A Big Blönde & Clueless Blessed Berlin Birthday Bash Baby! And something with a Book …

Yesterday was my BIRTHDAY Blonde & Clueless’ers!

I had a great time waking up early, bumping my toe against the chair, stumbling over the wire of my hair straightener almost landing my face against the door.  #Blöd&Clueless

You: “So Evvy, did you get a lot of prezzies?”

Me: “Ahm no, we’re not in Bavaria…”

lloydcough

You: “I mean presents…”

Nope.

But that’s not what birthdays are about once you turn 29. It’s about enjoying the company of your loved ones, friends, having a little wine, …

wine

What rhymes with 29? A big ass glass o’ wine! 

But I am very excited about one present I got.

And it happens to be the present I gave to myself…

Yesterday morning I went to the print shop around the corner to print….

MY VERY OWN BOOK!

That’s right. I have written a book. My debut as an author. And probably the only one I will write since it’s my poor little life story until now.

Well partly…

Well 90%…

Or at least 40%.

I should reconsider my PR before I make this official. Some parts are rather… shocking.

Anyway back to my memoires. Knowing me a little you probably assume it’s chick lit right? NOPE! No ‘Sex And The City’ or ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’. I wish I had the brain to write such bestsellers. I would be filthy rich.

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My story turned out a little bit more complex and therefor I will never earn big ass $$$$

“No no no, positive thoughts Evvy!” What you reflect to the mirrors of the Universe, you will get back tenfold!

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So I am happy to tell you it’s THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN! Move over J.K. Rowling. I’m taking over your throne with a BANG!

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You: “So Evvy, what’s it about exact-ly?”

Well, it’s a feminist manifesto, disguised as a tragic love story.
(Oh right that reminds me: #metoo )

It’s a ball of wisdom disguised as a naïve narrative. 

It’s a BESTSELLER disguised as a BOOK! 

Ok, that last thing was maybe a little exaggerated. But I am pretty sure I have written the new Bible. This is some Ultra New Testament shit fo sho.

You: “Has it got anything to do with the blog?”

OMG yes! How did you know? I am so proud of you You-San! I taught you well. Yes, that is exactly right. The story I have told on this blog, referring to the Australia-China-Japan-France-Canada-Berlin bit, is basically the chronology. So it is very much about traveling for wisdom and a lot of references to spiritual and paragnostic pickings, the Universe, religion, philosophy, etc. But it is also a touching love story of which you don’t know the depths because I never mentioned that on the blog. Truth revealed: The blog isn’t even half the story.

Anyway, I think it’s super cool, I am very happy with it unregarded of what will happen to it now. My options being:

  • publishing it
  • handing it out for free
  • burning it
  • passing it on to my (grand)kids… Or cats
  • keeping it under my mattress…
  • … more suggestions welcome!

I want to thank my awesome friends and roommates here in Berlin for speeding up the process. My main goal to come to Berlin was to write this book. I needed to remove myself from my comfort zone and close myself off somewhere else. As in a creative bubble or fever cabin to sweat this story out. I gave myself until the end of the year to write it but I started 18th of August and finished 18th of October. Right in time for my birthday.

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My new room worked it’s magic on me. Ever since I left Prenzlauer Berg and moved to Wedding the writing process shifted into a higher gear. I want to thank Amos for letting me stay in his room and leaving his creative AMOSPHERE! Also for wishing me good luck on the writing while he was away. By the way, check out his record label Index:records he’s a real mean music maestro.

And of course my in house roomie Addison who will become world’s most famous music producer one day. You can check out his COSMIC COMPOSITIONS on Facebook, Instagram, the whole shebang. And give the pages a like when you’re there alright? Very creative house here!

I am sad I will be leaving this place tomorrow but luckily I already have a new room to move to and thus the story continues!

Well the story of my life, that is. The book is already printed and I don’t want to make any more adjustments 🙂

So for  now I say good bye. Until next time. Let me know if you would like to read my book. Any suggestions on what I should do with it next are very welcome.

By the way spanks a lot for the mad birthday wishes y’all! ❤ 

Tschüssie! 

pretzel

XO

 

BLONDE & B R O K E in Berlin: how to tackle food cost?

How to survive on a budget in one of the coolest cities on the planet? 

Find out in the following bit!

So as you know I am now free living and freelancing in Berlin. I am not near the point where I make shit loads of money YET (especially if you have read what happened to me in the previous post) so that’s why I have to tackle my money business in a clever way.

(…) Me going to Ibiza for 4 days probably wasn’t the cleverest of ideas but I considered it more to be an investment since I had the time of my life with people I love and care for. Bonus points for mental health yo! 

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The traveling threesome ❤

But this cannot mean I can go on a Spree. No matter how close I live to this river (…)

The truth is: Good things in life don’t come for free so I have to really think about what I spend and if that correlates with what I get out of it.

