Coming home next to the big adventurer - together & free.
Once upon a time, there was a little adventurer Elise with a broken heart. It was not the first time that happened. Because, if you choose to live to the fullest, you feel. A lot.
You feel the wonderful, amazing, loving moments in life. And the deepest darkness.
In that moment, I search for new people around me. Connecting, listening to new stories, meeting people - that's what gives me energie. How? Oh yes, Tinder, of course.
Chances are you're thinking: “Oh right, she was looking for friends, but mostly the benefits."
Well, there's some truth in there. Because if you know, you know - finding the physical and intimate contact with a rebound just might put you in a less sad, still heartbroken place. But for me mostly, I just wanted to meet new people and do fun, cozy things when dating.
And then I met Sam.
Commitment – oh hell no, that's what we were both clearly not looking for. Just a bit of cozy company, yes please. No strings attached.
Honestly, I can 100% advice you to test it out.
Because dating like we did - we had the most fun!
Our first date? Going ice-skating. Our third date? Taking the road roller out for a spin. (Did I mention Sam is a construction side manager? He builds bridges.)
Our fifth date? Going skiing/snowboarding in France. That shortski, that was the first time in my adult life I experienced the feeling of freedom.
If you've been reading my other blogs out here, you've noticed freedom is a core value for me - ever since I experienced it back then & never let go of it since then.
We drove for 1000km and that day, I saw snowy mountain tops for the first time ever. By the way, I never really went snowboarding before, except for a 2-hour indoor class. Free spirit Sam was very much not amused to discover that when he saw me struggling on the first ski elevator. And honestly, I much rather enjoyed figuring it out at my own pace than being dragged along by a need-for-speed skier. So pretty soon, we parted ways to discover the mountains to find each other a bit later at 5pm at our rented apartment.
At 5pm, I was not at the apartment. I had just called mountain rescue (sorry mom, I don't think I've told you this story before) because my legs were so tired & dead - no crazy injuries, luckily - so I couldn't go down the mountain myself. But that's a whole other story. Anyway, that experience - it was my first on the snowy mountains. And I was totally sold.
By the way, I'm writing this from the bus going to Andorra - on my way to the 2nd snowy mountain snowboarding adventure. On my own this time. I promise: I won't get myself into trouble this time. Bit scared to go ago, but mostly very much excited.
But the thing Sam and I had going on back that - what in hell was that?
Company - yes, but commitment - no?
For most people that does not work, it creates unmet expectations. And I totally get why most people won't even bother getting into that mess. Yes, we did get into a mess sometimes. It's cliche but it's key: communicate about all of it openly & respectfully. No, it's not easy. But we kept finding common ground over and over.
In one of those conversations, Sam would share why commitment between the two of us would not work. He said he is looking for someone who says: "This is it, let's pack our bags and move to a goat farm in the Austrian mountains." Potentially you might say now, after having read a bit of my story: "Well yes! That sounds like something Elise would say." Well, no. Not back then. The person I am today, honestly I really hadn't found back then. She was there, but I didn't know that side of me. Being afraid of heights and not even sure what living in the mountains actually means, that really felt like the last thing I would say.
Except for that fresh start, just leaving this life and starting all over again... That bit - wow, that did sound like music to my ears. When Sam said that I realised very quickly, yes - that part I do want.
Before Sam and I had that conversation, this was something I had been looking into. Starting life from scratch, leaving this life behind - yes! But how? And because of him sharing that I knew: I don't need a how. I just want to follow this feeling that is new to me, and talk to people who have done a similar thing before.
So that's what I did, I checked my options on quitting my job to start traveling. And that's what I did, bam! That whole process took a while longer than a few seconds though, it took me a few weeks (because it had already been lingering in my mind for almost a decade to just travel completely freely without any further plans in sight, since I was in high school). Just the idea of quitting my job to travel, well - that just gave me the right kind of scary enthusiasm that just made me not even consider any other option anymore. Back then (which is about 4 years ago now), when I actually handed in my resignation letter, Sam was my company, without commitment.
