Liesbet’s Life Less Ordinary: An Alternative Lifestyle

I love to imagine living an alternative lifestyle, “a life less ordinary.” My imagination will, unfortunately, have to suffice. I’m too much of a homebody to ever become a “full-time nomad” or “lifetime adventurer.” But I thoroughly enjoy living the life vicariously through the wonderful blog Roaming About: A Life Less Ordinary  by Profound Journey tribe member, Liesbet Collaert.

Every phrase in quotation marks in the above paragraph comes from Liesbet’s blog, and every phrase is supported by fascinating accounts of her adventures. While many of us may, like Mark Twain, dream of throwing off the bowlines and leaving the safe harbour of our lives, Liesbet and her husband Mark have done just that, and they’ve been doing it for years.

Liesbet took up my invitation to contribute a tribe story by responding to 20 of the 25 Slightly Scary Deep Questions Worth Asking Yourself. Reading them, I just kept thinking, “Wow, is her memoir ever going to be fascinating!”

Enjoy.

1. What trip have you taken that had a huge impact on you?

When I was 24, I took a year-long break from teaching in Belgium to backpack around South East Asia. I started out with a friend the first month and the rest of the year, I was on my own. I adapted to the moment, made all my decisions based on what I wanted to do and where I felt like going, and created a lot of real life connections. There was no Facebook or blogging back then.

One unexpected revelation was that I never really felt alone, since you meet so many like-minded people out there when traveling a certain way. The cultures and sights I encountered were diverse and awe-inspiring, and I felt happy and strong to be traveling by myself–deciding to tag along with others when I had fun and going my own way again when it had been enough or I didn’t like the company. What a great adventure!

My life is a string of great trips–like shorter, multiple-month backpacking trips before this one and multiple-year camper and sailing trips after. The answer to this question could turn into a whole book.

2. Who is your favourite character in fiction? Why?

I rarely read fiction so no favorite character. I sometimes feel like I live in my own fictional world and that keeps me entertained enough.

3. What would you do if you could not fail?

Get rid of ignorance and arrogance in the world, improve the environment, save all pets that don’t have a happy life, make ideological, smart and caring politicians succeed, remove the desire for money and power, erase violence and fanaticism and then some.

4. What can you never imagine buying? (question from Natalie Goldberg)

A house, make-up, the latest and greatest gadget, fancy clothes, stuff that does not have a good use in our lives, bulky things.

5. If you were writing a book, what would it be about?

My alternative lifestyle, trials and tribulations, 24/7 relationship and adventures. How to explore the world on a tight budget. I guess I’m going to need to write a few books.

6. What is your body telling you?

To be more relaxed and less perfectionistic, to exercise more, to keep eating healthy, to get rid of that belly fat.

7. If you could be famous, what would you like to be famous for?

Inspiring people to live the life they enjoy most. To make them think outside the box. To encourage and inform them about living an alternative lifestyle. 

There are no ordinary moments.

Dan Millman

8. What life advice do you give to your friends? (question from Danielle LaPorte)

Do what you like, like what you do. You only live once, take full advantage of that opportunity. Now is the time that matters.

9. Who was your favourite teacher? What made him or her so special?

My geography teacher in 11th and 12th grade. He was strict, but fair, passionate about his subject and his travels. He was smart about the way I challenged him.woman hugging small black dog

10. What do you want that you can’t have?

More time. Being able to get younger instead of older. Or, remain this age.

11. Describe a perfect ‘ordinary’ day.

No day is ever ordinary, because of our lifestyle. My current perfect ordinary day–something I manage to achieve once in a while–would be to get up at 7a.m., exercise or walk the dog(s) for a bit, have breakfast, work on my memoir until lunch, read or work on other projects until 4 p.m., go on an hour-long walk with the dog(s) we are sitting, and relax after that.

12. If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

If I knew the answer, I would be living there! We are kind of trying to figure that out (and have been for several years already). The conclusion: perfect does not exist. We have not found a place that we like enough to get settled. Therefore, we keep roaming about at our own pace.

13. What do you most value in your friends?

That they are themselves, care, stay in touch, and make time for me in their busy lives.

14. What have you collected?

A lot of memories and experiences, but on a more tangible level: masks and little wooden statues from all the countries I visited. This habit had to stop a decade or so ago, since we permanently lived in campers, boats, cars and other people’s houses. These souvenirs are stored in boxes at my parents’ house in Belgium.

15. When are you most yourself?

I’m most myself when I am in a good mood. When I am with people dear to me–friends and family.

16. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the last few days?

The last ten days have been hectic and trying–being on the train tracks and the road, while having to run our business and taking care of a new development that required a lot of time and patience. The best thing that happened took place last night, to conclude this gruelling period: once settled into our new house sit (unpacked and organized) in Sebastopol, Northern California, I sat in the hot tub around 10 p.m. Pure bliss….

