On “what if”s, forks in the road and also: how do waves work?

I started this blog about four years ago to deal with my post-travel blues. I always expected to kick out the travel blues by now, and get my backpack from under the dust again. But four years after putting the backpack in storage and the post-travel blues moving in, going on the road again is not what’s next for us.

Four years ago, I met my then-boyfriend-now-husband while on the road in Australia. (I still get SO excited calling him my husband!) We were both there on a working holiday visa and whereas he didn’t really plan to go back (or plan anything at all, as a matter of fact), I had a job waiting for me back home. My plan was to go home after one year so I could pursue a PhD, starting in October 2014. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I just had to try it. And I did. And it wasn’t for me. But I’m not one for giving up, so here I am, almost four years later, absolutely and totally ready to move on from my life in academics. So after my one year down under, I moved back to Belgium and the husband came with. We always said that after my contract would finish, it would be up to him where we go next. We might go back on another working holiday someplace else, we might move to England (where he is from), or do something different altogether. But as it turns out, making plans, even these kinds of super vague ones, for something that is four years away, didn’t work.

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(I absolutely loved waking up in a tent to absolute nothingness when we were first on the road together.)

I am now 27 and the husband is 30. Yes, I think that is freakishly old. But it is definitely too young to make long term plans. Four years ago, I was a silly 23-year old! I thought I would still have all the freedom in the world after my PhD. And don’t get me wrong, we do. We don’t have a mortgage, no pets, no kids. Nothing really ties us down. But we have opportunities. Just like my PhD was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, the husband now has a very exciting job. It drives him crazy a lot of the time, the last month more than it used to, but we know that in this job, he will get opportunities he might not get anywhere else. He’s been there for about two years now and his job has already changed so much. The company is expanding super fast and he gets to ride the wave. And he’s riding it to the top! (Is that a thing? I think you might actually ride a wave from top to bottom, or maybe from side to side? But you get what I mean, right?) So if we pack up and leave now, we would always be wondering, what if…

Ah, the million dollar “what if” question. It’s how I’ve figured out every dilemma I’ve ever faced. Which decision do I need to make so that in five years time, I WON’T ask myself “what if”. If I do the One Thing, will I regret not doing the Other? Will I ask myself: What if I did the Other Thing? Or if I do do the Other thing, will I ask myself, what if I did the One thing? It works pretty well. It made me go to Australia.

Me talking to myself five years ago: “Fast forward five years in time: will I regret not having gone to Australia for a year because instead I chose to spend time with my grandparents, or will I regret having actually gone to Australia because I didn’t get to spend more time with my grandparents?” My grandparents thought it was a stupid question with an obvious answer, so I went and sent them lots of post cards. And after these five years, me as well as my grandparents are indeed super happy I went and found my now-husband. Not once did I ask myself the question “what if I would’ve stayed home?” Even writing down that question makes me giggle because it is just too stupid for words.

For the PhD, I asked myself the same question: in five years time, will I regret not having tried the PhD to travel for a bit longer, or will I regret not having traveled longer to try the PhD. Honestly, at this moment, I’m not so sure if I made the right decision. This PhD really changed me into a much less happy person. I’ve asked myself the horrid “what if” a thousand times already. But on the other hand, if I wouldn’t have tried it, I would’ve always felt like I let an opportunity slip through my fingers and still wondered “what if”. Seems like there was just no way to win there.

So I guess my “in five years time” method isn’t as failsafe as I thought it was. Which makes it so much harder now that we are stood in front of the next fork in the road! If we want to go adventuring again (and then I mean proper adventuring, just the backpacks and us, for a long long time, with no ties to come back to a “home” any time soon), we let a lot of opportunities pass us by. But if these opportunities turn out to be the same kind of buzzkill like my PhD was, then we might end up regretting not having taken the leap.

I’ve read many a blog of young couples like us, saying that nothing prevents us to pack up and leave now or at a later stage in life. But I don’t agree. There are other things in life we also want. And what these hipster travellers fail to mention, is that you can’t have it all. The husband, he is ambitious. The jobs you get on the road hardly are. Me, I like a little bit of stability. Just knowing that we have a place to come home to. When I was younger, that was my parents house. But now, for the husband and me, that wouldn’t be a home. It would be a short-term solution. And also, we want to have a family. Tick tock says the biological clock. One baby on the road, exciting! Two babies on the road, exhausting! Not to forget wanting to give your children all the opportunities you can, including a stable home.

Does that mean this is it for us? The last fork in the road where at least one of the two options involves a crazy travel adventure? I don’t know. And I won’t know. Not all the planning in the world can help me out here. We just have to ride the wave, whether it goes up or down or sideways or maybe it’s just a really calm day and there are no waves at all. Maybe it’s time I stop thinking so much of the future and of the future “what if” moments I may have. Because if there’s anything I learned during my four years of PhD hell, it’s that you just don’t know what will come next. So rather than picking the option you think you’ll be happy with five years from now, maybe we should just pick the option we’re happy with now?

DAMN THAT’S SCARY! And: what does it mean!

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The Weirdest Wanting – Baby Season

Here’s a weird thought: what if your mind and your body are ready to have a baby, but your life isn’t?

Lately I’ve been seeing babies everywhere. No one told me the end of summer is baby season! It’s like an invasion! They’re taking over the world! And on top of that, for the first time in my life, people in my group of friends are getting babies too! Even my childhood friend whom I’ve known since we were 4 years old. She’s like super pregnant. And I’m ridiculously excited to meet her mini version any time now. And also, I notice myself daydreaming more and more about starting our own family. Huh?!?!?!?!

