Let’s write again

So, I’ve been wanting to write blogs so many times in the last year. I started writing right before my trip to Central America in January 2016. And stopped somewhere in October that year. I needed to get off grid, completely.

Not understanding why I was writing anyways. So I just stopped with the blog. I continued writing for myself, without having to censure it for the public. Some heavy shit is in these little books. A lot of times without a positive conclusion, outcome or insight. And I never wanted to publish something so ‘dark’ or ‘negative’. It just didn’t feel right to just put it out in the world. Why would I want to share that and why would it matter to others? And I didn’t know how. How to talk about things I didn’t understand. Things I couldn’t figure out. Difficulties. Struggles. Emotional rollercoasters. Mind fucks. A lot of depressing thoughts and downward spirals.

So having this struggle to write, wanting to speak up but also not feeling the need to, I finally just a moment ago I said: let’s write a blog right now. Whatever comes up. Dark, light, grey, colorful… whatever it is. Let’s not care about the tone, about the color. And let it just come out as it is. 

And it happens to be quite lively. What pops up for me is.. spring! Transitioning. Stepping outside. No dark winters, but light spring. The sun just started shining, yesterday I bought my first blouse for when it’s warm outside, the rooftop where I work just opened for a new season, tulips are popping up and I feel ready to bloom myself too. 

Different from two weeks ago, when my friend and I were sitting on a terrace with the full sun on our faces and I said: “I don’t know what the fuck is going on. But I’m not ready for sun. I don’t want the sun. Ugh, it’s too much.” My friend: “Me either.” And we both started laughing, because when did we ever say this? Why couldn’t I handle the sun?

Like it triggered something in me, of having to go outside all the time, having to be a social bee, be happy and bubbly, being literally exposed to the sharp light too long. Let me be the vampire and let me go lay down in my black box, I suggested. Not that I wasn’t happy or not wanted to talk with anyone, I just didn’t want to feel pushed to express it. To pretend it. Let me just be how I am now.

But today I want new things. I’m looking forward to the new. To experience and create the new. To continue what I’m doing, but with new energy, with new inspiration and intention. And of course I’m looking forward to longer nights with a warm breeze. To do a little road trip to the beach with beers in the back. And even if this never happens, it sounds pretty damn good to have longer days, softer temperatures, flourishing colors in nature and lively streets. It’s the spring and summer that resets that spark in people. To push the button again just because it’s there and it looks fun. A natural reaction to a vivid environment, showing off on the outside and bubbling from the inside, like champagne (muhah). And I think I just hit it today. Let’s hit it some more. 

That’s it for now. Let’s see what comes up more. I most likely will write more pieces in Dutch.. English just feels a bit weird and distanced for me right now. I need the direct Dutch to express, I guess..


Professional/Business Portraits
Museumpark in Rotterdam was so gorgeous with all of its colors popping out:
flowers, plants, trees, little bees.. Couldn’t wish for better to shoot my
lovely friend Aysun Akik. She was a natural, so relaxed resting in her true being. A woman full with love and life. 

What is focus?

Still don’t get it. I have to dig deep. I’m still on the surface. And I know it. Every time when I get stuck like this, I’ll start with something else. Why isn’t it working? I think I’m trying, but maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Why can’t I have my focus? And if I have it, I loose it again? It’s temporary. A moment. A period. A swell. It’s something that comes and goes. I know it’s like a wave. It grows, breaks and then it starts all over again. I know there is no such thing as a forever consistency or permanency; and I don’t even want that. But wouldn’t it be great to have some more constant focus? That you just wake up everyday, knowing what to do? Or knowing what you want to reach that day and just make it happen? Wouldn’t it be so peaceful to know where you’re going? Step by step you come closer to this dream that you have. It’s not even a dream; it’s something you imagine. It’s a vision, an idea that you just have to turn into reality. I would feel so calm, to just know what I’m doing and why. To know where I’m heading. Trying to figure that out everyday is exhausting. Knowing you’re so close to catching that wave, but not being able to get it done, is frustrating. It can happen - I just have to make it happen. Like I have to push myself to jump on my board when the perfect wave is coming. After many fails, I can’t believe I’m actually riding the wave. The feeling is amazing. I float and I fly, and I’m being a part of the flowing water. I’m exactly where I need to be at this very moment. It’s the meeting of the time, the place and me that feels just right. I’m surrounded by the ocean - the beautiful soft but powerful blue - moving with the flow of the waves in such a natural way that I feel like I’m connected or even integrated in this earthy everyday spectacle. This strong connection with this very moment makes me feel free. It’s liberation from the pressure that time and environment can give you. No thoughts about the past, the future or another place. It’s all about me in this very moment. There are no distractions, but can I say that it’s focus? I’m back again to that question: what is focus? Getting on that wave and feeling free of any kind of pressure; it’s something that goes naturally, without thinking too much. It’s an act, without even realizing you’re doing it. So, can we call this focus? Isn’t focus more seen as something you have to push yourself to? Or is that just the wrong way to think about it? Isn’t it just about creating that environment for yourself so you can reach that focus? To go in that water, with the goal to catch the waves. To let everything else go; everything that can get you distracted from that goal. Not thinking about the cold water, the big crowd around you, the rocks underneath you or the chance of falling the next moment. Creating a mind set that allows you to reach that level of focus. Set your mind right and then you will reach that point of a flow. I’d like to flow all the time like I do when I’m catching a wave. To be stuck in it in a good way -without any worries or thoughts about anything that can push you off this focus. No doubts or fears: no questions. Is this what I want? What will happen after this very moment? What does this mean? What if I fail? How long can I keep doing this? Is that other thing may be better to do? How much I would have an organized mind. A mind with a sharp thinking without hopping from one thing to another. A mind that allows me only to think about stuff that matters; stuff that’s helping me to grow. A mind that filters the bull shit; stuff that may seem interesting or worthwhile, but is actually keeping you away from your real goal, your real dream. Wouldn’t it be great to have a clear view? To be able to chose for something with your whole heart and let everything else drop that doesn’t help you to work this out and then just go with the flow? To know that you don’t need to understand everything, but only the dream you’re working on? To learn to know what to let go and what to keep? How great would it be to make your life simpler because you have a clear focus? So you won’t feel like an overenthusiastic dog, reacting on every exciting new thing around him? How much peace you would experience when you can consciously grow without pressures. For me this sounds like a dream that I haven’t turned into reality yet.

