Exactly two years ago today I took a train to Paris and flew to Madagascar to spend two months in a remote village and embark on a new journey. The time I spent as a volunteer in Andavadoaka was absolutely fantastic (read about it in more detail here) and as we were saying goodbye to the local staff I promised to myself that I would be back one day.
Many people admired me for my courage to leave on my own, shortly before my wedding, but the circumstances of my professional life were “arranged by destiny” in a way that it was more of a necessity that I take a break, than a courageous decision. (Encountering an unbearable manager can in fact help you end up in Madagascar!) (Although I can’t say I wasn’t on occasions rather impressed with myself for signing up to live in very simple conditions with only a few hours of electricity per day, to shower with salty water, to be in one of the most remote places of the planet where, if anything happens to me I’d need to be evacuated by my insurance company on a helicopter because there is no other solution…)
To my greatest surprise, I’ve never felt so free in my life as there. I’m someone always in to-do-list mode, so being away from it all (office work, family, friends, social media, my own expectations of what I should be doing, the assumed expectations Im convinced others have towards me) was a really unusual and uplifting experience.
Another aspect that made this experience so positive was the fact that our lives were so simple. We lived by a strict schedule: all meals at a set hour, we all had different tasks and no one had to bother about what to make for dinner or what to do over the weekend. Simplicity is really really healing. When electricity is out at 9 pm, you definitely don’t waste hours on the internet before going to bed… When you have the choice between going sailing and snorkelling or seeing the baobab trees, you don’t feel overwhelmed (and you get to do both!)… When you have 3 T-shirts to choose from in the morning, you don’t spend 40 minutes in front of your mirror, wondering what to wear… And when your feet are in the sand, you feel the sun and the wind on your skin, you cannot help but to be in the present moment. And all of these little details help to put your mind at rest.
It was very challenging to come back and find my rythm again because I suddenly had to face the fact that I was unemployed and there was absolutely no position on the horizon that I found remotely interesting. At the same time the thought of spending endless hours in an office every day not making much of a difference and leading an overly predictable life for the next few decades did not appeal to me either. Let’s face it, it’s not an easy transition from climbing baobab trees and sailing to uninhabited islands one day to being unemployed and trying to figure out what to do with my life after such an uprooting experience.
Something was awakened in me in Madagascar and I wanted to continue living my life as an adventure and be excited about every day. (I’ve learnt the expression ‘YOLO’ in Madagascar (You Only Live Once) and was determined to embrace it back home too). Months of heavy soul searching followed and I eventually decided to start doing illustrations, which truly feels like an adventure and to be honest, is much more suited for me than anything I’ve tried before.
However, I left a piece of my heart in Madagascar and really really appreciated the project I joined, so I kept thinking about when and how to go back.
My husband and I had been nurturing the idea of a sabbatical year for a while and returning to Andava suited the plan, but he had a full time job and it just never seemed like the right moment. That is, until last December, when the stars were aligned, he resigned and we set the date to embark on a new journey. This time together.
In exactly a month from now, we are going back to Madagascar for 3 months, and after some time with our families in the summer, taking a cargo boat to South America to do 3 months of backpacking.
I really look forward to living the adventure with him, to prioritising having fun over to-do-lists, to working with Blue Ventures again, to drawing a LOT in all the places we’ll visit and to seeing what comes out of such an unusual year.