Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Trip down Memory Lane

“Hi, I’m Mark and these two are Kali, the white one, and Darwin, the gray one.” I looked up from petting the wagging fur balls that had run up to me on my way out to the camper. It is so funny how Americans always introduce themselves immediately, as if names are the most important thing during a conversation. Europeans could talk for hours before exchanging names, as I had realized more than once during my backpacking years. My eyes met those of a tall and skinny short-haired man in the doorway. “Hello. I’m Liesbet. My boyfriend Karl and I are staying with Nick for a week to visit San Francisco. Our camper is parked in front of the house.” “Camper? Why are you living in a camper?” I told him exactly why and shared my lifetime travel goals with the excitement I always feel when elaborating on my passion. Before I realized it, an hour had passed. I excused myself, ran towards our home on wheels, grabbed the CD of my favorite Belgian band dEUS and rushed back to Nick’s place. “Where have you been?” Karl asked. “Talking to a neighbor, the one with the fluffy dogs,” I answered, handing the disc over to Nick, who is an amateur disc jockey, interested in all kinds of music.

The weeks had flown by and my relationship with Mark intensified. He would leave the door to his apartment open while at work, so Karl and I could walk his dogs, together with our dog Caesar. And, I could snuggle with Kali and Darwin as much as I wanted. Today, I am not leaving, however. I am here to stay, to move in. To cuddle Kali and Darwin forever. What will Mark say about all this?

This is an excerpt of the memoir I am working on. Mark and I met in an area of Oakland called Rockridge, in November 2004. He loved living there and I enjoyed it as much, when I tossed my existing life with Karl and Caesar through the camper windows and decided to stay – unbeknownst to Mark. Now, twelve and a half years later, he and I are still together and we have returned to this quirky area. Proof that following one’s heart can have a happy ending. 🙂 This location was one of the reasons we decided to apply for our current three-week house sit, together with the fact that it started on the day we returned from Belgium. It is always good to have a roof over your head after a long trip!

In front of the Golden Gate Bridge, a few months ago

Our affinity towards nearby San Francisco was satisfied during a short sit in another area of Oakland in February – when we returned to this amazing city after an absence of 12 years – and when my cousin Griet and her husband Wim visited us and Lola in Sebastopol in the spring. This time around, we opted not to cross the bay back into the city of the Golden Gate Bridge, which we can see from nearby hills. Once the fog clears. We remained in the northern part of Oakland, revisiting fun neighborhoods and regional parks, where our “borrowed pets” Tucker and Stella could run off leash.

We met up with old friends we hadn’t seen in twelve years, like Steve and Kathy, Penn, and Eric, and made new friends with fellow house sitters Heather and Volkan. We got along so well, that we met up three times during our current Oakland stay.

While we have been socially deprived during other house sits, we sure can’t complain about that here! We even visited the Marin County Fair last week, to see UB40 in concert.

The nicest evening I had, was with my husband. On July 6th, Mark and I celebrated our tenth anniversary not too far from where we met. The official one, for readers who know the back story. It was on that day, in 2007, that Mark and I were married in Annapolis, Maryland, compliments of Homeland Security. We had a real party four years later in St. Martin with friends and family, on April 30th, 2011 – the unofficial wedding party. The owners of our current house sit left us a generous gift certificate to a local restaurant, Homestead. We decided to splurge there on an extravagant multiple course dinner. It was delicious and, between you and me, we could have never afforded it without that certificate!

In a couple of days, Mark and I are ready for a different adventure, which in a way, relates to the title of this post. We are leaving this house and its wonderful pets behind tomorrow and spend the night at a friend’s place. Eric will also keep an eye on our car. On Friday morning, we board a train from Oakland to Los Angeles. That ride will last twelve hours. Hard to believe, since it only takes 6 hours to reach the city by car. Then, we have an hour to switch trains (hopefully Amtrak is not delayed) and in the evening, we are heading towards Little Rock, Arkansas, another 50 hours away. Three days and two nights without a bed, a shower, a desk and wholesome, healthy meals. Once in Little Rock, around midnight, we spend one night in a motel, before jumping on a bus to Harrison, which is located three hours away.  There, we will run an errand, impacting our lives as house and pet sitters. Yep, it will be an adventure!