For instance: I could stop eating. That way I don’t have to spend money.

True. But there is no point in not taking care of my body as I don’t want to get sick as I don’t want to spend money on doctors and medical bills. Hm, do I even have insurance, I wonder?

So I have made some calculations and I have estimated myself a 15 euro allowance per day to spend on ‘surviving’ (rent not included). With this I can anticipate in basic needs. Food and beverages come first. That should be more than enough right?

Rrrright… But when I need toiletries, laundry soap or tickets for public transportation this also has to come from the same allowance which means I have to do some creative shifting here and there.

Especially in case I would want to buy shoes or clothes. LUCKILY I stopped buying that shit ages ago! I don’t feel like spending money (considering the previous mentioned correlation theory) on things I don’t really need. I’m usually ahead of fashion any ways (:-p) so I much rather put my money where my mouth is.

mileymouth

Okay, so how to tackle food cost in Berlin? Actually it’s pretty darn easy…

  • EXPLORE DISCOUNT PARADISE
    Germany is ‘Die Heimat’ of Lidl and Aldi. So if you want to hit the jackpot involving discount shopping: you’re in the right place. Next to those you also have Penny, Netto, Kaiser’s and Kaufland. I suggest you visit them all and see where you can nibble some extra cents of certain products. Believe you me, it’s the ‘LIDL’ things that count!
  • RECYCLE YOUR BOTTLES 
    This one is a little trick to actually earn money. When you buy plastic bottles in the shop you can collect them in a machine and get 0,25 euro back per bottle. Glass bottles are worth 0,08 euro a pop. So be wise and recycle yo! It’s good for the environment and for your wallet. But for the sake of ‘Nächstenliebe‘: when you find empty  bottles or cans in the street or in the metro, leave them for the homeless so they can have a little pocket money too.
    bottles
  • MAKE FRIENDS WHO INVITE YOU FOR DINNER
    It’s always advised to make friends. Especially when they have a kitchen and a big fridge. Dinner parties are pleasant, cozy and budget friendly.

    moss

    You can bring a cheap bottle of wine if you feel like returning a favor. These days even a nice bottle of biological Italian wine from the BIOMARKT costs only 2,90 euros.
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    It’s even nicer when you cook together with a bunch of people! This way you can have a gorgeous round of cooking and split the costs all together.

    cookingwithhany

    Cooking with honey, I mean, Hany

    Big meals are much cheaper than cooking for 1. Life for a single gal not only comes with a price, it’s also pricey!

  • GO TO THE MARKET
    huling
    Why would you want to pay 3 euros for 1 avocado when you can pay 3 euros for a bunch of avocados? Der Genter Wochenmarkt (U-bahn Leopoldplatz) is an insider tip for your fruit and veggie fix. It has been a well kept secret for over 80 years now. Be prepared for some old fashioned market trader shouting as well as a big crowd of customers. You can find everything here from a new zipper to a vitamin boost. You can have a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice for 1 euro. Only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

 

 

  • FAST 
    Coming back to the ‘not eating part’ here. Actually that’s not a bad idea at all. I have done some research on the matter and there is compelling evidence that skipping one meal a day actually improves physical and mental health. There is a whole nutritional war going on right now aiming to bring down the breakfast lobby. It’s all just a bunch of marketing from Captain Oats and Tony The Tiger. I feel most energetic and productive in the morning when my body solely runs on black coffee. I have a whole storage cabinet of fat cells for my body to tap into, so I’m sure I won’t starve from skipping one meal a day.
  • DOWNLOAD ‘TOO-GOOD-TO-GO’ unnamed
    This is absa-fucking-lutely brilliant. It’s an app – you can download it in the German iTunes Store for free – where restaurants offer leftovers at a ridiculously low price. It’s a great way to cut down food cost as well as food waste and to be more sustainable in regards to the planet. Basically this app is doing everyone involved a HUGE favor.
  • EAT OUT
    This may sound a little contradictory but in most cases going out for dinner can be cheaper than buying ingredients and cooking a meal for 1. Compared to Antwerp, Berlin is much cheaper to eat out. You can easily find a big healthy meal between 4 to 7 euros. And there are so many healthy choices including a lot of vegan options. Vegan cuisine is big in Berlin. I get my vegan fix at VEGO in LychenerstraBe (Prenzlauer Berg). In this neighborhood there is a wide array of restaurants -especially Asian- who offer alternative vegan or vegetarian dishes. For vegan cocktails you must go to ‘Chaostheorie’ in SchliemannstraBe and on the corner with LettestraBe you have to swing by ‘Wohnzimmerbar’ for the vegan soup of the day or a nice soy latte. Creative, cute and cozy! My favorite work spot to date! Speaking of dates….

