Epidemic state of mind (should the world go Vegan?)

(***This post could contain traces of dairy, meat, fish, eggs, fish eggs, saturated fatty acids, other animal products and schizophrenia merely for illustrative reasons.)

You guys, I’m in a bit of a lacto-fermentated pickle here. Recently I saw a documentary on Netflix called ‘WHAT THE HEALTH’. 

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This film examines the link between diet and disease, and the billions of dollars at stake in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and food industries.

I was triggered by the title. For a word smith like me, it’s quite an arousing play of words. Also the fact Joaquin Phoenix is the executive producer definitely doubled the arousal.

Turned out it was the most disgusting horror movie I had ever seen in my life. I was abhorred by the testimonials and the investigations and it absolutely pushed me to consider to drastically change my eating habits.

Oh my cream-cheese-bacon-and-egg-bagel: Has the moment arrived? Is Evelien Delgouffe about to go Vegan?

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Vegalien! Vegalien! Vegalien!

Not so fast. I’m not too keen on the idea yet. I have my nutrition traditions, my ways, I don’t like drastic changes. I love barbecues. I love food. I love cold cuts and I love cheese. Oh my god, do I love cheese!

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I’m a dairy fairy. But the more I think about it, the less I can support my own lifestyle any more. We are in a epidemic state of decay caused by corrupted parties who benefit from our illnesses and belly fat.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the animals too, and this could also be a valid reason to stop eating animal based products.

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When I look up videos of factory farms and stuff, I feel disgusted but an hour later I could already be enjoying a nice carpaccio with some pesto and sun dried tomatoes.

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(This GIF is hilarious)

Because that’s what we are good at: turning a blind eye to things we don’t want to know about in the first place.

I was particularly good at it BUT NOW! The time has probably come to make a change.

I refuse to slowly kill myself from the inside.

Because reality of the documentary is: if we continue eating dead animals, saturated fats, and dairy… We will slowly infest ourselves with cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, …

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All of this has left me CRAZY CONFUSED about what to do and whom to trust. My brain is seesawing. One half wants to agree with the documentary and protest against pharmaceutical companies, meat and dairy industries, even hospitals and so-called health organizations.

But the other half just wants to stay calm and find some kind of in-between and possibly even a silver lining.

I think it’s time for a debate.

Blonde brain half? Clueless brain half? The floor is yours!

Vegetarians

#BLONDE: “If everyday foods are so bad for us, then why-hy isn’t the government warning us?”

#CLUELESS: “They are. But not really. Because they benefit form food industries and their effect on our health care system. That’s how they get their funds. If we all would be plant eating super humans the hospitals would be empty, nobody would need health insurance, doctors would be unemployed, the pharmaceutical business would go belly-up, … These are multi million businesses at stake here. Funds the government needs. To make it even more absurd: while it’s proven that deep fried foods cause cancer and diabetes, companies such as KFC actually sponsor Diabetic and Cancer organizations. It’s good for their image, it’s cost deductible and the organizations are happy with the donations… My thought? WITHOUT CARCINOGENS IN OUR FOODS THERE WOULDN’T BE SO MANY CANCER OR DIABETES TO CURE IN THE FIRST PLACE!

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(Side note: At one point in the documentary it struck me how government Associations even put recipes with carcinogenic ingredients online. And how a company -in it’s worldwide bid to battle breast cancer actually encourages to buy a ‘pink ribbon yoghurt’ even though yoghurt (dairy) has been proven to augment the risk of breast cancer.)

#BLONDE: “Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?” 

#CLUELESS: “There are plenty of whistleblowers and vegan/alternative lifestyle ambassadors but we are a herd. We look at the herd, we follow the herd. We even EAT the herd!”

#BLONDE: “Lots of other people eat processed meats, and they look alright don’t they? Could it be the documentary is merely vegan propaganda brought by vegans who are extremely biased?”

#CLUELESS: “First part of the question: Well yes, I’ve never seen on anyone’s face that his or her arteries are clogged or that his or her heart is skipping a beat or that his or her liver is working over hours to get all the toxins out. It doesn’t show. But that doesn’t mean the threat and the effects aren’t there.”

(Funny fact: It’s kinda ironic but usually vegans are the ones who don’t look too healthy at first glance. I just made a joke about vegans last week. Them being moody, underfed, unenergized people with no joy in life. Pfff, I just say the darnest things…)

To answer your second question: “Vegan ambassadors and doctors do take the lead in this documentary. So yes, they could have done a lot of ‘cherry picking’ to make their point across.”

#BLONDE: “If you do everything with measure, you’ll end up good”

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#CLUELESS: “Is this actually proven though?”

#BLONDE: “My grandmother turned 97 and she was thriving. I could settle for that. I don’t necessarily want to become 120 anyway.”

#CLUELESS: “Well our grannie was probably a lucky girl. But don’t forget, you pass on your bad habits after you die and your kids pass it on to their kids. And also: pull your head out of your ass and stop thinking about yourself for a second. It is not only your health, it is an ethical battle we are fighting here and a plea to save the environment.”

#BLONDE: “We are meat eaters, we need our protein”

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#CLUELESS: “We are plant eaters. We have the teeth to prove it. The only reason animals give us protein is because they get it from their plant based diets. We just take in their recycled protein. By the way: elephants, rinos and silverbacks are some of the strongest animals alive and what do they eat? Right, greens!”

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#BLONDE: “At least milk gives us strong bones”

#CLUELESS: “HORSE – SHIT!

