The self ridiculing act of nomad bashing

Hi all!

You: “Errr…?”

Me: “Ahm… what? Do I have something on my face?”

You: “Why do you start your blog entry with an hello? Usually you just talk away. About your life. Or god forbid… your sex life. Ugh.”

Me: Well today I would like to change things up. And maybe start a dialogue…”

I can’t help but feeling there is a little bit of underlying tension going on these days. Not between you and me, per se. But more frequently I discover some kind of mockery against nomads, backpackers and everybody who chooses the great outdoors to gain some personal perspective.

Since this blog is called ‘backpackersguide…blablabla’ I feel I need to take a stand and address the non captivated/exploited, happy-go-lucky elephant in the room. And try to analyze what’s going on.

There are two obvious camps here:

* People who are drawn by adventure, who temporarily run away from obligations to live in the here and now and diss on people who rot away in their comfort zones.

* People who steer away from adventure and diss on the people who recklessly throw away all securities and comfort zones in the idle hope they will find all life’s answers by swimming with sharks, taking a selfie on top of Machu Picchu or eating a fried scorpion at some random Chinese farmer’s market.

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(I plead guilty)

Well, let’s just settle this friendly battle here and now, why won’t we.

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Let’s draw a little background sketch. We (20-30 year olds) are the generation that’s been handed too many choices. Our parents were children of parents who had survived the war. They had a harsh upbringing. In a bid to turn things around they decided a different approach for their own offspring. The velvet glove. Let’s just be motivational towards our kids. Let them become whatever they want to become. Let’s bring them up with a sense of freedom. Some analysts would say this prevented some serious quakes on the puberty scale. Why would we start a riot if everything is allowed and negotiable? It didn’t eliminate it; it just postponed it. To a much more difficult timing later on.

Enter the quarter life crisis.

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I am…. (feel free to pick one for yourself)

a) who my parents made me to be (=realist, acceptance, no crisis here)
b) everything opposite my parents made me to be (=the rebel)
c) better than everyone (=the jerk)
d) a loser (=negative thinker)
e) Egon Ewin Kisch (=dead)

Of course the problem is not good or bad parenting. The initial problem is still the fact that there are too many choices. And the fact they eventually lead to choice stress. The way we react to that would enable some older generations to call us: spoiled narcissistic brats with no sense of reality.

But it’s just hard these days to really say:

Screenshot from I Want It That Way

We pick a road but from the minute the scenery doesn’t appeal to us any more, we bail and try another road. Because we can. Because we should. And because we want to. Or think we want to. Because -actually- we really don’t know. We just assume. Because -let’s face it- there’s too much choice.

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So what seems to be a choice a lot of youngsters take these days? Right, the high road.

Due to the pressure of (social) media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, …) and the ad hoc commercial strategy of the travel industry using internet cookies and tailor made stalker advertisements to their power it looks like the only evident way to get rid of your stress is to step on a plane and travel to a galaxy far far away.  noseviaja

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Where else are you going to get the opportunity to do a shallow water scarf dance?

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Get the most out of your opposable thumbs?

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Or cosy up to a complete stranger?

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Woops, this one is not supposed to be in here

Of course not everyone dares to take the high road. Because they

  • are scared
  • financially in a pickle
  • scared
  • scared
  • scared

The list with reasons is endless.

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So some of them -in fact- rot away in their comfort zones. And forever regret not making exciting life choices. Walking around like little time bombs. Others find a way to get over/around it and end up appreciating what they got and eventually lose the need to jump from one continent to another.

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“I don’t need to go to Asia to solve my life problems, thank you”, someone slingshotted at me recently.

That’s fair. If you really mean it. That means you’re much more likely to solve your problems one on one. Or maybe don’t have any problems to begin with.
… For now. Let’s just see what midlife brings.

I can’t help but feeling when people say it like that, they take the diss out of people who do need it. It has become a phenomenon to ridicule the act of traveling the globe to get to know oneself. I call it nomad bashing. Backpacker bullying. Globetrotter battering. Wanderlust shaming.

Well, don’t blame us for having a sense of curiosity.

… Or for having better stories than you.

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In reality those people are just shifting the blame, changing the conversation, greatly hoping one day a scientist with a PhD will stand up and tell them:

‘You were right, you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world. It’s not going to help you. I have the proof!’

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So the bullies can go on and say: ‘Told you so’

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I don’t know

Our stories could be the closest you’ll get to a little adventure.

Too bad you don’t see it that way.

It must be hard living a life with bad eye sight, no cojones and a synthetic identity.

It might just be you are trying a little too hard to conform to a closed system, pushing a synthetic identity onto yourself which enables you to avoid looking if the chosen identity matches your own deeper wishes and competences. You choose to be unsupportive towards other ideas to protect yourself against potential doubt about the irreversible road you took.

So, who’s dealing with the real crisis here, Sherlock?

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Not to be worried though.

“A crisis is no such thing as an inevitable disaster, but must be seen as a necessary turning point, a critical time when the development in one way or another should continue and opportunities for growth, recovery and further differentiation will be mobilized.

An identity crisis, like any crisis, is an initially negative perception of emotional experience, but mostly an inevitable obstacle to achieve further development.

In that turbulent phase lies ample opportunity for growth.”
(Erik Erikson)

“Real winners are those who dare to lose everything” * 
(Evelien Delgouffe)

I hear the Maldives are on sale.

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Great travel agency by the way. It’s the one I used for my awesome adventure. If you want to I can tell you ALL about it some time.

XO

* (Not to be taken literally by heavy gamblers with debts the size of the Grand Canyon.)

… Although I do hear the Canyon looks great this time of year.

Grand Canyon National Park

Less hating. More hiking.

Safe travels!

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XO

 

Korsakov

picture-2016-09-07-om-11-36-12Korsakoff’s syndrome , also known as Korsakoff’s disease, is a persistent memory disorder which is primarily caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, usually due to too little varied food by chronic alcohol abuse . It is characterized by disorientation, especially in time , disorders, in particular short-term memory and confabulation.

In layman’s terms: The severe memory loss you develop when overindulging on alcohol.

The time has come you guys. Ever since I came back from my travels I’ve been going home every night smelling of stale beer and sweat. Dazed and confused.

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Tired. Falling asleep on my couch watching Comedy Central. Or worse: Spike TV.

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I’ve hit rock bottom alright.

I spend most of my days in the bar.

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You: “Gee Evvy how did it come this far? I never considered you to be an alcoholic.”

Me: “Me? Oh I don’t drink. I just stick to water, coffee, ginger juice and brownies. Plain brownies. Not the ones Martha Stewart baked in prison.”

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You: “But I don’t get it, then why do you say you go home smelling of beer? All dazed and confused?”

Me: “Because I work in a bar dummy. You’re currently looking at the new barmaid of Korsakov. The coolest -and most ‘colorful’- bar in town. It attracts some interesting specimens I can tell you that. And ‘men’ in general.”

Owner: “Gee, ever since I hired you the café is filled with guys. It’s like they’ve never seen a female bartender before.”

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First barmaid in history. All rights reserved.

It’s like that time when Buffy left Sunnydale to live in that shitty apartment, making ends meet by working as a waitress and changing her name into Anne!

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“I have to write this down”

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(Guys acting like they’ve never seen a female bar tender before)

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Ooh, that’s a strong look. Maybe I should try it out today.

Relax. It’s all temporary. And it’s all for a good cause.

You: “Oh you’re donating your earnings to charity?”

Me: “Err, no. I’m saving up for a new challenge.”

You: “A boob job???”

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Me: “No perv, my tits are fine. I did the pencil test…”saggy-boobs

Although it is a great idea for my tip jar…

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No, I’m very comfortable in my skin and feel very blessed to be walking around in this goddess body Mother Nature bestowed on me. And it’s nice to see I am still very much in control of my mind and bodily functions.

…Which is more than I can say for some of the customers.

Weird dude: “Hey Anne could you pour me another Duvel. It’s only my sixth one today.”

Me: “My name is Evelien.”

“And its only 11.30 am…”

Weird dude: “Well I’ve been awake for almost six hours. I went to bed at 4.30 and got up at 6. It’s okay I usually drink 18 Duvels a day.”

Meliver

Weird dude: “So you’re still in school?”

Me: “Err; no.”

Weird dude: “Then why do you work here? “

Me: “Because I want to.”

Weird dude: “Waw, you’re weird.”

I just got called weird by the weirdest guy on this planet :

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Weird dude: “What’s your name again?”

Me: (…)

Korsakoff’s syndrome. Told ya.

You: “Well the weird guy does have a point there, Ev. Why do you work there? You got excellent qualifications, you graduated with distinction, your IQ is above average, one year ago you were the perfect ivory to will.i.am’s ebony…

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…Not to be rude or anything but you can do way better than this.”

Me: “Look, don’t feel bad for me guys, I choose to work here. It keeps me grounded. It pays the bills and it gives me time to gain some perspective, look at things from a different point of view, put my priorities in order and think of all the things I want to achieve before I’m 30 and after. I’m coming up for air. And it’s actually working out really well for me.

I’ve been feeling super energized. For the first time in a long time I feel like I can finally breathe again. I’m not on my case anymore. I’m working, making money, contributing to society. And I’ve actually been creating a lot of cool stuff.

You: “So tell us about that new challenge you’re saving up for?”

Me: “Well it’s still a secret but I can say it’s a physical challenge. But my body is far from fit yet.”

You: “You finally realized you belong in the porn industry?”

Me: “Yuk no! Why has this always have to be about S-E-X??”

You: “Slaying vampires?”

Me: “I wish! Been wanting to do that since I was 10.”

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You: “Oh I know! You’re going back to China?”

Me: “Unfortunately no, even though I dream about my Shifu commanding me to do Russian push ups every night…<3”

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The first ever original pic of my Shifu on the blog. His Chi is mostly in his hair.

He would so much enjoy using that staff to punish drunken customers. Not that I dislike alcohol or people how drink or anything.

I do -very rarely- enjoy a shot of tequila after a hard shift. With a side of …. UH OH

LEMON!

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But I do steer away from the alcohol demon as much as I can. I’ve seen what it does to people. And it’s not pretty.

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And of course Beyoncé is so drunk in love she can’t even spell right.

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Or remember she took a shit in the kitchen.

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What I’ve realized over my short career of bartending, is that there’s always a reason to drink. Some drink to celebrate. Some drink to make something happen. Others -and they’re quite the majority unfortunately- drink to forget.

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 To forget their dad abandoned them when they were a kid. To forget their girlfriend left them for some other dude. To forget they have financial trouble. A dead end job. To forget the prison they’re living in.

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And who can blame them? It is tempting to lighten the burden with bourbon.