    (Left: vegan burgers at VEGO; Right: cozy outings at Wohnzimmerbar)

  • GO ON A DATE !
    If chivalry isn’t dead, you will be golden with this one. Meet a guy for drinks, have a nice talk and maybe go for a little bite to eat, charm him with your magical charming wand and before you know it he picks up the tab and you don’t have to spend one nickel. It happened to me twice already, and I wasn’t even doing it on purpose. Every time I went out, the guy picked up the tab. It was twice at Kreuzburger though… which usually doesn’t cost more than 5 or 6 euros. Tofu burgers cost a little bit more than meat ones :-p
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST: ALWAYS KEEP EYES AND EARS OPEN
    A good insider tip might just be one station away…bestplace-berlin-amen-01

If you stick to these basic ‘budget hacks’ you will hardly burn through your daily allowance. When this is the case I like to treat myself to a yummy coffee somewhere… Preferably with a little side order of brain food.

There is always money for a little comic relief. 
“Swallow me whole”, that’s exactly what that vegan bowl at ‘the Commonground’ said to me later that night! 

If you want to check all of this out for yourself: there is currently an amazing offer to come to Berlin practically for FREE!

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3 days in a 4 star hotel including breakfast (that damn breakfast lobby) for only €49,50! @vakantiepiraten.nl

Come and live FREE with ME next to the SPREE!

It is such a GREAT city!! ❤ ❤ ❤

XO

The S C A M

(***Attention: this could be my blondest and defo most clueless post to date.)

So these last few months I have been cooking up a plan. Like I always do.

Several weeks ago I had put up a message on Facebook stating I was looking for a fever cabin to pursue a new adventure.

dullboy

The main goal of it all was to move out of Antwerp, take my job with me, and live somewhere I could write and live at the same time. It could be Belgium, but then I started considering the bigger picture.

There were a few things that worked in my advantage:

  • My roommate gave up the lease of his apartment and went to live with his lover which meant I had to move out anyway
  • The roaming costs abroad suddenly got cancelled which means you can make phone calls to and from Europe without a financial hangover. (Well… it depends how much of course)
  • I started up my own business which basically means I can take my writing all over the world…

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The borders had been lifted and I suddenly remembered me being in Canada talking to my good friend Audrey. We had just celebrated Christmas and the New Year was a couple of days shy. I told her I wanted to live in Berlin for a couple of months.

You: “Berlin? Why Berlin?”

Me: “Dunno. Just to be there and have a change of scenery…”

You: “Why not Barcelona or Bali…or…Barcelona?”

Me: “Because I’m a non conformist, an anti establishment hippie who needs distraction and action PREFERABLY from like-minded people and ESPECIALLY from men with neck and nuckle tattoos.”

help-me-lord-wording-knuckle-tattoos-for-guys

Yes…Help me.

So: After Canada I went back to Antwerp from where I pursued a career as an independent writer and I started making serious plans to set up base in Berlin.

I went for a short visit in June.

You probably remember the TRAVELING THREESOME POSTS from Berlin, don’t cha?

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So much fun ❤

And in July I took the BIG STEP and started looking for a room to move into.

You: “WoW it’s like you moved there in a blink of an eye!”

Me: “Not so fast…”

The universe decided to test me. BIG TIME.

Reality Check

I came in contact with someone who was subletting a room in Berlin.

ursula

We sent e-mails back and forth and I decided the time was right. I took the room, payed a deposit

yoloariel

but ended up… ROYAL F U C K E D.

shocked

The room turned out to be a scam.

It didn’t exist. Merely in my imagination and in the perfectly portrayed fairytale the so-called owner painted for me.

I lost a lot of money.

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You:  “How much?????”

Enough to pay for this giant Darth Vader head which costs…. Well if you can read the 4 digit number on the price tag you surely don’t have to visit an eye doctor …

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You:

casablanca

It was a setback. A massive one.

I couldn’t believe that ME, the so-called investigative journalist, could fall for a scam like that?

How blonde and clueless could one be??

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You: “So how did you found out it was a scam, Evvy?”

The name with which she…or he… operated is in fact an existing name and it belongs to a girl. A girl who got scammed whilst looking for a room in Munich. She had given her passport information and that’s when her identity was abused to scam other people. Including me.

Now, if you see me somewhere on the internet subletting rooms in Barcelona, Delhi or New York don’t pay me any deposit and report me to you nearest police station. Thank you.

I went through a terrible low after the scam. I lost so much money. Money I worked hard for as a fresh starter-upper. Money I won’t ever see again.

pennyhelp

After a few weeks time, my bank confirmed me that the account where I sent the money to was emptied and closed down. The lead had turn cold. The police couldn’t do anything either. They had to drop the case.

case closed

I was reconsidering my entire plan. But I wanted to go to Berlin so darn bad… It had been my New Year’s resolution. And I needed to find a new place to live anyway. Either in Belgium or somewhere else.

