he key of our apartment has been handed in, our furniture has been sold, and we have quit our jobs, the flow of papers and bills has been (mostly)ended, and all our worldly possessions are packed in a few boxes on the attic of Maarten’s parents. Leaving for an indefinite period of time is not easy, even on the day our plane took off we still were coming to terms with it.
On the 28th of October 2014 we left with nothing more than our backpacks and on the 29th we arrived in Phnom Penh. It did feel more than a little strange. Are we still up to it? Can we confine ourselves to living on a small budget, or have we become too high maintenance? Can we still live without plans, or has the Belgian style agenda-living taken a hold on us. Can we still move along from day to day without a care and just enjoy the moment? Is it still possible to travel without thinking about the future? When and where will we settle, when and where will we have children? What do we do after this is over? Is it ever going to be over?
It takes a few weeks before you stop asking these questions, and we have to be honest, sometimes they still pop up. After 4 years of comfortable living, while everybody was building or renovating a house and getting kids, it wasn’t easy to trow it all up in the air and live differently. It takes some getting used to that you are not going to be home in a few weeks, not going to have to pay the monthly bills, answer work e-mails, go back to the supermarket in Belgium, sleep in your old trusted bed and meet up with friends and family. And first and foremost, to have no idea whether or when you will have a “normal” life again. Our future is completely open, without a plan, without a date. Even tomorrow can go in all directions.
After 4 years of living a “settled” life, it takes some time to let go and to get used to this new way of doing things. You are no longer used to taking in something new every day, the freedom to do what you want every day, making the craziest plans, and having nothing that is set in stone.
Those who know us will maybe say, but that was how you lived for the past 4 years in Brussels as well. That is partially true, we did live from day to day, made sudden decisions on Saturday morning to take off to Paris, to fly to Budapest for a 24-hour visit … and whatever we could come up with. We lived freely and did some crazy stuff. But still that was different. You still had a job waiting for you, you had obligations, you never really had the feeling that you were free to do everything you wanted. If we decide today that we will live in New York for 4 weeks, float down the amazon on a boat for 2 weeks, learn Chinese in Beijing, teach English in South Korea, harvest kiwi(fruits) in New Zealand, … we can do just that. Everything is possible, the craziest idea can be done. That sounds pretty great … and it is. But you have to admit, that freedom, the lack of set plans, the lack of obligations, everybody would need some time to get used to that.
For instance, who would’ve thought that we would write our first blog posts on the roof of a house in Hong Kong, while a sausage dog is sniffing our feet. Four weeks ago, we got the idea that we would like to spend Christmas in Hong Kong. And now we are in Hong Kong for three weeks, housesitting and taking care of a sausage dog called “Poppy”.
So, the first few weeks you don’t really know what hit you. You have to ease into moving around, sleeping in a different bed every few days, packing everything in backpacks, wearing ugly (but oh so practical) pants and birckenstocks/teva’s and stop wearing dresses, heels or suits, eating the strangest things, dodging frogs in the bathroom, spotting gecko droppings on your bedsheets, etc…
Don’t kid yourself, leaving without a plan or end date, letting everything go, missing everybody … it is not easy. On top of this you are suddenly living really skin to skin with your partner day in day out. But after a few weeks we are settling in again, the future seems far away, still too much to explore on the world map and the curiosity for new things and new adventures takes over.
We do still miss our old life now and again, especially around Christmas. For instance, our favorite Belgian comfort food or a nice walk through Brussels. For some of our favorite comfort food and one of our favorite city walks in Brussels you can click here.