Kung Fu Panda

So as you may or may not know -I have been keeping this a secret for a very long time- I didn’t really go to China to explore/discover/travel like I did in Australia. I know everything’s a knock off in China, but I was not gonna copy myself just like that. No no no no, no, China had to be a chapter at it’s own. A one of a kind experience … And that’s how I got enrolled in….

KUNG FU SCHOOL !!!

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Yup you’re looking at a real life Kung Fu Panda here

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(Any relations with Kung Fu Panda 3 hitting theaters at the same time is merely a coincidence)

The panda thing isn’t even a lie. Australia made me fat and since I haven’t got a decent sleep in weeks I’m starting to get panda eyes as well!

So yes, I am currently a residing student at a Martial Arts school 5 hours away (by fast train) from Beijing. I took the train on Tuesday morning and arrived at the school in the afternoon.

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After indulging on a big Panda breakfast of course. Steamed buns at 6am in the morning with my loyal travel partner!

You: “But Evvy, how did you manage to get yourself accepted in that school? You don’t know funk about kung fu?!”

Me: Well, that is correct. My experiences in Kung Fu are very little to none*.

*  I did take a Win Chung class in Melbourne (…) and watched a lot of martial arts movies when I was little, not to forget I was very lethal at playing Street Fighter and Mortal Combat on Super Nintendo.

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Don’t be fooled by this honey badger paws. I am indeed very lethal. Especially after big breakfasts. (pic from when I was indulging (again) in LA november 2014)

Once I started looking into traveling I asked myself a lot of questions: What are your dreams? What have you always wanted to do but couldn’t because of it not being the right time or place? Or because you thought it would never be possible? While I was sitting in my apartment in Antwerp I flashbacked to a moment in time, almost two years ago, where I was lying on my couch one Saturday morning watching Kill Bill volume 2. I was having a bloody good oat meal breakfast while watching a gory massacre in a wedding chapel. When Beatrix arrived to that temple to become a lean, mean, killing machine I wondered: are there any actual schools that train chicks to become really bad ass martial arts…ies?? Eventually I never end up checking that. Until a few months ago. I suddenly realized that was something that had stuck in the back of my head somewhere. At that time I had already made up my mind about going to Australia. So it was merely out of curiosity I went to have a look on the internet. It took me less than a minute to find a martial arts school that lived up to all the expectations I had:

° It was somewhere up in the mountains, so far away from every day life/tourism;

° They had a temple;

° They had awesome monks and masters;

° They offered trainings to everybody from around the world;

° AND: the bottom of the website stated that everybody was welcome, even if you have minor background in martial arts!

At that moment my heart almost jumped right out of my chest.

I didn’t know where to go with my excitement and decided to get in touch with the school, telling them who I am, where I come from and see where it goes from there. Within a couple of hours I got an email back and before I knew it I was finding a way to fitting in a China chapter into the Australia Chapter and throwing in an extra Japan chapter since I thought: if I go to China, I might as well take an extra plane to see Japan as well since I might never get that close again.

So that my friends, is how it all started…

Of course it sounded super spectacular in my head, but when I arrived at that school ….

IT WAS EVEN MORE AWESOME!

Even though I was very doubtful that day. While I was sitting in the shuttle bus that was taking me from the station to the school I thought to myself: this is gonna be some lazy ass thing for tourists, there’s a big chance I’ve been building this up way too much in my head and it probably won’t live up to my expectations and blablabla…

When the bus rolled in to the school yard, there were twenty people sitting on the stairs in front of the main building. They were just hanging, wearing sweat pants, watching ‘the new kid’ arrive. I’m gonna be honest with you it was a little intimidating. I stepped out of the bus and then the embarrassing thing had to happen: I would have to take out all my bags out of the trunk (my very big backpack and hand luggage). These kids probably thought I was staying for at least 2 years. I said hello from a distance but was rescued by the translator -yes we have translators here- who immediately took me up to my room. It’s a very old building and in winters it gets to minus 25 degrees INSIDE. You can wear every piece of clothing you own, attach warm water bottles to your body and still be f*cking freezing. I was lucky I came in Spring. Every day it gets a little hotter than the day before and some trainings are held outside. As we were walking up the stairs (I’m on the third floor, being the highest floor in the building. I already knew then and there I would be cursing those stairs after a day full of training) The white green paint on the walls was peeling off and I suddenly felt back in high school again. Well there was a mix of things it reminded me off: prison, boarding school, a police academy or a dance school. But not the prestigious USA one we all know from FAME, more the very basic Soviet one. As we arrived up to my floor I saw some weapons lying in the hall way, posters of Kung Fu movies hanging on doors and some dry racks where people had put up their exercising gear. We paused at one door. Susan (the translator) handed me over the key and squeezed her almond shaped eyes into perfectly horizontal lines: “This is your room. I will give you a tour of the school later after you unpack your things.”

I entered a room not bigger than 4 by 2. There were three beds so I immediately figured it came with two room mates who weren’t in at the moment. There were also three wardrobes, three desks and three water containers. Since the tap water isn’t suitable for drinking, we have to tap hot water from a hot water dispenser, let it cool off during the night, to have cold drinking water in the morning to drink during the day. I cast the backpack off my back, stretched out and threw myself on the bed to relax for two minutes. Bad idea. There was no mattress in the bed. Just a wooden board with quilts on it. And a pillow. Even sleeping is to be seen as conditioning training…

I decided to go for a little stroll and explore my floor. I found out all floors were mixed as soon as I saw signs stating ‘male toilet’, ‘female toilet’ and ‘male washing room’. The female washing room is all the way down on the ground floor. Yes that means after a day of long, hard training I have to go upstairs to get my towel and toiletries, go downstairs to take a shower, and go upstairs again to close my eyes and sleep. Unless I forgot to fill up my water bottle, which means I have to go all the way back down again to fill that up (since the hot water tap is on the same floor as the female washing room, and I will regret not having water in the morning cause I have to keep hydrated during the day if I don’t want to end up on a hospital bed or worse… D-E-….hydrated. Of course.

Even though all floors are mixed, only men can cohabit with men and only females can cohabit with females. It is FORBIDDEN to sleep together or get too physical with each other. A hug during training isn’t the same as a hug after hours. Boys are not allowed to walk around bare chested and girls cannot walk around in their sports bra. We can visit each other’s rooms but not after 9.30 pm otherwise you get the staff. No I’m kidding, but people have been staffed, so I’m told…

Of course any enjoyable physical contact is forbidden. No sex. And no, anal sex is not an exception. Even though that’s not always enjoyable for some people…

After I got my things organized, Susan showed me around the school. I found out there is an old building (where I and most of the students are staying, the head office is also located here), there is a new building where optional classes such as Mandarin, massage, acupuncture and calligraphy and Taoisme is given. There is also a TV but most people just watch movies in their rooms on their laptops. The internet connection is shit. So if you want to stream a movie you must load it hours in advance. You always have to think in advance here: If you want to have drinking water, you have to take care of that at least 8 hours in advance, if you want to see a movie, same thing. I guess that’s what fighting is all about: anticipation.

