Gent, Belgium. A fairytale-like city, forever reminding me of you. This exact spot being the last place we would stand together for awhile. A picture perfect European backdrop in almost a somewhat funny (mostly not) contrast to the pain of saying goodbye to you. Again.
You drove me here from Brussels. You insisted as you always do, even though it was over an hour in the opposite direction of your hometown in the Netherlands. There was no logical reason for you to bring me here but when you said that I had no choice, I listened, because somehow you always seem to know what's best. It was my favorite drive and I'll forever cherish that extra hour of what felt like a small taste of what it would really be like to exist with you in your world, just being normal. These moments so fleeting in my ever-changing life made it all the more special. If even for a little while.
We traded our tans in Thailand for black sweaters and jeans and reunited in that beautiful little city. I watched the door I was so sure you would walk through intently for an entire hour before you arrived only for you to blindside me out of nowhere from the left. Surprising and unexpected as always walking right into my life just when I needed you. Head to toe in black clothing, looking especially European, you wrapped yourself around me like time and distance never mattered. And I so easily fell into your arms like I, with conviction, just knew that it was true.
We didn't eat waffles or chocolate or fries, drink beer, or see any pretty sights. In fact, we were probably the worlds worst tourists as we ate our pizza and laid for hours within four hotel room walls where none of what existed beyond there seemed to matter anymore. Your cologne seeping its way into my matted hair where it now stays until I soon must wash it clean of you. Again.
I'll really miss that. Smelling of your cologne. The way you insist on carrying my backpack and throwing euros into the vending machine for my crappy cappuccino before I can even find my wallet. The way you make me feel beautiful, sexy, talented, and kind. The way you believe that I am special when I've given you no reason for you to see me as anything other than a mess. That beautiful to you isn't just pretty. And the way you really believe it. The way you don't know how great you really are. The quiet confidence you carry with your humbled heart and hands. The way you really see me. The way you let me fall into you like I've never not belonged there. Knowing me with such clarity without really knowing me at all.
But the tragedy in all of this is that no matter how much I care for people, ultimately, by living this way, I never get to keep them. They will always be beautiful and fleeting. You will always be beautiful and fleeting. You will forever be a fairytale as temporary as everything else in my current existence. But you will always be there. Forever a part of me and this story I'm writing. And for that, I am thankful.
I’ve been dreaming of the year I would spend backpacking Southeast Asia since I first moved away six years ago. Where I thought I would go, the people I imagined I would meet, and the lessons (both hard and beautiful) I would learn along the way. Little did I know that I would underestimate it all. That everything I believed would be beautiful wouldn’t just be beautiful. Instead it would be magic in all of its purest and rawest of forms.
When you strip yourself free of all of your stresses (and the majority of your clothes), all that’s left is you. Just you in a chaotic, confusing, and surprisingly simple existence. One that may not make sense to most but the only thing in all of my life that’s ever truly made any sense to me. Being lost and alone in a world I don’t know or have yet to understand is weirdly the only thing I’ve actually ever really wanted at all. I find a rare sense of comfort only in a world that is constantly changing and overwhelming my senses fiercely and all at once. The taste of new food, the constant buzz of motorbikes, and trying to cross a street successfully without losing my life in the process.
I found myself no longer wishing away Mondays or the six months of winter I used to dread every year. My alarm clock disappeared from my existence completely and my life became the perfect balance of work and freedom and living. It was, in most ways, the happiest and the best version of myself that I have ever known. I felt like I was finally being me for the very first time. And boy, was it beautiful.
Since leaving and returning home, I’ve had a mix of overwhelmingly happy moments and days of constant struggle. Days of not knowing where I fit in and feeling as though my life and all of these amazing experiences suddenly feel invisible and that sometimes, so do I. Sometimes I feel as though I’m never fully breathing. That I’m walking around as only half of the version of the person I become elsewhere or like I’m watching someone else walking through my former life from above. And in the exact same breath, I have loved every moment I have been fortunate enough to spend and celebrate with my family, my best friends, and all of their beautiful little babes. I have loved every chicken wing, cheese curd, and IPA that has found its way home to both my heart and my ever-growing ass. And in some ways, I feel exactly at home here with the people I love the most.