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But reality is: life has got us all by the throat. Everybody is looking for their cup of happiness. But maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to find if we wouldn’t raise the bar on ourselves that much.

It’s like in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. We go looking for the perfect cup. With emeralds and gold, …. the whole shebang. But it’s the simplest cup which carries the purest happiness.

My glass is filled to the rim these days. With my own (non alcoholic) brew. Now, it’s only a first draft so things can still curdle, but I discovered the perfect way to perfect acceptance and happiness is to sometimes just stand still. Nakedly exposed, for everyone to take a good look at you. And you allowing them. Without fear of failure.

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I’ve realized: If you want to succeed in life, you shouldn’t be afraid to fail.

Not being scared to occasionally fall on your face is the way to put life check mate.

Life is a game of chess, I’ve said it before. And I will say it again.

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There’s nothing wrong with standing still or even taking a few steps back if it helps you to jump further in the long run.

For now, I decided for myself: I don’t have to be achieving 24/7.

I choose to underachieve.

And it feels great. Incredibly liberating even! It definitely beats trying to be someone you’re not or desperately achieving someone else’s crazy high standards and feeling miserable over it.

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Hi, I’m a temporary voluntary underachiever.

Nobody is perfect and still we demand ourselves to be a perfect 10 every day. In order to be acknowledged. By ourselves. And by our surroundings. To be something other than just a brick in the wall. A plant. Or maybe a pretty flower.

Well in order to become that. To rise above your feeding ground. You have to let the seed grow. And all that requires is three basic ingredients. Air. Patience. And water*.

*Nope, sorry, no alcohol.

And for what it’s worth. This is a quote I found on the toilet wall in the bar:

“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, then it never was.”

If this doesn’t sober you up for the better, I don’t know what will.

Cheers!

ron-burgundy-l-6enrck

XO

KABLEWY! Blonde/Clueless has it’s own business cards! What do you think guys? Isn’t this kick you in the nuts damn right fantastic?!

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chrispratt

🙂

Fire

(! Caution: this read could cause altitude sickness. And could contain traces of drugs, nuts and nudity.)

I touch the fire and it freezes me.
I look into it and it’s black. 

Why can’t I feel?
My skin should crack and peel.
I want the fire back.

(-Once More, with Feeling
episode 7, season 6, 
Buffy the Vampire Slayer-)

People: “How do you do it? I’m already working my 6th consecutive Sunday in order to pay my bills. Damn girl, you’re living the life. How silly are we.”

People: “So you’ve traveled half the globe, went directly to the Tour de France and are now living the bohemian life in Ibiza. What’s next on the agenda, Ev?”

Me: “Worrying. Potentially with the outlook of living in a box for a while.”
People: “Sure. Since you live such a hard life party . LOL”.

Reality catches up on you like an FBI agent wanting you to comply to the rules everybody has to comply to.

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And it seems it’s time to go back to every day life.

That cruel, pitiless place that is nothing like the colorful sketch we see in romantic comedies or read about in novels.

It looks like I will stay in Antwerp for some time to come, to recalculate and find a temporary job to pass time. And top up my finances. (Since tax payers don’t pay for sabbaticals anymore.)

Money makes the world go round. And makes me go around that world. And since I’m not a gay dancer receiving 500 euro tips from Arabic bobos in Ibiza night clubs, I have to find a real job and walk the line for a while. The production line.

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It didn’t help splurging all my ‘Tour de France’ money in Ibiza. But that’s all part of living in the moment and leaving the worrying for after.

Err…Yeah, I didn’t really succeed in doing that last part either.

The idea sounds simple. Just living in the moment, sand between my toes, sun bathing, shutting down the hard drive, recharging the batteries, hakuna matata.

But, the truth is, I have always been a terrible in the moment liver…

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Due to some serious binge-traveling I knew I would be left with a financial and possibly emotional hangover. It was immanent. The thought was everywhere I went. While I was standing on the dance floor. While I was sitting on the back of the scooter clinging on to my best friend Cedric like grabbing on to life. While I was lying on the beach… Everywhere I looked I saw people enjoying a hard earned holiday. When I flew over me, I saw escapism. Topless escapism.

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Somebody who escaped everyday life in order to live in a dream bubble for a while -with unsupported breasts!- but soon that bubble would explode like Cinderella’s carriage that would turn back into an ugly pumpkin. And she would be left in the gutter. With one shoe. And saggy tits.

My head was under attack with these thoughts. At first I thought I was just PMS-ing.

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But it was something much worse.

I got hit by melancholy.

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Wiki: Melancholy or nostalgia is a state of mind that tends towards depression and is characterized by a sad look on the past or an unfulfilled desire.

Somebody else puts it this way:

I think the eternal melancholy of grown ups is: the desire for deep tenderness. Tenderness that goes so deep there is no worldly problem that can come between that. Giving everything. Receiving everything. Always receiving. It sounds immature but I think the base of melancholy is the lack of maturity. The desire for eternal protection.”

(Goosebumps, ammiright?)

It’s about 15 years ago I first came in contact with the word ‘melancholy’. (…) During an episode of Dawson’s Creek.

1997 The cast of "Dawson's Creek." From left to right: Katie Holmes (Joey Potter), James Van Der Bee

I was too busy with the superficial love story and was just waiting for Joey and Pacey to finally kiss that I didn’t really give a lot of attention to Dawson’s obvious teenage depression. I just thought he was a big nag really.

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Only now: it seems I’ve come down with the Dawson syndrome myself. THE WORST PMS EVER!

According to the internet:
Melancholic
people are emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic introverts.

No shit! I am emotionally sensitive and a big time perfectionist. Otherwise I wouldn’t have given up ‘the perfect job’, ‘the perfect relationship’ for some more meaningful life I know is just out there somewhere.
Reality is my biggest (fr)enemy. I want my dreams to be reality. But reality doesn’t domesticate that easy. And the introvert part? Well I don’t like people that much so I live in my own head a lot. Thinking, dreaming, worrying, … Worry if I will ever make it in this life. If I will find a balance between providing for a future while not forgetting to live and breathe and enjoy the ride.

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You: “Then why didn’t you just stay a newspaper journalist with a stable life and a fix income. Do you know how much people would kill to be what you were?”

Well I couldn’t.
Exactly one year ago, Angelo started a fire in me.

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Deep in the Slovenian woods he taught me there is more to life than working your head off, paying bills and being a slave to society. “If you don’t like where you’re at in life, change the decor. If you don’t like the road that’s laid out for you, pave your own. If you don’t like the future that’s ahead of you. Draw a new one. The secret of leading a rich life is to let go. And find wealth in less.”

I was spoilt to land a job like that at such a young age. My golden ticket was handed to me, just like that. But I felt I was achieving for someone else. I was not living for me. So I went to confront, challenge and comfort myself. Comfort myself with the thought I stayed true to my gut. And dared to be me. Free. Instead of trying to be someone I was not. Caged.

But that morning in Ibiza. I was mourning.

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The fire Angelo ignited was slowly dying. Like somebody took a piss on it.

It was only later I discovered the new moon had poisoned me…

You: ??

Apparently there was a new moon rising. And apparently ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, ets.) take control during a new moon. New moon night is a golden opportunity for the ghosts to cause distress to man. It’s only since meeting Helmut in Tasmania and studying some Chinese philosophy in China I started to pay attention to the moon. And it being a carrier of human emotions.

My thoughts churning: “I’m alone. Alone with my responsibilities. And I’m tired. I’ve traveled so far. I have gained. And I have lost. Was it all worth it? I would love to be carried on a meandering river. Like baby Moses. Knowing I will reach a destination. Instead of taking this thorny road*.”

* Remembering a passage in ‘The Art of Learning’, a book I was reading, by Josh Waitzkin:

“To walk a thorny road, we may cover its every inch with leather. Or we can make sandals.”  (Indian parable)
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Make sandals. Got it. 

Some people admire me for making the decision. Throwing away securities to dig deeper, find a deeper meaning, savoring life to the fullest.

But that morning in bed, I couldn’t help but ask myself:

Is it nobel to live according to your ideals? Or is it just dumb, self-destructive and naive?

Is this the time I wake up, lose my innocence and change into the pessimist everybody else has already become?

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I mean how stubborn can you keep holding on to something?

I just wanted to crawl into a big sweater. One that fits my knees, curl up and whisper: “Life be gentle on me. Don’t drown me. In regret, financial debt or other heart ache. Life be gentle on me. Don’t drown me. In regret, financial debt or other heart ache. Life be gentle on me. Don’t …”

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Argentinian summer love*: “Hey Ev, wanna watch the meteor shower tonight?”
(*For those who don’t know, I had an Argentinian summer love in Ibiza. See previous post!)

Me: “M…meteor shower? Yeah, sounds great.”

“…Do I have to wear a bra?”

Argentinian summer love: “Err..no…”

That night at dinner, I turned to the Argentinian for a piece of advice. Since he studied Psychology.

Yes…:

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And sexually…

Anyway.

He’s a big realist. The opposite of the big dreamy drama queen I can be. And a Fire sign. Exactly what I needed.

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To him, life is just life. You don’t have to have it together always. You just have to always live. (…) And if you fail to do so, take some drugs, it will lift your spirits right up and get rid of your anxiety.

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Me: “Err, that’s not really my cup of tea. I mean, I thought about taking a pill in Ibiza, like that Mike Posner song suggests, but I changed my mind. I don’t do drugs. I’ll just stick to this bottle of wine.”

Argentinian: “Alcohol is potentially the worst drug out there. It’s just because it’s accepted and drugs aren’t that people think it’s okay. Coke is a natural plant. In the 19th century cocaine was to be considered a panacea for everything from headaches to indigestion to aches and pains. For instance, it helps against altitude sickness. I chewed some coca leaves while I was climbing Machu Picchu.”

Me: “Uhu.”

Argentinian: “A lot of brilliant scientist and geniuses established their best work under the influence of drugs. Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was an avid cocaine fan. The guy who discovered the double helix structure of DNA was under influence of LSD. Same goes for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and The Beatles.”

“You think you’re healthy cause you don’t take drugs? There are enough bad chemicals in food and pharmacies. Society has each and every one of us medicated and drugged. And it’s often worse than we think. Relax, I’m not saying we should all shoot heroin.”

Me thinking: “I’d rather have you shoot me with your loaded gun.”

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Argentinian: “I’ve seen you worrying. You’re absent. You live in your mind too much. Let me just tell you: the future is not here yet. No matter what you choose, there are no bad choices. Whether you choose to leave or stay, it is going to be good.”

Me: “Okay cut the psychobabble bullshit, Freud. Let’s watch the stars and touch each other!”