But Kung Fu is not about fighting. It’s about learning to fight to learn not to fight. Kung Fu warriors are warriors of Peace. They don’t support violence, but will defend themselves fiercely to maintain the peace. That’s why I like martial arts so much. There’s a positive vibe to it, even though you are trained to be a very effective fighting machine.

The day of my arrival I just observed the classes, to get an idea of what I was getting myself into. Obim, a Swedish student, took me under his guard and gave me some insights while we were following the trainings. He was sick that day so couldn’t participate either. He was the first friend I made. After that I made another one and another one and another one, …. by the next day I almost knew everybody of my group and people were even remembering my name! I have never been accepted this easily. When I started playing basketball I had to suffer two years to be where I was now. This time, it took me half a day. I know why though: we are all outkasts here, have all been bullied or have felt unaccepted in life before, and therefor grew a love for geeky stuff like movies, comic books, and martial arts. Everybody gets along really quickly because of that, and it’s nice to meet so many people from all over the world to discover they’re just like you and share the same humor and interests. I love that.

So first day of training….

Before training I was told I had to introduce myself in front of the entire school. I hadn’t really prepared actually, I just decided to go with the flow.
Every morning there is a line up. You have to line up, stand straight and greet the master. I felt in North Korea. My Shifu is master Gao, he’s the Rufio to my Peter Pan since he’s only 23. After greeting, I had to walk forward and tell everybody who I was in 30 seconds.

I decided not to mention I was a journalist back in Belgium ’cause a) I didn’t want them to think I infiltrated the school and b) They probably don’t give a fuck.

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Since it was Wednesday the day started with acrobatics. Apparently that’s a class everybody dreads but I kind of enjoy it. As a kid I was always rolling in the grass doing cart wheels and splits but with age some things don’t go as smooth as they used to. That first training day I suffered a couple of bad landings and hurt my neck over and over again falling on my back. I thought I sucked ass. At the end of the class the Shifu called me over, said some things in Chinese I didn’t understand but luckily Susan was there to translate. That’s what she gets paid for anyway. To give bad dub jobs.

Susan: “The master says you did very well. You have very good body condition and are a very clever student. Keep up that energy for the rest of your stay and you will learn a lot.”

I was humbled by such a compliment. Especially since the Shifu is tough as nails. He’s only 23 but he’s a former Chinese kickboxing Champion and isn’t afraid of using the staff when you don’t perform the way he likes. I managed to survive a whole day of training and even did the optional Xi Quon class. You have to sit or stand 40 minutes in one position while pulling your hands away and towards each other without making your fingertips touch. You have to imagine there’s a magnetic field that is drawing them away and towards each other. After five minutes my shoulders were cramping up and my mind went bazurk*. (*Sorry if this spelling is completely wrong, I don’t have Google to check it!)

My mind going bazurk: “No fucking way I’m holding this up for 40 minutes. This isn’t fucking possible, this is torture! What the hell was I thinking coming to this class after 6 hours of training, … (and so I raged on for a few minutes)”

After ten minutes the pain got even worse.

After 15 minutes I was crying on the inside and telling myself to think only happy thoughts.

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But after twenty minutes it started getting a little better. I couldn’t even feel the pain anymore.

Me: “Okay another 20 minutes left, you’re half way there. Don’t give up. You will deserve your shower and sleep later!”

Five minutes before ending time I was opening my eyes, looking at the coach, wondering when he would tell us to relax our arms, when he finally did I felt like I had just delivered a baby. Body parts felt like they were about to fall off, falling asleep, waking up and hurting even more. I was broken. That night at dinner I couldn’t even hold my chop sticks. I had to use a spoon to scoop my food up. I could comfort myself with the outlook of a 10 hour night’s sleep. On a wooden plank. But I would even have settled with a bed of nails.

When I woke up I felt battered and bruised. My muscles were all cramped up into one giant dumpling. I almost couldn’t get up. Luckily after breakfast I started to feel a little bit more relax. That day of training I kicked some serious ass during sanda, Chinese kickboxing. After that we had massage class and I volunteered to be the test dummy. The massage master (I forgot his name) laid his healing hands on me…. AND HURT ME EVEN MORE. I should have learned my lesson after getting a sports massage back at the Tour De France in 2014. But here I was stepping back into the chamber of torture again. But: it got better after. That’s seems to be an important lesson here: no matter how much you hurt, keep suffering and eventually you won’t even feel it anymore. Better: you will learn to enjoy it! And that’s exactly why I came here. To empower my mind and body. It’s amazing what a little willpower can make you do. Apparently with me: it was taking on another Xi Quon class the next day. And another the day after. Now I can’t live without it. I’m doing a Xi Quon class every day and every day my chi is getting stronger. It feels grrrrreat!

On the third day of training we got ‘Mountain Training’. People had been warning me for this. It is the last suffer point before weekend. I figured I would like it since I walked up so many mountains back in Oz. But this one was a little different… We hiked up to the base of that mountain for a firm 30 minutes to arrive at a beautiful temple.

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We walked up the stairs to discover 400 more steps that would lead to the actual temple inside the mountain. These steps were our training. We were supposed to run up and down as much as we could in about 1,5 hours time. I started running up those steps but not even half way there I had to change my game plan. I decided to power walk up those steps and run down again, have a sip of water and power walk back up again, and so on and so forth until I would eventually turn into stone and wouldn’t be able to move anymore. I decided I would have been happy with 4 ups and downs, but I changed my mind and went for 5. Apparently that wasn’t bad at all. Some people only did 3 on their first time. But I didn’t feel great either. Next time I need to be faster, better stronger, harder.

That night people were hitting the town (we are free to go out of school on weekends) to party but I decided to call it an early night. The next day I went to Mu Ping, a little town a 40 minute bus drive away, took a bunch of my new friends with me and indulged on some fried scorpions. It doesn’t taste that bad. It’s like fried chicken skin.

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Mu Ping market, where I ate a scorpion. I will try to upload the movie I made on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/blondeclueless as soon as possible!

Today, Sunday, I did a little bit of training. I have to nail those 5 steps!! And tomorrow a whole new week of training commences. I will be in a tremendous amount of pain since it will be my first full week of training. But like I said: things will get much better from there.