It’s a weird in-between state that I’m not sure how to feel about. I don’t know if I’m closer or further than ever from eventually moving back. If it’s normal to feel so lost and directionless and simultaneously at peace about not yet having the answers. I don’t know where this year will take me. If it will at some point lead me back here, to more new and exciting adventures, or back to the opposite side of the planet where I know with certainty that I’ll always find my happy. For now though, I have a one-way ticket to Europe with an attempt to find some clarity, for some long overdue reunions and maybe even some answers along the way. Thank you for the wonderful time at home and until next time, USA.
This post. It's one I've started and stopped writing time and time again. A part of me doesn't even want to finish it at all simply because I know these words will never do it justice. But I never want to forget how Indonesia felt or the people it brought to me just when I needed them and so, here we go...
Indonesia felt good in the way that good people, good brunches, and good vibes always do. My second month in Indonesia was pure therapy thanks to mind-blowing and stunning landscapes and the kind of beautiful humans I never knew I needed.
I spent the beginning of month ten laid out in bed in Canggu recovering from debilitating food poisoning for an entire week. Dragging myself to immigration exactly 3 times for one little visa extension and nearly fainting on the ground in the process. My on call doctor and I were in constant contact, I couldn't walk or drive, and I spent days crawling from my bed to the bathroom and wondering why I ever think salads are worth the risk in Asia. Lesson learned. Again...
F*ck you, lettuce. F*ck you.
When I finally recovered and the thought of water and food finally stopped feeling like my truest enemy, I moved back to Uluwatu, a place that felt instantly like home. One I always hope to return to thanks to the kindest of souls and people who really, truly understood me to my core. Travelers. Lifers. Old souls. Some of the best humans I've met in years of extensive traveling. And my cheeks got more action than they ever have thank you to the greetings and goodbyes of all of you South Americans. Thank you, guys. You sure know how to make a lady feel loved.
Following Uluwatu, I moved to Ubud which I expected to love and unfortunately didn't. I expected calmness, openness, meditation, and healing, but instead was cursed with an overrun town of tourists and souvenir shops, my very own and very creepy stalker, and the traffic drove me absolutely mad. I was feeling beyond low and lonely even in the presence of other people. Confused, directionless, panicked. I got another massage, did some yoga, drank all the shitty coffee, and on my worst day, I dragged myself out of there despite debilitating vertigo, back to where I knew the potential to feel good again was high.
I spent the next week on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida where I was blown away by some of the most stunning beaches I have ever seen. I did more yoga, drove aimlessly to view after view after view, and climbed more questionable stairs than my thighs and ass could handle. I spent days swearing I'd never eat fried rice again and failing without hesitation by dinner time, girl talking and eating oreos in bed, and dreading my final days in a place I loved so desperately.
I traveled back to Canggu, the place I'd written off completely due to my less than pleasant memories, hoping to quietly sort out my last month out in Asia in solitude. Instead though, I spent my last and favorite week, dancing my ass off, single-handedly keeping Bintang in business, and confusingly waking from the top of a shaking bunk bed to my very first Earthquake in SE Asia. I was never alone. And I never wanted to be. Surrounded morning and night with exactly the kind of people I wanted to be there. Exactly the kind of people who made Indonesia by far the most special place I have been so far. Knowing that in those moments, even though I still knew nothing about what's beyond Asia or any of this really, that I was, for once, completely ok with not knowing at all.
What Indonesia gave me was perspective. Hangovers. But also perspective.
That the world really is small. That human connection is the most beautiful part of living. That hard times will always be there even without reason. That better times will always follow. That there is literally no one left in Germany or the Netherlands because they're all out here with me. That home will always be there. Sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally just across the room at the very same hostel in all of freaking Bali. #greatmindsorwhatever ;).
But mostly that life is just so freaking good.
Month ten was a favorite and this one was all about the people. The ones from what felt like every corner of the planet and especially the ones from home. Thank you for the jokes, the smiles, the hugs, the excessive amount of cookies, the mornings I'll always remember, and the nights I'll never forget (mostly). The life talks, the compliments, and all of the other stuff, too. Thank you for it all <3.