17. What is most important to you at this time in your life?

Completing a few projects while in the U.S., so we can be totally free again after that–hopefully we need no more than another couple of years.

18. Which culture, other than your own, speaks to you? (question from Julia Cameron)

Being immersed in the Polynesian culture while in French Polynesia left a deep impression on me. I am also attracted to peaceful cultures found in Buddhist countries and to African drumming events.

19. What smells give you a sense of wellbeing? (question from Julia Cameron)

Monoi oil, which reminds me of the tropics and the South Pacific. The smell of the ocean always produces a smile on my face. I also like to be around freshly cut grass and fragrant flowers.

20. What dream have you had more than once?

I have many recurring, vivid dreams. One of them is about my teeth falling out, another about fighter planes readying to attack my parents’ house and having to quickly pack our bags to get out of there. (I have become an expert on packing up quickly, in my dreams and in real life.) I have many “chase” dreams, where I have to escape the bad guys or fool them into releasing me. When we lived on our sailboat for eight years, I often dreamt about our boat, Irie, running aground and “driving” overland. There is always a lot of action going on in my dreams, which is exciting, but makes me feel tired when I get up.

Does an alternative lifestyle appeal to you? If so, what might it look like? What’s holding you back from living your dreams?

38 comments

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Anabel. I enjoy reading your blog. You have quite the adventurer’s spirit yourself. I appreciate the gentle way you impart information about your destinations as well as your personal impressions.

    2. That feeling of returning home must be quite special. It is probably the only thing I miss in this lifestyle. The solution: getting a home that moves with you. 🙂 I think you have struck the right balance between gallivanting and enjoying the home front, Anabel!

      1. It is a special feeling. I can imagine when John retires we might take off for a bit longer – months rather than weeks – but I can’t imagine giving up a static home altogether.

        1. And neither should you! 🙂 The main reason I would like to have a static home some day is to finally find a spot for all my souvenirs. Decorating and organizing a house will give me much pleasure, I think. But, it is not really a reason to settle, and by the time that happens, I might have gotten rid of all those memories as they are stored at my parents’ place, who plan to move next year.

  1. What a fascinating life you have lived thus far, Liesbet! Wow, you are much braver than I would ever be. Somehow I don’t think I could travel alone as I would be too scared of something bad happening with no one to help, I am so glad you have Mark to share your travels with now and together it sounds like the two of you are having non-stop fun.

    I am with Karen, I think your memoir sounds like it will be a wonderful read and a real page turner. I will have to keep an eye out for it on the bookshelves at my local Coles Bookstore.

    Who is that cutie in your arms in the picture above? You mention a new house in answer to question #16 above…what made you buy a house and was it easy to transition from globe trotting to being a homeowner?

    Well done, Liesbet, thank you for submitting your answers to some of the questions… learning about other Tribe Members this way is great – it feels like sitting with a friend over coffee catching up on all the things that have happened since you last saw them.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I enjoyed reading your contributions as well.

      After one year of backpacking by myself, I did feel it had been enough and I had pushed my limits a bit too far at times. There were some scary moments, after which I took a mental note to travel with a partner from then on… I will, however, never again feel that sensation of freedom I had on that trip.

      I am very fortunate that Mark is on the same page as me when it comes to our lifestyle (if not, I’d have to leave him, right?:-)), but, just to be clear, we are not having non-stop fun. Unfortunately. That might happen once we retire, or not have our own business anymore. There is a lot of stress, especially during the week, and combining a very responsible and demanding job with our lifestyle has its challenges… But, it is our choice, so we better deal with it. 🙂

      The little black dog is Stella, one of two dogs we pet sat for three weeks in Oakland, California a few weeks ago. Just like the house I mentioned in the question you refer to is a house we are currently taking care of (with a sweet dog called Lola) in Sebastopol, California. Mark and I are house and pet sitters, which is how we live rent-free in different places of the country. It gives us the freedom we desire right now, while providing enough comfort and stability. There is no money involved on either side, we love animals and are not interested in settling down. Yet. 🙂

      1. Wow, thanks for clearing that up Liesbet. Ahh, now it makes sense how there is a house you mentioned…I was trying to reconcile that with storing your souvenirs at your parent’s place, lol, I guess I was missing the connection. Running a business while traveling as you do must be challenging at times but as you said you chose the lifestyle so you will also figure out a way to do everything you want to as well. I admire you for all the places and things you have seen and have yet to see – I have not been very far at all with the exception of a few trips. I really think memories and experiences are WAY more important in the long run than any physical, material item you could have. Kudos to you for living your life to the full. Onward to your next adventure!! I was serious BTW about wanting to read your memoir – I am sure it will be fascinating. 😀

        1. Thanks, Susan. First, it has to be written! 🙂 I’m learning that just having some stories to tell and experiences to share is not enough to produce an appealing memoir.