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Or at least, I hope.

XO

PS: I noticed some people are getting a little worried since they don’t hear as much from me as they used to when I was in Australia and posted 5 Instagram pictures a day. It’s not from a lack of trying, I can tell you. I am just incommunicado here due to the Chinese blocking me from everything social. So for now: I’m doing really good, don’t be worried, I will try to keep in touch and keep putting stuff out there as much as I can.

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.

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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…

The Tasmanian cannibal

“Aaah the glamour girl from Belgium.”

He walked up to me from behind his truck with what only could be discribed as the grin of a male chauvinist pig around his mouth. I looked far from my glamourous self that day. I had just spent two hours on a bus on a Friday afternoon with a bunch of noisy school kids who were traveling home for the weekend. I had 20 kilos strapped to my back, another 7 around my left shoulder and another 5 cutting off the blood stream of my right wrist. My head was surrounded with bits of dry blonde locks, waving around in the wind like radiants around the sun. My face, however, must have looked like a sunny side down. I was knackered. My back broken. I just wanted to call it a night as soon as possible. And it was only 6pm.

“Glamour girl?” I molded my face in a cemented smile while walking up to him. Not giving away I was already kind of offended.

You see, before I got there I was already building myself up.  I was expecting this encounter to be a bit rough at the beginning. So I already prepared myself for some prejudice. I just couldn’t believe that a guy who’s had so man lessons in life, who is all about zen and spirituality, would just judge me that quickly. I mean, isn’t that the first thing they teach you? To NOT judge a book by its cover?

“You are full of judgement already, Helmut? That’s not a very good attitude”, I candidly smiled at him while -seemingly effortless- whipping the bag off my shoulders. It wasn’t effortless, my back was burning with pain!

“Ha-ha”, he laughed strongly. “I was expecting you to have a suitcase on wheels with a big iPad strapped on to it. How man pictures have you put online today? About 7?”

He was right. I had gone a little over my everyday 5 limit… So he looked at my online activities again… He already did this when I was in Melbourne, I discovered. That’s where I received an email from him, asking me to reconsider staying at his place. Since he reckoned it wouldn’t be something for me. I don’t know based on what he made that assumption, but it had something to do with my online presence, that’s a fact. He just thought I was another shallow girl, not worth of his time or effort.

It was about a 20 minute drive from the center of St Mary’s to his place. We drove up a narrow road, very steep and full of rocks. His 4×4 had its work cut out getting up there. It was a bumpy ride too.

“See that patch of stretched land there? That’s where I’m gonna bury you. I got all kinds of helpers burried there. Hahaha.”

I suddenly felt a weird feeling creeping up on me. Could it be that while he was doing a background check on me on the internet, he accidentally find my blog and read it?? The blog where I portrayed him as the cannibal of Tasmania, saying how much I feared he was going to eat my liver for dinner?? Bugger! Maybe I brought him to ideas. Maybe he is going to get really mad at me about the things I wrote and kill me very slowly in his slow cooker…

As we drove up his eternal driveway I realized there was no way in the world I would ever get away from this place by myself. Like if I really needed to, in an emergency situation. Since I was so tired, I accepted my faith there and then. I surrendered. I’ve had some nice views so far. I can go in peace.

Suddenly we climbed up to another piece of stretched land. There were wild wallabies having a picnic on the grass and I recognized the solar panels from the pictures, surrounding his house. Next to it was the caravan. My new home.

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“You will have to share it with an Iranian girl, alright. She’s a backpacker as well and has probably cooked us a nice dinner by now.”

I don’t know what I was more relieved about. That there was another backpacker, still very much alive, or that there was already dinner prepared for that night. Meaning I wouldn’t end up on a plate just yet.

I enteren the caravan to put my things in there first. There were two beds made, cute little colorful drapes on the windows and some cupboards to store my things. To my own surprise, this place looked lovely. And far better than the passenger seat of Pierre’s car I stayed in before. Even better than the hostels I was in. I quickly droppen off my things and followed Helmut to the main house up the hill. He built it himself with the hand of some handy helpers. The place is stunning. From the dinner table you have the most amazing view on the mountains and the ocean. With high windows stretching all the way along the kitchen. This is a million dollar view. And the place smelt amazing. Maryam was in the kitchen preparing chia chocolate cake and some Iranian dish for dinner. She came up to me all smiling. She just arrived 3 days ago and was already feeling very much at home. I don’t know if it’s because she’s Iranian but she very much looks like Kim Kardashian without the plastic surgery and all that. Big brown eyes, narrow nose, full lips. And a great personality to match. I wanted to hate her already. But I couldn’t. She was too sweet! I started asking her all about her travels. She left Iran to backpack through Australia by herself. She has been doing Helpx, crashing on people’s couches hitchhiking her way around,… traveling very low budget and VERY courageous. I mean, I couldn’t just ring up to someone’s house asking them to let me sleep on their couch without being rape that same day. At least not in these short shorts I’m wearing. Good thinking, Ev. Put some clothes on will ya!

She was telling me all about her travels and I was a little overwhelmed. Her aura filled up the room. She oozed confident and was very much in control of her journey, budget and further life goals. I felt like a complete clums compared to her. Turns out she became Instagram famous overnight in her country. Inspiring people to travel in a different way. There I was coming from a country that’s unimpressed with about everything. A country that has seen and done everything before and is not impressed until you travel to Mars or -even better- discover an entirely new planet. An Iranian  magazine even reached out to her to keep a travel diary. And here I am, Mrs Big Newspaper Reporter from Belgium, not even getting a centimeter of writing space in the paper I’ve been working for since 5 years. I mean GEE!

Yes Maryam was very much living my dream. But instead of feeling jealous or annoyed, I found a way to turn  that around. I just thought to myself, well that’s great for Maryam but I have a different approach and that’s what makes my journey unique. Or something like that. But I do like listening to her stories. She has experienced some great rides.

That night we had dinner together, enjoying the lovely view. Helmut started asking all about me and I tried my best to give him a good impression. But he was just…very German.

Me: “So Helmut, I had quite the convincing to do, why were you so hard on me?”

Helmut: “Well I wasn’t looking for a Helpx girl, I was looking for a strong man to help me with the fire wood.”

(…)

Me: “Uhu…And what about Maryam then?”

Helmut: “Well she was different, I reached out to her myself after reading her bio.”