I decided to give it one more go. I wouldn’t let my dream be crushed by one bad person.

I decided to put up a message on a housing website stating I got scammed and I was wanting to give things a second chance.

berlinhousing

I got quite some response to my -let’s be honest: very sad- message. People were sending me photos of their refrigerator. Telling me I was welcome to stay for dinner. Also a lot of Indian guys responded to me, telling me they would be happy to comfort me *wink wink*.

But then I got a private message from a lady. A single mother of two. Who would start looking for a new room mate in a couple of weeks but decided to let me know I would be slightly in the advantage of becoming her new roomie.

Every cloud has a silver lining. That’s fo sho. And regarding that scammer: I sincerely hope KARMA is a ball busting bitch!

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

The plan was still on. And I prepared for my big evacuation.

I made things official in the bar. They knew my final bar tending days were coming and I slowly but surely started planning and moving my stuff out of the apartment.

signedsealeddelivered

= > SHIPPING OUT

My last weeks in Antwerp were my best. I shared a goodbye beer with my favorite customer, went to the Pride with my two favorite men, went for a bike ride with dad and had a vegan pizza with mom!

 

 

I had a great time saying goodbye to my friends but I needed to move on. I had decided. So I persisted.

plane

I am now happy to tell you I am currently living in a wonderful very much existing room in the center of Berlin.

schliemann

My lovely street in P Berg! ❤

I am meeting lots of new people, discovering new places and things every day. And I am doing a lot of writing here.

For those of you who are in need of some juicy copywriting and/or storytelling or who want to help me earn my money back, I am open for business and happy to be of service right here in my Berlin office! CONSIDER THIS AS A GOOD CAUSE HELPING THE POOR! => www.eveliendelgouffe.com !

room

One of my many writing spots ❤

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

flowersforlioba

XO

 

Making headlines

You guys! Something wonderful has happened! Something that will change the future of Backpackersguidefortheblondeandtheclueless forever. Your favorite blog is breaking borders, is conquering ground, is changing the rules, is mixing guacamole with syrup, is …

You: “Yeah, yeah we get it. Something big has happened. Spill the beans already.”

Me: “You are not going to believe this: The one and only DAILY PLANET has reached out to me to do an interview on me and the blog!”

→ Millions of readers getting to know BGftBC? – Hell yeah!

→ Getting interviewed by Clark Kent?? – Fuck yeah!

clarkkent

I didn’t hesitate one billionth of a second when they asked me!

… Unfortunately Kent couldn’t do the interview… The article is part of The Daily Planet’s Fashion Issue so I got to sit down with Lois Lane instead.

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We had a little chat and a photo shoot at Korsakov. I’m super happy with the result. Although I would have liked some more pictures to make the article breathe, … And some creative questioning wouldn’t have hurt, but that Lois Lane is a tough cookie to negotiate with. Anyway. Here’s the result, hope you like it!

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You: “Hum. Exoticism?”

Me: “Shut up and continue reading.”

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You: “Aww Evvy, aren’t you the sweetest Cheerleader Goth.”

Me:  annoyedemoji

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** The End **

Me: “So… What do you think??”

You: “Honestly?”

Me: “Yes.”

You: “I think you should go back to interviewing people other than yourself. Now THAT would be a great look for you!”

emojiskull

To be continued.

Directions

You: “Hi Ev, how’s the cycling career going? Staying vertically?”

Me: Well things are mostly going horizontally since I have suffered a severe back problem because of working my ass off in order to pay for my (amateur) cycling career.

It was September 13th, 13:13 pm and 13 degrees outside. I was standing in line for the bakery with number 13 in my hand when it happened.

pain

I couldn’t move for about two hours without pain shooting from my lower back down my left leg. It felt like a nerve got stuck between my back and my pelvis.

dicaprio-thousand-knives

The next day, the chiropractor tried to snap me out of it.

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But after two sessions I was still on my back.

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Here I was having spent a ton of money on a brand new road bike, already crippled before it had even started. 

A good thing about being horizontally is it gives you a chance to look up. And reflect. While I was gazing at the sky. Reading the clouds. I was trying to envision what my next move would be. Once I would be back in the saddle -literally- and able to move, that is.

Autumn has come, my sabbatical is almost over and I still don’t have a clue about what I’m going to/supposed to/want to do with my professional life.

Like time slipping away like sand in an hourglass. The more time ticks away, the more the realization comes:

I need to start choosing a direction.

And since there’s no more thing as ‘One Direction’ …

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… things can go ANY way.

And that shit’s crazy scary.

But -apparently- this is the part where I should throw in the word ‘exciting’.

