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What the flipping fuck!? Live de Leven is back!!?

That’s right maggot, Live de Leven is back in business. Before the storm comes silence. The silence has been, so you know what that means.

Things will be different though. This time, Julien and me will not be traveling together. We’re going solo and we’re moving in different directions. I hope that Julien will also make the occasional appearance on this blog, but I can not make any promises, because, as we all know, he’s a lazy bastard (but we love you Julien).

I just spent half a year working in the Netherlands. That’s done.

And I just spent a couple of days with lovely Chaz (or Charley, or Charlotte – she goes by many names) in England. We met in Peru and have been seeing each other quite regularly in Europe now, despite the distance between The Netherlands and England. And they say romance is dead…

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When we met for the second time in Bolivia.

DSC_0480In London.

From England I took a plane straight to Montevideo, where my bike has been parked for half a year. I’ll recollect it and finish the unfinished.

What’s the unfinished? The super short recap of what happened during the previous lifespan of livedeleven.com.

In September 2014 Julien and me flew to Vancouver, Canada. There we bought two motorcycles. We rode down for 33,000 kilometers past Mexico, Central America, crossed into Colombia by boat from Panama, rode through South America and finally reached Montevideo, Uruguay.

The plan had been to ride all the way to the most southern city in the world: Ushuaia. Unfortunately, we never took into consideration that even in South America you have winters, especially as you get close to Antarctica. Who would have thought. 

On top of that, Julien was broke. And on top of that, I was more than broke, being heavily in debt (but thanks for lending me the money, mom, dad). So we parked the bikes in Uruguay (safely), and decided to call it a day and fly to the Netherlands together. That was July 2015, and it was the day that the great silence on our blog began.

A recap is no recap without some pics of highlights!

bikes-first-picBuying the bikes in Vancouver.

moneyshot-cropped-smallMade some riding friends in California.

DSC00398“Working hard” in Mexico.

DSC00893Living with a Guatemalan family for two weeks to improve our Spanish.

DSC00767Realizing how not-waterproof our tent really was.

DSC01477Riding death road in Bolivia.

DSC01591Riding through a motherfucking snowstorm in the desert. Julien’s battery didn’t work, so we needed to jumpstart it about 5-10 times a day.

DSC01568My frame breaking in half in the middle of the desert. Solution: tie the frame back together with rubber.

DSC01053Petting a very fat dog. Definitely a highlight.

DSC01636After almost a week of waiting on the snow to clear up finally being able to cross from Chile into Argentina.

DSC01649When we made it to Buenos Aires we drove our bikes onto a square in the centre and violently kicked our bikes onto the ground. That mess you see is champagne.

But does the bike still work after 33,000 km?

Barely. It has suffered. But, it is a KLR. A trusty, mighty, indestructible KLR. I’m carrying a bag filled with parts to get it back up to speed. So the first week or so will be spent in Montevideo, giving my old friend some sweet loving.

About the silence: what we have been doing for half a year

First, we partied. Then, we partied some more. We also got drunk. Then, we partied a bit more. It’s good to see your friends again after 10 months of being away, you know. 

We did more than partying though. De Leven also has to be Lived while not exactly traveling — even though one might say that life is one big trip — but that might be just a tad too much of a cliche.

Alas, let this be the main topic of this blogpost, and let us call it The Half Year of Silence Saga. A saga divided into 3 episodes, because let’s be fair, a blog post spanning half a year instead of the usual 2-4 weeks seems daunting.

As life is rarely chronological, neither will these episodes be.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 1 – The Housing Crisis

Being unable to pay for hostels or an apartment (do you understand just how broke we were?), and having no place to stay in Amsterdam, we faced a housing crisis that we both stood up to in our own way.

Julien is no stranger to crises of this nature and it wasn’t for long until he came up with a bulletproof solution: couches of friends. Friends’ places in Amsterdam that he’s crashed: Vigo, Nynke, Melanie, Remco, [Floris, Bart, Girish, Constant -> one house], mine (back when I still had an apartment) and certainly many more that I can’t come up with right now. This is a foolproof solution that has been thoroughly tested in our research facilities, certified by Livedeleven.com(tm).

My solution: a caravan.

DSC_0202Isn’t it beautiful?

You might wonder how I got my hands on a caravan. That was Robbin’s gift. He uses a caravan in summer for a festival that he works at, to live in it for a few months, but outside of summer he has no need for it. I did, so he lent it to me. Thanks, Robbin.

You might wonder where I parked it. On a dead-end street. Conveniently placed right in front of my friends’ house, which gave me some of the perks of living in an actual house: running water and electricity. Thanks, Floris, Bart, Girish and Constant.

Then you might also wonder how I was able to illegally park it on a street and live in it for three months without getting caught or kicked out. I wonder that too.