“So, what is it you will do after leaving? Why don't you travel by bicycle?”, asked Sam.
Yup, good point. I did enjoy cycling a lot. And it's eco-friendly. It's cheap.
Sounded like a great idea to me.
Sam, he had some experience in bicycle touring. At some point he went cycle touring through Tirol, Austria - in winter time. I can tell you this much: there's not a lot of other loony's in the world who do such a thing. Sam, he had a big dream in the back of his mind which he had been preparing for.
Bicycle touring the way Sam did - oh hell no, that wouldn't be my way. My pace, my adventure, at ease. So I did my research, but the right gear, asked around. No, I didn't really check with Sam. His extreme way of adventuring, nope - that's still not really my way. I would go on this adventure my way.
Setting camp though, he did teach me that. We did that together a few times. My first time camping in general was wild camping with him. No, I did not sleep wel. But it was cozy to spend that experience together. So I learned how to find the right spot for the tent, setting it up, making a fire, sleeping through the nature noises, find the right spot & bury the nr. 2) - through Sam.
I did practise a bit, by myself, with Sam's guidance. And then off I went. By myself, yes. For one week, to find my rhythm. And Sam joined me when I got to Prague. Just for a little while, because as I shared with you, Sam is a construction site manager. The Belgian construction industry has a very specific holiday timeline so he joined me for 3 weeks. The fact that I quit my job and started cycling, it inspired him - yes. But to actually do it, it wasn't his time yet. And it was my adventure.
He did cycle along. For a while. And that was a lot of fun, really. Not just the company, but best friends fun. I knew back then: Damn, this Sam guy, he's an inspiring man. I learned to be free, from him & with him. He is basically the prototype of a free soul (aka: commitment issues, yes). That was exactly the person I needed back then.
I did want to learn to be free. But not alone/lonely.
Not wanting to be alone used to mean to me: falling in love head over heels en dropping my gigantic heart & my unmet needs (no, not necessarily the physically intimate ones) in the other person's hands.
And now I could be: not lonely & still free, with Sam.
"How does that actually work, Elise?" Well, he would go up the mountain like a mountain goat hopping from one stone to another - swiftly in his natural habitat. With his long legs & firm step, he was always (whether hiking or biking) way far ahead of me. Which meant I could just figure things out myself, as clumsy as I was. Asking for help when I needed it. Growing, in a free but also safe way.
That was so much fun, really.
We made jam, on the bon fire - among other things.
I felt it, that it was pretty magical. Sam did too, I think. But Sam went back home and the rest of my adventure was still to come. So I cycled on, because that's what I set out to do.
Those first few days after Sam left, I was pretty lost. Yes, I could still ask for help. No, Sam wasn't answering, but other people always do. That's what people do, as I learned.
I arrived, by accident, at Hunza Ecolodge. To be my free & safe self once again. In an environment which was very much new and sometimes a bit uneasy/uncomfortable to me, but it did feel like home. I was allowed to just be me, just like they all did. And also that was so much fun, really. Without Sam, with me.
After a few weeks at Hunza I felt a strong enough urge to start cycling again - by myself this time. The adventure of a lifetime, for real. I wrote about this in one of my previous blogs (this one). But this particular blog story, this is about Sam in my life. And that story isn't finished yet.
When Summer made some space to switch to Autumn, I cycled back home. The last 5 kilometers, I cycled on my own to finish my adventure my way - with the necessary happy tears concluding it. But the kilometers before those last 5, Sam was there too. And honestly, apart from the fact that the part of my solo adventure still being the very very best part of the whole thing, that felt like coming home.
I knew: Sam is very important to me. I think Sam might have known that too back at that time - although he would not say it back then. Maybe he didn't want to, maybe he didn't feel it like I did then. You should check with him on that.