Life. Loving or hating it. Which one do you choose?

“Taxi?! Taxi?! Taxi?!” We didn’t even leave the bus yet or we were overwhelmed by all the taxi drivers trying to find a tourist who is willing to take a cab for way too much money. I looked to the woman next to me with big eyes and sighed. “Si…,” she said with rolling eyes, also looking forward to getting out of the bus and ran into the whole circus of ‘taxistas’. “Another thing that I don’t like about the city. The people can be so loud here,” she said. We’ve been talking about the lives in the city in comparison to the country and this was another difference between them; one of the conversations during my travels that made me think about the ways to live life.

The women on the bus was called Mauricia and she was indigenous, working at a finca -or land/farm- close to the border with Panama. She was talking about how happy she was at the finca with her family. Even though we were from so different worlds, the women and I were chatting for over half an hour on the bus; both interested in each other’s lives and talking about the ways you can live life. I got her number in case I wanted to pass by at the finca and work there a little bit: learn more about the land and what is growing on it. Because she may didn’t know anything about what is going on in Syria –since she doesn’t read or watch news- she knows nature. These meetings are one of the best things about traveling. The encounters you have during your travel can be so random and may be short, but it can be really inspiring and meaningful. It can also lead you to new insights or paths.

Mauricia really pointed out the different ways people can live life. She said that some people lost sight on life, because of all the technology and the urbanisation. And I can relate to that. I think you can say that there is a difference in mindset while living: you can live life with appreciation, love and optimism or you can forget what life is about and being negative about a lot of things. In a little black and white perspective: you can love life or hate it; being focused on the positive things or on the negative things in life. It’s about the way you think, rationalize and see the/your world. If you do it right, you’re loving your life because you are conscious about the choices you made that have lead to the way you live right now. You know that you have the control over your own life and so you make the best out of it. You’re focused on the positive things in life even though some things don’t go the way you wanted. Work may be tough and chaotic, you still won’t change it.

What you’re doing right now is making you happy, the people you’re surrounded by are making you happy, the place you live is making you happy.. You chose to work at an advertisement bureau, being in a relationship, living close to the city and it makes you happy.

Another way to live life is, going on with your life while actually kind of hating it. And maybe you’re not realizing it, because you’re not really living consciously. You don’t want to get out of bed for going to work, more then once a week. You’re really good at complaining about your colleagues, about the traffic, about the work that piles up, about the disgusting coffee, about your dog that needs a walk; you can really make your own life miserable -and I don’t get it. You chose for this life, no one else did. So if you created this life for yourself, why not enjoying it like crazy? Don’t focus on the negative, shitty things of everyday life. That is just self-torture.

And if you don’t like the way you’re living your life right now, change it. Simple as that. You hate your job? Go find something else. It may take you lots of time, a lot of rejections, but in the end you will get there. Not everything is supposed to be easy, that’s not what life is about. It’s about creating your life in a way that makes you enjoying and appreciating it every day. You’re complaining about the shitty weather everyday? Because you’re born in a rainy country doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live there the rest of your life. It’s all up to you where you live. Even though some situations seem unchangeable, because they have been like this for a long time or because you didn’t really chose for it.. It’s about detecting that you actually don’t want to be in this situation and realizing you can change it any moment. Those changes are for the good.