As Dutch autumn ungracefully kicked in and struck down upon me with furious anger, a caravan started to seem like less of a sunny adventure of happiness as it once did in summer. My clothes were wet. My sheets were wet. The mighty caravan seemed waterproof, but in constant rain the humidity did seem to sneak in through the creaks.

Luckily, but also sadly, an opportunity arose. Our beloved Girish, also known as Gier, Jesus, Huisgier, etc., was moving out. We’re still unsure why, but we believe that some birds’ feathers are just too bright to be caged. Obviously, I was first in line to occupy his now empty room.

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Missing: Huisgier

However, there was one caveat. The house being designated student housing legally only allowed students to live there. A loophole had to be found. The loophole came in the form of someone who probably prefers not to be mentioned by name as I’m now about to describe a practice that is illegal.

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This person wasn’t officially registered as living anywhere, besides at his parents. He is also a student. Which means he could officially register at the place where I wanted to live, and I would compensate him for the rent he paid, and I could sneakily live in the room that he was officially renting. Very cheeky indeed. 

The plan worked.

After taking the mattress from the caravan and throwing it unceremoniously on the floor of my new room, moving in was a finished project. It felt good to live in a house again, and it felt good to officially live in my favorite house of Amsterdam together with close friends.

Let’s introduce them.

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Luuk. The undisputed leader of the house. He is strict, yet fair.

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Floris. A true optimist. He can see the positive and the funny side to pretty much everything. If you ever feel like getting carried away and changing your perspective, have a chat with him.

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Constant. A major force behind Zuiderzee BV, the company that takes down walls relentlessly. The other day I saw Constant looking in his box of fucks that he gave, but the box was empty.

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Bart. Keeping classrooms under control like it’s nothing. Smackin’ babies at their christenin’. Meester Bart is masterlijk hard.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 2 – The Great Escape of Julien Soudy

As the bottom of his wallet was approaching him with lightning speed, The Great Soudy knew that drastic measures were imminent. He’d have to come up with a plan. A plan that would be so crazy, so crazy that it just might work.

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He sat straight up on his couch. One of the many couches that he held so dear. Couch life is certainly not a bad life, The Great One decided. As he looked out of his window, he contemplated the impending doom of being out of money. Actually, to be fair it didn’t scare him that much as in his soul he found courage and bravery from being nearly broke for years. He tapped into this courage and knew that he would, as ALWAYS, come up with something to keep on traveling and never actually work.

You need to be a certain kind of man to be on the road for 4 years. The Great Soudy is exactly this kind of man.

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You have to be willing to give up your comforts. You have to go further than that and not simply live without comfort, but in a constant state of discomfort. That might sound unpleasant, but I told you before that it takes a very certain kind of man to be able to do this.

You have to not give a single fuck. Don’t give a fuck about eating like shit, sleeping in a tent, in the dirt, at a gas station, and working ridiculous “jobs”.

You shouldn’t only be indifferent to these things, you need to like them. You need to love living your life like this, in a way that many people would consider impossible.

The Great One loves it. And he is good at it. Some say he’s the best.

IMG-20160114-WA0005Discussing a business strategy in Amsterdam with Robbin.

So what was his plan this time?

It involves the United States of America, not being too bothered with breaking the law, and being there in the right season. It involved working with a certain type of plant. Let’s call it gardening.

He’d become a gardener.

Having made lots of other gardening friends on the trip, he was well set up to become a great gardener and work on fantastic gardens. How this eventually turned out, you’d have to ask the man himself. I can reveil merely a tip of veil, but I would be out of line to fully disclose this adventure, which is rightfully its own saga.

The Fantastic Soudy looked out onto the horizon of the shores of Zuiderzee and he knew it. It was time to leave this shithole and get rich — or die trying.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 3 – Get Rich — Or Die Trying

Now my story of getting rich — or dying trying — in The Netherlands.

I’m a programmer. That means I type code, and then you get software. I focus mainly on writing software for the web, so usually I’m programming websites, or applications that have a lot to do with the web but aren’t exactly websites. I do this in various programming languages, mainly these: PHP, JavaScript, CSS and HTML.

So you type stuff like this:

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And then you get stuff like this:

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A good thing for me is that I run my own business which goes by the name of Webvalid. That doesn’t mean I have employees or a fancy office somewhere, but it means that I’m unemployed. Makes it sound a bit less impressive, but this gives me great freedom, which is fantastic if you like to travel.

So I work for other IT companies that basically don’t have enough employees, or that don’t have employees with a specific skillset. I’m the reinforcement for those companies. I usually work for a company like that for a couple of months. In these months I don’t become an employee, but they outsource their work to my company. This is called contracting.

welcome

As mentioned a couple of times already, I was super broke at the end of our last adventure. I needed work fast. I already started looking for work while I was still in Argentina, knowing what date I would arrive. I spoke to a recruiter, who found me a potential job. The potential client: Us Media.