My girl Kylie McGirr, could you take the word please? I need to pee.
(Listen to her, she’s the renowned writer of an … (E-)Book on nine steps to successful goal setting titled ‘Get Your Year Into Gear’ … Written by Kylie McGirr… Lovely rhyme work to say the least)picture-2016-10-12-om-09-58-15

Kylie:

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Coach Kylie is right. There IS an exciting side to it. People are seducing me with great job offers. I’ve pictured 5 different futures already. All had some nice things to say for them.

But it’s not ‘picture a future’. It’s ‘pick a future’.

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What to decide?

Where to go?

I need a BIG road sign in my life

blondecluelesscyclists

No, not that one…

Rather one with:

‘Your direction here’ 

‘100% regret proof’ 

‘100% satisfaction guaranteed’

‘Try now, you’ll get an ‘always right, never wrong’ compass for free’

pocahontas-spinning-compass

‘Don’t like it? You’ll get an alternative route for free’ 

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One year ago I  wasn’t ready to choose. I took a detour. And did what traffic loving Belgians like to do: place a big sign with ‘Works ahead’. To work on myself. To work some stuff out. To do anything but work work work.

least-responsibility

The consequences were horrendous.

dmv-lines

The Daily Planet: “People turning in driver’s license due to too many personal road works”

If I could I would have just 8-balled my way out of this pickle. But those things tend to change their minds more than Donald Trump opens his mouth.

Will I find the right direction?

signspointtoyes

Will it bring me a gainful, mentally stable, enjoyable though creatively challenging future?

outlooknotsogood

Why not?!

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I know I need to choose the way myself. Without tools. And follow my inner compass.

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What says my head?

What says my heart?

What says Pocahontas??

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Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the riverbend?
Ok, Pocahontas’ advice is to keep looking for excitement, the unpredicted path, without being held back by handsome men who build sturdy walls.
But I need a bigger AHA! feeling than that.
The great output of coach Kylie, the 8-ball and Pocahontas aside, it was time to take life lessons of a much higher level.
You: “God? “
Me: “The hermit crab.”
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Every hermit crab comes to a time in life where he -or she- needs to move to a bigger shell. They need to recognize that the small shell they used to call their home cannot hold what they are becoming and they need to take adequate actions. Without fear of growing and stepping out of their comfort zone. It requires serious courage for those beady eyed sea babies to leave their old shell since they are extremely vulnerable without it.
Some crabs even develop hermit crab anorexia. They starve themselves out of fear of growing and taking on new challenges. fatso-burger-picture

The subtext here is: The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic long-term learning process, and not live in a shell of static safe mediocrity. Growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Every challenge you accept is a new shell, a new home and a new opportunity for growth. The current one you have might be comfortable for now, but what are you depriving yourself of to stay there?  What challenges are you shying away from just so that you can remain right where you are?

Let’s all think about this while indulging on a savory treat.

Crab cake anyone?

crabcakes.jpg

I guess this blog post will be another ‘to be continued’.

Let me know if you’re looking for a bigger shell. We can all go shell-looking together. Apparently hermit crabs use their social network to trade up a shell. When a hermit crab finds a new, larger shell, several other individuals gather around and form a kind of queue from big to small. When a hermit crab that is sufficiently large arrives for the empty shell, this puts a chain reaction in motion: the largest crab takes the empty shell, the second largest creeps into the newly abandoned shell, etc. 

dmv-lines

The Daily Planet: “Hermit -and obese- drivers queuing for a bigger car”

XO

Oh before I forget. I want to end this post with a small communication service.

Recently I was going through my social media and I came across someone using the hashtag ‘#funemployed‘. Now, I know this blog is called ‘Blonde/Clueless’ but I was shocked by so much cluelessness after discovering this hashtag.

I mean:

Was taking the ring to Mordor fun?

frodo

Sure it was adventurous, and Frodo didn’t have to go to work for a long long time but leaving your job to go look for new and unexplored roads isn’t fun. It’s fucking hard work.

Sometimes I just want to snap people into place myself:

ted

And say:

r1oucad

You: “Ahm… You should say, you’re having a relationship with a bicycle.”

Me:

souls

 

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Dring Dring

 

Aftermath

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

idid

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.

sake

(This was your cue to laugh)

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

not

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.

deadpool

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!

rogerrabbit

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)

Betty-and-Wilma-Charge-It-free-clip-art

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.

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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

Kung Fu Panda

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

KUNG FU SCHOOL !!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

° They had a temple;

° They had awesome monks and masters;

° They offered trainings to everybody from around the world;

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

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

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

So that my friends, is how it all started…

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

IT WAS EVEN MORE AWESOME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So first day of training….

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

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

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

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

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

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

After ten minutes the pain got even worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Or at least, I hope.

XO

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

Investing in the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Errr…”

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

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

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

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

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

Boy, was I wrong…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pic of port!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Err, not really….

