Chasing a dream

We came to a stop right as we were exiting the roundabout. It was the start of my big UK adventure, and it started with a broken car an hour away from our destination.

The car was packed to the brim with boxes of stuff that I felt I needed to bring. Anything from books, to craft supplies, pens, clothes and even a sewing machine. Fifteen moving boxes in total and let’s not talk about all the loose crap stuffed in between.

If anything, I’m far from a minimalist, and this was made painfully clear as we stood there with our car broken down. Someone came to rescue us, but because of the weight of the car, the cable snapped. It stranded us in the middle of roundabout number two.

In hindsight, some good things happened because the car broke down. My dad had to stay longer and got to see more of the countryside. He got to see me settle into my new life in Wales.

It also prolonged the goodbye making it harder by the day.

But we did some great stuff. We went to see St. Davids Cathedral, the St. Davids Bishop’s Palace next to it and we went to the beach. The beach was special as it turned out to be one of my favourite places in Wales. I even cycled there on my Dutch bike.

This year it was six years ago that I moved to the UK to chase a dream I never got to find. Moving out there was not all it was cracked up to be. I fought for it, though, took a job in the big city, moved out there on my own. But I never found my happy place there.

The only time I did was when I was up in the countryside hiking some mountain.

This year also marks the fourth year of being back in the Netherlands. It’s always a bittersweet reminder. Four years ago, I decided spontaneously to go back home. Just as spontaneous as I did when I decided moved out there in the first place.

Now, all those years later, I would have done things differently for sure. I know more, I acquired more skills, and I know better what makes me happy. But would I have changed moving to the UK? No, I wouldn’t.

At the time, all I wanted to do was get out of the Netherlands and move to another country. Chase those big dreams and making them happen. And I did, I went out there, I chased the dreams and came back home with my tail between my legs.

Yes, the fact that I came back does make me feel like I failed in some way. In others, I was brave enough to recognize a situation that wasn’t working for me anymore.

Failure or not. It was an experience that is all mine, something I’ve done and that no one can take away from me anymore. And I’m better for it.

Asia smells differently

We had just gotten out of our hotel in Bangkok, and all I could smell was this overwhelming stench. Asia took some getting used to at first, but what struck me most was that everything smelled differently.

Our hotel was in China town, exiting on the famous street with all the street food carts. Not even 10 minutes into Asia and I had already encountered Durian. I had heard of it before, but I couldn’t imagine what it would smell like. Rotting dirty feet would be a great way to describe it. And the food carts stocked them abundantly.

On our first night in Bangkok, we booked a street food tour. Together with a guide, we explored all the different street foods in the area. Some tasty, others not so much. Upon request, we tried Durian as well. It’s one of those things you have to try when you’re in Asia.

I was a little hesitant – it really stank! My ex took a bite and shook his head in disgust. Not for him. But I was surprised when I took a bite. It was actually really nice. It reminded me of camembert, the French cheese I love so much. The look on my ex’s face when I asked for another piece was one for the books.

Now that we knew what it was, the smell of Durian became familiar. I was no longer looking for something that was rotting in a ditch; it was just Durian.

Because the air is hot and humid in Asia, everything feels different. When we travelled to Indonesia and Singapore, I had the same thing: getting used to the different smells took me a while.

I guess since we’re so used to a particular kind of smell, we get so used to it that we almost don’t smell it anymore. If I travel within the Netherlands, Amsterdam doesn’t smell that much different than Groningen does. It’s familiar and safe. And even before you can see where you are, you know you’re somewhere, you know.

Coming to Asia was different. The was a cultural shock the first few days. It was hot, humid, traffic was different, it was busy, and it smelled. However, once I had gotten used to the smell, it was okay. It just took me a few days to get used to it, but then I enjoyed the tropical scent in the air. And of course the sent of food.

If there’s anything they’re good at in Asia, it’s food and eating. Some of the best things I had was during my travels in Asia. And I don’t mean insects and things. I mean classic Thai and Indonesian dishes.

This year I hope to go back to Asia, to see more, and to try more of the foods there. I never thought I would say this, but I’ve grown fond of Asia.

What I learned from cycling in Wales

Everything around me is silent. The only sound comes from the wind through the cornfield and a few birds. I’m paddling my bike up a hill on a country road in Wales to go to the beach. Oh, and did I mention I’m not wearing a helmet?

The path I take is amazing, and a sense of freedom overwhelms me. The last corner leads me on a steep path down. It rained earlier that day, so the road is slippery. I pick up speed and try to use the back paddle breaks to slow down. My back wheel slips, but I’m still upright and rolling down. I can’t see where the road is going, and I pray no car is coming up. The road is too narrow for both of us, and I have no way to stop as I’m still picking up speed on my way down.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands, I grew up on a bike. Naturally, when I moved to Wales, I had to bring my bike. It turned out my bike wasn’t equipped for the Welsh countryside. No gears and looking like a proper vintage piece of metal, it was the joke of the village. Especially when one morning, I rode it to my waitress job.

In hindsight, the no helmet thing was stupid. Over here in the Netherlands, no one wears helmets, not even the little children learning to cycle. If you do see people wearing helmets, they’re either sports cyclists going way too fast or German tourists. It did teach me a few things, though: I make do with what I have. Since I lived in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, I had no other way of getting around. I was still saving up for a car, and the beach was too far to walk. So I had to use the bike to get around. But it also taught me that I tend to be spontaneous, bordering on recklessness and that I like it that way. I love the feeling of making up my mind to do something and then to do it. In fairness, that doesn’t always work out, but at least I have no regrets.

Like that day, I cycled to the beach, even though I still ended up mostly walking back home. The roads were too steep to cycle back up, and I had no endurance whatsoever since I was used to the flat roads in The Netherlands. Yet, I regretted nothing. The fresh air, the sense of adventure, and the feeling of freedom gave me wings.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder where that carefree, spontaneous girl went. She’s replaced by a calculated planner who is used to comfort and security. Yet in the midst of this, I can feel the need for adventure rising and bubbling like a volcano eruption. One of these days, it will erupt and result in a trip far out of my comfort zone. So far, in fact, that it will feel like the comfort zone was never even there.