Going on an unplanned holiday creates a feeling of both excitement and anxiety, depending on how you deal with things. The excitement comes from the high degree of freedom, opening yourself to all possibilities during travel and letting go of any expectation. At the same time, anxiety also exists because of anticipation that something could go wrong. But whatever happens, whether good or bad, these are just part of your travel experience that will let you grow as a person. For a good travel experience, it is important to learn zen and the art of traveling. Below I’ll give the chronicles of our travel to Ardennes, Belgium and how we learned to embrace the concept of zen and the art of traveling.
It was midnight of Friday when we decided it would be nice to go on a holiday road trip the next day, to the Belgian-French Ardennes. We booked four-days in La Sapiniere Hostellerie on the last minute and hoped to get the hotel confirmation on Saturday morning. If the hotel would not confirm, then we would move our holidays to the next weekend. Luckily, we received a confirmation so our plans proceeded. We planned to leave at 12 noon since check in time starts at 16:00, while the travel time from Netherlands to the hotel takes 3.5 hours (but in reality, it took five hours due to detours and stopovers). It was a perfect opportunity to practice driving since I just got my driving license a month ago and I had to test drive our newly bought hybrid car. We wanted to start using car on future holidays because it is more sustainable than flying.
However, the moment we stepped in our car, it failed to work! We only reached the parking lot a few meters away from our home. Without a car, it is impossible to reach the hotel since it would take 11 hours going by public transport. We called our car insurance for help, thus the insurance sent a mechanic to inspect our car. The mechanic couldn’t exactly identify the problem, therefore he suggested to bring the car to a nearby garage and that would take few days to fix the car. Helaas pindakaas! (A Dutch expression meaning how unfortunate (event), but you accept the event that happened for the way it is). We just paid our hotel reservation a few hours ago when we received the confirmation. Did we have to cancel our spontaneous holiday? No, we stayed zen, zen is the secret art of traveling. A few minutes later, a wonderful news came in. We would get a replacement car according to our insurance. Therefore we could still go on holiday. We got a relatively new Hyundai car, which we drove to Ardennes.
We thought that our unfortunate event is over, however, it actually just began. Driving was going well until we reached Antwerp Belgium, then my older son started puking in the car. Thus we needed to find the nearest gas station, which according to Google map, was 15 minutes off the highway. We followed the map, and it brought us to a remote gas station without a store and comfort rooms. Helaas pindakaas! We wasted time and gasoline. It was 16:30 and we were only half way to our destination. Going back to the highway, we saw a gas station that was actually few minutes drive from where we exited going to that remote gas station. Helaas pindakaas! Our spirit was reaching its lowest point, but anyway, we had to let go of this setbacks and to continue driving. After 2.5 hours we reached the winding, mountaneous, but beautiful road of Ardennes. Still, my older boy puked for two more times while the younger one cried for hunger after sleeping few hours. Thus we needed to stop to breast feed my young baby and to clean my older one. It was tiring. But my older son never cried and he was still smiling after all the road sickness. How could he be so Zen? This inspired us to accept things as they come. If the kid can enjoy every part of travel experience despite bad events, so us parents.
The moment we reached the hotel, we forgot the burden of the travel. We were welcomed by a medieval castle-like hotel with a spacious room and a German portion (=huge amount) three course meal. This is how life should be enjoyed. All the exhaustions after our series of unfortunate events were washed away by food and drinks and a relax environment. Finally, we could enjoy our trip.
Of course, our unfortunate events did not stop when reaching Ardennes. My youngest boy got sick on the first night and stayed ill throughout the travel. He got diarrhea and fever. Good thing, we did not have any strict agenda or plan so we just enjoyed our holiday in a relax way with lots of resting. It was nice that the hotel has facilities for kids so we didn’t need to be outside the whole time. Despite the limited days, we still managed to discover the exotic beauty of Ardennes.
Overall, we had a great holiday despite many surprising turn of events, by simply traveling without expectation and enjoying whatever came on our way. I guess we discovered zen and the art of traveling. 😉 On top of that, many things that initially looked negative or curses could actually be blessings in disguise. For instance, when we picked up our hybrid car in the Netherlands, the inverter needed replacement, which costs €1,500. However, the costs were fully covered by the manufacturer and this instantly upgraded an essential part of our car for free! How lucky it is? Moreover, we saved our car a 1000 KM driving distance. 😉 And finally, the experience boosts my confidence in driving making me realize that I can just drive anywhere around Europe and the rest of the world. Indeed, learning zen and the art of traveling is the key to enjoying whatever comes on your way during travel!