I would have a meeting with Us Media within a week of coming back to the Netherlands. The meeting took place on a Friday. We decided we liked each other and I went to work the Monday after.

The change of lifestyle was intense.

Just a week earlier I was camping in the desert and living like a bum. Suddenly I found myself wearing a buttoned shirt and sitting in an office from 9 to 5. That first week or so was weird. Going to meetings. Sitting at my computer all day. Pretending I wasn’t only thinking of a different life that I had so suddenly left.

While I was traveling I expected it would be very hard to return to The Netherlands, and hard to adapt. A thing that happens while traveling is that you change. Of course your friends and your country back home is also changing, but it doesn’t change as quickly as traveling makes you change. So I was worried I wouldn’t fit in anymore and that life back would become an absolute drag.

This was bullshit. Thank god.

It was easy to get used to The Netherlands. It was so nice to see all my friends again, and to see that the friend group was still intact. My new colleagues at Us Media were awesome. The work was interesting. The house I lived in was fantastic (well it was still a caravan back then, but whatever, I was sort of already living in the Zuiderzee grachtenpand). 

The lesson learned is that non-traveling certainly doesn’t have to suck, it can in fact be just as awesome. It just depends on what you’re doing. I think If I would have lived by myself again in a lone apartment it might have been a different story.

After two months the job at Us Media came to an end. A week before I finished working there, I already had a meeting with two old friends: Rob and Tinky, from The Knowledgebase Company.

IMG-20160111-WA0017Me signing a contract with The Knowledgebase Company with Mr. Strong.

I’ve worked with The Knowledgebase Company for years. Usually parttime, sometimes fulltime, and often not at all, because of other commitments. But we were no strangers to each other, even though it had been a while. In a short rendezvous it was decided I’d work for them again, for at least a couple of months. This ended up being 3,5 months, and I worked there until merely days before I left to go traveling again.

This is a fantastic company to work at. Many try to achieve what they have successfully created: a great company culture. Even though the work they do is serious, it’s fun to work there.

This means that no one shouts at you when you’re late. That you see people walk into the office at 9 in the morning with a smile on their face (yes, it’s apparently actually possible).

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Oh my god, look! It’s smiling people in an office! Arie and Joraaaaaaaaam!

But of course this also came to an end. I find it typical for my life that I’m a freelancer. So often I have to say goodbye. It’s a different side of the golden coin called traveling. For freelancing this is no different: getting to know people for a couple of months and then saying goodbye again. And you know it’s quite bonding to spend 40 hours a week sitting in a box with the same people? It’s sad, but a part of the deal.

DSC_0143Part of the job for The Knowledgebase Company was going to Denmark on a business trip. Fancy as fuck, check out the skybar of my hotel.

DSC_0145And the reception. Quite different from the usual hostel.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Miscellaneous

Sometimes there simply isn’t that much to say and it’s better to tell the short stories through some pictures. An ode to various other things that happened in the past half year.

DSC_0187Created a fake postbox to convince tourists to put their drugs in before taking their bus.

DSC_0189The writing on it.

DSC_0135Went on a typical holiday to a Dutch island. You can not do this without renting a tandem, that would be offensive.

DSC_0119When we woke up Remco was surprised to find all his clothes ripped to pieces. You have no idea do you?

DSC_0111A wall was just standing there taking up space in our house. So we fucking wrecked the cunt.

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I just had to also buy a bike in the Netherlands.

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Family matters. Especially when they book you a flight for Thailand to come and invite you to come and chill with them for two weeks.

DSC_0338-smallLetting up the wishing balloons there made my mom a happy mom.

DSC_0302And I went on a road trip with my brother.

What’s happening right now

I just arrived at the airport of Montevideo.

I was very happy to pick up my bag from the conveyer belt, thinking that all my troubles were over. I was actually worried that my bag would get through customs, because I was carrying a goat skull with me (more on this in a future blogpost) and a lot of parts for my bike.

Then I turned a corner and saw that my bag was going to get scanned. Fuck.

Obviously I didn’t make it through without questions and I was made to unpack most of my bag. The skull? Illegal. All of the parts? Illegal, unless I’d pay taxes for them somewhere, somehow.

But there is always a solution. The face:

Photo on 1-23-16 at 1.22 PM

And also lying about how many parts exactly were in my backpack. “Yeah just two sprockets that’s all”.

To which the nice customs lady replied:

“Alright then, get out of here as quickly as you can. I didn’t see this.”

So yes I made it through, with the skull AND all of my parts!!!

After taking a bus to the centre, which was blazing ACDC at maximum volume, I got to my hostel. It’s the same as I stayed in when I left here and surprisingly I still kind-of remember the way here. It felt strange to walk the same road with the same backpack again, but now not in the direction to the airport, but in the direction of the hostel.

In a few hours I’ll go and see my old red and black friend again. Let’s see how he’s doing, and if he’s up for another adventure.

 

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