I’m staring into nothing. I’m fed up with it. What do I do? It’s the summer of 2008. I’m at home, receiving sickness benefit and guidance from the Employee Insurance Agency. It’s time for Frie to be implemented again, back into society. No, no, no, no, no! I don’t want to go back to what it was! I can’t. I just can’t. But now what? My labor assessor suggests to check out some companies with reintegration coaches. “Here you go Frieda, see if there’s someone you connect with”. It’s as if this all happens to someone else, but I make my choice, Fabiola Koopmans of ABC, Ander Buro voor Coaching (The Other Company, for Coaching).
The first meeting is in about two weeks. It will be the start. Well, the start of what? I’m supposed to think about what I want to do and what my next steps will be, back into society. But I’m blocked. Yes, I know, eventually I do need to go back. I know that, and I hate it. To me it feels as if I have to go back into the car that I accidentally parked into a tree, three times in a row, with high speed, and I’m beaten and broken. I know I have to go to that meeting and I’m resisting it big time. In that very moment I make a decision. A rigorous one. F**k reintegration. F**k ‘I have to think about what I want’. I mean, come one, where’s your passion when you need it?!? So I quit. Right then and there. The unhealthy, deadly to the spirit Merry-Go-Round in my head of searching – thinking – worrying – not knowing – yeah but – and if you try this…? comes to a hold. I wipe it all off the table. No more. Yes, I will go to that meeting because I have to. But until then… nothing!
I continue my practice of staring while doing… uhm… nothing in my apartment. Unpurposefully. I feel guilty for the fact that I do that while I should think about my future. I also feel relieved because the Merry-Go-Round in my head stopped. I let it go. I shrug my shoulders and turn on the television. It’s not like I have anything else to do, so what the hack.
I’m in the middle of a bike tour somewhere in Siberia, the Road of Bones. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are trying to cross a river with the entire support team. It won’t take long before I understand what they’re doing. They took off in London, on their motorbikes, and will travel around the world. Europe, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, USA. Supporting vehicles with camera and equipment with them. The end goal? New York. A Long Way Round. Hard work, an adventure, team work, doing something nobody will expect or even think is possible to do. I’m watching it with bated breath. What is this?!? It’s fantastic! The numb feeling inside me makes way for a beating heart. Strong! THIS-IS-WHAT-I-WANT! This! Exactly this! I pull out a world map from my desk (I always do have a map somewhere. Can’t leave them alone). I grab a pencil and place myself on the floor of my apartment. “If I were to do this, where would I go, and what is it I wish to see?” And just like that, like a happy, playful kid, I start to draw my route, on that empty world map. Life came back to me!
(photo credits: Long Way Round)
The two weeks pass by. I’m kicked into a flow that I’ve never experienced before. I turn on the radio and Daft Punk with Around the World, Around the World is on. I turn on the television and there’s a talk show on new types of transportation, durable, sustainable. Because on a motorbike is not my choice. That was their trip. I wish to ride my bicycle here. And cross that part on a Tall Ship. Over there a solar powered vehicle. And that stretch by train. It goes on and on. Coincidence after coincidence. As if the pieces of the puzzle were there all along, surrounding me, but now found a way to fall into place, all in once. But still, the reintegration meeting… I can hear myself say: “Frie, this is not very realistic, is it?”. For the first time in my life I decide different. Do I continue to listen to this down talking realist? Or is that mischievous kid strong enough now to celebrate and give way to ‘f**k it’? It’s the last one!
On my way to the reintegration coach I’m nervous. Am I seriously going to tell her that that world trip is what I wish to do? And not just A world trip. Nope, support-team too, cameras, a year or two, sponsors. The whole nine yards. In my head I go back and forth between “Frie, you’re nuts, you know that?” and “Mwahaha, I’m going to DO this!”.
I shake her hand and introduce myself. A deep sigh follows and the conversation starts. I can hear myself telling her my plan. THIS is what I want. I’m prepared for the worst and expect a cold bucket of water to be emptied above my head. The reality-check. “Miss Bakker, I understand where you’re coming from. Especially after what you’ve been through in the last couple of years, but now… “.