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

Leo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Projectile what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hang on to those umbilical cords, guys!

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

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

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

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I SAID BASE CAMP YOU STUPID TWAT!

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

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

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

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

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

Thus….

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

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

GOLD

XO

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

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

The mirrors are coming *

(* caution: this is a long one)

A friend recently stated: “The first month of traveling on your own, you’re going to be like a sponge. You’re gonna soak in every experience and get loads of energy from it. The second month you’re going to feel the first signs of homesickness. The third month the mirror comes. And you will be confronted with yourself in an often not so pleasant way.”

I think I have jumped straight to the mirror phase.

I must say, I have been avoiding mirrors until now. Or better: mirrors have been avoiding me. At the farm there was one little one in the bathroom. You could just see your face and a little bit of your neck and chest if you stood on your toes right. On the way to Melbourne the only mirror I had was the little make up mirror in the passengers seat of Pierre’s car. Sometimes even the rear-view mirror would do to put in my contacts or throw on a little bit of mascara. When we would go shower in public rest areas, or just pull over to go to the toilet, I always found it odd there weren’t any mirrors there. It’s weird, but the first day I was in the Tasmanian mountains with Helmut, he asked me to accompany him on a roadtrip to Hobart. To pick up a new wardrobe closet. And a full length mirror…

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It had just spent my first night in the woods. It was lovely. I woke up with the most amazing view from the caravan and saw the wallabies grazing on the lawn. My day started wonderfully.

“Haa, there you are finally”, Helmut shouted when I entered the house with my toiletries piled up in my arms. We would spend 6 hours in the car together that day. I reckoned that should give us some time to get to know each other. And maybe he could already hammer some wisdom into me. “We gotta get going if we want to make it to Hobart in time. Come, have breakfast.”

Me: “Err, I was thinking of having a shower first…”

Helmut: “A shaaaauwwer? (very German) Why do you need a shaaaaaauwer for?”

Me: “To wash my hair…And all…”

Helmut: “Don’t even think about using a hair dryer, i’m running this place on solar power.”

(Me rolling over the floor with laughter. Followed by an uncomfortable staring competition)

Helmut: “Well I ain’t laughing. Yesterday Maryam tried it and I had to tell her to never do that again. The voltage is way too high. You can wash your hair tomorrow and let it dry during the day. Come, sit down, I’m making you breakfast and I want you to follow closely.”

What I witnessed next was chemist lab level. Helmut dug up two big empty breakfast bowls, put some chia seeds in there and poured it over with hot water. While he was letting it sink in, he dived up heaps of giant white plastic pots. One with some green alkalizing powder, some with what supposed to be ‘pea powder from Belgium’ (never heard of this), another with beetroot powder, another with garlic powder, spirulina, raisins, almonds, …

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He poured it over with the oats he had boiled on the stove, added a big spoon of greek yoghurt, some berries and a nice teaspoon of Leatherwood honey. That was not only a 20 dollar breakfast sitting there. That was also enough food to get you through the entire week!

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Helmut: “Eat.”

I took a first spoon and I was… delighted. This felt like a great, healthy start to our day of bonding.

Helmut: “Alright, pack up your gear, we’re heading to Hobart.”

Once we were in the car, an old Mazda pick up truck which was rambling and shaking from every angle, I decided to give it to him straight up.

Me: “So seriously Helmut, why did you give me such a hard time coming here?”

Helmut: “Well because of the things I told you yesterday. I thought you were a glamour girl. But from the moment I started talking to you, I soon found out we would get along.”

“So tell me what do you wanna know?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Helmut: “Well most of you young females want to come live with an old guy like me because they wanna learn stuff. So tell me, what do you wanna know?”

Me: “Err…”

Helmut: “Well, I will give you a piece of advice to start with. From now on you will live by the four agreements, alright?”

1) Be impeccable with your word;

2) Don’t take anything personally;

3) Don’t make assumptions;

4) Always do your best.

And I’ll throw in a fifth one in for you: Change your posture, it’s horrible!

Me: “Pardon??”

Helmut: “You hunch. It’s from being curled up over your computer (he means my phone) all the time. Sit up straight. Your back will thank me later.”

The landscapes flew by. From the green meadows, to the nice coastlines leading up to the harbor of Hobart two and a half hours later. Not one minute we spent not talking. Me and Helmut were on the way to bonding alright. We spent the entire time laughing, talking about life and filling each other in on our history and background. Turns out Helmut has had a very turbulent life so far. He got married 3 times and he could have died about 8 times. He ended up in a ditch with his Subaru, almost died in two motorcycle accidents, a skydive almost ended up on the wrong side of the tunnel, … And when he talks about his grandchildren he’s just miles away from that grumpy Tasmanian Devil he likes people to believe he is.

Once I found out he has kids and grandchildren, I wasn’t afraid of him eating me anymore.

