From The Archives: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Freely Live

Everybody is boring. Before you feel insulted by this, I must say that I unashamedly regard myself as being part of this everybody as well. Just like many of you, I also studied abroad. I had a good time, met a lot of people and a variety of cultures. I visited places I wanted to see, whenever I had some free time. I studied hard and did well at my exams. A successful and valuable experience, you will certainly agree. 

Presumably you don’t have the slightest idea what I’m on about. But let me explain. You are studying abroad. But with what emphasis? The studying part or the abroad part? I feel that there is too little spontaneity among the international student body. I admit I do not possess any scientific data to prove my point. But honestly, when was the last time you engaged in a completely spontaneous adventure to nowhere? 

I’m not talking about a trip you organised on short notice. I’m talking about sitting somewhere, with some friends, realising that whatever you have to do later that day or the next day is less important than what you think it to be. Realising that you are young, healthy, have enough cash to do something with it, that you are currently living in a country located in the heart of Europe. A relatively small continent stuffed with culture, knowledge, vibrant music-, fashion- and art-scenes. 

Too few people realise what kind of exciting options their current situation offers them. But then, every once in a while you meet somebody that opens your eyes, someone who knows how to live life. 

The reason I’m rambling on about this, is that I recently met such a person. A person crazy enough to not see restrictions and drawbacks when a ludicrous plan spontaneously comes to life, but sees adventures, possibilities and good times ahead instead. That person made me realize that I was part of the first group, and made me want to be a part of the latter. We were having a nice drink in Leuven at sundown, when a friend of mine asked where I wanted to go for dinner. However lacking spontaneity when it comes to actions, on a verbal level I often propose crazy ideas. So I said “Paris”. Normally, such a proposition would not even be dignified with a response were it not for a third person at the table, answering with “Let’s go then.” 

Somewhat baffled, the first friend and I retorted automatically with an “Excuse me?”, upon which we, for whatever reason, started to go over pros and cons. Concluding that the three of us had classes the next day, but we could be back at a reasonable hour. Like going to the bar and lingering a little bit too long. We had a car at our disposal, but were equally eager to hitchhike, for enthusiasm had taken a hold of us. Assertiveness, spontaneity, someone crazy, a beautiful sunset, some cash in our pocket, and mostly a wild feeling that we are free people – a valuable state often underestimated – can form a dangerous and exhilarating cocktail. 

So without further ado, we jumped in the car and headed off. Paris, in this case, is surprisingly easy to find if you are aware that it is south of Brussels. 

I have had my share of road trips and travelling without a cause, but never had I so boldly decided to travel, exercising my freedom so concretely for the first time as a young adult. Never had I felt more alive. Feet out the window, friends in the back, a beautiful sunset accompanied by some road tunes… Those are the times we truly live, those are moments to be cherished, moments often within our grasp but too often overruled. Even though we left at 6 ‘o clock in the evening, we had plenty of time in Paris, we were back on time, and I successfully finished my paper the next day. What my paper was about, I can’t remember for the life of me. But that road trip is a memory of a lifetime. And hopefully, the first of many yet to come.