THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE – Audrey Niffenegger

I ALREADY HAVE THREE COPIES OF THIS BOOK AS IT IS MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOK!

It’s hard for me though, to put into words why I love this book so much, because the book contains so much.

On the surface it is the love story of Henry DeTamble and Clair Abshire who have to deal with the fact that Henry is chrono-impaired; he randomly travels through time. This fact is what makes them meet, but also something that’s a very big impact on their relationships.

Underneath that veneer, lies a whole world though. It’s a coming-of-age story, a story about the pain we inflict on our significant others, about the randomness of our world, but also its fate. The story contains side-notes on the painful and loving and beautiful relationships we have with our parents. It is an ode to books, always books and a treatise on longing and patience. A book written more eloquently than any other I have ever read. It’s a thriller and page-turner and romance and literary novel. A book that yields something new every time I read it.

It’s my solace, my book to read when I am happy, my book to read when I am sad. Reading the first lines always makes me feel better and reading the last lines make me sigh because it means the book again has ended. I never want it to end – not in the way it does. But the end is what is supposed to be the end and it is perfect in all its pain.

This book, is a book unlike anything I have read before or after and I still long for the day that I find a book like this again so that I may again have that feeling of encountering it for the first time and being left in awe of the story, the language and the skill of the author. I fear that day may never come and so I’ve read this book again and again and I will read this book again and again and again.

My favourite quote of the book is actually one the is a quote from a poem itself: “had we but world enough and time”. (I am actually considering having this as a tattoo!)

The quote written by the author I love best, is this: “There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

And then finally, just because the book also contains so much love for books, my favourite poem in the book:

“The time will come

when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

Derek Walcott

Sigh, I just love it!

 

 

 

 

ON THE CROSSROADS OF SHOULD AND MUST – Elle Luna

FOR ALL THE SEEKERS AND SEARCHERS. FOR HAPPY PEOPLE AND UNHAPPY PEOPLE. FOR THOSE TRYING TO FIND THAT PATH TO IT, AND THOSE STILL FIGURING OUT WHAT ‘IT’ IS. FOR ALL OF US WHO ARE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO LIVE AUTHENTIC LIVES – WHATEVER THAT IS – THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.

Based on a viral essay, Elle Luna provides a low-key, deceptively easy way to answer the age old question: how can I find and follow my true calling? Of course, asking the question, and even answering it in general terms, are much, MUCH easier than actually finding and following your true calling.

Elle Luna however, makes it sound attainable. If we are willing to listen and put in the hard work – and it will be hard work – we all can follow a life that resembles us. That is filled with those things we must do – regardless of how weird it may seem to others – and not with things our surroundings or society feels we should do (although there will always be things we should do, like go groceries shopping or filing our taxes).

For me, this book was recommended when I was talking to a friend about some question I have in this regard. Call it a small quarter-life crisis (assuming I’ll live to be at leas 91) or the eternal restlessness of a travelling feminist foodie who loves books, but either way, this book brought me some peace of mind. Or more accurately, a way to focus my scattered thoughts into a way to live that authentic live!

Feeling like following that path as well? Read this book!

THE PERKS OF (SOMETIMES) BEING A SOLO-TRAVELLER

When I was twenty, I really, REALLY, wanted to go to Paris. I’d been there before with a friend and had loved it and here I was, seeing these train-tickets on a massive sale and nobody wanted to come with me!

I felt lonely for a bit, but then my travelling-streak won out and I just went to Paris for the weekend. Completely on my own. For the first time ever.

The experience was transformative. I finally realised I wanted to travel, because I WANT TO TRAVEL, not because other people had told me I was the type of person who’d like to travel – yes, my rebellious side knows some ridiculous moments.

The trip was great and amazing and made me hungry for more! Paris will do that to you.

I’ve travelled some places on my own since then and each time people have asked me if it wasn’t scary to go travelling alone – especially as a white female. Now to me, neither my skin colour nor my gender have anything to do with whether or not I should go travelling on my own (other than maybe how I behave in certain places). To me, being a woman – white or otherwise – should NEVER EVER be a consideration if you want to go travelling.

So for everyone out there who is thinking about embarking on a solo-trip I wanted to tell you about the 3 absolute amazing perks that come with travelling alone every once in a while.

1. Doing what you want to do, when exactly you want to do it

Never before had I had this whole stretch of time where I was not accountable to someone else, not even to someone I loved. I didn’t have to ask whether or not the other person wanted to go to the Louvre or would rather see the Eiffel tower. Would they mind if I sat down for a long lunch or went to the ballet? Would the other person also enjoy looking at Monet’s paintings, or do they greatly dislike the impressionists – or even museums in general?