Me: “You reached out to her? …B…b…but why didn’t you do that with me??” (FEELING REALLY SORRY FOR MYSELF HERE)

Helmut: “Because I looked you up on the internet and I usually don’t do this with my Helpx but somehow I did it with you. And I saw this picture of you with this cycling guy (THE Jens Voigt) and I just thought: no way she’s coming up here. She will drive me NUTS! I was trying to send you off with an excuse, that there wasn’t any room and this trip wasn’t for you anyway but you kept insisting coming over. You are very persistent, I got that from the first email you sent me. If I didn’t find out I was the only host you reached out to in Tasmania, then I wouldn’t have let you come over here. But I tracked down your ‘mail outs’ and discovered you only sent one email. To me. So I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. But if I don’t like you, you can scram. I’ve sent other helpers walking before.”

(Long uncomfortable silence)

When I tugged myself in that night, I took a deep breath and went through the day. I said good night to Maryam, put my sleeping mask on, tightened my hoodie and thought to myself: these next days ought to be interesting.

And they were.

To be continued.

XO

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Wanderlost

I got to thinking the other day. I wonder how you people experience my travels… You probably think I’m doing only fun stuff, that every day is a Saturday and that I’m living in a dream bubble that will make me unable to ever fit into everyday society again.

Well I must disappoint you.

I’m not just traveling. I’m struggeling. Hurting. Pushing myself to my limits. Every day.

I’m not taking a gap year to run away from things. I’m taking a personal year to run right into things. Face challenges. Asking reality to punch me in the face.

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You raising your eyebrows: “Well if you’re hurting, then why do we only see happy travel pics on your Instagram Ev?”

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Well, first of all, Instagram is built for these kinds of pics. You just present things in the nicest way possible. It’s fun to play around with it. To build a network. Getting to know other travelers who are as wanderlust as you through breath taking pictures. It’s meant to inspire. It is meant to be liked. If I post a pic of myself, comment ‘bad day, FML, everybody go to hell’. Then who’s gonna paint that little heart in that loving shade of red? ❤

If you want to look behind ‘the scenes’ of colorful Instagram posts and perfect filters. Go check out the blog. That’s where I like to put the genuine emotions into words.

I’ve been clear from the beginning that this is an honest blog about traveling and finding a destination in life. Well, I can inform you that I had a first meltdown. In Melbourne. As you know, I’m traveling alone from now. And it’s not because I’m now flying solo I suddenly hit a low. It was just the first time, after being around a lot of people at the farm and all, I got a chance to realize some stuff. Since there is no one other than me, myself and I to distract me. I’ve realized I’m not only wanderlust. I’m pretty damn wanderlost. I wander this place not knowing where I’m going.

You raising your eyebrows again: “I thought that was kinda the point Evvy?”

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Well yeah, of course, but only now I realize: This is not the right way.

To be honest. I hate these hostels. I hate it has all these people in them. And I hate the posters on the walls promoting these stupid binge drinking cruises. ‘This is your ticket to party and travel!’ I hate this shallow lifestyle and I hate being part of it.

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You adding a sigh (and maybe some alcohol) to those highly raised eyebrows: “Well do you wanna go home??”

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Me: “Hell no!”

I’m glad I’m away. I’d rather feel ‘depressed’ (I’m trying to look for a less heavy loaded word) at the other side of the world, where it’s 40 degrees, rather than sit in that stupid country I call home. But I need to get of the beaten track ASAP! Once you’re in the backpacker scene you kind of get pushed into a direction that expects you to hop from one touristic hotspot to another. But actually, I don’t want this at all. I don’t want to spend heaps of money experiencing mind numbing tours and day trips that thousands, probably even millions of people have done before me just because travel agencies advise it as a ‘Must See’. Remember what happened on the Great Ocean Road? The Great Ocean Let Down is what it was to me. It just doesn’t fulfill me. And it is not the goal of my journey to begin with. I strive to look for meaningful experiences, here. The added value, you know? I see this trip as a way to explore, experience different things in order to find my destination in life. I want to be challenged and I am willing to suffer. I’m shaking so much while I’m typing this since I just traveled all the way to the airport with 30 kilo’s strapped around my body. I could have just taken the tram to the bus station before coming to the airport, but sometimes, I just prefer the hard way. I think it’s all part of the trip. Pushing limits, see how far your mind and body can go. Stepping out of the safe waters and taking a plunge into the unknown.

I’m browsing every street, every corner, looking for something. Anything to feed my soul. I’ve noticed I’ve started looking for schools and stuff. I just really feel the need to learn and develop myself. That’s why I did some martial arts training while in Melbourne. That’s why I reached out to this guy in Tasmania, the so called cannibal who’s going to eat me for dinner. He calls himself a traveler in life. He has had a long one so far -he’s 70 or something- with lots of different directions and he is very much into zen. I just know I can learn so much from this person but I must say I am having some difficulties trying to convince him. Once he found out I was in Melbourne, he sent me an email asking me to reconsider coming over. Since his place is super secluded. And there’s nothing there but trees, mountains and animals – yes, also brown snakes and redbacks. Well, I felt really sad after this email. I am one thousand, one million!, percent sure I want to go there. I am dying to find a place away from these hostels, this busy road, to finally experience something real, and here he is writing me off as some shallow backpacker, who is looking for shallow thrills and nightly hookups. Don’t tell me what’s good or not good for me, the only person who knows what’s good or not good for me is me. I have been living with ME for 27 years. And here you are thinking you only need 27 seconds to pin me down. I’m much more than what meets the eye, mister. I just want to pick your brain.

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That particular meltdown day in Melbourne I sat on my bunk and stared into the big nothingness for a while. When I got up I looked in the mirror and told myself to give us a smile. After all I have nothing to not smile about. While my eyes looked down, they spotted a booklet on the chair. ‘The Answers are Blowing in The Wind’, the cover whispered to me. It belonged to the British girl I’m sharing the room with who wasn’t in at the moment. I thought it was an actual book, so I was triggered to open it, but soon I found out it was some kind of diary. I didn’t mean to read it, but my eye caught a couple of bullet points on what seemed a ‘to do list for 2016’.

* Go to therapy (…)

* Try living by yourself (…)

* Go on a date. Be convinced you are worth of meeting someone and deserve to be loved.

* Eat with your hands without being afraid of germs.

* …

It was only then I saw there were wet anti-bacterial wipes lying next to it…

And it suddenly became more clear to me why she popped pills in the middle of the night. Maybe she’s on some meds to fight against depression or something…

Then it dawned on me. Maybe I’m not the only one who feels a little out of place here. Maybe we are all pretty damn wanderlost. We all carry our backpack on a road that is mostly to be defined while walking it. Life is a journey and it is no shame to be honest about this to yourself. A booklet. Or a blog.