When I think about people who are really enjoying and appreciating life, I think about my day at a coffee farm and my time at the indigenous village in Panama. When I was in the mountains of Panama, I visited a farm where the farmer exploited all kinds of fruits, herbs and coffee. He had a big piece of land, knowing every little inch of it. He was working on this land since the 80’s and has been through a lot: drought, low coffee prices because of economic collapses and pests that destroyed his crops. He found a way to cope with all of this because he was doing the thing he loved. He found a way to live a happy life and he’s telling about it to people visiting the farm. He too has to do crappy stuff, but he won’t complain about it all the time. He stands behind his choices and focuses on the good parts of his work. He was one of the happiest men I’ve met. You can see it in his eyes, how he speaks and the smile that covers his face all the time. He may live in a crappy wooden house, has dirty hands all the time, but he can actually say he is happy. The same for the people I met in the indigenous village in Panama. They are pretty poor, don’t have the luxury to eat whatever whenever they want, mostly don’t have electricity, no internet, no cars.. But these people can smile. They have a simple life –what also can be hard- but they enjoy it. Living purely, close by nature. Being with their family most of the time and appreciating it. They’re seeing things in a bright perspective, and that is beautiful and inspiring to see.

This way of life in the countryside, how the women in the bus compared it to the way of life in ‘the city’, doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘in the countryside’. Living more consciously, with joy and happiness, focusing on the good stuff can also be done while not living on a kind of farm. I’m convinced that it is still easier to focus on the good stuff when you’re living in the country because the fact is that there are hardly any distractions, BUT I really think that you can change your mind set in any kind of situation or place, ‘City’ or countryside. What I said before, it’s all about how you perceive your life: focus on the good and positive or focus on the shitty things and negative.

That’s what I realized quite late, that I wasn’t happy during my second studies. I was only focused on getting that piece of paper so I could be ‘someone’ in life, ‘getting somewhere’. Complaining about homework, work, the weather.. I tried to change my mind set and be happy with the things I had, but I knew that I actually had to change some things to be in a situation where I could actually find happiness. I was wondering: is this it? Is this life? Of course I enjoyed things, but still.. I can’t compare it to how I’m feeling now. Now I can actually say that I created a life that I wanted for myself.

Can you say that you’re really loving your life right now?

The three months travel itch?

My legs feel heavy. Why? I don’t know. My right feet is hanging over the left side of the bed. A little breeze from the van above me is touching my skin. My eyes won’t close. Gazing from one place to the other. They are wide awake. As is my mind. Why can’t I just go to sleep? I don’t know. I’m in a luxurious hostel compared to a lot I’ve been in. I took quite some relaxing time today. Ate alright and watched some series. I thought I would be normal by now. And with normal I mean: curious, energetic, interested, hungry, foolish and cheering. Now, I don’t feel much, don’t want much and don’t know much. Not excited about that volcano and not excited about that river. I can’t be exhausted of the traveling right? Or can I? I took it slow, not rushing, not wanting to see every highlight and not went from one country to the other like crazy. I feel like I could have done much more, like going to the rivers and mountains in the north of Nicaragua or see more in San Salvador. But I didn’t do it and that’s fine by me. I don’t have to do anything. With traveling there has to be no such thing as pressure. It already can be exhausting, but you can also make it even harder for yourself by getting every chance you have to do and see something new.

So I thought I took it easy.. what makes me feel like this then? That literarily everything is changing al the time, so you can’t rely on about anything? Not a routine, not one person who’s always there, not a place, not a situation.. Do I feel like this, because I have to adjust all the time? I thought I was comfortable with this shit and owning it; embracing every little thing I wasn’t sure of; experiencing the adventure and just let it happen. Yesterday I was fine I guess, but now I feel kind of empty. What happened in the mean time? Do I feel like this because I don’t have an end date? That just practically nothing is certain for me? That I maybe scared too sometimes? That I will not have money left and won’t be able to do the stuff I love and have to head back home? Regularly I have these dreams that I’m back in Holland. But it all feels so wrong. Everything goes wrong: the ticket back to Latin America is super expensive, my backpacking stuff is gone, I get stuck in this routine.. and I just want to get out but I can’t. A nightmare.

