Do I have some exciting news! For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, I guess it’s obvious that I really struggle with feeling stuck. I would love to go on another adventure, but with the husband’s job giving him a super exciting career perspective, I keep having to tell myself that another adventure just isn’t one of our options right now. And then suddenly, badaboom! Looks like we’re going on another adventure after all!!!
After almost four years of struggling, today I handed in my PhD thesis. In only a few months, I will be a Doctor in Linguistics. But I can’t help but wonder, what have I really got to show for now.
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.
I feel slightly guilty saying this, but I went on a holiday and I didn’t blog! To be honest, I even forgot about the blog. You see, this holiday was going to be an “away from everything” one. We were staying in a cabin by Loch Ken close to Galloway Forrest Park in the south west of Scotland. There were no plugs, no phone service, no appliances. The whole cabin operated purely on solar energy and some gas for the cooker and the hot water. So it didn’t really make much sense to bring our electronics as we wouldn’t be able to charge them anyways, and as we really wanted to get away from it all!
I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been to be away from all emails and social media! I really haven’t missed it for a second. And now that we’re back home, I really notice how different my day is when I forget about social media for a while! It’s amazing! For the Boyfriend as well, since he is always checking his emails for work and is a mad social media fan. His phone was out of power for a few days and it really changed our days! Sadly, his camera was out of juice as well, so there went his planned past time. But I secretly may have liked it. At least for that big hike we did. 21kms! Booyah! Longest hike we’ve done so far. And there was NO camera, NO phone, just us two and the forest and the sea and the birds and the sun. A whole day of each others company with nothing intervening. Fun fun fun!
Especially because at that point, we had something to celebrate…
Ladies and Gentleman! The Boyfriend is now the Fiancé! He proposed at the shore of Loch Ken at sunset, with the sky all purple and pink and the most perfect peace and quiet and oh man it was SO romantic! And spontaneous! Apparently he’d had the ring for a while and planned to do it in Scotland, and that night he just felt like it was the right moment. It really was. It was perfect! I have never been so happy before in my life, blahdeeblah cliché I know, but I really don’t know how else to say it. I felt a rush of emotions I had never felt before, I was crying and laughing and jumping up and down and kissing him and felt like there were fireworks of fluffiness exploding in my chest. (My brand new Fitbit put my heart rate at 120bpm! Madness!) I am so happy that I am going to marry this most extroardinary person who makes me smile and giggle and burst with laughter every single day! Who gives the bestest cuddles and makes me feel so comfortable and at home. Who still makes me feel so insanely in love and fluttery just by smiling one of his thousand different amazing smiles of me. And now I don’t only get to tell everyone about how perfect he is for me and how I want to share my world with him, we’ll get to show everyone by marrying each other! I AM SERIOUSLY BURSTING WITH JOY!!!!
I was going to write a whole post about our holiday and what we’ve been upto but oh well, I got distracted again. I might just leave it at this and go cuddle my FIANCÉ 😀
I think I’m gonna start making a little dream book. You know, a little note book with all sorts of ideas of things I want to do at some point in my life. Ugh I know, sounds awfully girly and cliché, it seems like the fast track to a “my-10-year-plan-scrapbook”. But it won’t be. It’ll just be a way to feel a bit less restless.
For all you fellow used-to-be-travellers, I’m sure you know what I mean. You don’t particularly feel stuck, but you just feel stuck right now. Like, you know you still have tons of time to do a lot of the stuff you dream about, but you wonder when and you have basically no patience. So, if I start writing down all my genius ideas and insane plans, maybe my wanderlustfilled mind will chill out a bit. And I can browse through my little book realising I really don’t have it that bad.
I used to do a similar thing when I was a bit younger. I don’t know where the book is right now, I probably threw it out in one of the many moves, but I remember it had things like “swim with dolphins” (check) and “get a tattoo” (check) and I should really be more proud of the things I’ve done rather than panic about all the things I haven’t done yet, like learn how to dive or take drawing classes so I can draw my travels. Seriously, I’m only 25.
