I feel like sharing the events that led up to my decision to ‘travel the world’, because it wasn’t just a messed up job situation. In fact, the idea is much – much older.
It all started here:
This is the Ronda valley in Andalusia, Southern Spain.
I was 17 years old when I set foot here, and I came so unprepared for the beauty that Spain would bestow on me! This was my first time hiking the plains and mountains. My first time camping abroad. My first time travelling with a backpack.
I remember the exact second I took this picture. I remember the smell of the yellow flowers and the pressuring presence of those clouds in the heat. This image captures the moment where I discovered I am a traveller. Suddenly, my heart realised there is a world out there: a planet waiting to be explored.
Before this, I thought I was a beach person. I thought holidays were for swimming in a pool and eating buffet food.
Silly me. While standing in that mighty valley, with the towering bridge in the gorge behind me and the endless Spanish plains stretching in front, I knew I had been wrong. Never had I been so blown away by a place. Never had I longed for the horizon more. Never have I ever considered myself a beach person again.
But credit where credit is due, maybe,
it also started here:
This is the life changing Camino de Santiago: the great Spanish road that confirms all clichés and yet adds tailor made presents. If one experience has changed my life more than any other, it was being part of this journey.
I was a pilgrim then and I have remained one since. When I am lost, I find peace in the land that 17 year old me fell in love with. I find peace on the road. I find peace in the arrows (visible and invisible) that guide me. I find comfort in the simplicity of a humble backpack. I find freedom in the most basic of routines: to walk, to live, to breath.
It was the Camino which planted the seed inside me: the promise of change. It took six years to grow, though. All good things take their time. I didn’t came home to change my live drastically after my first pilgrimage in 2011. Instead I returned to my steady job, wrote (and
self published a book about my uncertain journey) and for a moment feared that all lessons had been lost. That I might not be brave enough. That I might have drawn the wrong conclusions.
Then, rather impulsively, I booked a flight to Greece.
I decided it was time to go and see this place:
This is Meteora, one of the most captivating sights I have ever visited.
It’s here I met Babi: a unique and strong headed woman who happened to be on a round the world trip. When she told me, my initial reaction embarrassed me, for it was not one of curiosity or awe, but of envy and anger. Why am I not doing that? I violently asked myself. Why does this woman dare, and I do not?
If the Camino-seed had taken six years to grow into a flower, Babi was the one to crop the weed that surrounded it. As we spent some days exploring the area together and talked more, I got the strange feeling I was called to Greece destined to meet her. She challenged me to question my fears and my motives. How serious was I about this dream? How deep had I buried it? Back there, among the monasteries and autumn colours, I felt so confident and certain. In the train back to Athens I wrote in my diary: At 31, I am going to travel the world.
Of course it didn’t just happen like that…
It took me another six months, a lot of doubting and fearing and crying, a burn-out ánd a second Camino to finally take the leap of faith. But I did. Camino-seed-wishes are like poppies: you don’t need to water them often and while they appear to be fragile, they sprout strong from the most barren of grounds.
Believe me, I tried so hard to ignore this calling in my heart. To silence this strange wish, that will seemingly bring me nothing. What could possible come from this draw to adventure that simultaneously scares me? From this lust for freedom that seems so reckless? And yet the horizon from which I lend my name (Kim is a synonym for horizon in Flemish), it calls me. As much as I wish I could ignore it and settle in a safe and ‘normal’ life, I have to leave first.
Perhaps I’ll find the road is not for me. Perhaps I’ll only last a month or two. But even so, it wouldn’t matter. At least my heart will know. It will find peace. And who knows what else I might discover? The light as it shines on the sea, it’s blinding. And no one knows how deep it goes. Perhaps I’ll last until my budgets have run out and my clothes are raffled. Perhaps I’ll bring back love and wisdom to last a lifetime. If the wind in my sails on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know.
Yes, by now the Moana references have become inescapably clear. And it might be obvious why I call that song the “around the world song”. It’s painfully accurate:
If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.
(I love this version of Disney’s How far I’ll go by Kurt Hugo Schneider and Diamond White almost as much as I love referencing