Maybe it’s because I can only rely on myself? I’m the one who’s arriving in an unknown street in a city I’ve never been before, trying to find my way. I’m the one asking the questions. I’m the one who decides where to go next and how and for how long. I’m the one who has to think about my safety every day, assessing if I should walk back or take a taxi this late. I’m the one who has to keep an eye on my stuff -three bags- on buses, in taxi’s, on the streets and in hostels. I’m the one who finally decides to take my camera with me to that market or not. These things are now kind of normal to me, so it takes less of me now. But still, those things push you to be alert, and that can be exhausting. The last day I thought someone had opened my locker. You can’t imagine how freaked out I was. Or just tonight when I walked back to the hostel and I realized it was maybe too late, because the streets were almost abandoned. Or even two days ago, when I decided to eat a hamburger at one of the little ‘snackbars’ on the street and I suddenly got paranoia for getting sick all over again, so I bought a coke right away that may kill all the bacteria.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have any close relationships for a longer time. That the people that know everything about me are miles away. That I can only see and hear them via a screen. Maybe because I get attached to people and used to them, but then finally have to let them go again. It’s so, so good to meet all these interesting people. It’s one of the best things of traveling. But sometimes I find it sad to spend so little time with someone who made such an impact on me that quickly. Or I just find it hard to be with the right people at some specific situations, moments when I need a good talk, but what you can’t have with everyone. And also, it can be really exhausting to meet new people everyday. You just start to select the people with who you want to spend time with, which sounds really horrible but I think is just very logical. It’s just not really realistic to connect with every person you meet.

Maybe it’s just me trying to find my way of traveling. Figuring out a way to do this for a long time. This traveling is my lifestyle now, because I will do it for a indefinite time. I have to get some things straight to keep up with this way of living. I always had trouble finding a good balance. I consider myself more as a person of extremes. I can be so focused and enthusiastic, but also really distracted and restless. There are periods I work really hard for something, and periods I don’t do anything. Or phases where I’m into that and the next I will be fed up with it. I can feel really, really positive and happy, but also feel extremely down. And these feelings taking control over everything and that can be annoying as fuck. So now, I’m probably more in a low. Something that didn’t happen a lot during this trip. But this is definitely the most extreme one. Maybe it’s a three month thing? Like a couple who are struggling because they reached the 8 months -or whatever month.

Maybe I do know something. That I just have to listen to these feelings and also my body. It’s probably just fed up with me and my cravings for new adventures. I try to do the daily stuff I do at home: organize my stuff, wash my clothes, take care of my body, cook, buy fruit, eat sweet stuff and watch series. In this way I don’t think about stuff, and don’t realize where I am and what I may have to do. It’s like stepping into a movie and forget about your own life for a while and then when it ends, pick it up again. Afterwards you can start again and fresh. Editing my photos and writing stories are a good way too, but those are so related to the travel that sometimes I can’t do that neither. It’s too much then, and too much is just never good for you. Even while traveling. So the conclusion is that travel is about fun, but it’s also about jumping and falling. It’s like any other life. If you’re living in one place all the time or if you’re going from one place to the other: you will have your ups and downs. Even though I feel a bit down now, I still love this lifestyle. I choose for it and I will do it again and again. Just hoping I don’t have to break up with myself when I hit the eight months, because I can’t stand myself anymore..

I can finally feel my eyelids falling down, while writing this last part. Maybe because now it’s not stuck in my mind anymore, but on paper? Or maybe because I’m just really fucking tired right now. Good night.

A change of restaurants

The waiter pulls the white fancy chair back, so I can sit down. “Buenos tardes, señora.” I thank him and try to sit down elegantly after I put my little outdoor backpack on one of the other seats –which was pulled back for me too. While my company is going to the bathroom, I try to adjust to this new situation. I look around me and I suddenly feel so weird. I see nicely dressed people –mostly white people- having wine in fancy glasses, eating pasta or salad from a fancy plate, wearing expensive watches, pearl earrings, polo’s and lipstick. I look down and wiggle with my tows in my 13 dollar flip flops, pull up my simple but wrinkled light blue shirt, smooth my Thai backpack/travel pants with elephants on it and put my messy dry sea hair back – well I just fit in here perfectly. 

I just arrived in an Italian restaurant for middle or high class Guatemalan people and I’m not feeling comfortable. My heart is beating faster and my eyes are all over the place, like I’m nervous. I’ve been put into a place in complete contrast to where I just came from -from poverty to a lot of wealth, all in a couple of minutes. The difference is so big, that I feel sad. I feel sad, because it shows me how unfair life can be. From a place that is covered in trash to a place that is covered in gold, in such a short distance: that’s the reality of Latin America. And it’s turning my stomach upside down. Also, because these kinds of restaurants are actually really normal in my home, in Holland. There, it’s not even for the rich: it’s for the majority of people because the majority of the people have a good life with enough money to pay eating out. I ate a lot in restaurants like these, but now I realize that I don’t really care about that. Other things are more important for me, and that’s what this journey has shown me.

