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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Saturday, 14 September 2002
--> back home, The Netherlands – update

(especially for foreign press people: The Netherlands is not the same as Denmark!)

While travelling, one day can already take ages, but back home in my hometown Zwolle in The Netherlands one week goes as fast as a train I didn't even see coming!

And things are also so much different. Did I leave Australia with a Charity Night, with arrangements with radio stations and press photoshootings at the airport in Sydney, when I arrived in Amsterdam…. there were just my old folks.

Holland isn't really that media crazy like I have experienced in Australia. Maybe it's because the native tongue here is Dutch. It might take an effort for the local media to follow my English travelogue.

And I love it. Believe me, during my travels, many people tell me how special I am, that I had such a great idea in how to travel around the world (I heard that almost every day). In The Netherlands people don't care that much. "Oh, is that you? Nice," and that's it.

Everything is simply taken into moderation of what it really is. A guy with a web site. He travels for free. Nice. Here the media doesn't hype like I experienced it in Australia. Here I am not a notorious freeloader, as how Aussie Channel 9 loved to have portrayed me.

Back home I walk from my studentappartment to the historic city centre of town and I meet old acquaintances. I shake hands and they are surprised to see I am back for a while again. But then we just talk about normal life; nothing has changed in the last six months. Every "Welcome back" is for me: a Welcome-back to the real world.

But it can also go the entire other direction.

In Australia I had heard that lots of people there suffer of the small-puppy syndrome. Anything that rises out from the normal crowd of people is cut back down again. Nobody should be in anyway regarded special. I think that counts also counts for the Netherlands. As soon as I got more attention than usual, even for doing something unusual, people think I got wings and walk in bigger sized boots. "He must be so arrogant," because a saying on the street.

Fortunately I don't have wings and still walk in the same shoes that my sponsor happily provided to me. Some old friends are even surprised to see that I haven't changed that much from the Ramon they knew four years ago. I am older, like everybody else, but with what I have achieved the last years, I am still Ramon. That crazy guy with those crazy ideas.

But it is still hard to convince this all to strangers that walk up to me on the streets. Or friends that are no friends of mine anymore due the course of years, or wannabe-friends. Sometimes I even get approached in a hey-you-must-be-so-arrogant-now attitude. Dreadful. But unavoidable.

But that's also the charm of The Netherlands. That's the country I grew up in, so I can totally understand it too. The Netherlands is one country that makes giant tribulations about a great deal of little matters, looks at other countries and complains about them too. Things are never good enough. Meanwhile newspaper ads offer people ways to get off their stress. Go figure!

Basically The Netherlands is just the same as any other country.

I am home again.

I spent my first weekend at my parents place in a small town along the IJssel river, near the world's biggest seaport at Rotterdam. We had not seen each other for six months and –of course- for parents that is a very big thing. They were happy to see me again and indulged me with great Indonesian food (colonialism really influenced the Dutch kitchen).

My brother (33yo, married with Rianne) lives a few blocks away from my parents in the same former farm town. So of course I met up with their family too. Rianne is expecting their third child in the first week of October, so I will be there as soon as things start to rumble. It was also good to catch up with my little nephews Kevin and Casper. For 4-year-old Kevin it was like I had just been away for a few days, 2-yo Casper was first shy and cautious. "Who is that big guy?" he must have thought. But at the Sunday evening dinner party with my parents, their kids and grandchildren, Casper accepted me as I joined in in his burping. I lost the competition. A two-year-old is better with that, haha.

At the end of the Monday afternoon my parents drove me to my own home in Zwolle, some 130km to the east of my small country. A trip that almost took three hours. It's a distance Australians can do in lest than one hour, but Holland has some 16 million people on its small patch of nether land and yes; they all seem to have a car. Traffic jams. Welcome home.

With a big sack of clean washed clothes (thanks mum) I settled back in my humble room in this old historic Art Nouveau/Jugendstil city home dating back to the 1910's. The bullet holes of both world wars can still be found in the surrounding walls.

For the last twenty years this house is a share house for students. I got in here in 1997 during my study and since then the only thing that has changed are the people that live in it. The proprietor, and old moustached man with a hard eastern-Dutch accent, doesn't care much about his place. As long as we all pay our rent, he might just come over once in a few months to change all the light bulbs into energy-efficient bulbs. Slowly the house is ready to collapse. When I arrived back home I even found a message on my door that my bedroom on the second floor was declared uninhabitable by the fire department. Great. Welcome home.

I also met up with my (ladies only, hehe) housemates again. Next door to me lives Munky (guess, the sister of Munk, who previously appeared in the Christmas reports last year) who is in her final year of tv-journalism and a part-time barkeeper and deejay, just like me,. On the other side is Lydia, who is majoring at the Academy for Physical Training Education (if I translate that good enough) and upstairs is Chantal, a second-year wannabe-teacher student and also part-time barkeeper in a local pub. Chantal got in the house when I was in Australia, but I already knew her from the pub life.

