Jeroen in Lisbon

Sometimes taking a distance is the only thing that helps

Sometimes you have to take some distance to see what is good and what is not. Sometimes things can be so overwhelming, it’s impossible to imagine what else they can be.

I found people who travel far and long in order to ‘find themselves’ always somewhat of a poser. Countless books have taught me that the true you and the change you need at any given moment, are to be found within yourself, and not in the Australian outback or in some yoga ashram in Bali. Of course you surely can find it there, this thing you’re seeking, because you simply were carrying with you already.

Finding peace within yourself

This previous idea kept me going a long time, while living in Amsterdam and putting a lot of effort in my career as a freelance journalist. Of course it’s a busy city, but what gives: I just went back inside myself to find the peace and quiet I also needed. Or at least, I tried to. And most of the time that would actually work, I think. The mind is an incredibly powerful thing, if you want something badly enough. Although I also noticed I grew more and more restless and I even got homesick for the deserted Dutch isle of Terschelling, which I had only visited once in my life. It wasn’t a surprise to me that I liked the quiet and vastness and men-lessness of nature, but if you asked me I would honestly reply: I’d rather live in the city a thousand times more than in limbo in some cabin in the woods, or where ever. Amsterdam had it all for me. I just had to look up nature a bit more often, was all.

And then we decided to sell our home to start travelling Europe in a van. Did that decision have anything to do with this earlier mentioned feeling? Not really. We just wanted more. See more, explore more, experience more. Leading a life that’s unpredictable. Although it was hard to not super excitedly look forward to the moments where we would be parked in the middle of nowhere for the night. It find I had no trouble at all imagining myself underneath a magnificent starry sky, poking at a campfire, if you know what I mean.

Life in nature

In the meantime I’ve been doing that, every once in a while, and I must say: it’s absolutely great to live more naturally. Getting up with nothing but birds chirping, seeing the sun rise overlooking a lake as smooth as glass and our dogs happily running through the bushes. (Okay, that time when we suddenly heard hunters being all trigger happy was slightly more exciting but not something we had been hoping for per se.) Campfires are still to be counted on one hand because they’re not allowed everywhere, and also it’s not always easy to find a nice and quiet spot, but what gives. We can go wherever we want.

Since we were close by and both had never been there before, we also went to visit Lisbon. We’d heard many good stories about the Portuguese capital. Artsy and a bit rauw, it was supposed to be. The Berlin of the south. Sounded good to us. Moreover, we had the advantage of being able to park within not even fifteen minutes walking to the Old Town. For free!

Taking distance

Instead of one night, or maybe three, we stayed there for a week. We celebrated new year’s eve in a club with good music, hung around in trendy coffee shops just like digital nomads we are and walked around and took photos of picturesque alleys full laundry handing and old trams on steep slopes. And although we did not have much money to spend, we dove into all the nice shops we came across. Of course we also went out for dinner at some cozy Portuguese restaurant – AND in that one very popular foodhall, because we’re there now and who knows when we’ll be here again. Right?

Some part of me knew I was going to fast. It was all to much. But it’s just that there was so much to begin with. As we left the buildings if Lisbon behind us, driving further south again, we both sighed in relief. This, never again. We got completely carried away by all that was going on in this fine city. We didn’t want to miss a thing. The energy cities have is great, but it can also wear you out if not enjoyed in moderation. A few days would have been more than enough. I felt knackered – and that’s not why I had left Amsterdam.

Still, I could only really be honest about that to myself once I had left the bustle, and again arrived at some quiet place. Immediately I felt all the cells in my body relax. Apparently I had to literally take a distance from the situation to see that I was not happy about it.

This article has previously been published in Dutch on

Previous Post Next Post
Wanderer. Likes writing, and reading too. Prefers an analog camera over a digital one. Couldn't live without her gargantuan supply of different teas. Also known as Mother of Dogs.

Leave a Reply