Keeping warm in the yard with a bonfire – looking forward to more of this on an upcoming camping trip

45 Comments

  1. You and Mark lead a fascinating and adventurous life. I can’t wait to read your full memoir!

    • Hopefully the first draft is done in a few months, Donna. And, you are on my short list of getting “first dips”. In return for honest criticism, so I can continue with the next drafts. 🙂

  2. Wow, what a great story. It’s always nice to hear that following your heart can pay off.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. When will this memoir be out so I can see what led you to ditch your camper mates for Mark in the span of a few weeks?! Haha. How fun to be back where it all started and to have such a great social time during this house sit; I’m sure that makes a big difference in your lives. I am developing ideas about your mission, but I will hold my tongue until you reveal your big errand in Harrison, Arkansas!

    • There is probably a good chance you are guessing it right, Lexie, because I know you have been reading my blogs and comments and you can read between the lines. 🙂 You will have to tell me next week (or in ten days) whether you were on the right path. In the meantime, enjoy Arkansas!!! As for the memoir, I’m hoping to make a lot of progress later this summer and fall, when we are committed to some house sits.

  4. Sounds like quite a trek coming up! Hope all goes well – and lovely to read some of your backstory. Happy anniversary.

    • Thank you, Anabel. Yeah… some mixed feelings about this train journey. Especially, when I am staring at all the bags (and food) we are planning to take!!!

  5. I reaally enjoyed the “snapshot” of your memoir … and was sorry it ended, as I definitely wanted to keep reading how the romance began, so am looking forward to more!!

    My oldest son lives in San Fran but work takes him to Oakland too and therefore us, when we visit. It’s a very cool interesting city for sure!! How fun for you to be back.

    That is a long train ride. On a European train it would probably be very fun, Amtrak? Am interested to read how that goes…. and ooh a secretive errand it all sounds oh so mysterious!

    Peta

    • I’m glad you are enjoying the memoir story and the mystery, Peta. There will be more about both very soon. I was playing with the idea to reveal little tidbits of my book in the future, but I probably ought to wait until I have at least a first or second draft completed! Or, there is some interest at least.

      I sure hope the Amtrak ride will be alright, and most importantly, we are not delayed after that first stretch! We will take BART to the train station tomorrow morning. It will be a bit challenging with all the luggage. And, who knows how it all works once on the train. We packed a lot of healthy food, fruit, snacks and a bottle of wine to be able to sleep in our chairs. 🙂

      Oakland has some amazingly beautiful and quirky areas. Check out this Mountain View Cemetery next time you have a chance!

  6. First off, the section from your forthcoming book gave me goosebumps! I can’t wait to read more. Second, I am so excited about your upcoming journey. I have found Amtrak travel to be a very interesting experience and especially pleasant West of Denver. Looking forward to hearing about your travel experiences and life in Arkansas. Happy Anniversary 😘

    • Thanks, Lisa. For the wishes and the encouragement. I’m sure you have quite a bit of experience taking Amtrak trains, due to your dislike of more conventional ways to travel fast. 🙂 I will send you an email once we are on the train, since we have been thinking about you and Fabio!

  7. Romance is still alive 🙂 That is a lovely story Liesbet!

  8. A great read Liesbet and a very happy anniversary to you both! ☺💜 xxx

  9. No, don’t stop there! What did Mark say when you moved in? And what errand do you have to run? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Mark said: “What the hell are you doing here?” Yep. I’m not kidding… Tears were streaming down my face as I was trying to process what I had done to my boyfriend. My few belongings were piled up in a corner, I had no home and my US visa was running out two weeks later.

      Now, for the errand story, you will have to be a bit more patient. Say, another week? 🙂

  10. I’ll save more detailed feedback for the beta read, but I will say this… I’m really excited to peek at an expansive view of what is an exciting and dramatic life!

