Here I am, writing a blog on changing our lives, feeling the need to motivate fellow humans to listen to their hearts and act upon it, however difficult and illogical as it might seem, yet with the bumps on our road so far, I had let doubt get to me. I didn’t believe myself nor did I trust my heart anymore.
I started this journey towards our new life full of energy, skipping through difficulties and uncertainties, but the road was longer than I had planned for and it wasn’t as straight and simple as I thought it would be. I was already feeling tired and lost, when my family and I arrived at an unexpected crossroads and there I got stuck. Paralyzed, not knowing which direction to take next.
Since my last post, months passed, days and nights came, hope and despair, laughter and tears. I missed the Belgian cold and grey weather, while we spent more days at the beach than ever before to escape months of heat. We had our first tropical Christmas. We said goodbye to a year and welcomed another and still we were no closer to our original plans.
How could I write anything to encourage others, when all I was doing was staring at the crossroads ahead of me, wanting to turn back and run to more familiar roads, regretting every decision I had taken so far, doubting my instinct and cursing my heart?
As it grew darker in my soul, fire happened. The raging, destroying, overpowering kind.
The world lost the elections and the fire of nationalism and xenophobia appeared everywhere. What started as a flimsy orange joke of an insignificant fire grew out of hand. Helped by winds of change, coming from storms that had been brewing for too long. Powerful and fiery words flew across the globe like smoldering ashes, ready to ignite fires in dry and uncared for places, awaiting a spark, ready to burn and ignite other fires nearby.
Wildfires are raging in Chile too, they call it the worst natural disaster in the last 50 years. Chile has been in the news worldwide for the strongest earthquake in the world (2010), it was so powerful it even moved the planet a few degrees and was followed by a tsunami. We have had several volcanoes erupt and wipe out entire villages (Chaiten), there has been drought and floods (Santiago 2016), but the ongoing wildfires are being considered as the worst natural disaster . Fire vs planet shaking earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, go figure.
As I watched the news on the Chilean fires, I could not help but notice a resemblance with the rise of nationalism and xenophobia-fires in the world. In Chile, the firemen combating simultaneous fires all over the country do not receive a salary, aren’t managed nationally, but per village/city instead and lack the resources to combat large fires. The country was not prepared for a worst-case scenario. Relying at first on the goodwill of voluntary work and voluntary donations, being led by a myriad of managers and lacking the best equipment for this scale of Dantean fires. Government claimed not to have funds for it and none of the previous governments ever had long term vision on these things. They have put more efforts in recently, but it is no surprise that the fires are out of control and growing still (142 fires today).
The marches and protests all over the world, modernly called ‘the resistance’ are basically the same symbolical firemen: voluntary people, lacking direction and resources to combat widely spread and uncontrolled fire of discrimination and most of all fear. Governments have been stuck in short-term vision for too long and any politician seeking instant popularity will feed on these fires. Igniting more sparks wherever they can with dangerous words and allowing as many places as possible to be left uncared for and dry out, so they can keep on going.
Now fire, however destructive, does have the ability to shed (some) light in the darkness. So it did for me. In my darkness I could now see an eerie red glow at the horizon.
Losing faith in myself, my instinct and cursing my illogical heart, had made me tumble into darkness. One day, watching the news, the reporter mentioned the locations of the worst fires, now burning out of control. He named locations that we had visited, searching for land to build our new life. In fact, in our tour of Chile so far, we have been in every place that is now burning. The realization that I could now be watching, helplessly how our new life burned away, not even a year after settling there, sent a shiver down my spine.
Having had the opportunity to buy land and homes among vineyards, by the beach, in forests, in rural, yet accessible places of Chile, we never did, because my instinct and heart said no every time. We saw already that it was too dry, we knew we had to take climate change into consideration and my heart felt a pull to go further south. So we kept going further, making a journey that took far longer than expected and perhaps too long for our souls to bare. Until we arrived at one of the world’s most remote and untouched areas. Totally illogical, having more reasonable and developed options to go for, but we could have lost everything to fire now if we hadn’t.
Similar to the pulling and pushing feeling of my heart that led us to leave Belgium. You see, my heart longed for a new life, to create, to live closer to nature and to build a business, which were all positive feelings. It felt like something was pulling my heart to come to Chile. However, my heart could also feel pushed away. It sensed the growing dryness of society, it could smell fear in the air, it could feel the winds of change coming and it was telling me, one day, some spark would ignite a raging fire. At times my heart hurt so much, that I could not bear the pain of staying in my beloved Antwerp anymore. Hoping so much to not feel that sharp pain in my heart, but helpless against it, we left on a long journey. A journey we are still travelling on and is taking its toll on our souls.
Today, I may still be standing at the crossroads in the darkness, but I don’t want to go back to familiar roads anymore. My instinct wasn’t logical, but it has been right so far. When I look back I see fire at the horizon and it is coming. I can’t go back, I must move forward. Maybe I don’t know which road I will take yet, but I do trust that my instinct will tell me soon. Maybe it’s just waiting to get strong enough, or waiting for the right time.
The other day we spent camping in a valley, by a river surrounded by mountains. What had started as a fun day, attending a local campo fiesta nearby, swimming in the river, eating bbq and sharing wine with friends, ended in complete and utter darkness. The road back to the tent from the fiesta was dark as could be, the few stars out weren’t bright enough and there was no moon to be seen. My daughter held tight to my arm and her flashlight. She was too scared to look back, because all she could see was a deep and silent darkness around us. The torch could only illuminate our next steps, but luckily she remembered the turns on the gravel road, through the forest, over the bridge, the way over the fields and the fences to arrive to our tent an eternity later.
Upon arrival to our campsite we collected logs and twigs to make a campfire and shed some light around us, but still it wasn’t enough for the grandness of the area we were in and the dark veil around us. It didn’t take long for us to give up on the mini fire and crawl into our tent, feeling small and weary of the night. A few hours later I woke up feeling the punching need to pee. I was cold and we were in the heart of Patagonian valleys, no campsite with toilets around. The thought of getting out there, in the dark, in the cold and pee somewhere in the open, without falling into the river, running into a cow or a puma (all very probable scenarios where we were) made me, again, hate and curse all the decisions I had ever taken that had led me to that place and time. Why in God’s name was I not with my family, in civilization, where I could simply turn the lights on and go to a proper toilet? I made an effort to ignore my ready to burst bladder , but the need to pee forced me out of the tent eventually and grand was my surprise, when I saw a bright moon illuminating the valley. I could see the majestic Andes mountains around us, I saw the ancient trees in the forest across the river, I saw the shimmering, flowing river and it was all beautiful. I peed happily in the open and realized the moon had been behind the mountains before, it had just needed extra time to get high enough, above them so it could shed light on our valley. This moment of profound realization made me giggle the pee out of me.
The teacher learns from the student. In this case, I am both and stubborn and hardheaded as I am, it took me 3 months to (re)learn valuable lessons. Allow me to share them with you, before I get back to my crossroads and use our flashlight to figure out which direction we will be taking next.
- It’s Ok to lose track of your sight, just slow down, walk more carefully and focus on the little, next steps you can see ahead.
- Time and project management skills may work for things of the mind, but it doesn’t work when you are following the heart, which is OK too. There are bigger things than your personal will and efforts out there, like mountains and fires.
- No matter how dark, cold and scary a night can be, trust the sun and the moon. They will appear, when they are ready, eventually.
- And finally the lesson I seem to always have to re-learn: Your instinct and heart know, what the mind cannot know (yet). So keep on trusting them, no matter what.
Love, Andrea x
More information on the wildfires and how to help the victims and the firemen of Chile :