And it’s not happening… She listens, looks me in the eye, asks questions. Is she seriously taking me serious? I can’t believe it! Fabiola, the reintegration coach, ends the meeting with a statement: Well, then this is the starting point of your reintegration trajectory”. What? My ridiculous plan? Hahahahahaha! Shortly after that, several emotions rear their head. The feeling of freedom (could this just be real?), the shame (why am I not taking myself and what I wish for more serious?), and the relief (I said it!).
You can imagine that I left that meeting absolutely and totally flabbergasted.
What follows is a year of more dreaming, re-education in writing and photography, and three visits to London, where the supporting company of the two bike riders are located. I only tell a handful of friends and family about my plan. I do not wish to hear any demotivating responses such as: “Yeah, but shouldn’t you…? You really think this is a good plan?”. It’s still fragile and I’m therefore careful with what I say and to whom. I come to the point where I’m actual talking to people from the company and they suggest to file a proposal. And so I do.
That’s how far it goes. I realize that even IF this is going to take place, I need at least one more year of preparation. Then, after two years it will maybe air, no sooner (my London host used to be a cameraman for Belgium Television and could tell me all this). In the meantime I need money to support myself. Hmmmmm…
My idiotic and at the same time brilliant plan finds its way into a drawer and my focus changes from that plan to writing for online magazines. I’m slightly disappointed, but comfort myself with the thought that because of this I’m now a writer with photographic skills, I had a blast gathering information about the trip, went to London three times, and most of all, I grew. I enjoyed being in my own creation bubble and I became older and wiser by letting that kid play. I needed that.
For a couple of years it’s quiet. I think about my plan from time to time. The effortless flow! I still have the map, with my route, and also an excel sheet with addresses to visit on each continent. I copy it from laptop to laptop. I cannot get rid of it and I sometimes wonder what caused it to stop.
It’s September 2016. I’m about to meet Fabiola, the reintegration coach, again. It’s been years! She’s very curious and wishes to know how I am. We meet in a cozy coffee shop, Bergen (NH). I have Turning Tiny with me, to show her. She looks at me and her eyes twinkle. She’s as proud as a mom! It touches me and it makes me think of that time, my dream, my plan, my ridiculous and fantastic plan.
Now, wait a minute…
All of a sudden things fall into place. I’m a bit rusty but I am able to see things clearly now. It’s a process that started just before the meeting with Fabiola and during our cup of coffee it reveals itself. My goodness! I AM traveling! Three visits to the USA in the last year alone. The forth visit is already set and booked! Because of it I said goodbye to my little home (200 sqf) in the co-house last summer and all that’s left is an official address and the little clutter that I have is in storage now. I’m living out of my suitcase for over 6 months! I am traveling! I AM TRAVELING! My tiny home will be built in a factory in the USA and the process of building it will be filmed. I will build it alongside with them. I wish to use mainly natural materials. Trip, filming it, natural stuff. Do you see my plan??? Ha!
We say goodbye and end it with a big hug. It was lovely to see each other again! There’s a grin on my face, from ear to ear and I know who’s grin that is! That mischievous playful kid that I allowed myself to listen to. Thinking about it right now makes me smile again… can’t stop it. Without knowing or realizing it my plan did unfold. Not in the way I thought it would, not at all, but it came back to me: A Long Way Round! Hahaha! Fan-tas-tic!
I’m putting this story down on paper in a coffee shop in Calgary, Canada. I traveled by car from Colorado Springs, via Wyoming and Montana. In about two weeks I’ll go back, through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah this time. On my way I wish to visit a company with moon wood, the wood I wish to use for my tiny home. Also a sheep wool insulation company. It’s not the same as traveling with solar panels or train, but this suites me well, living like this. My work no longer feels like ‘work’. Financially I do not need much anymore. And not far from now my own tiny home will be built too.
At least, that’s the plan. But as you can see, plans sometimes change and can take you on a different path. Surprise me! I now take my dreams, for as far as I have them, more serious. I take myself serious. I also have a great story to share with my grandkids (which I will not have but that’s okay). And what’s in it for you? That’s up to you. If my story makes you smile, I’m more than happy!
Ha, what a hoot!