Those 3 months I spent switching homes or setting my tent in a very different setting almost every day, so I came to realise what coming home did and did not feel like for me.
With Sam, I always felt like coming home. Time and time again.
So we did spent quite some time together in the next few weeks, even if it was just for a short period. Because my next adventure was already planned pretty quickly. One month of being at home, enjoying feeling at home - with my family, but actually also with Sam.
And then I was off again, to New Zealand this time. At that time, Sam's adventure got a bit more specific and he started having a timeline in his head on that. So when I left for New Zealand, we said goodbye. Knowing we probably wouldn't see each other again any time soon (aka probably never?).
Until I was there for about two weeks, and Sam sent me a message he just booked his flight tickets. To New Zealand. From Belgium. For 3 weeks, flying for about 3 days back and forth with 6 flights - nicely fit into his Winter construction holiday.
The idea did pass our minds before I left, so it was not a complete surprise. But flying across the world for just 3 weeks, I did not expect Sam to be that committed and honestly about crazy.But anyway, I was enthusiastic and made sure we would find each other at the other end of the world.
Those 3 weeks in New Zealand with Sam is now still the best life I ever lived.
Living the #vanlife, the two us in my van going from one empty, beautiful beach to the most raw & pure magical mountain ranges... #vanlife, the best kind of life, definitely in the most beautiful country of the world. I still feel like that now. The freedom & luxury of driving your house around, yup - that's magic.
After 3 weeks Sam left again. We said goodbye, again. Which we knew of course, the period was going to be very short & intense. And yes, the goodbye was sad, but for us it worked perfectly like that. In hindsight, this was my best exercise in learning to 'enjoy the present moment'.
Enjoying the present for what is, and being grateful and happy because of it - even if there's a painful goodbye & sadness waiting in the future. And, that's what I know now, is the biggest core wisdom of what living yoga in daily life means: living in the present & letting go what's happened in the past or might happen in the future.
I didn't learn that on my yoga mat, I learned it in my relationschip with Sam - time and again. Are you wondering now: "But Elise, how in hell is that ever even possible to work?" Well, it wasn't always happy-dappy and easy, but it worked, for us. We enjoyed being together. But we were also so happy to see each other soar on our own adventures.
He had his path, I had mine. Sometimes they were alongside each other, some times they really weren't.
Whenever we were physically/geographically close, we chose to not find someone else's company and find each other's. Whenever we were not geographically close, we were always still emotionally connected but the cozy company (incl. intimacy) we would otherwise find with each other - well, that's a basic need. We would be open to each other about it. The communication wasn't always easy, but we were open & respectful. And it worked. We were really good at being happy for each other's happiness.
Oh, the story still isn't finished. But I do want to take this inspiration intermezzo with you. Because you might know that that's the deal with these blogs (and the news letter), all for free.
So this time's inspiration question for you today:
how can you enjoy your relationship in the present moment, just a tiny bit more, even if there's some stuff from the past floating around or future insecurities sometimes hang around like a dark cloud?
In the present moment, that’s where happiness is found.
Or are you dating right now? Just keep it cozy, no expectations for what is to come. Be curious about the person in front of you, enjoy the evening/activity you're doing together - every single date again and again. Whether it's the first encounter or the 5450th one. Just take the time to actually be present with the person in front of you and enjoy the moment!
But, the story isn't over - yet.
That was what we thought though, when we said goodbye in New Zealand. I knew Sam had his adventure coming up. And, bear with me, we said goodbye in January 2019. In March 2019, he would drive his bicycle out of his garage all the way to China cycling the Silk Road. I would only return to Belgium by April. So if you kept up with the calenders, by the time I'd return home from New Zealand, Sam would be halfway across Europe on his way to China. When we said goodbye in New Zealand, after 3 amazing weeks together, we knew our paths wouldn't cross again for the foreseeable future, or probably never.