And of course I had to go out to my favourite pub in town, the one I had missed for such a long time, Het Vliegende Paard, or The Flying Horse in English. This has always been my second living room since it opened "for students only" in 1999. I was welcomed back again by all the barkeepers and guests and met up with some of my old study buddies.

In six months nothing spectacular has happened, they all say. Except that some of them got their graduation paper lately. They are finished. They can go to work now. And they don't want to, yet. Bummer. (And most of my friends aren't even single anymore. Hooray for all the singles! Don't be afraid of my friends anymore! You are safe.)

I have studied journalism for some little seven years and I am at a point in life where I know that I never want to be a journalist, ever. My friends agree with that, I am just too creative on a more global scale. I can write an article, but I want to be involved in the style of the layout, in the marketing techniques of the publication and if necessary point out mistakes to the publisher. Believe me, lots of high-rank people don't like it when a journalist behaves like that.

At the pub I drank beers like it was water. It was great; I had great talks with friends and got very pissed drunk at the same time. People could have guessed that I was behaving Swedish there, haha.

It ended up that I woke up the next day with a 'horrendous hangover (people must have seen it on the Richter scale somewhere!). Munky looked at me with her head tilted and one eye on angry-focus. "You okay?" And I could only moan "Ouch". Later on Tuesday people put the puzzle pieces together for me. After closing time at the Horse, I got to another place in town where I ended up sleeping outside, next to my own vomit.

I guess you don't want to know all these details, but believe, nor did I. Two friends of me soon found me there and dragged me with them for a twenty-minute walk to my home. They woke up Munky and she took me in, let me fall asleep on my couch and covered me with a sleeping bag (thanks Munky). I don't remember anything about anything, so I must have been very much intoxicated at that moment.

I will have to throw in a small dinner party to those terrible great friends, but have also discovered this week that my own cooking isn't what it used to be. I am back to reading the texts on the boxes and pasta easily becomes porridge without me wanting it to be anything like porridge. Oh help.

It was therefore very understandable that I had would have that atrocious hangover on that entire following Tuesday. Anything I had planned to do, had to be postponed to any time later this week.

But on Wednesday I still had this big overshadow in my head.
I got it.
The new euro coin fell on its side.
This is the hangover of six months Australia.

In the following days I slowly started to realize what I have been doing in the last six months. I can read my own reports and get back to where I was, but at these moments itself life goes four times as fast. Meeting people every day, being a guest every day, moving on every day, living out of a bag every day, not knowing what to eat eevery day, not knowing where to be in a few days yet and forgotten where I had been exactly one week ago.

I drink a cup of coffee (made by myself) on my own couch in my own room and I slowly start to realize that I have experienced something that nobody can ever take away from me. I know I live a very different life, a life that nobody can really recognize, not even the well-travelled most-experienced backpacker. I do something that nobody has ever done before. But I have to pay my price anyway.

While doing the ordinary household jobs again, stories pop up into my head. Things I have experienced come to the surface of my worn-out brain cells (always been worn-out, don't worry). I see myself again on tropical islands along the Australian east coast, I kick dust in the outback, ran after the chickens in the southwest, sit in the bus on the… and, and, and, and…

This is going to take some time.

On Wednesday I got a call from a journalist. She had heard about my vacation return to my hometown (you see, not many Dutch read this website) and asked me a few questions for an article. Yes, in the last week of my time in Australia, my web server got hacked by some idiot who caused lots of damage. The lady was worried that I might have lost all my invites. Of course not! There is always a backup running along with all the data. It took a few days, but everything was back online again.

The next day, lots of city newspapers in the entire country got that article off the wire: "Hackers crack website Zwolle traveller". Very over-exaggerated, because it wasn't such a big deal to me. It felt like it already happened two weeks ago. (The costs of the damage and the damage that the hacker has caused on other servers through mine might end up as a much bigger deal to me, but I haven't received any formal claims yet).

On Thursday I got calls from folks of the Dutch media, had an inspiring interview with the local community paper (heck - that took three hours!) and slowly radio stations started to call in with their interview requests.

Of course I'll do that. I owe them a story at all times. It was the media that made it possible for me to gain so much exposure, to receive so many invites and to travel the world like I do. I could never turn my back to the media. Always cooperate, always appear, and always talk. It's a way of giving back what I symbolically earned, just like writing this whole rag here for you to read. Hey there ;-)

So after this recital about this first week, you can understand that I really need to grow some roots for a while. To get back together with friends, process those non-stop travelling days and just relax. Read a book. Read lots of books. Enjoy music (there is a craze here about The Ketchup Song in this country, almost embarrassing!), benefit from the warm summer son even it's already September and autumn is coming up. Heck, I even took a pleasant break from writing my weekly chronicles for the Dutch newspaper Spits.

I think I'll give Irena a call. See how she's doing in the Dutch Royal Army. Then I might go for a long sweaty run. My body needs that, I think.

Next week another update. See ya!

Ramon.


Update October 2002: My sincere apologies for the fact that I wrote I'd write another update the next week, which never arrived. I'll keep you updated through the mailinglist if you want.