Every single moment of every single day I only had to answer one question: what do I want to do right now. No explanations, no compromises, no nothing. If I want it, that is enough to go out and do it.

This freedom is intoxicating and addictive. How could I ever go back to keeping other people’s likes and dislikes and energies and expectations in mind?

Of course I did, but for those few days, for the first time ever, I felt what it was like to be truly free and responsible for my own happiness. I can’t help but want that feeling again. Perhaps it is the thing I long for the most on random rainy Wednesday afternoons at my job. The freedom to not do what I should do, but only what I want to do.

2. Discovering who you are without any pre-set expectations

Going out by yourself for a while in a new environment with new people can teach you something about yourself. I always knew I was a chatty know-it-all who likes books and new discoveries and new people. But going travelling on my own has taught me that there are plenty of times where I don’t like to chat. I don’t always like to meet new people and at some point I have had enough of books and new places.

I discovered I quite enjoy alone and quiet times to reflect. I am kinder than I thought I was, enjoying to take care of people who are lonely or unsure of what to do and I am tougher and harder than I thought, not caring as much about what annoying people think of me and no longer afraid to just let these people not like me if that is the consequence.

I’ve again seen that I am very opinionated – as this blog surely shows-, but enjoy seeing new viewpoints if I have enough calm in me to discover it. I am restless at times, but constant travel makes me weary. I am an extravert with introverted tendencies.

All in all, I am what I am and travelling solo may or may not have changed that. But one thing is certain: I learned many of these things – or was reinforced in my knowledge – because I could discover it without the fear of disappointing other people’s expectations.

3. Becoming more confident

Perhaps the most important thing solo-travelling has given me is more confidence. When there is nobody else who can pick up the slack, you are confronted with the innate ability we all have to take care of ourselves. Sure, some of us may be more prosperous than others, but in the end, we all have what it takes to survive in this world, both physically and mentally.

However, solo travelling has given me confidence beyond merely being capable of surviving on my own in different countries/cities (I am definitely not capable of surviving in the wilderness for any extended amount of time!).

I’ve learned I can make new friends – who don’t think I am a total weirdo (at least not in a negative way). I have learned to trust my own feelings because I only had to ask “what do I want”. I’ve grown confident in communicating with anybody in any languages – nothing like a stoic Chinese woman blankly staring at your well-intentioned dictionary and refusing to budge to teach you a thing or two about how to communicate when you speak no communal language!

Moreover, I have grown confident I can be on my own. I am strong enough to be my own companion and to be enough. I am enough – if I want to be, or if I need to be.

Want to become more confident? Take the scary plunge and get out of your comfort zone and just go on that solo-journey. You will not be disappointed!

Writing this has made me realize I haven’t been out travelling without a companion (be it with my best friend or my boyfriend) in a long time. It would explain why I am starting to get the itch to go exploring on my own again and hoping Erik will go on a city-trip with his friends sometime soon, so I have a good reason for again stretching my solo-travelling muscles! Time to start planning!

WANDERLUST – Rebecca Solnit

A BOOK CALLED WANDERLUST, HOW COULD I NOT READ A BOOK WITH A TITLE LIKE THAT?

Except it turns out that the book doesn’t really say all that much about the feeling the word portrays. The subtitle is the more accurate one: a history of walking.

Getting over my slight disappointment – where is that book that deals with the true wanderlust? – I started to read the book anyway.

The book beautifully describes the history of – you’ve guessed it – walking. From the ancient Greek philosophers to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and modern activists, she tackles it all.

I loved reading about people walking, why they walked, how walking came to be so eminent in the previous century and then started to disappear. Keeping in mind that since the book was written in 2003, a more subversive take on walking is starting to come about, with both young and old people trying to find their way back to nature and walking – just think about all the biographies of people walking the PCT, like Wild and Girl walks into the woods.

I loved reading about this, because I feel I should walk more. In my urban environment – that I love – I sometimes feel I should be out and about more. Not to shop and be bombarded by flashy commercials triggering all kinds of feelings that just make me want to get the quick fix consuming brings, but to be out in nature and work my body. To feel more like I did on top of Mt. Rinjani.

I thought this would be the perfect book to get me through the Dutch winter – let’s face it, not really walking weather.

Sadly, the book disappointed me. The amazing and great parts notwithstanding, the book was too academic for what I needed it to be. The reviews and back cover made it sound like a more subversive and life-affirming book, but what I got was a book with many great parts and many tedious ones. The subversive nature of it hidden in the background stories of people who took to walking, when walking was not considered an enterprise worth undertaking, of people who walk to write, to question, to challenge.