I don’t know if it was the wine or the meteor chemistry above our heads but I was slowly starting to come… alive again. One scooter ride later we were on the roof of our Spanish hacienda. It was pitch dark. Only the sky was lit in an emerald glow and every 5 meters street lights were stitching the sky deck to the earth. While the bright celestial fire balls were bravely sliding down the atmosphere, something changed inside me. I felt a flow. -No, not my period.- I was feng shui-ing again. The bad demons of the new moon had left the building and I was released from evil spirits. (…) And pants.

That night on the roof, …

I got the fire back.

XO

People: “Gee Ev, you talk so openly about your intimate… thoughts. Aren’t you ever embarrassed to show yourself this naked? Or afraid of what your parents might say?”

Me: “Err no, my parents raised me this way and I don’t take myself seriously. At all. I am a free spirit. I’m breaking down my barriers, releasing my inhibitions. And spreading the word of self-love, self-development, self-reflection and self-deprecation.

 

 

When life gives you lemons…

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be creative.

 

Same goes for watermelons.

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Let’s just all embrace our blonde/cluelessness together! 

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Peace out.

 

Se7en

Following my latest blog post, I started thinking about relationships. And why we’re in them.

Not only is a vast majority of people I know reproducing, …

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… there are also couples breaking up before my eyes. Good friends of mine who turn to me for relationship advice and who are just battered and bruised from the process of desperately trying to stay together.

Hence the question: Why are we in relationships?

We get brought up with the idea we’re half a coin. A Yin without a Yang. Someday you have to find someone, your missing puzzle piece. This idea is forced upon us by media, advertising, religion, parents, …It is such an obvious thing that we forget to ask ourselves: Why?

Aren’t we all complete persons already? And isn’t it possible that having a +1 could potentially devaluate our coin? You could be a gold medal trading it in for silver or bronze. Or tin.

Why are people so scared of ending up alone?

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I haven’t been in a relationship for two years now. Only recently I feel like I am ready to potentially start a new one. I had my time to catch up with myself, put my own needs up front for a while, and now I feel I’m ready to walk the road with someone next to me. But I’m not forcing anything. The right relationship will come around when the time is right.

And that’s what some people just don’t have the patience for.

I feel like a lot of people settle just to settle.

1. For some it’s the outlook of unlimited sex.

2. For others the warranty of reproduction. Caused by unlimited sex.

3. For others it’s a sense of security/safety because they’re scared of being alone.

Usually things go well for a certain amount of time, but when that relationship comes under siege, it’s very hard to keep the ship afloat.

shipcan'tsink

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I have a friend who’s holding on to the cracks in her boat in order to keep the water out. She’s putting in all her effort and energy eventhough she knows the ship is going to sink. And the orchestra is already playing their final tune.

Then there is another friend who’s married and has kids. Her husband also has a second girlfriend. She knows, and he has promised to leave the other woman many times, but he still hasn’t, and they just stay together for the sake of staying together.

When it comes to relationships, is it sensible to bend not break? Or should we just stay true to ourselves and take the high road?

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In my opinion there are 4 distinct types of relationships:

1. the full on romantic relationship (this one is all about soulmates and true love and is very rare to be seen in real life),

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2. transitioning relationship (band-aids to heal from a previous ‘full on romantic relationship’, aka ‘rebound’. Usually one focusses only on physical characteristics and compatibility and refuses to build a deeper connection with the person),

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3. the forced relationship (forced onto people by family, environment, themselves),

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4. the professional agreement (love is replaced by money and the relationship is merely a status symbol)

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For me, option 1 is always the goal. I would really love to find that one true puzzle piece. To fall madly in love, to share the rest of my life with one person. But is that thought realistic? Maybe love is a losing game and we should all stop believing in fairy tales.

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The older I get, I can’t help but thinking true love is something that died with Shakespeare. Monogamy is a hoax and ‘Till death do us part’ is just a metaphor for : ‘When I found someone better and leave you behind’.

Even the best things get boring after a while.

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Why do we try so hard to ignore the equation if we already know the outcome?

Roses die.

You either make potpourri and appreciate it for the little scent it spreads or you throw them out and get fresh ones every once and a while.

Your loyalty towards someone changes when your needs change. And in that opinion we are living in a time where everything and everyone is easily replaced.

For instance: Why invest in a quality razor if you can shave almost equally good with throwables? You don’t have to worry about maintenance, customs, and the possibility of accidentally leaving it somewhere.

Maybe true love is more like true friendship. You respect each other. Adore each other. But stay individual persons with individual needs. Love is replaced with lust. Lust is to be find in different places. But you stay true to a friendship.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of the idea either. I’m just putting some observations out there, since ‘open relationships’ are all the rage these days.

But as far as I’m concerned a good relationship is all about simplifying things. Toning down expectations and putting things into perspective.

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Whenever I would meet someone I would always try to envision a future with that person and then decide if it would be someone I would want to invest in.
That’s silly, of course you cannot know from the very beginning. You’re only sabotaging yourself by creating these high standards, cause no way you will ever achieve them. And you will end up only disappointing yourself.

In that mind set I tried the concept of a summer love. It wasn’t a well thought plan or anything. It just happened here in Ibiza. He’s from Argentina and -at this moment- he makes me feel good about myself and I enjoy my time with him.

I don’t envision a future with him. And that’s the first time I’ve ever done that. It’s a bit weird at the beginning. But it’s all part of living life in the moment. And following your gut instead of your brain.

 

Knowing that, I finally gave up on the idea of ‘saving myself’ for mister right. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This stays between you and me okay? I have had a total of 6 bed partners in my life. Now, I’m not proud of it, if it were me I would have only sticked to one but life pushes you to make some mistakes along the way in order to find what you are really looking for. Anyway, there was something about number 7 I didn’t want to give up to just anyone. So I saved myself. And lived like a nun while traveling Australia, China and Japan.

Friend: “Maybe you should drop the whole magic number nonsense. I already reached seven when I was 14!”

Well, now I can say… I finally reached seventh heaven 😀

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You: Gee Ev, you have to kiss a lot of frogs not f*** them!

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And especially for this occasion. Music maestro!

XO

Oh baby.

It’s a girl!

A little over 27 years ago my parents must have shouted it from the roof tops. I was a girl alright. A 4 kg heavy ball of delicate skin and bones. The hairs on my head, raven black. No, I wasn’t born all blonde and clueless. Life made me that way.

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My brother obviously loved me from day one ❤

It was October 19th 1988. A Wednesday. I was born a Libra. Pisces would be my ascending sign. It’s the sign that comes up, moves, or transitions at the exact time you are born. It would explain -years later- how an independent perfectionist Libra like me, who struggles to make decisions on a daily basis, suddenly threw all her comfort zones overboard to experience new things and explore the world.

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*This Libra / Pisces likes to shoot from the hip*

When I was in my early twenties, I always said I would start having babies by the time I would reach 27. Reality is: I’m further away from having babies now, than I was then. At least I had a relationship at that time. And I was very much convinced we would have babies together. Oh cluelessness.

By the end of 2015. While I was silently preparing my way to escape every day life and obligations,

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people were apparently doing the exact opposite thing. They were settling down. And having loads and loads of reproductional sex.

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It’s unbelievable how many people I know had babies this past month. My brother, one of my best friends, a friend from college, friends from friends, … I started looking into it (read: getting my Facebook spy on) and discovered how old class mates -even the biggest geeks alive- were already married, having children, starting families, building futures, … They we’re giving their love and being loved in return.

Friend: “I think I’ve missed my train.”

Me: “Whut?”

Friend: “I think I’ve missed my train.”

Me: “What are you talking about? Your car is parked right outside.”

Friend: “No… My train in life. In love. Where am I going to find someone? I’ll be 30 soon and everybody I know is settling and having kids. Maybe it’s just not meant to be for me.”

Me: “Hey! Are you crazy? You’re the sweetest girl alive and incredibly gorgeous, you are not missing your train, do you hear? If anyone is missing her train, it’s me.”

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I never really realized it until I said it.

But while I was sitting on the perfectly tiled terrace of my new found baby momma friend, gazing over to my three Sex and the City-girlfriends, I suddenly realized: if life is a board game, I’ve been dealt the shitty cards here.

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*Smiling though slightly panicking*

The friend who supposedly missed her train has just bought an apartment all by herself, the baby momma -obviously- just had a baby, already has a flatter stomach than me and is going to get married in Spain next year. And the other girlfriend is living together with her boyfriend thinking about having loads and loads of reproductional sex too.

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*His Storm Troopers attacking her Death Star right about now*

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I’m pushing 30, I have no property of my own, no more savings left, no boyfriend, no job and no sex whatsoever.

I couldn’t help but feeling everybody was passing me and I was somewhere hanging in the back. Waiting for a broom wagon to pick me up and put me out of my misery.

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* Broom wagon : the vehicle that follows a Cycle Road Race picking up stragglers (or sweeping them up) who are unable to make it to the finish.

Ten years ago I was the first of all my girlfriends to have a job, a career, a relationship, a house, a dog, … I was the bloody Chris Froome of the peloton.  Suddenly I became the red lantern.

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I’m 27 and I have no clue what I’m gonna make of my life. While my friends are leaking milk for a higher cause, I will be partying in Ibiza this week with a bunch of bronzed gay gods pouring milk over their hot torsos. And that’s about as far my outlook goes!

(…)

While I was fretting over my future and stuffing my face with hummus at my friend’s place, I decided not to give in to these negative thoughts. They’re way too easy. And I haven’t crossed half the globe to be defeated this easily.

Shifu Gao won’t let me.

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Me in a bid to pick myself up: “Let me put it this way. If you could go back in time, would you really have wanted to trade all your life lessons to have the secure life at 27?”

“Well….no…”

Since, first of all, I don’t yet feel the need to reproduce, as I still am very much a child myself. And second: no matter how much of a terrifying and uncertain mess my life came to be, I am extremely happy I chose to live my life in the most honest way possible. By staying true to myself and care after MY needs first before saying ‘I do’ to a partner, a house or a family. I felt I needed to learn before I could love. And so I traveled in order to go do that.

If I get a baby soon, and my hubby decides to dump me for not finding me attractive anymore, at least I will be strong enough to 1) proper Kung Fu kick his ass and still know I am an amazing person and he is just a douchebag who will get his karma bill presented sooner or later and 2) provide a sane environment for me and my child, the most valuable people in my life.

But, for now, I don’t know where my unplanned life is going. It’s impossible to know. And -in the end- nobody does. A baby or a husband or a bunch of bricks aren’t going to ‘unchaos’ my life. I just need to have faith in things happening and letting go of the process.