But they didn (haha plot twist). Because for some reason we both felt like we wanted to make sure the paths did cross again, so we made sure they would. So March 2019 I flew from New Zealand to Hungary. He cycled from Belgium to Hungary in 2 weeks (yup, that's very far and fast - I did tell you he has long legs, right?).
Hungary - that's where we found each other again, for 2 weeks. In Hunza, my second home. Which turned out to be his a little bit too.
And then we didn't find each other again, for 6 months. Or even longer. He continued on his adventure of a lifetime: keep cycling until his bum would hurt.
That adventure, that was his. And I was already pretty broke by that time anyway (How come? Check it here), so I wasn't even financially able to join him if I wanted to.
So, I went back to working a bit. First in Slovenia - more on that story you can find here.
I would say: take some time to read it, if you want to take the time. My commitment to Sam really changed/clicked back then. When we were cycling through Europe together, it changed from cozy company to coming home with a best friend.
But then, when we were both the furthest away we from home and from each other - him in Iran & me in Slovenia, the commitment became pretty clear - for me. I knew then: he's my person. He was & is for me. What's the story like for him? You should check with Sam on that.
What clicked? Back then in Slovenia (you should really read the blog, I'm pretty sure it might bring inspiration) I needed support to figure out some sh*t. I wasn't able to see any solutions in a tough situation, and went into a spiral of self-doubt & self-pity. And Sam, he was able to give that support - even with 4794 km between us – exactly the way I needed it to step back into my strenght and resourcefulness.
So I knew what my next adventure would be: join Sam on his trip. For that, I needed to earn some money's first.
Which I did, in the most fun way ever, as a Professional Fun Provider with V-Formation, so on the 31st of October 2019 I took my bicycle in a box on the plane to Nepal.
For 7 months we hadn't seen each other. And then people say: it was like it was yesterday since we last saw each other.
For us, that was not the case. We both been through so much in those 7 months, when we met each other again we could rediscover each other again. And fall in love again, all over.
From then on, it wasn't just his or my adventure. That day, our adventure together started.
Honestly, I was not able to keep up with him, both physically and mentally. Him with his fast, long legs and 7 months of 'type 2 fun' experience, that was not my way of going about an adventure like that. The difference in our way of 'adventuring' was clear before, which was okay. It was okay now, and for some reason it still always left me overwhelmed, frustrated or just plain drained, so I took a break (on the bus) and he kept cycling.
Anyway, cycling through South East Asia was not just a walk in the park, not for me.
It was an adventure, yes. It doesn't sound that way now, but I would do it all over again in the blink of an eye. And you know what? I trust Sam with my life since then. It's not a blind trust though (haha his view on the definition of 'safety' is still quite different than mine), but the two of us: we're a good time. Always have been.
Oh yes, then COVID happened.
All of a sudden, when we were in Thailand, we received messages from different people with questions on a strange virus that was dangerously close to us. The distance of Thailand – Wuhan is about the same distance as Brussels – Istanbul. Not dangerously close, but yes a bit strange, that much was true.
We only noticed the odd things off when cycling through Vietnam (about 2 months later). The government shut down all the schools, to be sure. And yes, that much was strange to us too. Apart from that, cycling was still type 2 fun as it was before.
Until we arrived at see in Vietnam. Sam cycled from Belgium, along 7 sees (I think?) until he couldn't cycle any further. His goal was reached, and actually long overdue.
But our adventure wasn't over yet. We were going to fly to South-Korea from there. If it weren't for COVID of course. The virus shut down South Korea at that time, so no flights were going there - which we only discovered when we were already at the airport ready & packed. So we did check with the airline for solutions.
8 hours later we were in Osaka, Japan. "Now what?" Honestly, I think we were in that state trying to anser that question for the next 3 months after that too.
Before that the goal was clear: cycle all the way until we can't go any further. Japan is an island, there was no goal, no boundaries, just circles. Don’t get me wrong: Japan is an amazing and interesting and perfect country to cycle through. Japan also is more luxurious so more expensive and also WiFi on the corner of every street, which we gladly connected to, to try and figure out what in hells name was going on in the rest of the world.
