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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From Post-Travel-Life to Work-Life

I have so much fun stuff to tell you but simply no time to do so!

I finished another book I wanted to review. Isabel Allende’s Japanese Lover. Not her best, but easy read.

I watched my first live comedy show ever. Nina Conti. Hi-la-ri-ous. One and a half hours of non-stop laughter.

We got our scooter fixed and now that it’s summer, it’s really nice to take it for a romantic spin with the boyfriend.

We went to England last weekend to visit the boyfriend’s family and watched Coldplay in Manchester while we were there. Holy Cow it was more than spectacular! Loved every minute of it.

I’m trying to take care of the garden as good as I can, the mint and horseradishes are doing quite well, everything else needs more looking after.

The gym has been a bit on the down-low but I keep trying. I’m also going running again, when I don’t have enough time for a full work-out.

But mostly I’m super busy at work. I have abstracts to write, papers to rewrite, presentations to practise, posters to make, lectures to prepare for, meetings with the colleagues,… This has been going for over a month now, and I don’t think it’ll stop until late September. I have no more time to work on my research, but I’m giving it my all to try to put what I have researched so far out there to discuss with other researchers. It’s bloody hard work and I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere. But hopefully it’ll start paying off soon and I’ll get some interesting feedback and meet some people who are actually interested in my work.

Until then, I’ll keep living this Post-Travel-Life. I think I’ve got it handled now. The money is coming in, I’m actually working hard for it, I manage to fill my little free time with fun stuff and try not to let work overwhelm me. The good part: I have no time to dream about travels anymore. Not for now. I guess this is it. The next chapter has well and truly started. Work-Life, I’m finally ready for you.

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?

The Future of a Traveller, the Worries of a Traveller

For those of you who are new to my blog: I am currently in between travels. I don’t know for how long. Thinking big travels, at least three years. And I do not like it one bit. After coming back from my last adventure, I decided I needed to stay in one place for a while, build up some stability. Because when I travel, it doesn’t matter how much I am enjoying the thrill and excitement of all the new experiences, I still worry about money and my future. So I decided to work on that for a bit, by signing a 4-year contract in my home country.

So now I am working on my future and of course, as you probably guessed, I am having a terrible case of the post-travel-blues. To ease my suffering, I read travel blogs. Of people who are doing what I have to be honest about, seems like just a little bit too scary for me. Traveling the world with no plans for what comes after. Young couples that cycle across the world with no end date set. Students who graduate and leave the nest to travel through Asia but after three years still aren’t back. Families that sell their house, buy a boat and sail the seas, home-schooling their kids, earning the bare minimum by taking along the occasional well-earning holidayers.

Am I really the only traveller that worries about the future? Does that make me different from all you adventurers without worries? Does that make me not a real traveller?

I’ll give you some examples of what goes on in my mind, right.

Firstly, I do not own anything except for the things in the apartment I’m currently renting. I’m sure I can figure out a way to get rid of all of it if I were to start travelling again, but then what happens when the money runs out and it is time for me to go home? I have no place to stay, nothing of my own, and rely completely on the goodness of my parents and the hope they will not sell the house to buy a smaller place that does not have a bedroom for me and my partner.

Now suppose miraculously I do find a way to make some money on the road, just enough to stay on the road for a good amount of time and even to come back and start over. I will definitely not be earning enough to both enjoy travel life and save up for for example my retirement. Neither will my home country, since I am not paying taxes there. Same goes for government funded health insurance. Or any other benefits.

What happens if you need to go home for a longer period of time because you need to help out your family, what happens if you or your partner get seriously ill, what happens if you would like to start a family and offer your future kids basic financial security and a stable home to grow up in.

It all kind of comes down to the same issues: how to go “home”, whenever, wherever, whatever “home” may be. How to get just that little bit of stability and ease of mind to know that, once on the road, there is a way back. And if you do decide to settle down in that “back”, or anywhere else, to have a future. Doesn’t it all come down to (no matter how much everyone claims to be on a shoestring budget) having a fair amount of money stacked away, or some regular income of some property or other assets?

Please tell me how you see your future as a traveller! What are your long term worries and how do you deal with them?

Bye bye long distance!

I’m at the airport!

Not to go on holiday again, nope, even better! I’m about to pick up my boyfriend! No more airport goodbyes, no more late night Skype sessions resulting in sleepy mornings at work, no more missing him for the stupidest reasons (such as hearing someone open a can of soda). No more long distance relationship! This time, I’m taking my fella home with me!

It’s been a crazy ride, having met on the road in Australia and travelled for four months, to then do one year of long distance. The distance wasn’t too long, a one hour flight (with a three hour trip to the airport that is, damn you public transport). But long enough to make us suffer.

We’ve worked hard and saved loads during t the past year and now lots will change for us. More for him than for me. As much as I would love another abroad adventure, my work has me stuck for another three years. And as amazing as he is, the boyfriend has decided to quit his job and relocate to me! I found an apartment for us close to the train station so I can get to work easily but we don’t have to live in the capital. It’s painted and cleaned. Can’t wait to show him! In one week, we’ll be living in OUR apartment starting OUR lives together! 😀 I’m so bloody excited!