With these comforting thoughts I went outside. And booked myself a boxing class for the next morning. I figured I needed to punch some negativity out of my knuckles before my zen retreat in the Tasmanian mountains. I don’t know when I will meet up with Helmut. But if he doesn’t want me I will knock on his door either way, look him in the eye and convince him that I’m worth his time and effort.

(Please still remember to send a heli over St Mary’s if you don’t hear from me in more than a week. I am still a little worried I might end up on his plate with a nice side of homegrown veggies)

XO

‘The Gleat Ocean Load’

I am delighted to tell you: We’re on The Great Ocean Road !!

This is our route directly leading to Melbourne. So what is the Great Ocean Road exactly? Well, it’s a road….that leads along the ocean…AND IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE GREAT!

I dunno, you’re supposed to see a lot of nice sceneries on the way or something. And according to Cadel Evans, it is THE thing to see when around Melbourne. And who wants to disagree with Cuddles??

So, what do you need?

* A car, evidently;

* A solid play list with some nice road music;

* A camera;

* And maybe stop at a K-Mart for some basic necessities like… err, I dunno, … A SELFIE STICK!

I resisted the hype in Belgium, and now they’re totally uncool I decided to buy one. I just figured it might come in handy to take epic panorama pictures from a higher point of view since I’m not that tall to begin with. They should call it a ‘loner stick’, since it’s the best way to take pictures while traveling solo without constantly having to ask someone to take the picture for you.

So once you have all that, you’re good to hit THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD! (yes, people elevate their voice when they pronounce it, ’cause apparently it’s something to get very very excited about)

So we, my farm buddy Pierre and I, arrived on the GOR coming from Warrnambool. First scenery-stop was Bay of Islands. I stormed my way on the viewing platform, aggressively wielding my selfie stick, not knowing where to begin first. There were nice picture opportunities EVERYWHERE! I must have looked like a fat kid craving sugar, I was all over the place. Click, click, click, click … I LOVE THIS STICK!

After 20 minutes of ‘loner stick’ fun, we continued to The Grotto. Only a couple of hundred meters away. Then another couple of hundred to see the London Bridge, then another to see God knows what.

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The Great Ocean Grotto

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London Bridge

Rocks are nice. I mean, rocks rock! But seeing rocks is very much the same as visiting temples in Asia. At first you’re like :

“OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING, THIS HAS TO BE ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Click click click click. LOOK! THERE! A REAL LIFE MONK! Click click click click. LOOK THERE! TEMPLE BIRDS!! LOOK! TEMPLE BIRDS SITTING ON REAL LIFE MONKS!

– Second one : This is flipping epic! I go could never get tired of this. Give me more, I want more! Click click click click…

– Third: This is so pretty I could dieee. Click click click click click….

-Fourth: So beautiful! Click click click!

-Fifht: Ahh yeah, this one is also nice! Click, click….click

– Sixth: Yeah…Sweet! Click. Cl… (no click)

– Seventh: Click….

– Eighth: (yawn) Yo, you wanna go grab a burger or something?

So yeah, after a while you’re just driving, pulling over, driving, pulling over, driving, pulling over, …. . I don’t know if it was just me, but I wasn’t feeling the rhythm. Mostly I was feeling car sickness.

It wasn’t really the authentic experience I was hoping for. I guess I forgot other people would be there as well. Mostly heaps of Chinese tourists. Once you reach the Twelve Apostles, the high point of the GOR, there are bus loads of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Chinese, I’m going there next but it wasn’t until I would go there I was expecting to be mobbed by them. Bombing every picture I take. They come running wrapped up in blankies, wielding their selfie sticks about even taking pictures with a random seagull (…).

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They even dress up for it…

I guess the Great Ocean Road is to them what the Chinese Wall is to Caucasians. Turns out the GOR really banks on the Asian tourists. With menu cards in Chinese, Chinese toilet instructions, Chinese sightseeing maps and welcoming boards. They even put on traffic signs to remind them that in Australia people drive on the left…

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To be honest, at the end of the day I was glad to be back in The Great Outdoors. Cooking our meal in the back of the car, camping in the wild. The day after we decided to take some alternative routes, do some random hikes and this lead us to some very nice places actually. It was much more fulfilling to me. And we end up seeing the most amazing sunset.

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Guess where I am.

Here’s a traveling tip for you: If there’s no Chinese in sight, you’re doing a good job.

Just remember to really take in the moment. And appreciate life.

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Taking in the moment.

But even do that with Chinese around. Life’s too short to let your panorama be ruined by a negative attitude. So if you want to elongate your stay on this globe and keep enjoying the views. Be positive.

… Or use a loner stick.

XO

BTW: Seeing all those Chinese tourists really made me crave Asian food. This pork belly with jasmine rice was TO DIE FOR. If you’re ever in Lorne, make sure to go to Chopstix. They even make their own fans out of chopsticks! You see how handy sticks can be??

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Drool.

No worries, mate.

Here in Oz people keep saying ‘No worries’, whenever I ask or do something. Like… am I supposed to be worried?? Seriously, is there something you’re not telling me?

Turns out I’m a complete paranoid at times. I guess this happens when you’re a little clueless about certain things. You turn a little sceptic against them. If you don’t know something, you think it’ll turn out a certain way and mostly your brain makes you believe it will turn out bad since -generally- it is programmed to protect you from ….

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And all things you don’t know are to be avoided…

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I think it’s from all the horror stories I hear in the news. On our way to the Grampians we stopped in Tintinara, a place not far from the Victoria border where I met this sweet little old lady owning a shop in the middle of nowhere. I was telling her where I was going.

Sweet little old lady: “Oh The Grampians. That’s a lovely place. You’ll like it. A bit dry for the moment.”

My face froze.

Me: “What do you mean dry? Like FIRE HAZARD?”

I started asking her all these questions about bush blazes. I think I maybe scared her a little… Then I felt bad and bought this ridiculous headband. Well, maybe it turns into a thing. ‘Tintiaras’.

Another horror story I discovered was the kidnapping of two young female backpackers in Salt Creek recently. Only 20K from the farm I stayed at! Apparently the girls hitched a ride from this 59 year old dude. They camped on the way to their destination and this is the part where he digs up a hammer, knocks them down and tries to rape them. One girl got away and ran out of the bushes all bloody. And naked. To be rescued by some fishermen. I mean GEE! Could you imagine?

And here I am going to Tasmania soon to live with a 70 year old guy in the woods for a week. I met him through Helpx, the website where you offer your help in exchange for food and accommodation. Amazing reviews and his place looks like a dream place as well. But if he decides to hammer me down then and there, there won’t be any fishermen out there to save me. Only Tasmanian devils, And I’m pretty sure they’re on his side.