To give you some more insight in these contrasting worlds.. I just arrived from Santa Ana, El Salvador, a city where I ate pupusas –typical El Salvadorian tortilla food- and fries for less then a dollar on the street; where the streets were full of holes and plastic trash; where people stared at me for being blond; a place where the most luxury thing I could find was the little pizza for three dollars And, before that, I was in Nicaragua for two months: one of the poorest countries in Central America. It was a place where you had to be lucky having running (fresh) water and electricity most of the times; a place where the roads were made out of sand; a place where the houses I would normally not call houses but little shacks; a place where wealth was a rare thing. I tasted a lot of chaos, uncertainty and poverty: but I loved it because those things interest me.

Now, I’m reading the menu of this Italian restaurant, trying to make a choice between three different types of shrimps, pasta and coffee. It’s not only a wealth overload, but also a choice overload. How am I supposed to pick one dish out of the fifty that the menu counts? I don’t feel comfortable, even though it’s just like a restaurant in Holland. I feel strange and different from the the rest of the people sitting here, while I normally felt like one of them. I realize how my perspective has changed. These last three months has showed me other ways to live then I did in Holland. It made me realize what my values and believes actually are, and it doesn’t really involve eating an expensive pasta in one of the most luxurious malls in Central America.

This lunch experience was nice, because it made me think about the contrasts of this region, not because I had good pasta. A little bit over twenty families earn around ninety per cent of this countries income; that’s fucking awful. But knowing more about this country and its reality, that what’s interests me; not which pasta is better or where to shop the best shorts. I’m interested in people and culture, because I experienced that this stuff makes me curious and energetic. Travel helps me discover that, because it gives me new perspectives.

I enjoy a cappuccino in a quiet restaurant in a tourist village, but I prefer having a coffee (that’s way too sweet) that a local kid in an indigenous village has given me. The hot shower I have right now is awesome –it put a big smile on my face- but I don’t mind having a cold shower when I’m surrounded by a beautiful Nicaraguan family who tells me all about their lives. A good breakfast made by the two Guatemalan girls is heaven, but I don’t care if I have to make my own breakfast if I’m high up in the mountains, close to nature. I don’t live for comfort; no, I live for adventure. 

The pasta was nice, but I prefer the time that I had the
fresh fish Marina made for me – my Nicaraguan friend I met in a
little fisher’s village. While she didn’t have hardly any money, she just gave
me a fresh fish from the boat, I could even choose. Since I thought I couldn’t
cook it that well myself, she invited me over to their house, so she could cook
it for me. It was amazing. Not only the fish was incredible, also the whole
experience around it was special. I hopped on the back of the motorcycle of her
husband, while she and her little daughter were driving next to me on another
motor, getting to the house – probably not even five minutes away. We drove really fast, so at one point my hands were clung to Maykol’s shoulders, scared to fall - but it was awesome. I talked
with the family for hours, get to know them and their lives better and better.
I don’t want to be ungrateful, my shrimp dish in the restaurant was good, but it
was a totally different experience. I prefer having a meal in a way where I’m
part of the culture and people of that country. I experience warmth, love and happiness in that way. Also, it gives me a purpose: it inspires me to capture it and show it with the world.

So, this journey makes me realize what I find important: what gives me energy and what is not. I found myself in so many situations, that I discover what I like and what I don’t like, more and more. Travel can do that to you: new perspectives can help you rethink about your values, interests and believes. You’re put in all kinds of weird, amazing, unthinkable situations, so that you HAVE to think about what this means to you. Is this experience something that you like or hate? Is it something that scares you or makes you feel alive? Is it making you realize how good your life is or how bad it was? Is this what you expected to be it or is it the complete opposite? Do you feel really happy now or does it make you want to go back home?

I can already tell you one thing: if you go travel and see travel as an opportunity to discover more about yourself, you will.

From Granada to Leon

I was alone
on the road again. Left beautiful Granada and my soar legs after hiking the
volcano, and hopped on a chicken bus to Granada. With the surfboard between my
legs, two cool old ladies with cookies on my left and a nice young guy on the
right, the little van drove away. I was happy to have my board so close to me
and not cracked between the doors behind me. They will push and push stuff into
vehicles into it fits, but don’t do that with my board, please. It got really cosy
and hot, but also fun – like every (chicken bus) ride is.

Two hours
later, covered in bags, I was trying to find a place to eat at the bus terminal
in Leon. But, not unnoticed by taxi drivers of course. “You can eat in the town
too,” they said. I was hungry and told them I wanted to eat now –no, I didn’t
scream. I wanted to eat good local food for really cheap at this chaotic
terminal, sitting next to other locals having their meal, also having to sit on
a bar seat watching the ladies cook or watching the news on the television in
the back. I didn’t want to be dropped of in one of the backpacker’s or fancy
restaurants, which are pretty much the same in every place and are also more
expensive. The places where the local people think I would like to eat, since
I’m a tourist. I like to have a pizza, a hamburger, pasta, or just some more
fancy meals sometimes, but the local food is just the best food and the
cheapest. Just try to avoid places where hygiene is hard to find..