The situation was changing so fast, right? And if there's one thing a bicycle is not (in my case anyway) is that it's fast.
We couldn't find our 'mojo' anymore. And when we arrived in Hiroshima it was time to choose:
leaving Japan within 3 days and flying home
staying in Japan, not knowing when there would ever be a time to actually return home, because flights were being cancelled until further notice.
Well, that changed the whole thing. I already had a plan in the back of my mind that I would return home around April. Which I always wanted to do after about 4 months abroad, I'm a family person and Ventuur was already brewing in the back of my mind. Sam, he would continue. Not in Japan, maybe the America's or something.
Right then, I called my mom. I love her, and she loves whatever plan that makes me happy, but she would always prefer seeing me come home instead of leaving. Until that day, when I called her from Hiroshima. “Stay there, Elise. There's nothing here. Everything is empty and silent. Don't come here, there's nothing for you here. If it's nice there, stay there.”
So, we did. The flights were already full by the way anyway. But staying there, that was the conscious choice.
Not necessarily in Hiroshima. We kept cycling.
This time we did have a plan - we would cycle to the mountains. We found a spot there where we could work for a while.
We were looking for one through workaway, where we would volunteer to earn a roof over our heads & food on our plates. And on top of that, the place we found Yuzawa – Yuzkyu, would even pay us wages.
So: destination Yuzkyu. We would take our time going there. But honestly, our heads/hearts both felt like going to a fixed spot for a while.
My head/heart asked for that quite often, and it had been a while too. And at that time in Japan, Sam was ready to find a fixed home too.
On my birthday 7th of April 2020 we cycled a big 120km-day. The day after, we arrived at the foot of mount Daigenta.
First, we found a home in the city of Yuzawa. Honestly, that turned out to be a grey and ugly city during Spring time, not really what we'd imagined. Our work place though, that literally was at the foot of the mountain. That spot, that was paradise - a place where I actually now still return to in visualisations of my safe place.
About a week or 2 after that, we were actually asked to move into the tiny little hut there - called Kanrito (because it used to be a little bar).
With the bathroom in the basement, a kitchen and sofa on the main floor and our bed on the mezzanine which we could only crawl too, we had our perfect little house.
That was our house, for Sam and me. Our first home. That tent of his we slept in the months before kind of was our home too. But with the mountain air and a running river close, and a roof over our head with a real toilet and shower close, we felt like this was our little luxurious castle.
Every morning we'd wake up from the river sounds, roll out of bed and have breakfast with a mountain view and walked to our work spot. During the day we'd build the glamping . In the evening we'd have the most fun parties with the crew. And the next morning the Japanese mountain breeze would wake us up all over again.
Lockdown? Quarantaine? No idea what that was.
We were having the time of our lives.
And found each other, every day a bit more. That life, that was our life. That's exactly how both of our souls would sing, every single day, and came closer to each other too.
Every fairytale ends at some point. Wow, I really wished the story wouldn't sound this dramatic, haha.
Anyway, we decided to go home. I missed my family, Sam's brother was getting married. And also: that life - it would have been absolutely perfect, if we could've run it our way. Both of us being free souls the way we were, and then working on someone else's payroll, at least for me that doesn't work anymore.
So we said goodbye:
to our friends for life we made there
to the most beautiful spot I still travel to now in my meditations/visualisations
to the Sam & Elise story of our life
Because once we were home, I had plans. And Sam did not.
I was motivated to follow my path towards Ventuur, which led me to a yoga teacher training in Spain. And Sam was at home, no purpose whatsoever.
I grew and founded Ventuur. Sam had a hard time figuring out what his next step was, and wasn't even motivated for waking up in the morning. Like any other bicycle tourer at that time, Sam fell into a deep, dark hole with no meaning after saying goodbye to his traveling plans because of the virus.