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Am I crazy to go there? Or just crazy thinking he might have written his own reviews and is looking forward to eating my kidneys for dinner while drinking the bottle of Shiraz I brought him as a welcoming gift? I mean why would he point out in his bio he’s a vegetarian, anyway? To put me off track, that’s why!

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But what am I supposed to do? To be honest I’m dreading hostels even more. The last time I shared a room with more than 4 people was in grade school when we went on some forest class. A girl threw up on my brand new gym shoes right after dinner. She then accidentally used MY wash cloth to clean it up… Yeah, I didn’t get great memories from that trip. Later I found out two of my best friends made out with my love interest in the back of the bus. AT THE SAME TIME. We were like 10…

So hostels and bunks, not really a fan. But I did live in a shed for almost a month. And slept in a car for a week. Everything else should seem like an upgrade, right? But I do hear people just have sex while you’re lying in the same room with them. I just can’t be bothered. Make babies in your own god damn time. Or at least rent one of the single rooms. It’s worse enough I had to spend Valentine’s night in the passenger’s seat of a Skoda in a free camp called ‘The Sawpit’ -doesn’t really sound like a place you get out in one piece- with campers all resembling the profile of the famous rapist of Salt Creek…

So yeah, after Melbourne I’ll probably head further down under and go to Tassie (that’s slang for Tasmania). If you don’t hear from me in a week send a helicopter over St Mary’s and look for a vegetarian guy named Helmut having a blonde for dinner.

*** Users warning: Even though all blog posts are 100% true and non-fiction, I do tend to enlarge certain emotions. I have learnt that once you’re on a road, things don’t seem so scary and everything just happens really organically. So NO WORRIES

XO

FYI (since everyone is asking) : No, I’m not homesick yet. I’m just really happy.

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Hiking in the Grampians

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I was only adjusting my cap…

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Home

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Where we cook our road kill, err, road meal.

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About to saddle up for The Great Ocean Road

Camping the Grampians

 I’ve been getting some good comments on the blog, thank you for that. But I am wondering if it lives up to the expectations enough. I mean, maybe I should be putting some useful travel info in here. Places to have a stop, things to see, stuff to avoid, … some useful tips next to my everyday stories and quests. Since this is pretending to be a guide for people who desperately want to travel but don’t know where to start, right? Because they’re too lazy to look into things properly or they just don’t like to prepare too much cause it spoils all the fun. I mean when you watch your favorite tv show, do you want to know in advance how it ends? Then why would you do the same with traveling? Or life in general?

The way I travel is ‘on good fortune’.
I just hitchhike my way from one adventure to the other, basically. Not literally since it almost got two backpackers killed a few days ago in Salt Creek! I mean hitchhiking figuratively speaking. Like surfing someone’s wave for a while to roll from one adventure into the other. I always had the luck of meeting a person to take me on an exciting road, dropping me off at the next intersection where I continue from there.
I guess if you’re just clueless enough, the uni will give you an extra hand. I mean the universe not the university. And it saves you loads of research. Don’t worry you’re using people. You’re not. Lots of backpackies do it and put ads up on Gumtree (it’s a very famous and useful advert website) to find travel companions because a) their basic travel skills aren’t developed enough, b) they feel lonely, or c) because two heads think better than one. Two wallets definitely afford more than one too. Just make sure you don’t cling on to someone for too long, you still have to make your own journey. Not follow someone else’s.

So this national park -The Grampians- where I’m currently at is apparently the mekka for climbers. Didn’t even know that until someone pointed this out on my FB after I checked in..  Errrr I just ended up here on my way to Melbourne. Me and Pierre (my French buddy from the farm) were looking for a free camp (they’re free camping spots for backpackers and they’re awesome!) At least this one is awesome. We arrived and saw two wallabies having a picknick right at our spot. You don’t have to make reservations. You can come and go whenever you feel. And if you’re lucky there are even showers and toilets.
We just came here to get our hikes up and found it through an app called Wikicamp. Gee, Gumtree and Wikicamp you basically know the two tools to make you a real backpacker. Is this a great guide or what??

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We’re not pro campers or anything. We just sleep in the car. I’m writing this while the handbrake is sticking into my spine. I’ve just watched the stars fade out through the windshield and felt inspired to write this while little bugs are flying into my screen, trying to eat all the letters. Yes, I’m typing all this on my phone. It’s bugs galore over here.
There are definitely some snakes out here too.

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And spiders. And the shingleback lizard.

oh my!

This is the one. Funny looking creature. With his stumpy tail, it looks like it has two heads.

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(This is what happens when I can’t sleep…)

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You’ve read a few of my inserts. You’ve seen how my brain works and likes to link certain happenings to certain familiarities. Mostly movie scenes or quotes.

Well in real life my brain also likes to look for connections to make. I believe some things in life don’t just randomly happen. I see connections flying all over the place. Maybe they’re not always there. But I like to believe they are. For instance what are the chances you travel all the way to the other side of the globe to arrive on a farm to find there not only an organizer with all your favorite DVD’s. But also an iPod belting out all of your favorite songs. Songs that defined some serious moments in your life. It almost felt like I had arrived in an alternate universe where I don’t just take a walk Down Under, trying to define my future, but am actually being forced to a trip down memory lane as well. Some of the songs I heard on the farm couldn’t have possibly been there… And yet they were coming out of an iTunes play list. Vomiting them out. Catapulting me back to some defining moments in a not so far away history.

Why did I want to come to Australia, actually? I can think of a couple of reasons, but I only made those up right after Oz crossed my mind. Was it a subconscious thing? To send me to a place where I would look at things from a different perspective? I mean, Australia, the land Down Under, a land of antipodes, … Sounds like THE destination for it…

Sometimes I feel like the universe is playing a trick on me. On all of us, actually. To see if we really see. I think it is constantly putting things in front of our nose. Making things clear to us, making us see connections. Only it’s mostly what happens when you hold a carrot in front of a rabbit’s nose. His eyes won’t see it cause he is too focussed on the surroundings instead of seeing what’s in front of him.

Woow, I got a bit spiritual there, didn’t I?

These forest scents most have gotten to me.

Or probably it’s from all the thinking while hiking. The hikes here sure are beautiful. The Grampians is definitely a must see. Make sure you go all the way up The Pinnacle. It’s quite challenging and for the energetic hikers among us but the top view is spectacular. Also on the way up there you’ll encounter some pretty amazing backgrounds to feed your Instagram…well ahm… feed. Also make sure you see The Canyons and The MacKenzie falls. They’re a beaut.

