it was worth a four digit number.

Peter: “The price of silver is going up, people. If I would advise anyone to do an investment. Buy silver.”

I started thinking about what Peter said. About investing in the future. And I thought:

“I’m running a pretty decent investment right here. Me.”

You interrupting: OH I see, because you’re GOLD, right? Spandau ballet? Nice one!

Me: Err, not really….

I started out as a penny stock. A pink sheet. But slowly my share is climbing up every day.

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So yeah, I spend a lot of money, sometimes a little too much, on this journey. But maybe it’s not all money down the drain… Maybe ‘you’ is the only asset worth taking a (financial) risk for.

You: But what if your share crashes? What if you end up with nothing?

Well I always say: if things really go south, you can always consider a career as a topless barmaid.

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(WOOPS! You weren’t supposed to see that)

It’s a bullshit safety net, I know. But it’s just my way to say to myself I won’t end up starving in a ditch so easily. No stress. By the way it is impossible to end up with nothing cause even the tiniest failure, or the dumbest mishap, is a lesson. And every lesson is an enrichment.

The only thing you will have to be aware of, and look out for, is projectile fear vomiting.

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Projectile what?

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People will try to put you off track by projecting their fear and prejudice on your perfectly fear and prejudice-free projection screen. Remember what I said at the beginning of this read? People asking you the ‘why are you here, or why do you do that’ – question. That question didn’t go down well for me at the beginning. I found it offensive. And I don’t like to explain myself. Sometimes you just feel the need to do something and that is your reason. Final.

For example: People are constantly asking me if I’m traveling alone.

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When I confirm that I am traveling solo (I only say I am to other women, when a murder/rapist type man asks me, I usually tell him my boyfriend is meeting me somewhere) they always give me the weird surprised look.

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… followed by : ‘Ooh, aren’t you scared?’

Maybe I should just tell people I’m here for investment business. That’ll shut them up.

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Is it sooooo weird to travel by yourself? Let’s rephrase the question. Why do people choose to not travel by themselves?? And now I’m back at explaining why you should see this as an investment: It is the best thing one can do to:

a) acquire a bunch of new skills,
b) surpass a lot of boundaries and
c) evolve fast and get to know oneself extremely well in a short period of time
( and if you’re into that => d) meet a lot of new people)

Everyday you are putting yourself in a new situation, you are I faced with new challenges and you have to be inventive and creative to deal with those situations on the spot. If you don’t take the initiative. No one will. The fact that I am the only one responsible for having a bed to sleep in, for putting food in my body and for getting from A to B just gives me an incredibly rewarding feeling. Never underestimate the power of a sense of achievement. It will make you feel like you can conquer the world. Or climb a bridge. But even a foetus could have done that walk.

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Hang on to those umbilical cords, guys!

That weird surprised reaction people give, will probably stick on me for some time to come. For instance every time I go to have lunch or dinner and the waitress asks me if I want to wait for my company to arrive…

But why would I need someone to take care of me anyway? Or accompany me? We are all individuals here. We are all responsible for ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you travel with 10 people or just one, ‘you’ is never a group. ‘You’ is just you and if you don’t learn how to live, travel and function by yourself then I pity the man or woman who you end up sharing your life with. Always check in with yourself first before you check in into a relationship. If you cannot think for yourself, act for yourself, speak for yourself or even eat by yourself… you are basically back to being a toddler and you will never know what you’re actually capable of. And you are capable of great things, believe me.

I guess a lot of people shy away from walking unknown paths by themselves… Because deep inside, they’re scared of them. Scared of the risks. Scared of the mirrors, …  So they set up their tent at base camp.

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I SAID BASE CAMP YOU STUPID TWAT!

They set up in base camp. Steer away from the climb, telling themselves the view is already pretty nice from down here. Well if you climb that mountain -and you don’t have to go all the way to the top- you will gain new perspectives, see new vistas and your point of ‘view/you’ will receive much more depth. I thought I already knew everything about me and who I am but everyday I keep learning about myself. It is silly to think you know who you are. Since we are constantly adapting to new situations, changes, struggles and challenges on the way, we never stop evolving. We are CCC’s. Constantly Changing Creatures. Sure, you know which wood you’re made of. What your fundaments are. But there are constantly things changing around us. The forces of nature. Maybe we need more than one lifetime to really understand who we are.

But in case reincarnation is just a myth and we only have one I strongly advise everyone to go on a big solo journey once. It doesn’t have to be a year, it doesn’t have to be six months, even a couple of weeks is enough. It will make you gain perspective and will basically teach you how to live life in your best capable way. Since traveling is very much like living: It is limited in time, you cannot do or see everything you’d like and you will have to go some day.

Consider it to be a spin off of the big television show called ‘Your Life’. A story existing on its own. How the story line of the main tv show will be influenced, isn’t important yet. Some overpaid executive producer will deal with that later. Just try living in the moment. You cannot see in the future. You can only look in the past and it will be a lot worse when you look back and regret the things you didn’t do. The moments you didn’t fully appreciated. Those are never coming back.

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You: “Yeah yeah, easy for you to say, you’re still young. I’m old, I can’t do jack.”

Me: “Well tomorrow you will be even older and you will regret you didn’t take the one opportunity you were actually close to achieving something out of the ordinary.”

Thus….

Invest. Invest. Invest. Step outside boxes, try to think differently, force yourself to do new things. Start slow. Start the day with brushing your teeth first and then have coffee. Or maybe don’t do that, that’s gnarly. I am just trying to find a way to make my point clear here. Don’t do the exact same thing every day. Challenge yourself. Try looking at things from different point of view, don’t put yourself or others in a box. Lose the judgement. Live free. Don’t look down on other people. Don’t look down on yourself. Don’t think too much of yourself either. The reason why angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that.

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Always believe in your soul
You’ve got the power to know
You’re indestructible, always believe in, ‘cos you are

GOLD

XO

You: “Hey, wait! What about that interesting story you had for us?”

Oh yeah. I was sitting in the park in Brisbane the other night and I didn’t realize until later but apparently I was sitting in some animal poo. When I strolled back to the hostel I suddenly started craving ice cream. I stopped at the 7 Eleven and bought myself a mini cup of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate brownie fudge. When I walked over to the hostel and wedged the cup between my arm and body to grab my key to activate the elevator door, I entered and saw in the mirror I had a brown stain on my jeans. I wiped it off with my finger, since I thought the cup must have leaked, … and licked it clean. I bet you can guess the end of that story… That’ll teach me to have ice cream past 10 pm…