Tuesday afternoon - the 27th - I reached Antwerp, in Belgium. I was only 45 minutes from Emma’s, in Hulst, which is just over the Dutch boarder. Nobody knew of my whereabouts; I still hadn’t contacted anybody. I actually didn’t even have a way of contacting anybody; I had no mobile phone and the public phones only work with calling cards! How inconvenient is this world! (or probably too convenient for somebody who isn’t as practical as she once was) It was so strange, to be in a city so close to where I always lived and studied. Now I was in the same area, but with my backpack and still travelling in the same fashion as I had travelled through Australia, Thailand and India; not knowing exactly what I was doing. All I was doing was living. I was trying not to question (too much) why I was in the place I was; I had to be somewhere in this world, and for now, I was simply touching “base” with some parts of my roots.
When I was dropped in Antwerp, after a 26 hour bus journey, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know from where to get the bus, the “line 19” that would bring me straight to Emma’s. At that point, I was tired, I was cold and in need of some rest. It had been 40degrees in Rome and now it was 20 degrees in Antwerp. People were walking around in t-shirt and shorts. Niamh however, was sitting on the terrace of a café, listening to people speaking Flemish (the Dutch language with a Belgium accent). I resorted to wearing my hat and scarf, my sweater and extra leggings underneath my trousers. With a bowl of hot chicken soup I was trying to figure out my next plan of action: to call home or not to call? But I figured; I’ve come so far without telling anybody, I’m not going to spoil the surprise at this stage.
So I went on my way. Off to Hulst it was! I’d figure out how and from where to get the bus to Hulst and whatever happens, happens. I’d travelled in far more complicated places than Europe! Why was I suddenly wondering how and if I’d get from A to B? This was supposed to be so easy. In the end, it was. I had a 15 minute walk to the bus-stop. I was in the middle of this city, but it was so peaceful and quiet. The traffic wasn’t noisy. I was overloaded with my luggage, but it was the nicest and easiest walk I’ve had in such a long time; the footpath wasn’t a mess, it didn’t have obstacles, there were hardly any people, nobody was honking their horn at me, there were no stares - even though I looked so out of place and was a “sight for sore eyes“. I was loving it! I hopped onto the bus to Hulst, and had to laugh at myself. This was the same bus I’d usually get when I was in college, each weekend, 7 years ago! Now I was on the same bus, after being “around the world” or simply “on the road” for more than a year. I was returning but I still had a feeling to be travelling. I was, in fact, still travelling! This was cool.
There was excitement. But no massive build-up to being re-united with Emma and Orla, because nobody knew nothing. I knew if I’d have booked a flight, there would have been so much anticipation from both myself and the family. The “thud” of landing in Holland, would have been like a “big bang“ or explosion even - and I’d have either felt amazing or trapped and panicked. I would also have easily experienced a “come down” and a feeling of disappointment, when realizing the anticipation that had been building-up, was only temporary. It happened in the past, when I returned from travels: the excitement wears off so suddenly and the reality can seem bleak because life isn’t as amazing as you thought it was going to be, when you were counting down the days to being re-united with loved ones, after being apart for so long.
But by this approach I was taking; by not telling anybody what I was doing, by just passing through and by following this urge to “touch-base” with Holland, I was flowing instead of expecting. I was living for the moment instead of trying to predict the future. I was free and not planning too much. This would make me appreciate everything so much more. Also I was certain that whatever was to happen over to come, I’d know what to do next.. I was delighted with how things were planning out!