Everything will be so different, no adventuring like in Australia, or forgetting about the world around us like we did when visiting each other the past year. No sleeping in tiny tents or stealing each other’s blankets because we’re not used to sharing our bed anymore. It’ll be real life. With work stress and shopping cleaning laundry that needs doing. But we will be stressing shopping cleaning laundrying together and as weird as this may sound: I’m so looking forward to all that 😀

The last year has been an inbetween year. I missed the adventuring so badly, and my baby even more. Now, with my baby by my side again, I’m sure I can find the adventure in everyday life! Bring it on, home-based adventure, WE are ready for you!

What To Do On a Day Off From Life: How Boring Can Be Great Fun

I’ve been ill the past week. Or over-stressed. I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that I didn’t feel good and that work is getting the best of me. I stayed home for a week with a doctor’s note saying I have a bad flu. I played Sims 4 non-stop, it’s been over 10 years that I have played Sims! I watched my series and movies. I slept loads.

And today it is time to feel better. It is Saturday. No, I am not going to catch up on all the work I didn’t do. I had planned a crafts day with a friend. We do one every month. The last two months we worked on photo frames. This is one with some of my pics from Australia.

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We also cook up some food together, and indulge in our guilty pleasure: trash television. Yes, (I should be ashamed to admit this), I like to watch shows like Jersey Shore and The Valleys. These people are simply so dumb and living in some parallel trashy universe, it makes me feel sophisticated and smart … and it makes me laugh!

Anyways, we were gonna make candles this time at my place, I’ve been saving all my empty jars and tubs for weeks now. But my friend had to cancel because of family problems. (I hope it’ll all turn out allright! I burned a candle for her and her family.) So suddenly I find myself with another day of doing nothing ahead of me. Difference with the last week, I actually woke up feeling better, showered, did groceries, and swore to not use my computer today (at least not for games and series).

So, What to do! Like I said, games and series are not an option! As much as I enjoy them, they do not make me happy! Weird that, don’t you think? I enjoy it, but it drives me crazy. And at night I go to bed feeling really upset and annoyed. No more of that this week! Soooo … Uhm … Now what?

When I was travelling, this was never an issue! There’s always something to do! Or some place to enjoy. Even if it’s just the pool with a good book. Or a bench with a nice view. Or an exhausting hike. But of course the weather is shite and I live in a small and boring city.

And when I’m home, I’m usually working my ass off or doing laundry or shopping or cleaning or sorting out and being worried about my finances or rushing from seeing one friend to another or trying to fit in a gym session or just being stressed out about all the things just listed. Now, after a week of being ill and absolutely not wanting to work, I am left with, like I said, an empty day.

And I’m loving it.

I read the newspaper, not just the headlines. And the weekend magazine.

I put on a cheerful Spotify playlist. Totally Stress Free, that says it all, doesn’t it.

My boyfriend just messaged me saying that he bought a new book for me. Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins. Can’t wait to read it. It’s the kind of book that is read on a towel in the park. Bring it on, summer!

I’ve got some nice food in the fridge, I’ll be making chicken korma tonight!

And now I’m blogging. And in a good mood for a change! Put on the playlist I told you about above, you’ll know what I mean.

Once again I realise I cannot get working life get the best of me. I have some awful habits that can really drag me down. Like the hours and hours of watching awful tv shows, postponing everything that needs to get done. Let’s be honest here, have you ever felt happy after watching tv? Really? Now compare: have you ever felt happy while travelling? Why do I even ask. There’s no reason why we can’t get some of that vibe back in our generally quite boring post-travel lives! Boring can be fun! All you need is leaving your bad habits behind for a day, and doing things you used to do. Remind yourself or how life can be. Maybe we’ll keep it up!

Read. Draw. Listen to music. Play music. Sing along as out of tune as you can without knowing the lyrics. Cook. Eat. Write. Enjoy. Cheers to that!

Facebook Jealousy

The worst part about having your travelling on hold? Jealousy!

I am currently at work (At Work?! Get your ass back to it! Yeah, I know) and for a quick break in between all the thinking, I went on Facebook. Just for like, one minute! Bad idea, I am completely distracted and in a weird mood now. Some of my Facebook friends liked some competition so it ended up on my newsfeed. You could win some citytrips or even an around the world trip. Not that I can actually take time off for that, but hell yeah I’d give it a try! So I click the link and what do I see?! It’s one of my friends who is on a crazy around the world trip organised by the university for some kind of publicity stunt! She keeps a blog that is a lot more interesting than mine, and asks a question or two a day to keep the competition going! Whoaaaaaaat?!

Haha, don’t get me wrong, I am very happy for her, and I am definitely looking forward to hearing the whole story once she gets back. She is now in South-Africa, and tomorrow she is flying to Brazil. It’ll be so sunny, *sighsmiledreamdriftofftobetter* … But I just cannot help thinking, damn, I wish that was me! And also, this has completely ruined the good work vibe I had going on before I got sidetracked to Facebook, oops.

Tell me, fellow travellers-on-(temporary)-retirement: what throws you off the most? And how do you manage not to turn green and only be happy for your friends’ adventures?!

I guess my trick would be: stay the **** off Facebook! But let’s be honest, can I really.

(If you want to check out her blog, for those of you that speak Dutch: http://www.ontdekdewereld.be)

Now back to work!