The boyfriend has moved over to Belgium exactly one year ago today, and this morning I was thinking about how far we’ve come. Most of the time I wonder about how far I still want to go, but my oh my we’ve done so much already! Exactly one year ago, we packed up as much of his stuff as we could take on the plane with us, and started moving in to our apartment. One year later, our apartment feels so homely! Last addition: we bought an awesome big new couch. Seriously, how much more settled can you get?! We’ve moved away from what we need to get by to what we want just because, and it’s a wonderful life. In the mean time, my job is progressing nicely I think, and the boyfriend found an amazing job as well, with fun colleagues who trust him and his skills, and a lot of possibilities for the future. Tonight, we’re meeting up with friends in town for some live music on the market squares, as happens in summer in Leuven. I can imagine none of this sounds very exciting, but to us it really is. I really think we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished. And what we’ve accomplished is… happiness.
So now, rather than ruining that happiness with my crazy ideas and restlessness, I’ll keep good track of all my dreams and make sure they come true. And I’ll be okay with that not happening today, or even tomorrow, or even in the next years.
Bring it on dreams, we’ll have a good run together.
I am really quite happy. And I’ve been so for a while. And I’m planning to stay so for even longer.
I once read somewhere that happiness isn’t a destination, it’s the road trip there. I think I’m finally on the right track to whatever may be my destination.
Basically, I can think of a thousand things I would like to change in my life. I’d like my body to be more healthy. I’d like to spend less time on watching crappy tv-shows and more time on other stuff (although I have to admit I’m not doing so bad there, the New Year’s Resolution is still going and still not a disaster). Like gardening and crafts and guitar and hiking and cooking. I’d like to have more money. Because I’d like to go traveling again. And also have some sort of financial security for when I’d get back. I don’t particularly love my job…
But I really am happy. You see, all those things are okay. I’m working on them. None of them are impossible. I’m going to the gym as much as I can and try to get back into an active lifestyle, also minding what I eat without going on a crazy diet. The tv time I have been working on for a while, and although I can still cut down more, I don’t think it’s as bad as it used to be and I don’t feel as frustrated anymore because the binging has gone down massively. I try to spend a lot of time in the garden because being outdoors makes me happy, and I love to take my time cooking when I get back from work. And now that summer is just behind the corner, hiking a few days a month shouldn’t be a problem. We have some wonderful friends that like to come out with us and it just gives us extra motivation to do so. The same goes for my crafts, for which I meet up with some friends to spend both quality time with each other and do something new.
The boyfriend and I both have a job now, and we are almost all sorted for the stuff we need in our apartment. (The only thing I still want is a freezer, he still wants a full computer set up, but I guess we can spread that out over the years?) So we really can start saving properly now. It’ll still be tricky to do everything we want, but at least I don’t feel like it’ll get us stuck. We’ve got options. The traveling might not happen straight away, but I know for sure one day we’ll be adventuring again. And I’m okay with it taking a few years.
Now, the job was always the tricky part. But I don’t mind it anymore. It’s tough. And I’m not doing so well. But the boyfriend is so insanely supportive that he gives me that last bit of motivation. Without that, I’d crash completely. But he keeps me going. He keeps me wanting to impress. My colleagues aren’t bad either. Not that we have great fun at work, but everyone is nice and it creates a very open work environment. Even though I don’t feel like I am doing a good job, once in a while I do get a compliment (today someone told me I got quite far really fast) and that’s just the best feeling and it makes me try harder again for a while. I still don’t think this job is it for me, but I’ve made peace with it and I think I found a way to keep going and keep happy. I even leave for work with a smile on my face.
But really, that has nothing to do with work. That has everything to do with the boyfriend. Since he has a job, we get up at the same time in the morning and have some cuddles before we leave. He waves me goodbye out of the door. And I can’t help but smiling for the first half of the day. The second half of the day, I’m looking forward to being home again so more smiles it is.