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(Weird shizzle: Helmut gave me the exact same jumper after cleaning out his old wardrobe closet. Yikes! What a coincidence!)

On the way back we stopped for ice cream. The shop was owned by a Belgian woman. It was the first time I spoke Dutch in a long time. It sounded funny. She kind of gave me a weird look once she found out I was living with a 73 year old guy who wasn’t my grandpa, nor any other family member. But I guess I better get used to that. The next day we went hiking in Freycinet National Park and I met Susan. A nice, fit looking lady. I couldn’t believe she was 50. She was tighter than me! Turns out she joined the army a few years ago. And she was very sporty as a kid as well. Muscle memory. Mine suffers from early dementia, by the look of it.

Susan tagged along with us that day. She came all the way from Launceston to accompany us on our hike. I reckoned she was an old friend of Helmuts. Later I found out she actually was a woman he met through an internet dating website and me and Maryam were actually witnessing their first date! That’s why Helmut was in such a fit mood that day. And why he was peacocking so much.

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You should see him go up that Mount Amos. I must say, that mountain was tough! A very steep climb over and through big boulders. No paths. No rails. Pure on muscle power. And -in Helmut’s case- a walking stick. But then again, he got up there seemingly effortless. I was impressed.

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The way down was a little less impressing. We just had lunch on top of the mountain, made some photos and sailed down in a too confident mood. Me and Helmut kind of evoked the reckless kid in each other. And we were marching down the mountain, acting stupid. While we were taking the steep walk down, Helmut suddenly slipped away, landing on his bum, sliding down faster than my eyes could follow. I panicked, since the rocks were so steep and slippery and dived in behind him to stop him. As I did, I slipped as well, smacked hard on my back and tailbone and slid down with him to -only meters later- be stopped by a big branch that was sticking out of the rocks. Helmut and I looked at each other with big eyes welling up with tears of laughter. He was mostly laughing with me and my lousy attempt to save his ass. Mine was hurting pretty bad that night, while he didn’t have a scratch on him. Lucky bastard with his nine lives…

The next two days at the house were gloomy. The weather had changed and the sun didn’t come out at all. It was raining. Instead of seeing actual showers, it looked like the landscapes were vaporizing, sweating. Mist surrounded the house and the temperature dropped. We even had to fire up the fire place. The first day I came down with a cold. I had experienced a thermo crash of about 20 degrees coming from Melbourne to Tasmania. My throat was sore, my nose stuffed. I wasn’t feeling it at all that day. In the afternoon I disappeared into the caravan and slept for more than three hours. I had a bite to eat and slept for another 9 hours.

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View from the house

The day after we were again locked up inside. The breathtaking view of the coastline from the house was nowhere to be seen. Helmut put on a little Neil Young, after he found out I liked it, and Maryam and I started baking cakes with everything we could find in the cupboard. The place smelt of carrot cake and chocolate fudge, mixed together with the odor of burnt cake mixture dripping on the base of the oven due to the lack of self raising flower. After one hour the cakes looked worse for wear. Maryam’s one was way too liquid and mine way too salty. I accidentally pinched in one teaspoon of salt instead of half a spoon. That does make a difference, alright. But they turned out looking amazing after we tweaked it a little and let them rest for another 30 minutes. They made a pretty good lunch the day after when the sun came back full power. Finally. First thing we did was hit the beach. White sandy beaches, turquoise clear water, … I felt in tropical heaven. Nobody told me Tasmania is such paradise!

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Bay of Fires

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Afterwards Helmut drove us up to one of the biggest waterfalls in Tassie. I took in the moment and decided I had made the most of my time in Tasmania. I could return to the mainland.

You: “Wait, whut? Didn’t you say you wanted to learn all about life and pick Helmut’s brain?”

Well, while spending six days with Helmut (and Maryam) I did learn a lot… But I didn’t get the answers I was hoping for. Truth is, I’ve put way too much expectation on Helmut’s shoulders. I was looking for an oracle. Someone to explain me all about life in layman’s terms since I’m looking so much for answers, directions, guidelines, … . I pictured Helmut to be the right fit. A big German dictator, who would hammer an iron clad Law of Life into my brain. But that was wishful thinking.

That sunny beach day I encountered my first big mirror. I got out of bed that morning, very much excited about the sun making her long awaited return. During breakfast Maryam started talking about Iran, her home country. About the history, and how far her people have come. How far she has come as a person. And how rare her travel is for a woman from her background. Coming from a country where women only possess half the rights of men. To top that her mother is really ill so she’s juggling quite a lot of emotional things here. But she never ceases to keep enjoying life. I very much admire that in her. And at the same time she makes me feel uncomfortable because my struggles that are such big and powerful obstacles in my head -mostly caused by lovesickness- seem very trivial compared to her. I’m healthy, my loved ones are fine, I have loving friends and I’m doing great by myself… I shouldn’t have a care in the world.

