My ride. My fight. My life

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

(Flashback)

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

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

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But first things first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My first indoor mileage.

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

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Neglecting my diet.

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Smoking the Christmas tree…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These things could proper kill you.

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

Of course I realized that a little too late….

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

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

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

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

I continued my ride and didn’t fall after.

I figured I was ready for the next step.

I still regret the day I thought this….

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So blonde & clueless…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A+ for guts. D- for cleverness.

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

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

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

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

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The disappointment is real.

On my way back home I felt like shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Type Gerrit from Bavikhove .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On my rollers. For old time’s sake…

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

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

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

I had one more day at the bar …

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

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

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APRIL 1st, D DAY 

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

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

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

#clueless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All because of a pair of iconic sneakers.

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

Mac Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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Taking this to bed.

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

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

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

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

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

Can I clip it?

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Yes I can!

Peace out

XO

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Sometimes a girl’s gotta do …

I’m sorry guys. It has been soooo long since I gave you a new feed to read. But let’s be brutally honest, it was a little hard to trump the last post I did. That was freaking awesome!

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I guess these past weeks I was a little preoccupied with …

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You: “We understand Evvy. You’re probably really busy with being back at work at the newspaper. No biggie. It takes some time to get the rhythm back.”

Yeah err, about that… I ahm ….

I’ve quit. 

You: You what???

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Me: Don’t worry I got everything under control.

I think…

You: “WHY IN THE ASS’S FACE DID YOU QUIT?!”

Well people change. I changed. I always knew it would be hard to go back. But it only got crystal clear a couple of weeks ago. When I put my autograph on a piece of paper…

And because I knew there would be some non-understanding, I made a list of why my ‘retirement’ is a good thing for this planet and all living organisms.

1. I spend 95% less time in traffic.
I won’t be causing aggression nor will I insult you from behind the wheel. The streets will be a lot more safe and friendly without me driving them with my big soccer mom truck.

2. As a result I won’t be polluting this earth.
Every big change starts with yourself, okay?

3. I am a lot more zen on the inside which really benefits my surroundings. 

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4. People don’t have to hear me talk about all the cool stuff I do, all the free concerts and festivals I attend, all the famous people I meet and hug. 

5. I’m leaving the limelight to somebody else for a change.
After all: sharing is caring.

5. I won’t be getting paid anymore to travel to exotic places.
From now on whenever I want to travel I will have to pay for it just like everybody else.

6. I got a goal with this blog and that is to make YOU feel better about your own life.
I cannot do that by turning everything back to normal. I need to struggle and suffer. I’m on a mission here.

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So, what do you think about my retirement now?

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If you now will excuse me, I got a busy day ahead of me …

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but you’re more than welcome @ café Korsakov later this afternoon.

Peace out
XO

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.

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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.

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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

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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’

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‘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.

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The consequences were horrendous.

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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?

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

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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?

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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. 

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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?

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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:

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And say:

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

Me:

souls

 

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Dring Dring

 

Shooting hoops

I’ve been having some trouble sleeping lately. I guess it has all to do with having a lot on my mind.

For starters:

A) In one month I will be saying goodbye to my perfect little apartment in the south of Antwerp.

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Since I can’t pay for it any more. Since…

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B) On top of that I have been having nightmares about the café I work at. Ever since I had to clean up after this drunken customer pissing all over the place, his fizzy pee haunts me in my sleep.

C) Same goes for Kaley Cuoco’s lip sync battle. That shit’s craayzaay scary.

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I needed something to take my mind of things.

I decided to join my dad for a little Tuesday B-ball practice. He wanted to try out his new state of the art Derrick Rose shoes.

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Badass sneaks

And to me, it seemed like a good day to kick some veteran ass.

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Seemed like the only person I opened a can of whoop ass on … was myself.

Dad: “Hi guys, I brought my daughter with me tonight to join us during our game, I hope that’s okay.”

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Roger: “Yeah sure,…

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… I’m out of shape today anyway.”

Me: “Errr… (?!)”

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Apparently some of the gents weren’t too happy with a female entering the bunch. Since a couple of them were really looking for some ‘guys time only’.

Turned out one fellow’s wife was diagnosed with advanced cancer, which obviously is a big blow. She only has 12 months to live.

And Roger’s old Missus had just left him.

Roger: “I haven’t eaten for seven days.”

Me:

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Apparently she came back from a holiday in Spain and told him: “You can come and collect me from the airport but you’re not taking me or my luggage back with you.”

Auwtch.

All the more reason to get this party started, right?