All in all, if you are prepared for an academic book with plenty of amazing great engaging parts, this is the book for you! If not, read another book first, before you find the peace an quiet for a book like this. Perhaps after a long walk.

My favourite quote (and let me state, there were many!):

I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour.

 

 

 

MILK AND HONEY – Rupi Kaur

I FINALLY READ A BOOK OF POEMS – AND LIKED IT! A LOT!

Like many boys and girls that go through puberty and have an inkling for writing, I used to love writing “poems”. Believing my thoughts and feelings to be of deep importance, I’d keep a journal-like notebook filled with poems. Cringeworthy ones if you’d ask me now. And as a result, I didn’t like reading poems as they only reminded me of my own inabilities.

However, milk and honey seemed to call out to me. For a while I’d see the book everywhere, take it off its shelf and then decide not to buy it. I started following Rupi Kaur on Instagram and little by little, she drew me in. Perhaps like any good poem draws you in.

I became curious. Curious enough to read a few poems. Read the words so perfectly balanced. And then I just went ahead and bought the damn book!

Not having really learned how to read poetry, I struggled a bit at first. I googled how to read poetry and the best advice I found was this: you do not necessarily have to understand the poem at the first reading. Find what speaks to you and engage with the poem. It is a conversation that was started by the poet and you get to continue it.

Now, as a talkative person, I understand conversations. As such, I was able to decide which poems/conversations to engage with. And there were many! About love, about hurt and heartache, but also about strength, feminism and sisterhoods. To me, that blend makes Rupi Kaur an amazing poet. It feels neither to militant nor to soppy. It feels real. And beautiful and complex. As women are. As life is.

So, for anyone who is willing to try their hand at poetry or for anyone who wants to read a new kind of beautiful poetry: READ THIS BOOK! It’s truly wonderful!

My favourite poem:

what am i to you he asks
i put my hand in his lap
and whisper you
are every hope
i’ve ever had
in human form

Especially that final line “you are every hope i’ve ever had in human form” gives me chills and butterflies at the same time! Love it.

 

 

 

5 THINGS TO DO IN PARIS

Paris, city of love. City of the best food in the world and city of blinding lights. City filled with meandering cobbled roads, filled with culture and the city we’ll always have. Paris is so great it has become a cliché to say so. I really should not like this city, just to proof I AM A REBEL who will not let other people’s likes be her likes.

But I do love Paris. Ever since I first set foot under the Eiffel tower back in high school, I knew this would be a city I’d return to over and over again. And I did. I went with friends, I went on the first – and only – road trip there with my mum, I went there the first time I ever went travelling completely alone – oh my what a joy! – and the first time Erik and I went on a holiday, we came my beloved Paris.

After multiple visits – but never enough to really get to know the city – I have my favourite spots picked out, that I just have to visit if I can. However, I am also always looking for new places to see. And eat and shop at. For now, these are my all-time favourite things to do in Paris - as they change every time I go there.*

*yes, these are very much touristy places. I am a tourist in Paris, not a Parisienne – sadly – and so my top things to do are touristy ones. To find out how to locals live, find another blog (and let me know what it is so I can read it too!)

1. Browsing the books at Shakespeare & Co.

Now as a travelling feminist who loves books, this should come as no surprise. This famous bookshop is a true Walhalla for the true book-addict. The old building is stacked to the brim with English language books (sadly my French is not good enough to actually be able to read French books) and boasts being visited by Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald amongst many writers. I could honestly literally – “literary” – spend hours here – and I usually try to every time I visit Paris.

Are you as much of a book addict as I am? Then be sure to visit this lovely quaint old fashioned bookshop on the south bank just across from the Cathedral Notre Dame. And be sure to be hospitable to strangers, lest they’d be angels in disguise – as quoted in the bookstore!

2. Dream an hour away at L’Orangerie

Monet. In 3D. Need I say more? Honestly, if I do, you are either a barbaric person when it comes to culture, or you just don’t like impressionism. Otherwise, this small museum where Monet’s most famous water lilies adorn the walls, is well worth the visit. Try and come early as a quiet atmosphere attributes to the beauty – and hordes of tourists are just annoying wherever you go.

3. Eat a baguette with cheese at the Eiffel tower

Granted, this may be even more of a cliché than actually visiting Paris, but to me, eating a picnic at one of Paris’ many parks is something you just have to do when in Paris. If you are going to visit the Eiffeltower anyway – or one of the many amazing sites surrounding it – why not have lunch in it’s vicinity? I do recommend getting your food beforehand as tourist prices are no joke – though they are ridicules – and also to find a spot well away from the actual tower. You’ll have a lovelier view and less tourists gaping and taking pictures of themselves.

