To dreaming big and screw ups. We’ll always be the next big thing

I’ve spent my life making choices. We all have. And yes, I’ve chosen to leave right after my studies, take to the road, discover the world. And yes, those years made me who I am. They made me fearless and open minded, flexible and not afraid of getting dirty, happy and creative. Now I am back home, trying to figure out what to do. It feels like I have spent months sending resumes to vaguely media or communication jobs. Not really enthusiastic about any of it, but still, I wanted to give it a fair shot. Yes, I have panicked, and looked at the next ticket for Bali, but this time I am not running. I want to travel some more, but I don’t want to be back home at square one.

It feels like I’m spending my time apologizing. Apologizing in my cover letters for those years of wanderlust. “Yes, I have traveled, but it made me bilingual”. “Yes, I have traveled, but it made me flexible”. Apologizing to my family and friends, “well, yes, I do want a job, I’m not finding one. Well, no, I would not like to have a job right here forever. It’s all temporary isn’t it ?” Apologizing for not wanting to stay here. Not having a saving account for my future apartment. Not wanting to get married before I’m 30. Not settling for something that I do not want.

“Well, you have to realize, this is real life now”

Real life. What the heck is real life anyway ? Is real life coming home from work and watching tv while playing candy crush ? Is real life being in a relationship for the last 10 years and having nothing to say to the other person anymore ? Is real life saving up to buy a house ? And suddenly, after 7 months of it all, it just came to me. Like a revelation. Like I snapped.

I’m done. I’m so done. I’m done apologizing. I LOVE my choices. I don’t regret a single one. I refuse to stop dreaming big because everybody else is pulling me down. I refuse to apologize for having seen the world. For wanting more out of the whole experience. This is who I am. Come on, some people make it to being movie stars. Athletes. Astronauts. Why can’t I just want a little bit more ? A little bit more than working at a shitty real estate job because that’s all I can find ? A little bit more than diner with the same people over and over again ? A little bit more out of life.

 

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What the hell am I doing here ?

I talk a lot about the beauty of traveling, about what a magical experience it is, about how everything folds into place. And mostly, it does. You just have to trust your lucky star, and always keep moving forward.

But don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of moments, during my time on the road, where I wondered, for a mere second really, what the HECK was I doing.

For example, I remember distinctively arriving in Cambodia. I was pretty exhausted after a six hours stopover in Singapore. I was emotionally on edge because I just left Australia after a glorious year of sun and beach and making friends everywhere. I stepped out of that airport and the sky seemed to be falling down. It was pouring rain like I’ve never seen it before. It was a couple of months since I experienced any kind of rain in the first place, so that was quite impressive. And I didn’t have time to register any of it because an army of Tuk Tuk drivers were fighting over my attention. I finally found the one send by my hostel. I was embarrassed by my heavy bag, had to repress the urge to explain to him that I was already traveling for over a year, otherwise of COURSE I wouldn’t have that much stuff, I’m usually a light packer I swear.

When my bag and myself were safety inside the Tuk Tuk, merrily away we went. Under the heaviest rain of my life. On the mud roads. The tuk tuk broke down after about 10 minutes and the driver had to call a friend to come and pick me and my enormous bag up and drive us to the hostel.

So, all in all, it was about 20 minutes of tuk tuk driving to get to the city. And during the ENTIRE time I was just looking at the mud, the muddy fields, the people half naked working them, the dogs, the cows passing us buy, the scooter where 4 people would be SOMEHOW sitting, the other tuk tuk full of fruits for the market, the chaos of it all. And I just kept thinking, what in the WORLD was I doing here ?! what was I THINKING ?! By myself ?! I wasn’t really sacred, I was just uncomfortable with my decision. Somehow hearing what my mother would say if she could see me. Wondering if I didn’t bit off more that I couldn’t chew on. You know those few seconds, minutes, were everything is questionable, where you wondering about why you are here, can you really do that, are you strong enough, tall enough, are you not a little bit insane after all ?

And then you breathe in. It suddenly dawns on you where you truly are, and what you are truly accomplishing. That you can’t be nothing but proud. That everything is going to be just fine. Because you are made of tougher stuff. And in the end, you’ll shine that much brighter.