One bici
taxi –taxi on a bike- was so consistent that he offered me to take me to the
centre for one dollar, and if it wasn’t as far as he said, I didn’t have to
pay. So I said, okay, but I have to eat first. Now, almost screaming. You don’t
want to meet Marlissa when she’s hungry, you know. On the corner was the cutest
little comedor. An open kitchen surrounded by bar tables and high chairs, with
in the back a television and in the middle five hard working and laughing
ladies. I let them stuff my whole plate with food: chicken, gallo pinto (rice
with beans)- platano (sweet cooked banana) and salad. People sometimes look at
me eating, probably wondering where it al goes. Or maybe they just look because
I’m blond.

Then the
questions started. They didn’t had a lot of tourists at that comedor which
sounds as music to my ears for me. But, it could also mean that it be food to
get sick from. But, if they weren’t cooking, they we’re cleaning. These ladies
knew how to do things for sure. “Where are you from?,” is the first question
and then they want to know your age, which is followed by the questions
involved around boyfriends, husbands and traveling all alone. They all had
boyfriends, or husbands and kids, and some of them were younger then me. I wasn’t
surprised by it anymore. It’s just the way it goes here. Not having a boyfriend
makes you weird, so I’m weird, I guess.

One of
these girls was standing there perfectly for a good photo. My camera was
already screaming to get out, so I did a little comedor women photoshoot. These
ladies are so cool. They work hard, but they can laugh even harder. A lot of
times I feel embarrassed by my loud laugh, so when I first heard some Latina
women laughing harder then I do, I felt I just found my kind of people. I can
be loud Marlissa here all the time and people love it.

They wanted
to see pictures of me, so I wrote down my name so they could look up my
facebook page. They liked my pictures, but they got even more excited when they
saw the blond guy standing next to me in the background picture. “Es tu
novio?,” (Is this your boyfriend?), they asked. “No, no, es mi hermano!.”, I
told them it was my brother. “Uhuuuu, tu hermano….,” staring at the screen
while their eyes got bigger and bigger and their faces got closer to the
screen. I started laughing and so they started laughing. Not only latino’s, but
also latina’s like blond.

I was almost
finishing eating and then this crash was shown on the television, a crash of a
Chinese truck and a bicycle. They all looked at the screen like something
really uncommon happened. All I could think was: how can they be so shocked
when just 10 meters away from this comedor, there are buses, cars, bicycles and
people are probably getting accidents everyday? The traffic in Central America
can be the worse.

Then it was
time for me to go. The taxi guy was still waiting for me -he chilled with me
and the comedor ladies. The board had to go on the top and that was fine. As I
just sat down in the interesting vehicle, loud romantic music was entering my
ears. The taxi driver just had put on a Romantic Spanish song and let it blow
up the iniest tiniest speakers –with so much power- just under the roof, which
was above my head. I felt every person at the bus terminal just turned towards
us, towards the place where the romantic tunes were playing. Was this song on
purpose? A joke? Or does he do it all the time at blond girls because they
liked it? Well, I didn’t know why he did it, but it was funny as hell. I
couldn’t hold it in and I just burst into laughing. Even though the music was
loud, you could probably hear my laugh too. I’m sure actually, because the
comedor women were all gathered at the back of the comedor to watch me go -and
to laugh with me. It was hilarious. I felt embarrassed, like the blond tourist,
driven around with her three bags by a local taxi. Before we drove away he had
to make a turn –which was one of the largest in my life. Thank god he changed
the song at some point..

We crossed
chickens, avocados, pineapples, tortillas, bananas, shoes, shirts, lamps –we
just crossed the market. We drove over tons of trash, feeling the bike shaking
driving over another mountain of plastic, smelling the gasses leaving the old cars,
hearing voices promoting bananas or sodas, looking into old souls and the young
with curiosity, seeing everything just happening like it had no end. The voices
became softer, the sun was getting stronger and the music was improving. I had
some nice chats with the taxi driver about the city. Like almost every taxi
driver I met, he was quite interesting in me and me having a boyfriend or not.
I considered lying about it, because it can be exhausting after a while. I
didn’t, but may be should have. He was nice, but he asked for my number for
more then one time. His eyes were laid on me while I was doing all the carrying
of my bags into the hostel.

