It’s been a week now since I landed on Schiphol (and waited, without any luck, for my backpack to appear on the luggage belt…), and so much has happened in the meantime that it feels like I’ve been back for at least a month. Over the last couple of days we celebrated both my parents’ birthdays, I got to see most of my friends and former co-workers, had to catch up with my administration and, last but not least, I moved out of my apartment in Brussels. No need to say that I’d kill in order to be back in South America, but it’s also been lovely to be reunited with some of the people that I love.
Anyway, yes – so I moved out of my Bxls apartment. Because during my trip I realised more and more strongly that, although the Belgian city has been my home for three wonderful years, it is time for new things. The thought of going back to the hustle and bustle of that city, after having been outside and surrounded by quite wild nature for quite a while, almost made me lose all courage to return to Europe at all. When living outside, where I could feel the breeze and the fresh air flowing into my lungs, where I could hear the sea or go out for a walk in the mountains, I realised that I felt more at ease than in the city. And so I thought by myself: why wouldn’t I do it? Why wouldn’t I live somewhere else? Because it’s scary to make a change? Turns out that that’s not enough of a reason. Or better said – no reason at all.
It’s at the same time scary to leave my safe haven, as it is exciting and liberating. And not necessarily forever, of course. I guess the real ‘adventure’ will start now that I’m back in Europe – who would have thought? So last week I quit my rent, ran a thousand arrows around town in order to get my administrative situation in Bxls as wound-up as can be, packed up my boxes, and drove them to my parent’s house where they will be stored until I have a more permanent flat-situation again (if ever). In the meantime I have also sent out around two dozens of job applications, and already heard back from a couple, including one where I will be doing a couple of trial days next week. If all goes well, I will work in the kitchen of a resto on the beach of Texel (one of the islands north of the Netherlands), until at least November.
And as soon as the traditional Christmas dinner with family and other loved-ones has been a fact, I will be flying off once again… Since the original plan for this trip was to tackle Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and I never made it to the last two, I will have to get my Latina-looking ass back down there asap to explore the yet unexplored. Somehow (don’t ask) I ended up spending 2,5 months of my trip in Ecuador instead, cos well – turns out there was enough to do there to keep me occupied after I had spent about the same amount of time in its neighbouring country Colombia. Oh well, at least it was the plan to travel slow… and I think we can say I have succeeded.
Succeeded glamorously. In more ways. If not in every way. Cos holy guacamole, what a trip. Some of the things I learned, from the top of my head: milk a cow, bake a traditional French baguette from scratch, drive a motorcycle (I drive better after whisky – no worries, apart from this minor incident, my behaviour has been nothing but very responsible). I also learned that almost anything can be arranged with a smile, that the world exists of more flavours than your taste budds will ever be able to process (which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try), and that – in spite of what I said before taking off – I do have a thing for Latinos. That writing keeps me sane (and that I can’t live without it), and that it fulfils me with joy to be cooking (especially with fresh ingredients coming straight from the land). Also, for the first time in my life, I stood eye to eye with wild animals – a monkey, numerous specimens of snakes, countless iguanas, some turtles and a few tarantulas. I have dramatically improved my Spanish and even picked up some slang. I got into yoga. Rode horses down the beach. Fell in love with a thousand people (and their dogs). I learned that live is not always easy, but it sure is marvellous, wonderful, exciting, unimaginably rich and incredibly beautiful.
It’s funny how quickly life goes back to more or less normal again. (Luckily my left-behind backpack has also been found in the meantime.) When I took one of my boxes out of my brother’s basement the other day, it turned out to have suffered some water damage down there. Most of my analogue photos had gotten wet, causing them to stick together and leaving a paint-like effect around the edges when I carefully tried to separate them. Instead of them being ruined, the photos look better now than they ever did. The ones with flowers look more floral, the ones with blue skies look more airy, the ones with the sea more bubbly, the ones that had an edge to it look even grungier, and the ones with people in it look more interesting. Time and coincidence have done their work on them. I trust that with my memories of this trip the same will happen. Time will leave its imprint on them so that I can look back at them in ways that I could never have imagined.