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En route to the Grampians

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MacKenzie Falls

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Grand Canyon

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The Pinnacle

The day after Pierre and I felt like hiking some more and we went to Cape Bridgewater. It was a 11K hike (return) along the cliffs and coastline eventually leading to a lookout where you can spot a colony of 650 Australian and New Zealand fur seals. You have to take some binoculars with you. Or a big camera lens. And water. And sunscreen. And a rain coat. And a towel. We had all kinds of weather going there, including some harsh showers on the way back. It felt like a mini hail storm. But the walk is very pretty and mostly flat. You can even do it on thongs.

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“Where are the seals, I CAN’T SEE ANY!”

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Cape Bridgewater

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So to answer my initial question: Is this a even a guide? Damn right this is a guide! A guide to show you you don’t need a guide at all. A guide to send you on your way to explore yourself, eventually leaving you with a bit more of a clue of what life is about. What YOUR life is about. Just follow your nose and go with the flow. You’ll be fine. And if you’re not, you will be eventually. Not all things go well or as smooth as you would have hoped.  Just remember something good (or even better) will come along soon. Just keep those beady little eyes open and make sure you don’t miss it.

Always remember to write your own story. Don’t follow chapters others lay out for you. Make it a beautiful story to tell, guys!

XO

PS: Follow my daily adventures on instagram.com/evarielien
Peace!

Farewell farm. Farewell SA.

So I came into this farm, absolutely clueless of what the Australian farm life would be like. And I have to say, the first days I was having some trouble finding my place.

“Okay Ev, your chores today are to: feed the chooks, fill up the horse basins, check the ram’s water in the ram paddock, cut the lawn, feed the sheep using the tractor do some washing of clothes, hang up and bring back in again. And if you have some time left: sweep the stables, tidy up the common room and do some dishes.”

I already told you the first day I found a dead cockatoo in the horse basins. And that the only seemingly fun thing on the list -feeding little woolly chooks- turned into a nightmare because of that rooster attacking me and flying up against my legs and even high up to my face. Well, I didn’t know how to use the lawn mower, forgot the instructions for driving the tractor and spent one full hour trying to figure out how washing machines work Down Under. Apparently you just lift the lid, pour laundry powder in there, put all your clothes randomly in there together and then add some fabric softener. There is no separate thing to put the soap in which would really upset my mom since she works in the quality laundry machine business… Any who. My first two days were disaster and I had to constantly bother Sammy at work asking her how the funk things worked. How do I recognize a ram out of the other sheep anyway? And what in a name is a ram paddock?

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Well two weeks later I’m running over these lands like a pro farmer. Joy riding the tractor, mowing the lawn for hours laughing away like a little toddler on a little machine kart, and not minding that rooster anymore. The moment I walked into that shed fearless, he just stopped attacking me. He must have gotten the memo.

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Also the spiders don’t scare me anymore. Or not as much as they used to. These nasty eight legged buggers aren’t my favorite companions either. But I do regret how I handled some of them. The first few nights in my shed I was feeling all confident with my little can of highly effective bug spray. Spraying every spider, every web, every bug I encountered. Die, fuckers, DIE! One night there was this black spider surfing over my carpet. Apparently it had hitched a ride on the back of a moth navigating it straight into its web through a hole in the carpet. I was spectacularly convinced I had just discovered the flying black spider, a breed not yet to have been discovered in the stretched lands of the South Australian terrains. And since I must have looked like I had seen a ghost -all pale and with my black hoodie tightened firmly around my face- I thought of nothing better than to spray the hell out of that hole hosing the black spider down with heaps of white toxic goo, watching him slowly die… So far for scientists naming the spider after you, Ev!

It wasn’t until the next day I discovered that some spiders are really good at keeping the bad ones out. Then I learnt I must have killed quite a few good ones and it just made me feel sad a little…

I guess not all of them are bad. There is this big ass spider called the huntsman. He is brown, fugly and has these incredibly long hairy legs but apparently he just wants to cuddle and be your friend. I mean, how cute is that? Might not wanna befriend a funnel web spider though. This is the deadliest spider ALIVE. And here I am fearing redbacks and white tails. This funnel web will mess you up pretty badly and guess where it’s at? In Sydney. One of the places I’m going next…

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The huntsman ❤

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The funnel web!!!

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So it’s farewell to the farm life after almost three weeks. And farewell to South Australia in general. Me and backpacker Pierre are gearing up the car as we speak, to head to Melbourne, Victoria. I was already planning to go from Adelaide to Melbourne before I arrived on the farm. When I got here, I shook the hand of a tall French guy with an ever darkening tan, to find out he is going to Melbourne in a few weeks. And he has his own car! We hadn’t only known each other for 1.30 minutes or I already invited myself to tag along. I figured I had another 2 weeks to get to know him and find out if he was a serial killer or not. Turns out he’s -would you ever have guessed?- NOT. And I also learnt he cooks up an amazing chocolate cake. Not that this would be of any use on the road, since we don’t have an oven to take with us, but any guy who enjoys making chocolate cake like he does cannot possibly be a bad apple. So yeah, me and Pierre are off on our little road trip. Leading us past … ahm… some national park which name I keep forgetting and The Great Ocean Road! Woowie! Once we arrive in Melbourne we will go our own separate ways since he’s going to New Zealand and Hawaii and I’m, … well… , still deciding on that actually (big toothy smiley). I must say I have some catching up to do. Only a little over a month left and I still have loads to see here in Australia. It will be a little bit of a rat race with 20 kilos attached to my back. I hope I easily find places to sleep, since I’m not booking any hostels in advance, since I don’t know when I will arrive where, SINCE THE ONLY PREPARATION I HAD WAS WATCHING ‘THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER’ IN THE PLANE.

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So yeah, pretty exciting! (big toothy smileys all over)

Will miss the farm. Sammy’s great food. Nick’s passionate talks about bees and beer. Bread day (on Thursdays Sam would bring heaps of free bread from the bakery), My Kitchen Rules. And the hot butcher next door. Maybe I’ll come back for him when he’s matured -he’s only 23! Can’t say when he has grown a beard since he has a magnificent one growing on his gorgeous face already.

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“What’s that Pierre? You’re ready to hit the Great Ocean Road? I hear ya buddy!”

Good bye everyone, take care! And Sammy, every time I look at my toe nails I will think of you. I promise!

XO

Here’s a little photo album:

*That time Sammy and I went to pet some hairy pigs…

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That look you give the owner when you ask him if they have sharp teeth. TURNS OUT THEY DO!!!1455238252130

  • Sam and I used to text. Even if we were only 10 meters away.