    • That is so nice to say, Gabe. I just hope I can bring it all in an appealing and well-written manner. You’ll be the judge of that. Well, of (part of) the first or second draft anyway. 🙂

  11. How can you leave us hanging on the edge like that? Maybe you are buying a house? Well I shall be patient and await the news. Loved reading the excerpt. Your life is a fabulous story.

    • Good guess, Sue. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

      Thank you for the compliment. Maybe with a decent first draft, a decent book could follow?

  12. You don’t need to worry about your memoir at all, Liesbet. This excerpt was captivating and I can’t wait to read more! Happy anniversary.

  13. Color me intrigued. I can’t wait to read about what your AK adventures unleash.

  14. Ok, you are a big tease… and I love it! What a great love story – I want to read more (and, in case you need more beta readers, I’m available!). I’m so intrigued by your “errand.” I have a few guesses, but chances are it’s something completely unexpected. I hope you plan on filling in all the details. Enjoy your train ride… it’s a great way to travel.

    • Thanks for the beta reader offer, Janis! I might take you up on it, whenever the time is “right”. 🙂

      What is your guess? I promise, I will not answer to keep the suspense high…

      We are rerouted, because the Coastal Starlight had a multiple hour delay. So, now, we are heading inland from Oakland instead of along the coast and have to take a bus to LA from Bakersfield, where we have many hours of layover. Sitting on a very crowded train as we speak… No legroom, because of all our luggage. Tonight should be quieter and more comfy!

  15. Although I love your blog, I feel a sense of passion in that snippet about Mark (maybe Mark does that to you after all these years <3 ). I wish you lots of writing time on your long train trip! I managed to write for two hours today! It felt great! Happy anniversary!

    • Well done, Terri! Keep it up!

      I think I understand your sentiment. My blogs are fun (and easy) to write, but they do not offer much depth. Hopefully, that part is more prevalent in the memoir. No writing yet on this crowded and noisy train. But, I have comments and other things to catch up on. I will never ever get bored! 🙂

  16. I had no idea you had such an interesting back story to your relationship with Mark. Your memoir is going to be fascinating to read! I’m dying to know what your secret errand is and what this trip is all about.

  17. By the time I’ve skim read the comments too I’ve got a good idea what’s going on. The best thing is your happiness together, Liesbet. It’s not a lifestyle that would suit everybody but you’re making it work. Well done to you both, and I hope that journey works out well. 🙂 🙂

    • Let’s see whether you guessed it right, Jo. 🙂 I will need much more time to write blogs and figure things out at this moment, so the suspense will have to be in the air for a week or so longer. Part of the problem is that this journey is not working out as smoothly as expected…

  18. I loved your little excerpt Liesbet and the story about the name game. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures with us, and I have to say, I love St. Martin, it’s my favorite island in the Caribbean. The people are friendly, the beaches are beautiful, the food is delicious and oh, the shopping, don’t get me started! 🙂 xx

    • St. Martin has a good mix of everything (especially shopping!), but it is a bit too busy for us. The beaches are very lovely, though, and we have some good memories about the island from the three winters we spent there on our boat. A good place to run a business! 🙂

      • Yes it always does seem like the island is hopping. I’ve been going there every year for quite some years as a day or two stop on a Caribbean cruise. I’ve also been there for a 2 week holiday. I just love it. 🙂

  19. The excerpt from your memoir is a tease! I am looking forward to reading more of the story.

    I have been to Little Rock, AR, and it is a great little city. Enjoy your time there.

    Jude

    • Thanks, Jude. We were supposed to have only one night in Little Rock, unfortunately. Reality (meaning Amtrak delays) turned that into just a few hours on which we needed some rest and work done. So, we did not get to see anything but twilight from the Uber ride to our hotel. Hopefully, we will be back one day!

  20. This area seems so charming, Liesbet! I am looking forward to read more of your memoir!

    • Thanks, Agness. The memoir is temporarily on hold, because my full-time help is needed with our business right now. I hope to get back to it again next month.

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