Me: “Suicide anyone?”

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Dad: “Word choice, dumb-ass. It’s not the best idea to mention death or anything related… Besides, you don’t want to put ideas into Roger’s old cranium.”

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Some guy on the team: “You can warm up by keeping score.”

Me: “B-b-b-b-but…”

Steven: “Don’t listen to him, kid. I’ll sit this first round out. You go and play.”

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Losers.

Okay, I wasn’t taking this training as serious as some of the alpha males in the bunch but I wasn’t planning on letting these dinosaurs walk all over me. They didn’t expect a whole lot of me so I might as well just confirm that prejudice. Or give them a run for their money.

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But I was a tad rusty. My shots were lousy. I either came too short or threw too far. Same problem with my passes. I needed to readjust my arm strength.

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So I went all out on my defense.

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Some guys were double my size. But I jumped and clapped like my life depended on it. I managed to block some passes and dribbles biting the old men’s calves like an annoying chihuahua.

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Of course my ‘hands-on’ defense strategy exhausted me in no time. After the first half, which lasted about 45 minutes, I was already starting to develop reversed Joker mouth.

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(When your face runs red leaving a white grin around your mouth)

Wow these veterans have physique! I go on morning runs but this is a completely different ball game. My tongue was on my knees. I had forgotten how tiring this was.

Paul: “So you played basketball yourself?”

Paul is 61. He had a close shave with death recently. Two months ago his heartbeat was only 25.

Me: “Yeah I played when I was 14 or so.”

Paul: “Gee, that must have been a very long time ago.”

Me:

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Paul: “I mean, at least a couple of years.”

I did some quick mathematics -who am I kidding, I’m super slow at mathematics- and realized I started playing when I was about 14. That ‘ll be 14 years ago next month. Half of my existence!

This was like a subconscious anniversary. Not that that period is dear to me. I got bullied. A lot.

Some girls on my team would launch the pass before they’d call my name. By the time I looked, the ball would just crash into my face and everybody would burst into laughter. It was a tough learning school. From which I still benefit today. It taught me not to give up. Ever.

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Fortunately I wasn’t the weakest link in this bunch.

Paul: “See that guy over there? That’s Walter. Super intelligent man. But incredibly useless on the field. He couldn’t score once, not even if his life depended on it. That’s because he can’t catch a single pass. He sucks. But he’s here every week. So we cut him some slack.”

I felt connected with Walter. Cause I know how it feels. But I didn’t spare him on the defense front. The poor bastard could hardly get any passes through from his team mates.

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Suddenly I was faced with the beauty of it all. We all had our personal reasons to be on that court. And to ‘give it a shot’. Sometimes we’d miss. Sometimes we’d score. But the outcome was the same on both sides: in the end we had fun. And all it involved was a metal ring and a little bit of fair play.

After one and a half hour of running around, my dad’s team (including me) won. And I contributed the full six points! That’s six more than Walter on his team. And a couple dozen less than my dad. With training being over, everybody could go back to their lives. And their wives. Except for Roger…

Me latching on to the score board: “Wow, I’m dead!”

“I mean…!”

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(Word choice! Word choice!)

In the car I had a little post game talk with my dad.

Dad: “You did good against those old bastards. You got better and better by the end of the game.”

It did come back to me. And even though I didn’t bring my A-game, I very much enjoyed the workout and the trip down memory lane. And for one whole hour and a half I didn’t think about my problems once.

Me: “You know dad, I’m really glad we did this. The fact that we did this together was the best part…And you definitely have the nicest shoes on the team.”

Dad: “I know, right.”

That night I slept like a rose.

A Derrick Rose.

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XO

Here’s another trip down memory lane:

Lace up the sneaks kick off them shoes
I’ll admit I play to win yo cause I don’t like to lose

(G. Love & Special Sauce)

Aftermath

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

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And what did you want? 

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

(Raymond Carver, Late Fragment)

***

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

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(This was your cue to laugh)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Relax, it’s a snapchat filter)

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

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

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I had three choices: 

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

B: Prostitution;

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

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

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

I pick C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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on my way from Yokohama station

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

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

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

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

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

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At one point the ride just disappears under ground!

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

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Post roller coaster selfie. It was WILD!

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

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

  1. I defo became wiser

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

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

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

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

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3. I frigging love myself 

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

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4. I’ve met some pretty amazing people

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

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

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

6. I quit smoking

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

7. I learned to trust

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

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

But for now:

Lientje Out.

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Domo arigato for your support these past months.

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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