It’s hard work. Especially when your surroundings are constantly putting you on a shelf to analyze you. Looking for holes in your game structure.

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Well, don’t bother, my game structure is full of holes. I play with my heart on my sleeve. With my queen exposed and vulnerable. I get hurt easily. But it’s the only way to live this life profoundly.

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The race is long, according to Baz Luhrmann, and in the end it’s only with yourself.

I’ve decided:

I’m not in a rush. Society is trying to set a pace for me but I’m not participating. Life’s not a Time Trial. I much rather enjoy myself and the scenery in the back of the gruppetto* with the rest of the underdogs than fly over the finish for a yellow jersey, a stuffed animal and a big pay check just for the sake of being the first.

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* The autobus or the gruppetto is in bicycling terminology the name given to the group of cyclists in a road cycling race who form a large group behind the leading peloton.

I have the power and freedom to follow my own path to success. Because I have something many people forget to invest in. Me. And whoever wants to share the road with me, can tag along. But I’m not compromising.

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Attached to that thought: I have closed my Tinder profile. It wasn’t for me anyway. I don’t want to find a man who’s on Tinder. And why would any serious man want to find his girl on there anyway?

I’m too much of a Libra/Pisces for that.

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Up to Ibiza! Mommy’s gonna pour her some milk!

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XO

By the way: I used some cycling lexicon to bring this blog post about. As you may or may not know, I just came back from one month worth of touring and traveling France as a PowerBar hostess in the Tour de France. It was b-e-a-utiful! My job consisted of keeping the riders energized, healthy and happy ❤

Fear.

“Hi Ev, how have you been?”

….

“Hello Evvy, we miss the blog, how are you?”

….

“Hey Ev, I was just thinking about you. Curious how you are, now you’re back?”

….

“Ev, the mortician wants to know if you want regular coffee or decaf on your funeral. Since you don’t reply, we assume you’re dead.”

….

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Grave

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“Yes, of course! We want to know how you’re doing. If you’re depressed or happy? What your next move will be?”

My.. my next move?! Fucking… Go entertain yourself!

(…) “There’s no point in getting agitated, Ev, we just miss your stories.”

Well you should see a doctor for that addiction. I’m done writing.

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I’m not even lying. It’s not as if I don’t want to write. When I wrote my last blog post I knew it wasn’t the last. I just wanted you guys to believe it was, so you would be sad. Then, weeks later I would redeem myself and blow you all away with an amazing – unexpected – read that would probably land me my long awaited book deal.

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Ka-ching!

Well, I can just forget that.

Ever since I got back I don’t see stories anymore. It’s as if I’m slowly but surely going blind.

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Everything is so grey, dull, nothing inspires me here. I could just go in full hibernation mode. Even though summer has just begun. I guess I’m still on Australian time…

Why is it that the other side of the world does all this good for me, and being back home just doesn’t work for me. The first weeks I didn’t experience any problems with being back home. I had learned to live in the moment and not to hang on to the past too much. Memories, nostalgia, … it’s good to have them but you cannot live by them. I was happy. I also appreciated things more. Having seen a lot of forests, national parks, cities, beaches, train stations, airports, …. I suddenly valued some of the sceneries here even more. Belgium is a b-e-a-utiful country. But the mentality just drives me nuts.

“What are you gonna do now?” 
“You do realize you’re gonna have to have a decent job now?” 
“Something you can do for years in order to support a house, a family and a once in a year getaway?”

It’s like somebody slowly reaches out to suffocate me.

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Very few things in life scare me. But if I’m easily paralyzed by one thing, it is the fear of living an ordinary life.

Type in Koinophobia in Youtube and you will bump on a perfect video explaining my very emotions.

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Repetition, the slow process of decay. Being stuck in the waiting room of life. Waiting for it to come to an end and minutes before climbing the stairway to heaven realizing you didn’t really make the most of it. And that now, it is too late.

I’ve been looking into these things a little. Books, movies, youtube clips, Buddhism. Something to support my belief that an UNordinary life is possible. And I can prove everyone wrong.

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I have to, since I’m stuck on a train with realists, pessimists, non believers, … Even my mother doesn’t believe anyone would be interested in reading a book written by me. Seven years ago today I graduated cum laude. We were sitting in the back of the aula because we arrived a little late.

“It is with great honor I announce that we have one student who passed with distinction. Please come forward…. Evelien Delgouffe!”

My eyes widened. It was as if someone handed me a cheque, rolled out the red carpet and promised me I would never experience any problems in finding a job and a steady income. I was honored. And happy.

… I didn’t get a congratulations from my mom (*). Even though I knew deep inside she was proud, she kind of took it for granted. Same when I landed a job at the biggest newspaper in Belgium at only 21.

It’s very hard to be your own motivator. To tap yourself on the shoulder and tell yourself you’ll make it. Sometimes I feel as if I am the only believer here. But I won’t step over to the dark side.

… I don’t care how much of a tantric sex god Kylo Ren is.

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I just need to stop letting people who do so little for me, control so much of my mind, feelings and emotions. I shouldn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks or says about how I should live my life. And I should definitely not give up on what I believe in. There are no red carpets, win for life cheques, no safe boxes where you can live happy and be free at the same time. If you want to succeed in something you will have to make that happen. And nothing great has ever come out of thinking inside a box.

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A lot of people get discouraged. Get paralyzed by fear. Before they knew it they’ve been putting potato chips in cylinder cans for 30 years straight. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what you really enjoy doing. I’m not judging here. Probably a lot of people are happy with a mediocre marriage and a mediocre job. I just also see a lot of people regretting their life choices because they thought they didn’t have a choice.)

If everybody was just a little bit more open minded, a little bit more hopeful and a little bit less realistic, just imagine how different this world would look like.

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What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Face Everything And Rise.

XO

(*) Then again, maybe I never said thank you for sending me to college either. So all is forgiven, mommy! I love you no matter what! …But you can’t have any royalties once my book gets international acclaim.

Here’s a song especially for you

Aftermath

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? 

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And what did you want? 

To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. 

(Raymond Carver, Late Fragment)

***

Okay guys, we all know what time it is. It’s closing time. My trip is coming to an end. This is the final blog post. Grab your last drink, sit back and relax and try to laugh every now and then. Just… for old time’s sake.

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(This was your cue to laugh)

So you must be really curious about how Japan is treating me.

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Good! Because the first days were a blast. I survived an earthquake (previous post) and slept in boxes (capsule hostels). I went to Harajuku, explored Asakusa, stood on the famous Shibuya crossing, went to a Robot show, ….

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Life was great! Until one night I was standing in front of a supermarket ATM and couldn’t withdraw cash. It had seemed I had only 6 euros left in my account.

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What in the ass?! How did this happen?? Is my wallet leaking? Did I access some dodgy wifi and got phished? I’ve been leaving my credit card details like bread crumbs, somebody must have framed me!

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You: “Relax Roger Rabbit, you probably just spent it all. I’ve seen your Instagram account, you flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to Tokyo in less than two weeks.”

Me: “Mmmyes… I did the (after) math. And you’re right. I did spent more money than I thought I did. Even though I didn’t splurge (I stayed at cheap hostels and survived on two meals a day) I still spent a lot of money on stupid things. Like transportation, an occasional movie ticket and the extra charge that was taken from me every time I retrieved cash from an ATM.”

Fuck my life. I am in Japan, had all these wild plans of going to Osaka to visit Universal Studios and going to Kyoto to see the bamboo forest, visit hot springs and dress up like a geisha,and all I wanna do now is go home this instant!

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(Relax, it’s a snapchat filter)

Without money I don’t feel like being here any longer. I’ve had it. I want my old life back! And I want my salary back!

How in the shit biscuit am I going to survive the next 15 days with only 156 euros? (150 in my wallet and 6 in my account)

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I had three choices: 

A: Take the credit card out and let the future take care of it;

B: Prostitution;

C: Lock myself up in a hostel, survive on cucumbers and bananas.
(Subconsciously I pick phallus food… what is wrong with me?)

You: “You not getting an orgasm. That’s what’s wrong with you. Just have sex already and get it over with. It will help you to think more straight. I choose option B.”

Me: “No! Perv. That would be option Z. I checked what’s out there. And it’s an ugly Tinder-truth!”

I pick C.

‘C’ for ‘Cause it’s the reasonable thing to do’.

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I’d rather not have debts when I return to Belgium, thank you.

You: “But maybe you’re in Japan only once, don’t you have an emergency fund or something?”

Me: “My answer stands. I’m keeping my foot down.”

Walking in line, conforming to rules, being well mannered, well behaved and humble. That’s what the Japanese people have thought me and that’s what I will do. Obey my wallet. Bare the consequences of my own actions.

You: “Woah Evvy, are Japanese people really such party poopers?”

Well from 9am to 5pm they are. Standing in line for the metro dressed in their perfectly ironed suit and tie, picking the recommended lunch, staying on the safe side of life, bowing all day and licking their boss’s ass. After that they hit the pubs, karaoke bars or video game centers and get completely loud and wasted. The smell on the subway alone will get you drunk. I’ve seen salary men sweating out their hangover at 7 am under a bridge. That’s why every convenient store sells clean shirts, underwear, socks and toiletries. It’s part of the culture. At one point they just go : “I’m done bowing for you. Suck my d*** , I’m getting drunk.” The morning after they put on a clean shirt and humble life starts all over again. Ohayooo, Sumimaseeeen, Domo arigatou gozaimasuuuu, …

My friend Cedric was here to witness my little ATM meltdown and was not very pleased. He had just spent 19 hours on a plane to see me for the first time in 5 months and here I was feeling depressed and not wanting to leave the room because of not having money. That night, he put me to bed hoping everything would be better in the morning

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… and I am very grateful he put a roof over my head the entire time he was here. In return I went to get him fresh bakery treats every morning and tried to pay for his food as much as possible. I also put up with his snoring without complaining tooooo much. But still I could never compensate the Cinderella hotel he payed for while he was here. Domo arigatou gozaimasuuuu *bow bow bow*.

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When he left I had 9 more days to survive off my budget. Back to cucumbers and bananas. When all of a sudden I ran into a former teacher of mine. Apparently she had moved with her family to Tokyo last year. She invited me to come stay with her in order to keep my budget down. This is only the second time she saved my life. First was 9 years ago when she helped me get a copywriting internship at TBWA, one of the best advertising agencies in the world. I always knew I wanted to write but she gave me the opportunity to really explore that talent. Without that experience I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pursue a professional career as a writer. I wouldn’t have landed a job at the biggest newspaper in Belgium, I wouldn’t have gotten a burnout at 26, I wouldn’t have started traveling. Without her ‘Backpackers Guide for the Blonde and the Clueless’ WOULDN’T EVEN EXIST! We should all bow for this lady right now.