In that proces, we lost each other. It just didn't flow anymore.
I was figuring out ways to put me and Ventuur into the world. Sam was figuring out a way to find the next step after seeing his big fun adventure go down the drain.
Eventually, he found himself again. And found a job. I found a home. And step by step, we found each other again, in our home in Belgium, temporarily.
The first year of Ventuur, wow. Well, that was interesting.
A rollercoaster – yes, that's the least I can say. Sam, he was there alongside me - every step of the way. With fun adventures, our way. Sometimes more supportive than others.
And now where here.
When writing the story in Andorra, I wrote this poem:
"I always knew you would want to walk away again. Well, that’s what we do. We, we’re free. Always will be. Free. With or without me.
I always knew you’d want to be free, just like me. Just never thought you’d want to be free, once again, without me.
Because me, I’m the most free with you right there with me, beside me.
Maybe not right there beside me. Within me. Connected with me. That’s how free we can be.
I always knew we would be somewhere in between. Together – to close to be free. Apart – to far to be happy.
Always emotionally close, now geographically far.
I always knew we would always be we, near or far. Together and Free."
Detachment. Finding peace & happiness in the present moment, within yourself. That's what yoga in essence is about. I didn't learn this on my mat, I learned it with and because of Sam.
Being free. Be my own person. And choosing every single day again to come home, within me. That's what I learned, because how free & unapologetically him Sam he is.
And oh yes, taking a sh*t in the wild. That too.
This is what I wrote in Andorra when I was by myself, before we traveled together for another 3 weeks:
"He is & always will be my person, near & far. I say it consciously, often and full of confidence. For his story, you need to check with him.
Just some inspiration to close this story undramatically...
Are you heart-broken? Join the club. My trick in the tool box? Be grateful for whatever this person brought to your life and who you are now, and what you discovered about your fundamentals in the process. And trust that you'll both find peace & love & joy again, the way you do, in your own way. Take this moment to figure out freely what it is that you need from life, without someone else interfering in your needs & wants.
Is it complicated? Join the club. What is it that you need from the relationship? Communicate, be open & honest, be respectful. And try to find each other again. If you both do that, your paths can keep intertwining beautifully.
Are you happy & at ease in your relationship? Join the club. Enjoy those things that bring you close together. Be there, be present, detach from the past worries and future plans you might have / fill in for each other. In the moment, that's where you find peace, love & happiness."
After that I spent:
1 week in Andorra being free & just me, in the mountains.
3 weeks the two of us in the sun & mountains in Spain. That was a fun trip, for real.
Sam and I, we were a great team. We came home to each other. Finding yourself, with the other person next to you.
We were, yes. Past tense. Because what I need in a relationship is someone who is committed to supporting each other. To have each other's back always, in good and bad times. Sam, he's different like that. And that is the one thing where we couldn't find common ground anymore.
I found myself, next to Sam.
Now I find myself, once again. I come home, within my and within my house, by myself.
This is how I explained the whole thing to my 3-year old little nephew:
"Sam doesn't live in my house any more. We're a bit sad. We're still friends, we like each other. We just don't love each other again." This is what I wrote as closure a few weeks ago, when he moved out. Today it's Valentine's day and I realise: that last bit was a lie. The love is still very much there, from my side. It won't dissappear anytime soon.
But the energy I gained from stepping away from the everlasting puzzle piece I was trying to put together, and he took away every chance he got - well, that new-found energy made me able to create LEEF - my first online coaching program which is completely and utterly my soul's purpose. Yes, I'm pretty badly heart-broken on Valentine's day 2022. But this year of the tiger, my broken heart is not holding me back anymore. If anything, it's making me soar. (wow I should make this into a song lyric) I'm home, again. Lots of Love, Elise
P.S. The online coaching program is in Dutch now. Maybe the next edition is in English. Stay tuned!