Our lives are surprisingly uneventful, but I feel like I’ve got it all. We made our apartment into such a lovely home, with nice decorations on the walls and the cupboards, o many pillows for us to still fit on the couch, and little lights everywhere to liven up the place. Our garden is the perfect escape, even though it is far from private. We live in such a quiet neighbourhood we really can pretend it is our little piece of paradise. We talk about all sorts of rubbish all night and watch some youtube stuff together (lately I’ve become a big fan of Casey Neistat’s daily vlogs, you should check it out!) or I watch him play a playstation game and order him around 😉 Sometimes we go out for an evening walk, or we head down to the gym, or into town for a drink with friends, or he does his thing and I do mine.
I do still want to change a thousand things in my life, sometimes it makes me sad or frustrated. But only ever so briefly. What keeps me going is knowing that it’s possible. And I’m working on it. And in the meantime, I’ll just be happy. Because really, it’s easy now.
I’ve never really been one for planning for the future. Planning one year ahead, that’s the furthest I’ve gone since I started studying. And I liked it that way you know.
2008: I finished secondary school and decided to try my luck at uni in Brussels, studying English and Dutch philology: linguistics and literature. Stick it out for at least a year, see if I can make something of it. 2009: I could. So I went for the second year. Which is when I started planning my first year abroad, an exchange to Finland. 2010: When I was in Finland for that glorious adventure, I had to think about what to do when I got back. I’d only have an academic bachelor’s degree, and in Belgium you really need a master’s as well if you want to get a job in your field of study. But I really didn’t know what to pick. So I planned a gap year in Ireland as an au pair. 2011: Once in gorgeous Ireland, I had to figure out which master’s to do when I got back. 2012: I went for a master’s in linguistics in my home town, Leuven. And of course, having been bitten severely by the travel bug by then, graduating meant going on another crazy adventure: to Australia. 2013: During that travel-and-work-my-way-around-Straya year, I wrote a project proposal and prepared for the job interview as a PhD student for the year after. 2014: I left Australia with a boyfriend across the Channel and a job interview scheduled the week after I got back. I got the job. 2015: The boyfriend moved over. 2016: Three more years of this job to go.
So as you can see, the last 7 years have been absolutely amazing and inspiring, only by planning year by year.
But I guess I’m too old for that now. I know some of you people out there disagree, you would say I can still throw things around. But my reality is that I have a 4-year contract at work (three more years to go) and a three year lease on the apartment. So like I have mentioned in several of my previous posts: the boyfriend and I are kind of stuck here for a while.
But that doesn’t mean my one year adventure planning has stopped. Only now all these plans have to be planned to start only in three years time. And then suddenly I have my life planned out for the next 4o years. Ow dear.
This is what it’ll look like: finish my PhD and save up as much as we can! Go on another crazy adventure of about one year before we go back to the real world. Decide which country we want to (and are allowed to) live and work in next, probably the one where we’ll be for a long time since it is then time to settle down. Try to buy some property, an apartment, ideally a house. Start a family. Retire. Stay healthy. Go travel again. Help!
I thought people with long term plans like that only exist in movies, you know, those young women stuck in their little-girl dreams not wanting to live in reality. But here I am now. I have a 40-year plan. Before, I was even thinking of starting a scrapbook.
I started this blog a little bit less than a year ago to deal with my post-travel-blues. The blues haven’t left me yet. But now I am not trying to find glory in my little adventures in order to not miss the past, I am doing it to not worry about the future. The future isn’t here yet. And the way futures work, the future will never be here. So just to remind myself: enjoy the little things in life. Happiness will accompany me along the way. And thinking about the future isn’t going to get me anywhere. Because happiness isn’t a destination, it’s the road trip you take trying to get there while never actually reaching your endpoint.
(Just a quick side note: this last sentence isn’t my idea. I read it somewhere and have thought about it daily since, but I can’t remember where I found it.)