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I gladly accepted her invitation and moved in with her on Friday. Five days before returning to Belgium. She lives 40 minutes outside Tokyo city center in Setagaya. A new -and rather upscale- neighborhood.

Her son let me sleep in his room. And I was free to scavenge the kitchen cupboards as much as I want. I landed my own little piece of heaven.

As soon as I moved in I started thinking: maybe I should try to make one more trip happen. One last unforgettable night. To have closure. A last resort. I put all my money together and started doing some brain breaking mathematics. I already knew Osaka and/or Kyoto were out of the question. But soon I discovered there might be enough there to allow me a trip to the Japanese seaside! It would be great if I could see the beach before I leave. I exchanged the euros and dollars I still had in my pocket. Also the 50 euro emergency note I got from Mattias and Maja the day before I left Belgium. “To pay for a nice accommodation when you need it.” Clairvoyant friends, I have.

I started looking into it and bumped on an article in a Japanese magazine about this wonderful beach in Izu. It is a little further than the touristy beaches around Tokyo but worth the ride. It would take me about 3 hours to get there by train and about the same amount of transfers.

I immediately booked myself a ryokan just a hop-skip from the beach where I would enjoy looking out at the white sand, waves and surfers from a Japanese-style room with tatami mats and futon beds. On Sunday I waved my ‘foster family’ goodbye and took off with a little backpack carrying only my toothbrush, a pair of fresh underpants, my bikini and my laptop. It felt like the first day of school. Although I’ve been on more exciting trips these last months, this one actually gave me butterflies in my stomach. Since I had given up on the outlook of leaving Tokyo, but somehow making one last trip happen. I was over the moon. Especially since the weather gods had granted me 29 degrees and a full day of sun.

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on my way from Yokohama station

The entire way there I sat in my seat with a smile on my face. I saw the landscape changing stop after stop. More green, more trees, look there! It’s the ocean!

When I finally arrived in Izukya-Shimoda station I was only one bus ride away from my destination. Of course the bus driver accidentally dropped me off 1 K too far. But if it wasn’t for that I would have never discovered ‘On the Beach’. A cute little beach/surf bar with the most amazing BBQ lunch meals. The presentation is a modern take on the traditional Japanese ‘bento’ lunch box. For only 700 Y (5 euros) that was damn good lunch!

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Apparently Izu is a surfer’s paradise and there were a lot of wave seekers out there that day. The sides of the road were bedazzled with little surf shops selling cute clothes, bikinis and accessories. I felt like I was back in Oz. It felt like the perfect place to end my trip.

When I arrived at the hotel, I entered a room with an amazing beach side view, with a kimono hanging in the closet to dress me up for dinner. I also discovered there were hot springs available. For free! I think it’s amazing how things have a way of eventually falling into place. Even though I didn’t get to go to Osaka and Kyoto, I still got a chance to do everything my heart desired. Sleeping in a traditional ryokan, on a tatami mat, bathing in a hot spring, dressing up like a geisha, …

The puzzle fitted perfectly. The only thing missing was the Universal Studios. But -somehow- I did manage to make up for that the day after. When I decided to make a brief stop in Yokohama before returning to Setagaya and went on an unexpected roller coaster ride by the harbor. The perfect way to end this roller coaster of a journey.

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At one point the ride just disappears under ground!

It wasn’t the Harry Potter ride, but I screamed and giggled like a little girl.

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Post roller coaster selfie. It was WILD!

While I was taking in the sea view at Tatadohama beach I started doing some ‘after math’ again.

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Calculating not losses, but profits this time. Asking myself: “What have I gained from this trip?”

  1. I defo became wiser

My roots literally pushed the blondness away. I definitely have become less clueless. But -no worries- I am still naive enough to live this life through dangerously pink glasses.

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2. This trip made me realize: I am one lucky San of a bitch

I have amazing friends and family. The best parents in the world. They stood by me this entire time. Letting me go, giving me freedom. Trusting. There were times I didn’t reach out to them for weeks. And still they didn’t complain. That meant a lot.

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I have the best colleagues and bosses in the world. They supported my decision. Respected it. And even published some bits of my adventure.

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3. I frigging love myself 

I didn’t encounter the love of my life. But then again, that wasn’t really the goal of my trip. It didn’t happen because I didn’t open up to the opportunity. I was too busy spending time with myself. Catching up on lost times. However, I had some uplifting moments. I will never forget Steph and our little tryste at Port D. I will never forget Kunyu mountains and my little romance with a fellow Kung Fu student. Even the innocent little night swim at Noosa beach with my first ever Tinder date will be something I will gladly look back at in 20 years from now. Although I do regret not having tasted the butcher’s fine meats… Ah well. Maybe he needs a little more ripening anyway. After all, he’s only 24. And I’m not Madonna… Or am I?

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4. I’ve met some pretty amazing people

In the category non sexual encounters I gladly remember Helmut. The Tasmanian Devil. How he tried to brush me off but ended up regretting not having me around longer. Goedele, who took me into her home and shared a quite turbulent first week with me back in Adelaide. I loved my farm family and Pierre who took me on an unforgettable roadtrip to Melbourne as a true gentleman. I remember Maryam. A strong woman who taught me the simple truth that ‘different people have different ideas’, to never lose my self esteem, and to not be afraid of using a little herbs in the kitchen. There’s no such thing as overseasoning. My lovely motel managers back in Marcoola, who hooked me up with the most fun car ever with which I embarked on the most fantastic roadtrip ever. James at the Floriana in Cairns. Who taught me Fawlty towers really does exist. My shifu in China. The man I felt a deeply (however platonic) love and respect for. My roomie Celine, my sister from another mister, who I will visit very very soon. My teamie Audrey and all the other amazing people I met in the school. Rebekka, Linus, Sterling, Obim, Bo, Marvin, Daniel, Lore, Lucy, Himmat, Luke, … too many to sum up!

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5. There is nothing I cannot do. Well, sort of

I learned to take care of myself. To be independent and to believe in my capabilities. I learned to drive on the left, to get from A to B in foreign countries using foreign currency and foreign language. I learned Kung Fu. Or at least the basics of it. I learned I have a strong will and a strong body to match and I am capable of doing russian push ups if I really put my mind to it. I learned my body is the most powerful instrument I will ever own. And therefor I learned to treat it that way =>

6. I quit smoking

My last cigarette I put out in Ashbourne (what’s in a name) Australia over 4 months ago. I haven’t had a setback once. I don’t understand how I could ever be addicted to it.

7. I learned to trust

I’ve learned no matter what happens, things happen for a reason and things have a way of turning out well in the end. Never a failure always a lesson. Never an ending without a new beginning.

This is why this maybe isn’t the final blog post after all. Time will tell.

But for now:

Lientje Out.

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Domo arigato for your support these past months.

thankyou

Daisuki! ❤

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And thank you snapchat for turning me into a real (and rather scary) geisha after all. Free of charge!

XO

The Final Chapter

As you may or may not know I have commenced the final chapter of my Pacific Tour. I am currently in the Land of the Rising Sun. The Great Empire. The Empire of the Sun. Yamato. The Pearl of the Pacific. Nippon. ….

You: Yeah, yeah we get it. You’re in Japan.

Good …

That also means: in less than two weeks I will be back on Belgian soil. And God do I look forward to that!

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You: “Haha, of course you don’t. The fun is over. Or did you actually think you could run away from society and travel forever?”

Me: “Of course not. I’m not that clueless… And I wasn’t running away, idiot. Not from society, not from having a job, not from having to work until I die. No, I was running towards something. Towards a life that would enable me to think outside of the box. Towards a perspective to show me an exciting new way to live this life to the fullest. A hidden path. Not visible for ignorant mortals who believe there’s only one way to live your life and that is by copying everybody else.”

You: “Soooo did you find your so-called hidden path, Alice?”

Me: “Not yet. But I’m getting there! (you cynical moron…) That is why I need to get back on my traveling feet as soon as possible.”

I do know -more than ever before- I don’t want to settle with an ordinary life. Over an indefinite period of time I want to leave Belgium, work and live around the world and eventually settle in the place I feel best. Maybe that’ll be Belgium after all. But for now I’m way too curious about the places out there to settle in my country of birth for good. It’s not because you were born somewhere, you have to stay there till eternity. The world is too big of an oyster for that.

Me: “Wow Evvy, you seem certain of yourself.”

Well… I’m not. I’m bluffing in the hope my subconscious will believe it cause in reality I’m freaking out.

Of course it feels suffocating knowing I’m returning to Belgium soon and that nothing is there waiting for me. Nothing but decisions, problems, taxes, … and yes also my loving parents who will gladly put good food in my belly because they think I had to live off rice and instant noodles this entire time. (Mom, I have thought about what you asked and I would love to have your nice salmon dish with broccoli the day of my return. Domo arigato.)

I don’t feel comfortable with the thought of Belgium dooming up at the end of my horizon yet. It’s hard enough I ask myself the obvious question every day. But all of a sudden everybody I know will ask me the obvious question every day: “So now what?”

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Well, I don’t know that. I don’t hold the answers to everything. I just try to take life how it comes and try to keep living the way I have lived these past 6 months: in the moment. So don’t fuck up my zen-ness!

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not

Hey!

… So I’m not gonna lie to you, from the moment I arrived in Japan I was feeling a weeeeee bit stressed. I wasn’t ready to enter the final chapter yet. I wanted a transition chapter first. Like a spin off. In Bali. Or ‘Nam. Maybe that’s why I almost missed my plane…

You: You almost missed your plane??

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Yes. But not on purpose. I was three hours early even! I was just sitting at the wrong gate… I was watching the passengers board the plane, while I was prank calling friends and family, leaving messages on their voice mail since it was still night in Belgium. When I saw the last person board, I figured it was time to lift my ass, grab my passport and swag-walk my way to the boarding gate. After all I was wearing sweatpants and sneakers.

Person at boarding gate: “Hello miss, can I see your boarding pass please”

Me: “Quite certainly sir, here you go.”

Person at boarding gate: “Err, this is not your gate.”

Me: “What do you mean? Destination Tokyo, Narita, 14.45 pm. It says so on the board. (dummie)”

Person at boarding gate: “Yes but this is “Something-something” Airways. You have to go with Ethiopian Airways. And that one leaves in four minutes.”

It was as if all air was sucked out of the room and temperature rose with 150 degrees.

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Me: “Fuck a Hong Kong duck! Where do I go?!?” (hyperventilating mode engaging)

Person at boarding gate: “I believe it’s gate 47. On the other side of the airport. But…. “

I didn’t even wait for him to finish his sentence. I road runner-ed my way out of there.

