A joyful, magic, whiff of life inhabits her, the one of someone in their early 20s. Her kindness twinkles across her smile, her brightness pierces through her words and she has that melodic, gentle voice that complements calm but resolute spirits. She seems the kind of person capable of silent revolutions.
Anabelle is 23 years old, she is from Belgium and she’s travelling with her boyfriend Virgile. They met at a music festival and, in the noise and the commotion, perhaps, they found each other thanks to the rhythm of their respective strengths, drawn to one another by the unique light their heart produce when they’re happy. And they started to dance, in this life, together.
The two of us and the two of them were on the same boat. We had hitched a ride to the island of Koh Rong Sanloem and, for some strange reason, Anabelle recognised Jyl.
Imagine two people, working for the same startup in Brussels; they do almost the same job, but at different times, so that they never meet, they just cross each other.
At the time this story begun, she was doing her internship, while he had just stopped working there.
Fast forward roughly a year, the same two people bump into each other on a supply boat on the way to a tiny Cambodian island, in the gulf of Thailand.
What are the odds of running into one another, here? What are the odds of recognising someone after meeting them briefly, some time ago?
Those two people, that in another world would have been colleagues, both felt the call to travel, one quitting everything to go on adventure and the other wanting to experience the world before starting her career. Is this a wild universe or what?
Their arch intertwined twice. Or maybe a thousand times, who knows. The important thing is that we are here, now, and this world, this life, seems to be nothing but a grand, thundering, scary and magnetic sphere of chaos. It’s a journey in itself trying to find the magic string, the fil rouge that connects us with others.
The doors of nature
We spent a couple of days hanging out, crossing one another on the tiny bay and getting to know each other, then we made plans to go for a hike to Clear Water bay, on the north-east side of the island.
It was a 2 hours walk under the scorching sun, complete of jungle, mosquitoes, centipedes, many litres of water and a thick bamboo stick, but we were rewarded with an enchanting sight, made of white thin sand, the bluest of seas and a deserted stretch of land where the only noises where our laughter and the waves crashing on the shoreline.
There is just something special about walking together in nature, isn’t it? Somehow, it brings people closer, putting them in the right mind space to open up. Hours went by while talking about life. I learned that Anabelle recently got her bachelor in graphic design, that she has a younger sister and that she is very close to both her mother and grandmother. She seems to have had quite an eventful upbringing and I start to understand how much and how fast she must’ve had to grow up.
While she talks, her fortitude and her courage light up like patches of sunshine between the leaves of the trees, and her ability to be vulnerable looks like the fiercest of weapons to hold in this world.
Every journey is a mirror, every journey is a window
Anabelle always wanted to travel, but life got in the way, time and timing often seemed wrong before, and she is overjoyed to finally be able to go and explore the world.
Often people who couldn’t seize an opportunity, perhaps as a result of a challenging personal or family situation, tend to be the most grateful, the ones who knows how much it takes to carve your own path in life.
And this is a lot of what I see in her. An intelligent, sensitive, empathetic and determined young woman, who is shaping her way, graciously facing the complexity of life head first.
When I ask her what she wants from travelling, what she expects from this journey, she smiles, the constellations of freckles dances on her face as she tells me that she wanted something good for herself, something that would fulfil her hunger for adventure and satisfy her burning curiosity. As for the expectations that she had for this trip she ended up leaving them behind, as she no longer needed to hold on to them. Something along the way reminded her that, if you just let it, life often exceeds your expectations.
Travelling is about putting yourself out there, being uncomfortable at times and finding precious gems where you least expect them to be. If you decide to do so, travelling can be a form of inner work, a hard love letter from the world to you, a chance to grow and a keepsake for you to be present, to not live your life in autopilot.
Reassigning meaning along the way
For Anabelle, one of the most meaningful part of the journey so far has been about realising how to let things happen, how to let go, preventing anxiety from overriding this experience. She likes to feel that she has control over things:
“It’s an interesting ongoing process, learning to face my fears, to change habits I thought I could not change, to go with the flow and being open to new things and people. And so far it’s been wonderful.”
As the time passes, she also experiences one of the best side effects of travelling, which turns out to be also a great asset to use in many occasion: perspective. Back in Europe, Anabelle thought that maybe she wasn’t cut out for Belgium, maybe one day she would’ve left for good, finding her home abroad.
But leaving, gradually gave her some newfound appreciation for her home country, she slowly realised that she was so used to living in Brussels that she stopped seeing many of the beautiful aspects of it.
We all do this, at times, habits make us blind and oblivious, they make us numb to the millions of things that make up our life, every day. It’s a gift to be able to regain that childlike look, even if just for a while, practising that intentionality and attentiveness that makes every fibre of our being feel so incredibly alive.
Ripples of Kindness
If there is one thing that is incompatible with being human, is being static. We simply can’t. We change. We fail, we strive, we succeed, we collect triumphs and defeats – but we learn.
Learning to be kind, to forgive ourselves and the people we love for hurting us, is something too often overlooked, misunderstood and undervalued. Kindness is the stuff of fairy tales, of fabled heroes and heroines and, after all, these are the times where everyone needs to be tough.
But to deny its place in the real world is to undermine its power. Kindness is not weak, kindness is mighty, and Anabelle seems to practice this with the freshness of youth, almost as if she could glide above the ugliness of this world. To accept nothing less than kindness from ourselves and from others can be revolutionary.
If you feel like getting to know Anabelle’s travel buddy, another triber who crossed our path and shared with us his contagious energy, check out Virgil’s profile.