4. Visit the Église Sacré Coeur and stroll about Montmartre

I like visiting the white church on top of a hill for many reasons. One of them is the anecdote my mum always tells about how I took her there when we visited Paris together. In my memory, I simply took her to see one of the sights. According to her, I took her through all these dodgy back allies only to have the vista opening up to her. She performed the same trick on my dad when they visited Paris together, so it’s become kind of a family tradition.

It was only last time I went to Paris – a recent college-trip – that I started to actually appreciate the surroundings of it. Montmartre has had a bit of a bad rep – perhaps at times rightly so – but it is beautiful once you get away from the annoying street vendors and seems to provide you with a feel of Paris you only read about in books. The small back streets, the tiny restaurants where you get the best wine available, the slight rebel feel intermingled with a definite sense of style. Visit this area if you have the chance. I know I will next time I go!

5. Take a trip to Versailles

Choosing just five things to do in any city is hard – in Paris, it is simply impossible. However, listing every single amazing thing to do, is too much trouble – not to mention impossible – so I am sticking to my goal!

And for that, I advise you to get away from the city and get yourself over the Château Versailles. King Louis XIV was such an arrogant piece of sh*t that he named himself the Sun-king and had an immense castle build to show everyone he was the one and only king – by divine right.

I don’t really like the castle all that much, but I really enjoy the gardens. During the summer, this is a lovely and beautiful retreat from the city. Especially the gardens made by the maligned Marie Antoinette are very pleasant and feel like you are walking in nature just a short drive away from the hustling and bustling from the busy Parisian streets. Get some nature in here, to recharge yourself for more time spent in the city.

So, these are my 5 favourite things to do in Paris. What are yours? Tell me in the comments and maybe we'll visit them some day!

TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN – Lauren Graham

LORELAI GILMORE WROTE A BOOK!… SORRY, I MEAN LAUREN GRAHAM WROTE A BOOK!

Either way, it’s not a coincidence that this book came out exactly when the revival of the noughties hit-series of “Gilmore Girls” came to Netflix. And being the huge Gilmore Girls fan that I am – I mean, Ooy whith the poodles already! – I of course had to read this book!

I’d asked for it as a holiday present and my sister – not a fan of the series – immediately recognized that I had to have this book. Even the fact that its release was postponed till after our celebration of Sinterklaas – with soot Pete, not Black Pete – she kindly got it for me.

Now of course, the book was never going to be a literary highpoint or even the memoir we can all relate to and learn to be a better humanity from. I knew that. Still, I had to get into Lauren Grahams way of writing, which is very reminiscent of the way Lorelai was portrayed on screen. I am not sure if this is because Lauren Graham was a perfect fit for the role, or if she meant to channel her inner Amy Sherman-Paladino – don’t know who that is? Shame on you! – but after getting used to it, I enjoyed this read.

Obviously I loved reading about the original series and what it was like to return to the revival and I even enjoyed the parts in between. But let’s be honest, this was always going to be a book written for fans. As such, I greatly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fellow enthusiasts. If, however, you are like, Gilmore who, I’d say, leave this book be and read something else.

 

 

 

INTO THIN AIR -Jon Krakauer

KNOWING HOW A BOOK WILL END AND STILL FINDING YOURSELF AT THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT… I’d call that a very successful book indeed.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Jon Krakauer: he is the writer of a bestseller in the early nineties that was turned into the hugely successful movie: Into the Wild. When I learned that he had written the book upon which the movie Everest (2015) was based, I contemplated buying the book. However, usually when I find out that a movie was based on a book, I am hesitant to read it. The book is always better, but the view of the movie – really someone else’s view of the story – can hugely interfere with my experience of the book.

Finally, I saw the book on sale at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – my favourite shop in all the world so far – I decided to just go for it and buy it. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

Even knowing how the tragedy on Everest in may 1996 would play out, this was still an exciting read. I found myself biting my lip whilst reading, looking forward to reading the book every spare minute I had and unable to wait to know how it would turn out; all the signs of a seriously addictive book.

Although the writer himself doesn’t always appear to be the most likeable character I have ever read about, he manages to portray the events and his own faults and tribulations with such honesty, that he is easily forgiven for simply being a human being. By me that is. I can’t be sure about the everyone else of course.

So, if, in these dark winter times (or any other time you are reading this) you are in need of a seriously exciting and scary adventurous escape but unable to actually go on any adventure – you know, real life getting in the way – read this book! It will carry you through it for a little while – and may deter you from any too dangerous adventures!