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The other side of the airport?? I didn’t even know which side! I don’t even know the shape of this airport!! Is it a triangle? A trapezium? A PARALLELEPIPED?!

I started running and bumping people over with my hand luggage.

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”

I almost crashed right into the information desk and held my boarding pass under the lady’s nose.

“MY PLANE IS ABOUT TO TAKE OFF WITHOUT ME. WHERE IS IT???”

Lady behind information desk: “It is gate 47. You need to take the elevator downstairs, then get on the train and then run to your gate. You might still make it!”

I ran down the moving escalator bumping more people over with my hand luggage.

“I’m sorry, I’m SO SORRY!”

Luckily they understood, and even cheered me on by saying: “It’s okay, hurry hurry!”

If someone would bump me over on the moving escalator I would roll my eyes. Asking myself: “How can anybody be in a hurry in an airport? If you’re here on time, what can go wrong?”

WELL YOU COULD HAVE BEEN SITTING AT THE WRONG GATE, PRANK CALLING EVERY PERSON IN YOUR PHONE BOOK NOT KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON!

I always hate it when my plane leaves late because of someone not being on time, and now I am that person. If I’m lucky, that is… They might have already taken off!

When I got at the bottom of the stairs I boarded a subway like train that would take two minutes to get me close to my gate. I didn’t even have two minutes! I got on and the entire way, I was tiptoeing impatiently, whispering ‘shit, shit, shit, shit’. Repeating it as a mantra. Two stops later, the door opened and I was again road running. Up the stairs, already realizing it was a waste of energy. The plane had left. I was certain of that.

“Are you passenger ET672???” A lady on the top of the stairs nervously asked me.

Me: “YES! Or at least, I think I am!! I was sitting at the wrong gate!”

Lady: “They’re still waiting for you. Hurry! As fast as you can!”

Fuck road runner. It was time to go full retard Forrest Gump mode. I had already ran my lungs out but this final 500 meters I had to run the braces off my legs. I wish I could have undone myself of all excessive baggage. My right shoulder was carrying my 7K purse with my heavy laptop in there. And my left hand was carrying my 10 K hand luggage. After 200 meters I couldn’t feel my limbs but I knew I couldn’t stop running. I was gonna make it! I cannot believe they waited for me! Any European airline and they would have left already.

When I arrived at the desk, they immediately let me pass, I ran through the jetty, right into the airplane, chanting “Sorry, I’m so sorry!” to every passenger I had to pass to get to my spot.

I had window seat 24 L but I kindly said to mister K to keep seated while I continued dying on hallway seat 24 J. The plane apparently was only half full.

Neighbor: “It’s okay, I don’t think anyone noticed you were late. Well, … that was before you started apologizing to the entire plane. Hi, my name is Peter.”

Me: “Oh, (breathing) Hello Peter. (breathing) I’m so sorry.”

Peter: “You were miles in front of me at check in. What happened?”

Me: “I was sitting at the wrong gate!”

Peter: “Oh waw, good thing you made it.”

I don’t know if it were the endorphins of me actually making the flight but I continued talking to Peter the entire duration of the flight. About four hours. If I would have swag-walked my way in the plane, I would have just sat down, put in my headphones and watched a movie or two. Now I actually enjoyed a good conversation with a complete stranger. About life and the interesting surprises it brings. He even shared a story about his parents divorcing when he was a kid because of his mother getting busy with the au pair. And yes, it was a girl au pair. Years later they got married on some tropical island and are still happy together. His father ended up in several marriages afterwards that all ended in divorce…

Peter is originally from America but works from China for an American company. He lives in Shanghai, was traveling from Hong Kong to Japan, before heading back to America for a couple of weeks eventually returning back to Shanghai. You see? That’s what I was referring to earlier. About working in a different country. Enabling yourself to make money, still fulfill your duties to society but collecting air miles while doing so. Cause that’s what many of you may think, that I’m traveling because I’m too lazy to work. Quite the contrary. I DO want to work. I enjoy the simple fact of earning money, preferably while doing something I’m good at. Like writing. But I don’t want to make money and forget living. I’m looking for the perfect balance. A lifestyle that enables me to work, live healthy and nourish my travel needs. And yes, at one point I will maybe feel the need to settle somewhere and hatch out some eggs. And I gladly will. Some day.

Peter: “Well Evelien, I am glad you made it to this flight. And that I got to meet you.”

Me: “Well thank you Peter, I am too. I will add you on Facebook. What’s your last name?”

“Parker.”

Me: “Parker? Your name is Peter Parker?”

Fuck a…errr….salmon skin roll(?) !

“I’ve been sitting besides Peter Parker this entire time? I loved you in Captain America 3!”

Peter: “Haha, it’s only the fourth time today somebody made a comment about my name. But yes. I am Peter Parker. My mom never realized what she did until I was three years old.”

For you non geeks out there: Peter Parker is the actual name of Spider-Man. Embodied by Tobey Maguire from 2002-2007, Andrew Garfield from 2012-2014 and more recently Tom Holland.

I was already convinced that everyone should be his own super hero but Peter just raised the bar there. 

Once I got off the plane, I was feeling really good about my encounter with Peter. And about almost missing the plane. It made me less stressful about my future, since everything always turns out okay in the end, and made me so much more grateful of putting my two feet on Japanese soil. Clean soil! You can eat off the floors here. What a difference with China where people just discharge all their body fluids on the street. Also the toilets are super clean. When you enter, the toilet seat lifts itself, it even welcomes you with a little song. And even showers your bum if you like it to. You can even add a flushing sound to the already existing flushing sound! Craay-zaay.

After a long train ride I arrived in my hostel in the Sumida district in Tokyo. A very relax neighborhood and a very relax hostel. My bed is basically a space capsule

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… but it’s all the space I need and it’s super cosy. The bathroom is right outside with free shower foam and shampoo, more talking toilets and some nice slippers for all the guests. The building is quite new. And a little shaky…. Last night I was putting laundry up on the ceiling of my box while all of a sudden the room and lockers started to shake. At first I thought it was the big Egyptian guy I was sharing the room with who was climbing the ladder to reach to the upper bed, until I suddenly saw him standing in front of my box, asking me: Is this an earthquake?

Me: “Errr….. I THINK IT IS!”

Egyptian guy: “It is. We should go downstairs!”

I grabbed my phone (weird I didn’t take my money) and left the room. When we arrived in the hall, the building had stopped shaking. While we were still very much in awe, a girl from another room had already discovered through Twitter that there had been an earthquake in Miyazaki and that we had just experienced some kind of after shock. 40 minutes later.

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Gee, five minutes before it happened I was back to worrying a little about ‘What will happen when I get back to Belgium?’

I guess it was just a kind reminder of the universe to live in the moment. Reminding me that life is happening now. And sucking me back in.

“Never panic, accept what’s happening, then react” is the earthquake advice my other room mate suddenly dispensed. Little did he now, he just supplied me with the quote of a lifetime.

And I will.

I will make the most of this final chapter. Since it is only the very beginning.

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For me. For you. For anyone who finds it inspiring.

Namasté

XO

And BTW: Thank you universe for giving me the first vibration in 6 months. You are really looking out for me.

Enter… the fireworks

You: “Evvy are you there??”

Me: “Yes…”

You: “Why did you stop writing us? Did you forget about us? Are you slacking off??”

Me: “Err, no… I’ve just been a little preoccupied… Why don’t you staff me already!”

I know I usually send out at least one blog post a week, usually on a Sunday, but this Sunday -I didn’t forget- I just didn’t.

You: “Because you’re slacking off??”

Me: “No. I just decided not to. To leave you hungry for more. CAUSE BOY DO I HAVE A STORY FOR YOU!”

After the last blog post I wrote, events took quite some unexpected turns.

The first thing that took an unexpected turn was my spine. I decided to do a little light training on Sunday and ended up with my back completely screwed for the entirety of the following week. The best part: it was my last full week in the academy and I really wanted to make the most of it. Especially since I felt in such good shape the week before. I was doing super hero kicks and my hip flexers didn’t seem to bother me anymore. Apparently it had all just switched to my lower back (it’s all connected) and I’m pretty sure my little tumble on the top of Mount Amos in Tasmania, when I was trying to save Helmut from sliding down the mountain, planted the seed of all back injury evil.

Note to self: never rescue old gents from sliding into a ravine. They’ve had their life. 

So on Monday I could barely get out of my bed. I could barely walk to the office. And I could barely confront my Shifu. I knew I would -again- disappoint him.

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I decided to do as much as I could that morning. But I already knew that running, explosive movements and kicks were out of the question. Which is basically the basics of our training schedule. First training of the morning I couldn’t participate at all. I had to watch the rest using their perfectly functioning bodies while I was doing some exercises on the side and practiced my form. After lunch I decided to meet up with the massage Shifu again. I must really be in pain if I voluntarily go see the master of pain to help me get rid of my discomfort. He fights pain with more pain; but usually you feel great after a couple of days. After the bruising and the swelling goes down from him massaging the shit out of you.

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Right before my back said ‘KRAK’!

I lied on his table of torture for an hour. Grinding my teeth again (I think I chipped a tooth) and thinking only happy thoughts. At the end, he rolled me on my side, cradled me with his elbows and broke my back. Well… he did not really break it, but I heard a KRAK alright. He told me some things (joints, bones, whatever) in my lower back were out of place. And he ‘assembled’ me back together. But from the moment I stood back on my feet I felt the exact same pain.

Translator translating massage Shifu: “You are not supposed to train today. And maybe tomorrow you should rest as well.”

Me: “B-b-b-ut it’s my last week….”

That afternoon I just sat there watching my team mates do Sanda (Chinese Kickboxing). The massage Shifu told me to stay absolutely still for a few hours. And keep my lower back warm with a hot water bottle. How pathetic am I?? I enroll in Kung Fu school, have only 30 days to make something of it and I have been crippled half of the time. I am not impressed with myself at all.

While my mind and body were arguing, I just glared over to the training. To my Shifu, who probably just thought I was being ‘a girl’. Not trying. Giving up.

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“Your so-called kung fu is really quite pathetic”

But unlike last time, I didn’t put depressed thoughts in my head. I was strongly convinced that the next morning I would wake up with an entirely new back. I just had to. And I decided to give myself an extra push by doing a 50 minute Qigong session. To restore myself from all injuries. That night I slept like a baby. But I woke up as an old lady.