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Buying my first car

When I arrived in Australia, I had a very European, naïve way on how I was going to do things. Like, well, I was going to take the bus, and the train everywhere. Then I realized (especially arriving  in Western Australia), that the distances between cities were hours and hours, that the buses only made it to major populated areas, and that I was due to work in farms and national parks and getting there was going to be way more complicated than anticipated. I was used to everything being connected. I was used to cheap buses, carpooling and always finding a way to get somewhere. I was NOT expecting houses so lost that their mailboxes were completely elsewhere so that the postman could kind of reach them better. To people going shopping in the “big city” once every three weeks because it took two hours to get there. The sheer distances in Australia are mind blowing. It puts everything into perspective.

I realized soon enough that a car was going to be a necessity if I was to explore like I intended to. I could reach the cities with the bus, but the cities were not what I came for. I came for the endless beaches and forgotten tropical forests. For the outback and to truly get lost.

The thing was, I never bought a car. I didn’t know a single thing about cars. I didn’t know what to ask, what to look for, how to not get ripped off. I guess what I SHOULD have done is browse, see a couple of them, ask a bunch of questions, read stuff online.

What happened in real life though was, a friend of my boss was selling his car. I decided to have a look, asked my coworkers to come with me since they “kind of” knew some stuff about cars.

They did everything. They opened the hood, they asked the questions, they even took the car for a test drive since I didn’t really see the point of me driving it (what was I looking for ? What should I try ?). The ONLY question I asked was “can I connect my ipod ?” cause, let’s face it, when you intend to drive 8 hours a day, you NEED music.

I didn’t look at any other car. I loved it for the moment I saw it. My friends told me it looked good, I trusted them since I didn’t have any other choice anyway. Plus, I COULD connect my ipod. So, I bought it.

And that car was and always will be my favorite car. Her name was “Baby”. A little tiny SUV, bright red, so cute and adorable. It drove me through the desert and into the outback. It didn’t look tough but, just like me, it really was. We drove 20 000 km together and I never had a single problem. Selling it was heartbreaking and I refused a couple of dudes because they didn’t appreciate it enough. I ended up selling it to a cool girl, we stayed friends and she updated me on the car. Cause life works out sometimes.

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A thousand lives : My time as a winemaker in Napa, California

Arriving in Napa, California, was a little bit like going back home. Going back to “civilization” as only a European snob can say it. I just came from two months in the south of the US, where, let’s face it, everything is either fried or deep fried. Where all the restaurants are the same kind of joints, serving the same kind of food, with the same kind of accent.

I got there, and it was instant love. It’s just the cutest, most distinguish little town. It’s all European deli with really fancy delicate food. It is restaurants with a “concept”, with a nice decor, imaginative menus. It’s Americans at their snobbiest. The kind of Americans that spend every holiday in south of France or Italy, and talk about wine and fine cheese and traveling. California was for me like being back in Europe, expect sunnier, wilder and little bit more “in your face”.  Napa was the easy lay back small town, with distinguished rich people, talking about culture and being snobs.

It was my first stop in California because I found a job there working in a vineyard. That was always one of the things I regretted not doing in Australia. One of the arrows missing from my quiver. Working in the fields, in wine. The dream.

I absolutely loved it there. My bosses were this couple of retirees who had spent a fair bit of their time traveling in Europe. I would spend my days with my little cowboy belt, working on the vines with my secateurs, cutting the little regrowth so the main vine would have more strength. It was a long and tedious job but painless and easy. And I would work alongside people. Either my boss, talking to me about what we were to eat. My boss’s wife, talking to me about books and movies. Or their only employee, talking about his studies and Mexico.

For lunch the boss would always take me to town, we would go to this fancy Italian deli, buy the best food, come back home with fresh bread and pastrami, delicious expensive cheese and salad. And in the evening after work, if it was a good day, he would open one of his own bottle of red wine, offer me some fancy cheese and crackers, and we would sit there, in the delicate color of the evening, surrounded by vines. I loved the work, I loved the wine and I loved the people. They were brilliant. Old travelers, cultured, with their vineyard in Napa and their beautiful house in San Francisco. They were living the life, quite comfortable about what they had achieved, in what they were doing, and in the glorious and easy future ahead of them. And I just thought, well, I wouldn’t mind being here, quietly working the fields, when I’ll be their age. Winemaker it is.