 

 

 

WANDERLUST

A musing

It’s been one of those days, again. One of those days where I kept reading stories written by and about world travellers; people following their hearts to where their feet lead them. One of those days of feeling the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and hearing my feet tread a trail along an ambling creek from the dreary surroundings of my usual office and seemingly endless commute. One of those days in short, where my desire to roam the world seems to burst out of me.

Is this wanderlust?

Sometimes, I feel like there's a world inside of me. I can feel the majestic mountains with their snow-capped summits and rolling vales, ending at a small lake surrounded by fragrant trees. The air is crisp, not to warm, not to cold en so, so fresh! I feel this space in my heart, as if this is what was keeping me alive instead of the beating of a muscle connected to veins traversing my body.

 

On days like these there is nothing left for me to do but to sit there, in wilderness in my heart. I sit on a picnic table maybe, or the doorframe of a trailer. Knees pulled up, hands warmed by a hot cup of coffee – somehow there’s always coffee – and just calmly staring at the quiet wilderness ahead of me. A quiet wilderness that does not resemble me – an extravert who loves to talk. But that feels like home.

Is this wanderlust?

Dictionaries describe it as a strong urge or desire to travel and explore the world and to roam about. But to me, that seems inadequate. It is never just a strong urge to explore or a desire to roam about. It’s deeper than that. More than wanting to go on a holiday and it feels more urgent than wanting to escape your place in the world for a while. It is a need to find that place that, like the horizon, appears to be ever receding.

It is a need as deep as the biggest love you’ve ever felt. A necessity to go see the ocean, to run the meadows of the world, climb its mountains, gaze at it’s views. A deep, almost physical desire to explore new territory, meet new cultures, expand your brain. All that is driving you is a thirst for the new, the different, the beautiful, the hard, the difficult, the so worth it, the changes, the sameness of people, the infinite variety of life, the profound and the mundane, the else.

 

The thirst for something else to see than your daily view, something else to smell than the myriad of smells you’ve encountered so often you can no longer separate them from each other. Something else to hear than people complaining like we all do about how dull life can me. A wish to feel something else. Something calmer and more authentic and true.

This is wanderlust.

A feeling that makes my heart cry out for the sensations of the salty ocean breeze or a pine scented sunset over glorious mountains. A feeling that makes my feet itch with desire to run and fly and keep running until I find a place where I can walk and maybe even be still. Unencumbered by outside influences. Still in the wilderness. A feeling that I fear will never leave, but that gives my heart a place to rest.

GIRL IN THE WOODS – Aspen Matis

I FEEL VERY AMBIVALENT ABOUT THIS BOOK.

On the one hand it tells a very courageous tale of a girl who got raped – in a country where despite being the supposed leader of the free world, victim-blaming still runs rampant – and found her way back to herself by solo walking the 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

On the other hand, this turned out to be the story of a girl who constantly relates to herself as others relate to her. Yes, she rescues herself from her trauma, but that salvation is not measured by her own feelings regarding herself, but by how the world reacts to her newfound confidence. It is, like too many books with female protagonist, a story of finding the right guy instead of the wrong.

So what to make of this book? I loved the parts of the story where the beautiful scenery is described, where the girl we meet in the beginning of the book has solo adventures and manages to rescue herself. I loved reading about the trail magic and the very different lives one meets on the PCT. I love, LOVED, how the writer found a way to herself where she breaks free from anger and frustration and her somewhat overbearing parents, at the same time realising the love they have given her and finding a way to reconcile both sides.

However, all of this was described in the margins of the book; the few pages I would try to get to as I was reading the other parts of the book. About a girl meeting a boy, about a girl meeting the wrong boy, about a girl obsessing about having found the wrong boy, about a girl ready to find love again, about a girl longing for love, about a girl wanting to be seen – by a man. It is the story of a princess, finding herself ruined – which she is not! Rape is not the victims fault, ever – and travelling through dark woods, finding a false prince and being rescued by dashing handsome prince Dash. A story I have read and been told in countless ways, far to many times.

Yes, I want love in my life, but not at all cost and not as obsessively.

To me, it seems more important – and therefore more interesting – how to love yourself, just for yourself. How to come to peace with a horrific trauma on your own power and your own terms.

This book however, is not that book. The downsides sadly outweighing the potential beauty of it.

However, there were several quotes I loved:

“Walking in solitude fixes nothing, but it leads you to the place where you can identify the malady – see the wound’s true nature – and then discern the proper medicine.”

“Then I let go of him.”

“Writing is a way to make a living dreaming wild dreams.”

Although my favourite is a quote by Maya Angelou, used in the book:
“A word after a word after a word is power”

Truth found in the margins of the book.