My attention was drawn to a saying that was hanging on Helmut’s wall.

Faith of consciousness is freedom,

Faith of feeling is weakness,

Faith of body is stupidity.

Love of consciousness evokes the same in response,

Love of feeling evokes the opposite,

Love of body depends only on type and polarity.

Hope of consciousness is strength,

Hope of feeling is slavery,

Hope of body is disease.

I understood the words without really understanding them so I turned to Helmut for a little help. Layman’s terms, remember.

At first he started hammering the fact that all life is non-permanent and that we all DIE. There’s nothing we can do about it, DIE we will. Since nothing is permanent, we all must suffer. Since every enjoyable thing in life is ending. BUT, the ‘good news’ is, that too shall pass. Since nothing is permanent…

Then he started explaining that all feelings like love are mostly driven by lust and believing to find a soulmate is basically weak and stupid.

That’s where my mirror broke.

My eyes welled up. I reckon Helmut noticed, since he invited me outside to take the washing out and hang it up to dry. I was walking in front of him.

Helmut: “Why the tears?”

I turned around, stared into the big blue eyes with which he had looked three women in the eye when saying ‘I do’, and broke down. “If love doesn’t exist then what’s the point of living anyway?” (snif, snif)

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He gave me a big bear hug and I cried on his shoulder for a firm minute. It was a cleanse. And a realization:

I don’t have to agree with Helmut. It’s not because he has experienced a couple of rough rides in ‘the love & relationship department’ that the same goes for me. I am a person that is very much looking for love. If I can’t give and receive love in this life, then there’s no point for me. No matter how many heartbreaks I suffer -and I had my fair share- I will never stop hoping. I will never stop having faith. In myself, relationships or life in general. That depressed girl in Melbourne got something right. She IS worth of finding someone and being loved. Don’t let any nonbeliever or cynic ever change that thought, girl!

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From there on everything fell into place: I shouldn’t rely on others to spell everything out for me. I am responsible for my own lessons, my own happiness and the best way of getting the answers I’m looking for is by experiencing and discovering by myself. I suddenly remembered a beautiful sentence Susan randomly flickered at me while hiking down Mount Amos.

“Go travel, the best way of finding yourself is losing yourself.”

The next day I packed my bag, booked a ticket to Brisbane and flew out there like the wind. Helmut probably didn’t get much of a Helpx out of me, but hopefully I kicked some wisdom into that cranium too. To go easy on the judgement.

I don’t know if it were Helmut’s poor washing skills but my jumper felt smaller that day. “You must have grown, he laughed.” I guess I must have. I felt so much more confident after that little breakdown I suffered. I realized I have a lot of power inside me. And a very strong will. I just need to start trusting my gut more -it has never let me down so far- and not follow guidelines or recipes so much. I didn’t follow any recipe while I was baking that chocolate cake and guess what? I like my life very much like how that cake tasted. With a pinch too much of salt.

Let’s hit the road, blondie. It’s gonna be me and you from now on. Whatever mirrors we encounter on our way, we will try to conquer them together. In an ergonomically correct way, of course: with a straight back. But if we want to get rid of some subordinate feelings, let’s start with losing some of that excess baggage first. I decided to bring some of the clothes I had been dragging with me to the second hand shop. There were some great memories attached to some of those shirts and trousers, but the fact that my backpack felt lighter, already brought me so much more joy and freedom. Good tip: the first thing every self-made traveler should do is to learn how to live without comfort zones. (And Lonely Planets, DON’T BRING THEM.) You’ll be surprised how damn comfortable that actually feels.

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Goodbye caravan I called ‘home’ for a week!

XO

PS: This => Picture 2016-03-04 om 03.39.12

brought me so much pleasure today: to read that my views are booming! Thank you for reading the blog and for relating to it. I’m currently waiting on my plane to Brisbane. I had lunch in a café and the guy at the counter had to charge me 4 dollars less due to a mistake with the cash register. “You’re winning today”, he laughed. Damn right! Two hours earlier I bought an orange juice at a local truck stop. I took a sip and spat it right back out again, to notice the date has expired with over a week. I went back in and asked (politely) if I could have a new one. I got double the size! That morning I had made breakfast for Helmut and Maryam. Something my mom always used to make on the first day of school: ‘Winning bread’, we call it. Because it’s old bread you ‘win’ by creating a new dish with it instead of throwing it out. I guess I set the tone right there. So thanks for reading! I hope you guys keep enjoying it!

The Tasmanian cannibal

“Aaah the glamour girl from Belgium.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(…)

Me: “Uhu…And what about Maryam then?”

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

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

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

(Long uncomfortable silence)

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

And they were.

To be continued.

XO

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