(Funny how she completely ignored this final text where I got myself electrocuted and bumped my head against the stable door. Farm life as usual! )

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The chooks …And the fugly rooster.

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Boys stuff (FYI this is not a meth lab)

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Girls stuff

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Nightly visits

I like to drink as much water as I can here on the ‘station’. (It’s not really a station, were not in the outback and we don’t have black fleshy Angus dotting the fields stretching thousands of square kilometers in area) and every time before I go to bed I make sure I empty my bladder. You better make sure you do since the nearest toilet is 50 meters away. I lied, the nearest toilet is 25 meters away but that’s the outside shitter and unless you want to get bitten by god knows what you don’t go there at night time. Sammy did it once. She was sitting on the outside toilet when all of a sudden a black snake decided to wring herself in between her feet to come say hi. They’re drama seekers.

So every time before I go to bed I make sure I go. But every night between 2 and 3 I wake up desperately needing to pee. At first I just lie there for five minutes trying to decide if I could hold it in. In my brain it’s like my mind and bladder are flipping coins. If the mind wins, I stay in bed until the clicking sound of this not further specified little insect that’s eating the carpet cradles me back to sleep. If the bladder wins, I collect all my courage and my flash light to face the night. A good 14 nights have I spent here and only one time has the mind won. So practically every bloody time I have to collect all my courage to get up at night and empty my bladder. Tonight was another night like this. I had woken up between two and three and heard the carpet eater was at it again. Feasting on the rug with his tiny but microscopically enlarged undoubtedly grose grinder mouth with like a million little teeth. Only milliseconds later to discover I had to pee really bad. At first I sighed. Then I knocked over every bloody thing on my night stand because I was searching for the light switch with my big flat uncoordinated hand. Once I had found it, I switched it on and immediately scared away because of the light hitting the corrugated wall, projecting insecty shadows on it that were mostly just part of my imagination.

… Ahm no… They’re not. There are two cockroaches sitting right there. *SPRAY!*

I grab my flash light, wiggle my foot in some thongs while wearing socks, give the surrounding area an inspection and then open the door that leads to the common room. I’m always more at ease when Trina, Jessie’s dog, is lying at my doorstep. But tonight she must have been sleeping in Jessie’s room. I walk towards the outside door, lighting up the floor to see where I’m going, take a deep breath and open the door. I must emphasize this is an every night routine. Before I leave the common room I make sure I use my flash light to glide over the ground and surrounding landscapes first before putting one foot out there. The coast seems clear. I walk my way down the path that leads to Sammy and Nick’s house. I try not to walk on the grass, since you never know what’s hiding in there and ready to jump at you. I’m hugging shadows at this point. My flash light is this small pocket version that doesn’t light up very much. It’s more something to reassure me on my way down there because otherwise I would be as blind as a mole. What I fear most on my way to the toilet is the brown snake. From what I remember from the wildlife park they are fast, aggressive and fatal. And Noah had it happen to him already that he encountered one right on this path during a nightly visit to the toilet. Apparently it was still a baby one so it got scared and rushed off into the grass. But this was 2 years ago so it’s probably a pretty mature snake by now. Not that they get like colossal or anything. They probably end up getting not longer than 6 foot. And they’re quite slender as well. You can easily mistake them for a long twig or hose lying around. Until it jumps on you and latches onto you with its fangs. Apparently a (superficial) graze of one fang is enough to inject a lethal dose of poison into you. A lady had it happened to her, this was in the news recently: she was sitting outside when a brownie came up to her to bite her in the ankle. She didn’t really feel it (she must have had really thick ankles) But she started to feel rather iffy after she had felt ‘something’ sting her foot. When she went to the doctor’s they were looking for a prominent vampire bite mark but they didn’t find any on her so she couldn’t have possibly been bitten by a brown snake. They thought… They sent her back home (!) stating she had just suffered a little heart problem, NOT giving her the antivenom. A couple of hours later the venom had spread through her body, leaving her hands and face all black. The venom messes with your lymph nodes.  

She survived but she won’t return to her usual self for years to come. These thoughts flash through my head whenever my precious body parts leave the shed to go to the bathroom. I had reached the backdoor and quickly went inside. Thank god, we survived the first round; half way there. I lift the seat to make sure there aren’t redbacks hiding underneath before I plant my white bikini bottom defined bum on there to do my thing. I pull my pants up, wash my hands, look in the mirror (note to self: never look in the mirror, every night you look the same with your face all red from a) the hoodie that is strapped too tight around your head and b) for getting sunburn on top of sunburn.) I grab my flash light, navigate myself to the outside door, take a deep breath, open it and step outside. I haven’t had set one foot outside or I am startled by this hissing sound. At first I just want to pretend I didn’t hear it but it’s too present to ignore. Fuck, this must be the matured brown snake. I must have woken it up!! Noah said it has been hiding out in the compost hoop and brown snakes get very territorial. I must have been trespassing on his turf! Stirring him up! I seek for a moving hose or twig with my ever so small flash light, desperately needing some reference point on where this snake is since the hissing is becoming more apparent and close by. I shine irregularly when all of a sudden I see these big piercing eyes gazing at me. AAH! …. I jump up one meter. Cheshire! That bloody cat from Jessie’s was just sitting there, not hissing, but having a laugh at me the entire time. She jumps away in the darkness, blissfully unaware of what death lurks in there. God damnit. I quickly tip toe back to the common room, sticking to the path, and get in as quickly as possible. My heart pounding like crazy. Already now my heart is racing, I can’t believe how I would ever keep calm after suffering a poisonous snake bite. Since an elevated heart rate spreads the poison faster through your blood. Making you die even quicker. Mother Nature is brutal Down Under.

I run in my room and quickly jump on the bed, wrapping myself in my safe covers -well right after checking no other animal got in there with me- to switch off the light and cover my eyes with my hands. My heart rate slows down. The clicking sound of the carpet eater cradles me to sleep. I feel myself slip away into a soft buttery sleep when I hear a thunder roll in my stomach, echoing in the room. Sammy’s pumpkin risotto apparently didn’t fill me up like it should have and suddenly I start craving one of the cookies in the big white box on top of the kitchen cabinet in the common room. Sigh. Same routine again. Ruining night stand, switching on light, wiggling toes in thongs and inspecting surroundings with my flash light. 2 minutes, one cookie and a glass of milk later I’m back rolled up in my bed cover. Feeling courageous and content. All my needs fulfilled. All… (yawn!)…my needs… fulfilled… .

(I wrote this last night between 2.30 and 4 am)

XO