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Still cripple, still hurting, still proper fucked. I even skipped Taiji that morning for the first time in my life. I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoe laces, how could I possible do the crane movement, dipping down, digging up invisible earth, standing up with one leg stretched forward, dipping back down again? Instead I sat on my bed, ate my hard boiled eggs (protein) and thought of a plan to get through the week. The week that was supposed to be my moment of truth. The week where I would put everything I learned into practice…

That Tuesday training schedule was a little different than usual. And -lucky me- it worked in my benefit. Instead of doing Qigong and conditioning in school, we went to the mountain. It’s a steep hike, but somehow the steepness didn’t hurt my back so much, and I could just go at my own pace. I was pleased to feel my heart beating again. I was already looking forward to doing some Qigong overviewing the mountain. That’s like double healing power!!

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C’mon Chi, work your magic! Momma needs a new back!

After Qigong I felt completely re-energized. I even participated in the power training that afternoon. I just decided to lift some weights while the young kids were running their lungs out and from the moment they would continue with ground exercises like sit ups, push ups, planks, … I joined. Power trainings are brutal. Afterwards you feel so tired, you get into an elevated state of being. And you usually feel exhausted in a really good way. Afterwards I found my way to another Qigong class. I was eager to see if all this Qigong would pay of on Wednesday. It seemed to! I still woke up with my old back, but somehow I had found a way to work with it. I just decided to ignore the shit out of it and continue training like usual. That morning I went to Taiji and I even completed an entire lesson of acrobatics. Usually the worst companion for your back. But I thought to myself: Fuck it, no pain no gain. And I’m tired of being the injured person. I’m not gonna let a crucial body part intervene with my training. I signed up for this, I’m gonna give it my all. Wednesday actually went down pretty good. After every training I was basically limping to my room, but at least I had trained. So even though I was in a lot of pain, I was also very cheery since I felt good about training.

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In the afternoon we had Sanda again and I focused on my punches -the kicks were still tricky- because I’m hoping to put my training to use soon in an actual fight.

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But first things first.

I still had to overcome Thursday training and NOT make my back any worse. Then I could possibly think about sparring on Friday.

However…

On Thursday everything went downhill. My back was killing me and I didn’t know what to do. At the same time I found out my travel insurance had expired the day before. Grrrreat. Here I am with a fucked back, already one foot in the ring, not being insured for anything that may happen to me. To top that I was encountering some romantic trouble with a guy in school -school just isn’t interesting without some physical chemistry- and after all we were living in a monastery where everything fun is forbidden.

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But I guess you’re never insured for that kind of collateral damage. I don’t know how I keep getting myself in this situation but I always fall for the guy that ends up screwing me over. Not in a good way… Acknowledging this is not the guy’s fault, but completely mine is something I have learned overtime, but it doesn’t prevent me from feeling annoyed and sad for a couple of hours.

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I decided to flush Thursday down the drain as soon as possible and continue with my life on Friday. Whatever happens, will happen. I’m done fretting over it. It had seemed that the universe had given me an extra day to recover. Because of May Day coming up, the school moved the sparring to Saturday. So I had one extra day to mentally prepare. That day I woke up a new woman. D-day had arrived.

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My back was still hurting, but I would find a way to fix that with an effective combination: adrenalin and tiger balm! I had three days of weekend after that anyway.

I was mentally prepared to face the ring; But I was a little worried I wouldn’t be physically prepared enough. I couldn’t go all the way during Sanda classes this week and the back injury is making me a lot slower than I would like to be. That morning in line up, the Shifu asked who of our group wanted to spar that day. When I lift up my hand, he started laughing and pointing at me.

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Of course he saw me limping around school the entire week. I was shark bait. But I strongly believe in happy endings and transcending your own limits once you’re faced with them. This is everything I believe in. Not sparring (out of fear, pain or discomfort) would just be the biggest disappointment I could give myself.

I decided to stick with my guns and spar. And I decided to fight Teagan from the other Shaolin group.

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She’s a girl (well, woman) from America and strong as hell. She’s much more experienced than I am but I was told to spar a more advanced student in order to learn better. The fact that she would probably beat the shit out of me, was a minor detail I had to bare in mind.

That morning I quickly bought a mouth guard from the school shop (apparently students have lost teeth before and these babies have cost me a lot of money to get them straightened, I’m not gonna let them be smashed) I was hoping that my Shifu would give me some pointers before the fight, but it seemed he just couldn’t care less. He left me hanging. I had hoped he might admire my guts, since I was the only girl in our group that had volunteered to spar, and I’m only in my third week. But then again, he’s not the one I’m sparring for.

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Ali wrapping me up

When I was getting prepped in the training hall (Ali was helping me put on my wraps and was giving me some punch advice) I saw Teagan entering the training hall. She was already dressed to fight me. Oozing so much confidence and zen it made my stomach feel queazy. She had bruises on her upper arms as if she had just rubbed sun tan lotion on her body and accidentally had fallen asleep on some newspapers. Leaving an imprint all over her upper limbs. Also: she was supposed to spar three girls in total that day. That kinda says it all.

Translator Susan: “Evelien, hurry up, you’re the first one today. Teagan is already ready. Put on your safety gear and go to the ring. Hurry hurry!!”

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Ali wasn’t even finished putting on my first wrap. And I still needed to take off my shoes and put shin protectors on!! This was going south already. But I had reached the point of no return. The next thing would be to step into that ring and acknowledge my inferiority.

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My Shifu was the ringmaster of the day. Figures… We bowed before him and he quickly explained us some basic rules. No knees, no kicking in the crotch, no head bumps, … basically no dirty fighting. Only the moves we learned in class.

Shifu: “Leady? Fight!”

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I looked Teagan in the eyes. She looked a little daft. Like she was in some spiritual place. Why wasn’t this girl nervous at all??? She didn’t even blink.

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I was thrown off by her zen-ness and before I realized it she latched out and punched me right in the nose. Damn this girl’s fist travels fast! I didn’t even see that one coming. While I was still recovering from her blow, she threw in another punch. And another. Wow, I was seeing fists everywhere. I decided to take a few steps back and travel around the ring a bit, to give myself some time to recover from the surprise attack and get my shit back together. I started punching her but it seemed like my punches never reached her. I was slow as hell. Always giving her just enough time to block my punches and responding my sissy ass fist bumps with proper fighting punches. For fuck’s sake dodge the glove! My mind and body were having an argument again. My Chi was trying to intervene: “Guys this isn’t the time, knock it off! Rather knock your opponent out!” I was starting to get a little scared here. We’re not even one minute in the ring together and already am I going down quicker than the Titanic. I’m also breathing like crazy. This fighting thing is tiring!!! It all looks so easy from a distance, but when you’re in that ring: time crawls by and fists reach you quicker than the blink of an eye. I tried to jab and throw in a cross but while I was too busy remembering some good combos, she was hitting me over and over again. She punched the side of my head a couple of times. I was seeing stars. I was backing off, scaring away from her massive arms. She sensed my fear. And my Shifu was -again- not impressed with me. I could hear him think: “The best defense is attack!! ATTACK!! MORE POWER!!” I had already forgotten about the 80 students watching me get beaten up ages ago. This was something between me and Teagan. And the Shifu. I started kicking her, hoping to affect her just a little but it felt like I was just tickling her. I was fighting like a girl (sorry for going all sexist on my own species). I decided to change my strategy from sparring to surviving. And remembering nothing is permanent, all pain shall pass, even this will come to an end.

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Think happy thoughts

After 3 minutes my Shifu called it ‘a fight’. We took a bow (actually I forgot to do this, I immediately took off my gloves) and stepped outside the ring. I didn’t know exactly what to think about my performance, but I didn’t feel super bad about it.

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I did it, I survived and actually I was quite pleased I had tried. Of course I could have done better but considering the circumstances -with my back hurting and all- things could have been worse. I was fearless. And that is what Kung Fu stands for: to let go of all your fears.

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While I was limping to the side, watching the next fight I suddenly realized how my time in this school was coming to an end. It has passed so quickly. I only just got started. This was just enough time to be introduced to the mysteries of Kung Fu, to integrate myself into the school. I knew the next week would be rough, since I would have to say goodbye to something I didn’t want to leave behind yet.

I decided to latch on to the weekend and go for a never ending night out. Some people were celebrating their last day in the academy with a big party night in Yantai. A city a 1,5 hours drive from the academy. Before I entered this school I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t drink alcohol for 30 days. Well, that promise stranded at day 26 cause that night I was drinking alright. Way too much actually, but it felt good. I was enjoying myself and I still was very much in control of my actions. That night I also rekindled with the love interest I mentioned earlier in this post.

Right after a Chinese lady came on to me and kissed me…

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What’s up with these girls wanting to kiss me?

I must have been putting out the vibe that night.

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Sexual tension was building up really quickly between me and the guy. I guess all this fighting makes you horny. And the fact we had been living like monks the entire time.

Me: “This is it. The moment I have been waiting for since my hormones got all crazy on me back in Australia.” (See blog post ‘Hormones’)

Sex was in the air. I had a double room all to myself. And I’ve really been wanting to use the word gargantuan for a very long time now!gargantuan

When we arrived at the hostel together we could finally touch each other.

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You: “Way to go Evvy!! You had hot and sticky S-EGGS??”

Me: “Stop jumping ahead of my stories! I’ve warned you before!”

While he was lying on top of me -still dressed- and we were kissing heavily for about 30 minutes, we got so caught up in each other, really wanting to move things further, but somehow there was a barrier. We just couldn’t.

You: “… He couldn’t get it up?”

Me: “Oh he could get it up alright. It was something else…”

It was… conflicting Chi.

We had been doing all this Qigong these past weeks, all this mental training, learning not to live by our bodily needs. Somehow it just didn’t feel right to go all the way down to China Town. It’s not like anything could come from it anyway. This is just a fling. We should be able to surpass that and deal with it as monks.

“Less penetration, more meditation”

You: “It doesn’t necessarily have to become something. You can just enjoy yourself and have a good time, right?”

Me: “Yeah sure, that’s how you promote AIDS. But, either way, it just wasn’t the right time. And we both felt that way.”

In the end we were happy we contained ourselves and actually felt really proud of that achievement. Abstinence is pretty arousing as well. And we both knew some day the fire works would be lit. But no one was spreading his Chi tonight.

The next day we went for a nice dinner and that was it. I haven’t heard from him since, and that’s okay. We both have our lives to get back to.

On Monday I returned to the school. Due to the holiday we wouldn’t have training until Wednesday. Thursday night I would pack my bags and say goodbye to the academy.

I was sad. It was nice to have a purpose in life. To learn Kung Fu. Now that purpose was going away and I would have to learn how to get by on my own again. I was getting so comfortable in the school (maybe a little too) not having to carry my backpack around. Challenging my mind and body. Living in the moment. Not worrying about the future. But you cannot escape certain responsibilities. And that’s also something I have to learn to accept.