The hostel
was nice and quiet. The bed felt comfortable and for the next half hour I just
laid there. Trying to get rid of the heat –which is impossible in Leon- and
thinking about what happened today. I only went from one place to another and
already had some new , cool stuff cross my path. While getting on a shuttle
takes you from A to B with AC, without lots of people – these unpredictable
chicken bus rides, bici taxis and everything in between are just priceless.

little trips are like little adventures, because you can never predict them.
It’s not a routine job, it’s nothing daily, and it’s not something planned –
which make you go into this auto modus without any consciousness. It’s
something that’s different every time you experience it, it’s something outside
your comfort zone, it’s something exciting or even scary, it’s something you
can’t predict – which will make you push to think, contemplate and be more
conscious. Without knowing what will happen, you will be feed by energy and
feel more alive. This unknown path may not be the easiest way, but it will be
the way that it’s worth.

Sickness and health

The heat
wakes me up, again. I drag myself out of bed, looking for some fresh air and..
the toilet. It was already my fourth day of being sick and the third of being
in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua and also one hell of a hectic place
because of the amount and intensity of the traffic. It’s not really an interesting
place to stay as a tourist, but it was close to the little village I wanted to go.
And also, I knew that I was better off in the city then in a quite isolated village
when you’re not feeling really well. Jep, sickness had me, or: a parasite had

This ‘sick’
situation made me realize a couple of things. As for one of course: you realize
how vulnerable you actually are when
heaving health problems while being away from home and alone. Of course I’ve
been sick on holidays in Spain, had an leg injury in Tsjechie Republic as a
kid, got an ear infection in Thailand.. It’s not the first time I had some
health problems away from home. But this time I felt some differences: I was
alone, or: there was no one there to take care of me or to take advices from
directly; I wasn’t going home soon, so I had to deal with this right away and
it had to be fixed for the long term too; I was in a country where you can’t
depend on the health system in a way you can do that in a country like The
Netherlands –which is my home.

So when I
felt even worse the fourth day I started thinking about how bad it could be.
That was the first time I got worried. I noticed I couldn’t really think for
myself anymore and I actually needed someone to help me. I realized I was so
vulnerable. Something had to be done, otherwise I would’ve passed out at some
point. This sounds really dramatic, but you just feel like you can faint
anytime when you’re body has nothing to live off. And, all those days I thought
I just had to suck it up. It’s just travel sickness. Every traveller
experiences this once in a while. You ate something that wasn’t maybe clean or
drank the wrong water.. But then I thought, how can you feel better if you
can’t really eat and the energy that is left, is still leaving your body? This
wasn’t normal. How can people get better from this? I drank lots of water and
these ORS packages with salt and sugar, banana’s, crackers and bread. If I had
known sooner that there is such thing as a parasite..

I’m happy
to have had some nice help of people when I was sick. I can always ask Joan, a
medical student and a local friend, for help. He knows medicine and he knows Nicaragua.
Also, the owner of the hostel helped me getting the medicine; the ladies
working at the hostel warned me for bad hygienic situations, like the flies
who’ll sit on your food; a English guy, Joe, made some green tea for me; and
also that night two German guys insisted having some pasta they made. Having
those people you don’t even know, taking care of you, was so nice.

The second
thing I realized while being sick in Nicaragua, is how different live standards
can be around the world -and the resources that come along with that.  When I left Playa Gigante, being sick the
first day, there was no electricity and WiFi, so no opportunity to communicate
with home. Also, there was no water. Of course I drank water out of the bottle,
but I really wanted to take a shower and flush down the toilet.. I’ve had some
more hours or days without these resources before, but it’s just different when
you’re sick.

To tell
that I had the luck to just pack up my bags and leave for another place where
there was water, WiFi and electricity. But, does everyone has that? Well, no.
So, how fortunate are we in a country like Holland, where those resources are naturally
to us? When we don’t have electricity or water for an hour, we’ll already be
complaining and calling the companies to fix it. And they will, so it’s not
even a problem. No, then, it’s a first world problem. Here you can actually
cáll it a problem, especially when someone has health issues.

We tend to
take water, electricity but also good health care for granted. Of course health
problems are never fun, even in a country where the health system is really
good. But, sometimes we forget how much and how good those resources generally
are compared to other countries. When we have food poisoning or a fracture, we
know that we’ll be all right. No doubt about it. You won’t question the way
they treat you in comparison with how they treat you here. You can be treated
really well in Managua, where there is one of the best hospitals in Central
America, but there are also places where you’ll may not feel that safe and
secure about the treatment. My English friend, Joe, had fractured is arm with
canoeing and so he went to a hospital in Rivas, where they threw out the
needles through the window.