Obvious question: then why don’t I? Well, because I’m only 25 and my life hasn’t really settled yet. The boyfriend and I have been living together for over a year now and it’s been bloody amazing. So that part is definitely settled. But we live in a smallish rental apartment. I mean, it’s not small now, but I think if we add a baby to the mix it’ll start feeling small real soon. We don’t have the money to start thinking of getting our own place any time soon. Let alone the money to support a child and then eventually a second one. Oh yeah, and I still want to get married first and turns out that also cost money, because secretly I think we want to do it right. And did I mention my current work contract only runs for another two years? Quite likely, I’d be pregnant and unemployed with a toddler at home. I think anyone would agree: not the best plan.

Not to forget: I still want to travel. One more big one. Before we take our foot of the gas for at least 18 years, I’d want to have one final race. And I really don’t want to make any life-changing decisions like starting a family knowing that I might regret not having done everything I wanted to before the boyfriend and myself stop being the most important people in my life.

But also: I really want a baby. A tiny little human to show  the beautiful things in our world. To want to make the bad things in the world disappear for. To love and care for with my amazing boyfriend. To cuddle and laugh with. To share our wonderful life with.

Why do I want something I know is such a bad idea! I mean, it’s not like wanting that new sofa that’s really too expensive. Or wanting seconds even though you’re quite full. It’s a baby for god’s sake! Can the mother instinct please go into hibernation now so I can focus on what my life is supposed to be like the next two to five years?!

 

A Little Thought Experiment: Dreaming of an Escape

Do you ever dream of something impossible? I’m not talking coming across an insane amount of money or becoming famous, I really mean impossible. Well, sometimes I wish everything around me would disappear. Or just turn into wildernis. So basically, all left standing would be my apartment and my boyfriend. But when we look out of our window, there are no more apartments, no cars, no people. Just fields and forest as far as you can look. So that we can disappear. Just us two against the world. Can you imagine the peace and quiet? Not having to go anywhere, no people you have to go and see. You could do whatever you wanted to do. Take a long walk in unexplored territory right in front of your doorstep? Go ahead. Don’t feel like sleeping in your own bed? Why not build yourself a treehouse! And if you really don’t know what else to do, just go sit under a tree and watch the animals all day long. It’s not like anyone will disturb you. Or on a rainy day, watch series and movies all day in your pyjamas with a hot chocolate. No one will call or email or swing by. It’ll be just you.

I know it might be weird and everyone probably thinks you wouldn’t want this forever and the disadvantages are massive (like the whole survival aspect of it and all), but once in a while I really dream of being all alone (with the boyfriend though, we do make a good team) in this world. The endless possibilities I’d have. No obligations towards anything or anyone. Think about it. Doesn’t it sound like paradise?

Sometimes, all I want to do is escape. For no good reason. Just for me.

Daydreaming: My “If I Were to Win the Lottery Plan”

I used to love theatre. Watching, playing, even writing. Kinda grew out of it. Used to do a lot of painting, played guitar, went swimming three times a week, read two books a week. I wasn’t really talented at any of those things. But they kept me happy. And the good thing about them was, they were manageable hobbies. Travelling the world as your one and only passion, a little bit trickier to keep up. I think it is time I start a search for new hobbies. Because really all I do now is work and dream about traveling. And spending way too much time watching crappy tv shows and playing silly computer games. Ow boy, I seem to be wasting my free time!

I still like baking biscuits. Maybe I can do that a bit more often. But who’s gonna eat all my biscuits! I also still like sports (trying to pick up running again and I go kickboxing once a week), but not that much that I can balance out the eating of a whole load of biscuits every day. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could find some local cafe that would like to buy my biscuits? Have fun and earn extra money? I do love my money. They say money doesn’t make happy. Well, where I live, it sure does help!

If I had money, ah, I have it all worked out. My “if I were to win the lottery jackpot” plan. Except for the fact that I don’t play on the lotto. But here is it. If I can manage mentally, I’d finish my PhD. While I’m doing so, I’d buy a house in town. Spend my free time hiring people to make it perfect. I’d also buy a massive 4WD. If they would still make them, it would be a Defender. But I’d pick something newer. Automatic. Super energy efficient. Solar panels included. We’d give it a name. Alfie, or Fred. I’d take my boyfriend to a 4WD course and we’d get a book “car mechanics for dummies”. We’d go to all the camping shops in the country buying only the best of things. Super thin and light but warm sleeping bags. A super easy to set up tent for on top of our 4WD. Camp kitchen stuff that we would build into the back of the 4WD. I’d let the boyfriend do whatever he wants to in the meantime. He could work, study, invest in his own freelance business. And then when I finish my PhD, we would rent out our super big house (probably turn it into student housing, and hire someone to keep an eye on it for a small price), and that way keep having a steady income. We’d put away some of the money for who knows what kind of emergency. And then we would start travelling until the money runs out. Which it won’t! (Oh, and of course hand some of it out to family and charity.)

I started out writing this post to come up with some new stuff to do. Instead, I ended up dreaming about the ideal future. Involving travel and only travel. Oh well. Maybe what I should look for is not a new hobby, but different ways to earn money on the side. So that one day… And in the meantime… I Keep Dreaming!

Tell me, what do you dream of? Have you managed to make some of your dreams come true so far?