The final training day was a lot of fun. They gave me the privilege to shout at morning run (usually only the monitor gets to do that) and I was in charge of warm up. At the end of the day the Shifu closed the training day with another line up as usual. Only this time he had a little word prepared. Since it was my last day he congratulated me on completing my training.

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Translator Susan translating Shifu: “Even though you were injured, you always kept training and never gave up. The Shifu thinks you are a very strong girl. He hopes you can take care of your body and you will continue to enjoy the fruits of your training in your everyday life.”

While Susan was translating the Shifu looked at me with the cutest face ever. I always knew there was some kind of mutual respect, even though he didn’t always show it to me. I asked permission to say goodbye to each and every one of our group. While my team mates were still lined up I worked my way down the line, shaking everybody’s hand and saying something to each team mate individually since I shared a memory with each and every one of them. Things were getting a little emotional as soon as I had reached the end of the line and faced my friend Audrey. I didn’t say anything to her. We just did our secret handshake. After, I turned around. Shook the hand of the assistant Shifu and translator Susan, saving Shifu for last. When I looked him in the eye, my eyes all teared up. As soon as he noticed he directed his eyes to the floor.

Me: “Thank you Shifu. Thank you for everything….. It was … my pleasure.”

He probably was -again- embarrassed by me and my over emotional-ness. We have only known each other for a month and here I am sobbing like I’ve been here for five years. But I meant every tear. I’m really gonna miss this guy. The Shifu kept his head pointing towards the ground and nodded. He is trained not to show emotions. But as if the Chinese gods intended it, rain suddenly fell out of the sky. Pouring down on us harder and harder.

“The sky is crying for you”, Rebekka, a girl from my group said.

I went to my room to collect my bag and said goodbye to my roomie Celine.

The taxi was waiting for me outside. And… also the Shifu. He walked with me towards the taxi. Videotaping me saying goodbye to some of the friends I made. …He has a very popular youTube channel and likes making videos… We’re his major attraction.

Audrey whispering: “The Shifu really likes you. He’s sad you’re leaving.”

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The Shifu? Sad? I looked over at him standing there all helpless and wrapped my arms around myself as a way to ask him if I could hug him. He smiled and gave his phone to someone to hold it for him. We hugged, and again I thanked him. I didn’t cry this time. I saved my tears for inside the taxi. When I saw the Kun Yu Shan mountains slowly but surely disappear behind me. It had seemed I left the same way I arrived. With waterworks.

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But a lot more strength both inside and out. Thank you… universe?…  for this amazing opportunity. To many more adventures to come! Next stop: Shanghai!

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XO

BTW: My roomie Celine and I celebrated our final night together in style. We heated up some chocolate with a candle and made us some chocolate fondue and watched a movie. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

The power of Chi

As you could read in my previous post, life in this academy can be quite confronting. You get confronted with your limits, your incapabilities, your doubts and your fears. But the thing I’ve been experiencing most problems with. Is how confronting my age has suddenly become.

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A lot of these kids here are around 21, there are even some 17-18-19 year olds of which I thought they were actually my age.

When I was that age, enrolling in a martial arts school in a far away country to train 40 hours a week was the furthest thing on my mind. I was too busy being a book worm, studying and providing for my future. I was very career minded. Very serious, actually. And very insecure. I was always worried about what other people would think of me. I was always trying to fit in and if somebody would say a mean thing about me, that would bother me for days.

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With age, I learned not to care about that anymore. That’s one of the few positive sides of aging.

However. Some comments do still affect me. They don’t hurt me. They just fucking piss me off. For instance, when my article on HLN.be got published about traveling without a plan and living life to the fullest, I couldn’t help but check how people were reacting to it. Most of the comments were good. But, of course, there were also some bad comments. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. And you don’t have to agree with me and my way of living. Different people, different ideas. It’s just the way some people pin you down instantly as a selfish brat that probably hasn’t got any sick relatives to take care of, and shouldn’t expect any help from others when she is in trouble, is just so narrow minded that it drives me claustrophobically insane. If someone would say this to my face I would fucking rip theirs off.

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First of all: No, I don’t have a sick relative to take care of. Lucky me! And lucky relatives of mine! That we’re all healthy and perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves.

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Seconds: I don’t believe people should need other people or that people should put their lives on hold for others. Of course if my mother or father was sick, I would take care of them. But I wouldn’t stop living. The day before I left, someone close to me got really upset about me leaving because she needed me to be there because she was having a baby soon… I couldn’t believe anyone could demand me to stay for the sake of her choosing to reproduce. That just didn’t fit in my head. I’m sorry but I’m not gonna neglect myself because of others. This is my life and I choose how I live it.

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But then again, I’m not super human either. So I do ask myself that question occasionally:

AM I BEING SELFISH?

The way it began for me: I really needed to leave my everyday routine and live completely in the moment. I believe people who choose to do so, don’t have to feel bad about that. For example Maryam, who I met in Tasmania, her mother back in Iran was really sick but that didn’t prevent her from traveling around Australia. And her mother didn’t blame her. Is she selfish? No way. It’s not like she was getting wasted every night, partying away. She was there dealing with her own personal struggles and challenges while dealing with her mother’s sickness. People need to understand that going away to travel for longer periods of time isn’t about lying on a deck of a cruise ship, sipping frozen strawberry margaritas and doing nothing. No, that’s holidaying. Traveling is embarking on a journey to gain important life lessons from it. And that usually doesn’t always go as expected, or doesn’t necessarily have to be a better life than the one you had at home. It’s all about experiencing, learning, to seek confrontation with yourself and others. Surviving basically.

To do that on your own requires braveness, independence and creativity. People blame us travelers for taking the easy way out, running away from responsibilities, but honestly if I really wanted to have an easy life I would have just stayed at home, curled up in my comfort zone. My life isn’t easier. It has simplified, yes. Cause I took all the bad Chi out, and only keep the good Chi.

You: “Sorry Evvy, but what is Chi exact-ly?”

Me: Ahaa! Very good question, You-san!

Chi (or Qi) is the fundamental life force that flows through all and everything. It basically differentiates a living human being from a corpse.

(again)

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A strong life force makes a human being totally alive, alert and present while a weak force results in sluggishness and fatigue. You can increase and develop your Chi to overcome illness, become more vibrant and enhance mental capacity.

That’s what Taiji and Qigong are all about. If I would only find a way to shut up my mind while I stand there frozen for 40 minutes with my eyes closed and knees bent, while trying to find a magnetic sensation between my fingertips.

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Basically you should think about your body, your blood flow, … Or birds. Birds are always good. It should bring you into an elevated state of being. If you achieve in doing that, Godzilla could drop in the school yard and you wouldn’t even move a muscle.

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“Shit, they’re doing Qigong. There goes my terrifying entrance.”

Or how coach Ariel likes to put it: “No matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, do not open your eyes, do not drop your arms, do not straighten your legs, just focus on your laogong* points.”

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That basically means if someone would stand next to you and burn your face with a Bunsen burner, or fire gun shots at you, you are not supposed to move. Yeah, it’s advanced. ***

(*** BTW coach Ariel did an awesome thing this week. He broke a brick with his bare hand while holding an egg inside his palm. Guess what?? The egg didn’t break! The egg was real alright, he showed us after. Right before his palm magically gave birth to an unidentified living sentinel thing with sharp teeth!)

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… Okay that last part I made up…

I think this whole Chinese philosophy thing is super interesting, though. But sometimes it’s a lot to process. Especially when the lessons are in Chinese, and the school translator isn’t doing a very good job getting the point across. I was following a Taoism class the other day and I just couldn’t understand everything the master was explaining us. I was #dafuq’ing all over the place.

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During that class we were supposed to learn about Feng Shui. But at the end the only thing I actually remembered was that it means Wind – Water. I decided to run over to Amanda, the weirdest of translators, always wearing the most colorful and funny outfits, and ask her the obvious question:

Me: “Amanda, what in da funk is the difference between Chi and Feng Shui?”

She stared at me with her beady eyes, not really understanding how I had just came out of a one hour Taoism class about Feng Shui still asking that question.

Amanda: “Well, Feng Shui is all about harmony around you. Your home, the trees, the buildings around you, … They have to be aligned so that the wind/water can flow without blockages. While Chi is the energy inside your body. If someone has a weak voice, for example, then that person has weak Chi. If a person has a strong voice than that person has a strong Chi. Got it?

(Mind = blown)

Wow, Amanda had just provided me with an interesting insight there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this academy so far -besides spider man crawls, walking push ups and Russian push ups- it’s definitely how to speak loudly and raise my voice.

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My whole life I’ve been too much of an introvert to do that properly. And sometimes I just swallowed words or I would begin a sentence loudly and end it softly. Mumbling. When we train I yell it out like crazy. My punch doesn’t come out without a loud and clear : TSE HA! They taught me that the first day. To scream and shout, to do your movements with power. The Shifu is always screaming: ‘Louder! More Power!’ And when we do laps around the school yard we always count as loud as we can. Like soldiers.

Leader: ‘Yi Er, Yi Er, Yi Er, Yi  … (group echo: Yi Er, Yi Er, Yi Er, Yi)
Leader: Yi Er, San Si (group echo: Yi Er, San Si)
Leader: Yi, Er, Saaaaan Si! (group echo: Yi, Er, Saaaaan Si!

I guess that means I have a strong Chi! Thanks Amanda! You made it a lot more clear! Now go back to being weird!

With her clearing up that question, I could finally answer that other question for myself.

AM I BEING SELFISH?

No! Of course not!! If this traveling and experiencing new things is doing all this good to me, then why should I be ashamed of living for me? It took me a while to come up with an antonym for selfish, until I finally got it: if I’m doing this for anything, it’s out of SELF LOVE. And subsequently the love I have for others. The most important people in my life. Cause when I am a stronger Evelien, they’ll gain from it too. If I’m not happy with the way things are going in my life, how can you expect I will be of any beneficence in your life? My Feng Shui would fuck up your Feng Shui, and then we would both end up with bad Chi, shitting that bad Chi on other people, creating a bad Chi-chaos that would eventually bring this whole world to an end.

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Now THAT! would be selfish.

There are no blockages in my system, I can love others much more than I ever could before. I can literally empower others with my Chi. And I will, once I return. You better be ready!

So bottom line:

Screw you guys, Imma do whatever the fuck I want. It’s good for you. It’s good for me. It is the power of Chi. 

Chi you later!

XO

Nourishing my Chi. Out of self love. Of course. Every Saturday I go to the bakery in Mu Ping and treat myself to a nice pineapple pie. It iz zie best! ❤

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