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dairy sponsor

The only reason a cow produces milk is to feed her babies. Don’t step into that marketing talk or I’ll punch you in the ovary.

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#MODERATOR: “Order! Order!”

#BLONDE: “The pharmaceutical industry can’t be all that bad. If they were, they wouldn’t be developing cures on a daily basis. Not as long as there are Nobel Prizes to win.”

#CLUELESS: “ABSAFUCKING DINOSAUR DUNG! Medication is just an easy way out. Take this pill for this knee, this pill for stress, that pill for arthritis, … It is NOT MAKING YOU ANY HEALTHIER.

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The only thing it does is keeps us addicted so we will use more and be more dependent of the pharmaceutical businesses. Holistic and alternative medicine exist for a reason and have proven to be quite effective too.”

#MODERATOR: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury it is time we reach a VERDICT”.

Thanks for the debate ladies. Since both parties have their valid points, I guess we can conclude by calling off a state of GENERAL CAUTION.

  1. People should be cautious and aware not every institution necessarily has the best interest in you staying healthy. We have to be critical at all times and take responsibility for our own actions. There’s no one you can sew when you get cancer. The end responsibility lies with you. Don’t be too naive. And sad to say but: trust no one!

    This goes for the Vegan hype as well. Maybe in a couple of years there will be more results on vegan and plant based diets and there’s a chance the results could be less ‘amazing’ than expected.

  2. There are probably a lot of manufacturers who want to benefit from this trend and offer you food that -though it’s vegan- contain other bad ingredients such as coconut oil or palm oil.

    Read the ingredient list carefully if you don’t want to be cheated on and stick to the products you know are good. Making sure you take in plenty of Omega 3’s and B12’s already makes a difference! If you don’t have enough B12 you will get depressed.

  3. Also watch out for restaurants serving you vegan food while it clearly isn’t.

GENERAL CONCLUSION 

  • It is probably right to say a drastic change in diet could be too much too soon. It’s not about choosing the healthiest option. It’s about choosing the less bad one. As for me: I will try easing into the vegan life, drastically cutting down my dairy consume and slowly but surely banning meat and poultry out of my life. Nuts, flax seeds, buckweed, fruits and veggies, be good to me!
  • Becoming Vegan is not just about food. It’s about cosmetics, household products, beverages, clothes, … All these things could contain animal based ingredients or could have been tested on animals. If you jump onto the vegan wagon, you have turn your entire life around.
  • If you accidentally burn your vegan sausages you will still get cancer.
  • If you stress too much about your health, you will still suffer a heart attack
  • Stay cautious and critical. In the years to come we will probably discover how much deaths The Coca-Cola Company has on it’s conscience and maybe we will be surprised to hear other reports. For instance: maybe flying in airplanes gives you cancer too. I already know for sure the food will (just joking). And maybe that aerosol hairspray you’re using to fixate your hair is making you sick too. What about your synthetic clothes and bed sheets?

Honestly, I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, really.

We just have to find a way to still enjoy life without all the bad stuff pulling us down too much.

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Remember what I said about those vitamin B12’s.

And for those who need it, here’s the number for the suicide hot line:

555 – DON’T DO IT !

XO

 

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)

Enter… the fireworks

You: “Evvy are you there??”

Me: “Yes…”

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

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

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

You: “Because you’re slacking off??”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Right before my back said ‘KRAK’!

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

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

Me: “B-b-b-ut it’s my last week….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But first things first.

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

However…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ali wrapping me up

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

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

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

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

Shifu: “Leady? Fight!”

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

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

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Think happy thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

I must have been putting out the vibe that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You: “… He couldn’t get it up?”

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

It was… conflicting Chi.

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

“Less penetration, more meditation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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XO

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

The power of Chi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AM I BEING SELFISH?

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

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

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

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

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

(again)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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… Okay that last part I made up…

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

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

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

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

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

(Mind = blown)

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

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

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

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

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

AM I BEING SELFISH?

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

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Now THAT! would be selfish.

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

So bottom line:

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

Chi you later!

XO

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

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Investing in the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Errr…”

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

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

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

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

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

Boy, was I wrong…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pic of port!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Err, not really….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Projectile what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hang on to those umbilical cords, guys!

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

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

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

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I SAID BASE CAMP YOU STUPID TWAT!

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

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

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

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

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

Thus….

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

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

GOLD

XO

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

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

The 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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Wanderlost

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

Well I must disappoint you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me: “Hell no!”

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

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

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

* Go to therapy (…)

* Try living by yourself (…)

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

* Eat with your hands without being afraid of germs.

* …

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

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

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

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

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

XO

‘The Gleat Ocean Load’

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

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

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

So, what do you need?

* A car, evidently;

* A solid play list with some nice road music;

* A camera;

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

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

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

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

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

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The Great Ocean Grotto

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London Bridge

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

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

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

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

-Fourth: So beautiful! Click click click!

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

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

– Seventh: Click….

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

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

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

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They even dress up for it…

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

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

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Guess where I am.

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

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

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Taking in the moment.

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

… Or use a loner stick.

XO

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

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Drool.

Camping the Grampians

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

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

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

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

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And spiders. And the shingleback lizard.

oh my!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These forest scents most have gotten to me.

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

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En route to the Grampians

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MacKenzie Falls

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Grand Canyon

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The Pinnacle

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

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

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Cape Bridgewater

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

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

XO

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