The third
realisation I had while being sick, was that we take health in general for
granted. I’ve been traveling for two and a half months now and I did everything
I wanted, because I could. I spend days in big cities photographing; I went to
beaches and surfed a lot of days; I cooked nice food and ate fresh local fish;
I’ve been to some good parties in Bocas; I spend a lot of hours in buses and
taxis; I climbed up my first volcano; I drove around an island on a scooter; I
spend a week in a indigenous village.. All those things I was able to do
because I was healthy. I just hopped on from one thing to the other, I was
living the life from day to day, I was making it all happen. And then you get
sick and you can’t move, literarily and figuratively speaking. It’s like they
took away your freedom. I didn’t even got a serious disease, but can you
imagine how that would be like? I can’t really, but I thought about it. You may
can’t be yourself anymore, because you have to let some things go. You have to
accept you’re limited, and that must be so hard..

So everyone
takes things for granted, including me. But I’m definitely more aware of it, of
which a lot of people can’t say. And that’s what travel can teach you: to be
more conscious about the world and yourself. Then I mean, traveling in a way
that you cán discover more about the world, which is not hopping from one party
to another. It means choosing for the unknown, changes and exploration. Even
though there are other ways to discover, I just think travel –if you do it in
the right way- is one of the most powerful ways to do so.

Traveling alone, por qué no?

“Por qué no?.” We bring our right hand close to our mouth and fold our fingers together in an Italian way. Klap. Klap. Klap. A punch of our fists, a Macarena move (from the song) and another klap with both hands. “Uhuuuuu.” Then we start laughing like crazy. We think our passionate latina greeting full of temperament is so good. You really have to see it though.. So, this time the greeting is different. Something is off. Because we don’t know when the next time will be. We hug each other en for one more time we’re calling “Qué xopa hermana?!” (the Panamenian greet) to each other across the street and then Anna disappears out of side. “Ah, you’re not traveling together?,” the Argentinian girl at the bus terminal in Puerto Viejo asks me. “No, we met 10 days ago in Panama..”. “Oh, wauw. You seem such good friends.” I know, right! If it was up to us, we would still be traveling together. But Anna had to go back to Panama..

Right before I’m entering the bus, I can’t find my wallet. Where the fuck did I leave it? I have specific spots in my little backpack for everything and my wallet pocket is empty. The sweat on my back and for head just multiplied. Okay, so I’m alone again. These moments you wish you were with someone who could help you or calm you down. But, thankfully I still had it. I just put it on a different spot. I told myself to focus again and I got into a conversation with a local guy working at a tour agency. He asked the question that a lot of people ask: “So, you’re traveling alone?” or “All by yourself?”. “Yes..,” I answer to the guy. Some people find it intriguing that you are by yourself. 

A lot of backpackers are traveling alone or they can understand that you’re traveling alone, but there are always people who don’t. ‘Alone’, sounds so.. sad. As if I have no one to talk to during my travels. As if I’m drinking alone at a bar. As if I’m walking the streets of Bocas alone. As if I’m just.. alone. 

First of all: why is it so bad to be alone in general? I think most people don’t know what to do with themselves when they are alone and so rather be with people all the time. It can be confronting and maybe hard, but it can definitely give you insights about yourself. Because then you will have no distraction of someone else’s presence. You have the space to think about stuff.

Secondly, traveling alone or doing things alone actually lead to new connections. So you may book that ticket alone, but who says you’re really alone all the time? Alone, you are open for new things, new people, new connections. Because everyone needs a conversation, wants to share a nice moment or have a good laugh with someone once in a while. I think that it’s really important to share your experiences with someone, but who says it can’t be with people you just met? Traveling alone means you’ll discover things about yourself, of which meeting new people and sharing experiences with them, is a big part of it. 

If you don’t want to do things alone during your travels, you don’t always have to. It depends on your mindset; do you want to go outside your comfort zone and enter a situation without any judgments about anyone? If you want to make new connections, you will. Most of the times it just happens. But you have to be open for it. 

And of course, you will have moments of real loneliness. Moments when you wonder what the fuck you are actually doing.. I already had that the second day, when no one was at the hostel and I had no clue what to do. Sometimes you meet people that turn out to be different than you thought. Sometimes you’re surrounded by people you maybe don’t want to be surrounded by. Sometimes you see only couples traveling together and then you get this EMO moment when you’re realizing that it’s just only you. And, AND, sometimes -most of the times- you meet the greatest people that you would’ve maybe missed when you’re not traveling alone. Big shout out to my hermana, Anna Ies, who is not yet done with me. And, the two Norwegian cuties, Ivar and Justin (sorry…). Definitely not forgot to mention you! Visit me in South America. 

The greatest thing about traveling alone is that you -and only you- are making the decisions. You feel like you’re not in the right place? You leave. You feel like you’re happy where you are? You stay. Simply as that. And if you do travel alone, what definitely has his advantages too (like lower costs and watching out for each other.. the best example of couple traveling together are Ivar and Justin for sure), make sure it’s someone who lifts you up and not down. Someone who is on the same page when it comes down to travel. And someone who is just as awesome as you.


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