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No one ever walks : welcome to the US

I will always remember my very first day in the US. I arrived in Florida and worked near Miami. I asked where was the closest supermarket and I was told the nearest Wal-Mart was about 30 minutes away by bus. I asked if I could walk there and I was told “nooo, it’s too long a walk”. On my phone it was about 15 minutes away, so I happily put on my brand new little white shoes and went on my shopping trip.

15 minutes it was but there was NOWHERE to walk. Not one sidewalk, not one bicycle lane, nothing. I walked on the side of a road for about 5 minutes and suddenly I was confronted with two massive motorways. I tried walking by the side of it, a little farther away, in the grass. It was uncomfortable and loud and after about 5 minutes I feel into a puddle of mud, up to my knee. So much for the pretty white shoes.

Then I came to the point where I was forced to cross those motorways. I had to run across them, it was highly dangerous and probably incredibly illegal. I arrived at Wal-Mart exhausted, sweaty and disgusting. And that was just one way.

But that’s the way it is in the US. There is just nowhere to walk because, well, let’s face it, no one wants to. I found that the lifestyle was, for the most part, very lazy. Everybody owns a car there, because that’s the only way to get around. And then their whole system is built around that. I went to a burger place one time, and wanted to go to the ice cream place across the road for dessert, and there was LITERALY no way for me to walk there, I had to take the car and DRIVE those 100 meters.  And since they are driving everywhere, they are getting pretty reluctant about leaving their cars. That’s probably why they have drive-in for everything. And I do mean everything. Drive-in for MacDonald’s and burger king, ok, fine, we have those in Europe. Drive in for Starbucks, well, why not. I mean, the line was always so long that if you would have just PARKED your car, walked out, ordered your coffee, walked back, you would have been 10 minutes faster than just waiting in the drive-in line, but I guess that’s just too much commitment for coffee.

I saw a drive-in for an electric company, so you can pay your bill from your car. Drive-in for the post office. Drive in for ATMs. So you can get into your car and, without once getting up from it, get cash, spend it at the fast food place, get a coffee for dessert and go home. All of that from the comfort of your leather seats and AC environment. Well. After all. Isn’t that what we are talking about when we are yearning for the American dream ?

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Yallaboroo or how I arrived in heaven

At one point during my Australian adventure, I decided to go on a 3 days boat trip through the Whitsundays. That’s a story for another time. It was marvelous, and absolutely exhausting. I’m writing this to tell you about the little things in traveling. Like arriving to a new place and finding it better that you have ever dreamed it could be.

So my boat arrived at the harbor late afternoon. I was exhausted. I didn’t shower for 3 days, my skin was salty and dry, my hair were blonder than ever before, I didn’t like a single person on that boat but for the friend I came with. I wanted a shower, a nice meal, 3 litters of water and to NOT be around people all the time.

20150501_161620But no rest for the warrior, I had to drive 2 hours to my next job. And of course I wouldn’t start working right away. But it’s always the same thing when you arrive in a new place. You have to be “on” all the time. And polite and nice and funny. Make a good impression, present well. Get up and do the dishes, help around, offer your service. And I was just exhausted, and uncomfortable in my skin.

So I drove the 2 hours, didn’t find my farm because of course it was in the middle of nowhere, had to call the people so they would help me on my way.

And then, something wonderful and amazing happened. I was suddenly and instantly home. The house was the nicest, so calm, comfortable, clean. I had my own room and, what never ever happened before, my own bathroom ! And I’m not talking about a shady shower outside of the house (because THAT happened). A full-on bathroom with a tub and a big mirror and made of marble. Now I know that I may seem overly excited over something that is, after all, pretty common. A bathroom. But when you are on the road for as long as I was, you really, TRULY appreciate those things. Not sharing the space with 10 other backpackers showering at the same time as you do. Not having to pack all your stuff every single time you take a shower. Not having to precariously balance your products so they don’t touch too much of the floor if it’s disgusting. Not worrying about the camel dudes barging in when you are in the shower. Your own space. Were you can leave your stuff. That, my friends, is pure LUXURY.

My new boss made me a yummy diner, didn’t ask anything out of me “you just rest darling. You look exhausted”. The conversation was easy and floating. I talked and I listening and none of it was awkward or forced, none of it was politeness, it was instant friendship, and instant ease. My whole body and mind relaxed in those first hours and quite frankly, it was like arriving home. And believe me, when you are on the road for two years, this is a rare miracle indeed. You have to appreciate to the fullest, every comfortable, easy, and fuzzy second.

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