          1. People are lining up to read your memoir, Liesbet! I hope that makes you feel a good kind of pressure – not crazy, over the top, ” I must get this done” pressure, but “I’m inspired to keep writing” pressure. Writing can be such a lonely business. I hope that knowing we’re all rooting for you makes a positive difference.

  2. Thank you so much for these thought-provoking questions and for featuring my answers, my blog and my lifestyle on Profound Journey, Karen. This is such a safe and positive haven. I am happy and proud to be a member of your tribe!

    1. I’m grateful to you for taking up my invitation, Liesbet. It’s people like you, the two Frans, Susan, and Donna who are helping to make Profound Journey a safe, supportive and positive community for all of us. I really hope that others will be encouraged to share with us as well.

  3. Hello Liesbet

    I enjoyed reading about your life style and actually clicked on your blog link to read more. You have made very interesting choices!

    Further to this, I just recently I was in contact with a friend whom I met while we worked at an international school in England. She and her husband retired back to the states while we were there. They probably stayed in the states for about seven years.

    They often said they missed the adventure of being an international nomad.

    After six years they have decided to put their house up for rent, put their valuables in storage and to do a long term trip to the United Kingdom and living in rented B&B’s.

    Just thinking that it is hard to get that sense of wondering and adventuring out of your system after having lived it for so long. Here is my friend and her husband heading back out to live an unusual life, after attempting to live the usual life.

    Like I said I enjoyed reading about your life style. Certainly gives me food for thought!

    1. Hi Fran,
      I think you’ve got a bit of that international nomad in you too! I wonder if your wanderlust will kick in again now that you’ve retired, or if your desire for adventure will take a different form. It will be so interesting to find out.

  4. Thanks Fran, for reading, sharing your thoughts and hopping over to my blog. I know exactly what your friend and her husband felt, after trying to settle. This wanderlust is almost like a disease, but a fun one. If it is a part of you, you can’t avoid it. I am also realizing that, the longer you live an unusual life, the harder it is to settle down (in a Western society anyway). The fast pace and the priorities of most people don’t jive with what one was used to for years. We experienced this when we left our sailboat after eight years on the water. This lifestyle of house and pet sitting has a good mix of both worlds.

    Speaking of that, maybe your friends should look into doing that in the U.K. House sitting is much more popular there even than in the US and the owners we just sat for in Oakland did exactly that on their trip to the U.K. They house sat for people there. It is an interesting and very affordable way to get around and switch it up with Bed and Breakfasts.

    1. Hi again, I was wondering how to get my friend to be in touch with you for some advice on doing house sitting. Can you help us out?
      Fran

      1. Hi Fran,

        I gladly help out.

        Under “About US” on the top of my blog http://www.roamingabout.com there is a “contact us” selection. If your friend clicks on that and contacts me via the form, I have her email address and then, I can send her a private email with some info. Hope that helps.

          1. You’re welcome, Fran. I was going to add a link to this comment of a blog post I wrote a while ago that might get them started with the house sitting, but it appears as spam, so I can’t post it. If your friend types “How to find the right house sit?” in the search box of my Roaming About website, she will get there as well.

            And, there is a free Facebook page which is called “House Sitting World” with a lot of info and helpful people.

            Take care!

  5. Hi, Liesbet – You definitely inspire others to think out of the box and live fuller lives. You certainly have done this for me! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this post. And thank you to Karen for the invitation and thought-provoking questions!

    1. You know, Donna, that’s the best thing anyone can tell me, that they were inspired by me. Thanks for the compliment! Now, go do some more walking… 🙂 I assume you are taking the day off today, so I hope you get to see the sights of Leon.

  6. Thanks for the inspiring words about my memoir, Karen. It is nice to know that people are interested in it! Now, if I could only have more time to work on it. There always seems to be “more important” developments in our lives that warrant another book writing break. One day, I will succeed. 🙂

    1. Yes, you absolutely will, Liesbet. I can’t find the pithy quotation right now, but there’s one (probably many more than one) that reminds us that success comes to those who keep showing up.
      Have a great day.

  7. I’m sorry that I am late with this comment – between traveling and house guests, I still haven’t gotten up to date with my emails and blog reading.

    My husband and I had the great pleasure of having Liesbet and Mark over for dinner at our home. They have amazing stories to tell and are truly inspirational. And, they are incredibly nice… how great is that?! I encourage anyone who is not currently following her blog to subscribe.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Janis. That must have been an amazing dinner. I hope that some day I’ll get a chance to meet you, Liesbet, Donna…. in person. Ditto on encouraging everyone to subscribe to Liesbet’s blog. And to yours too, Janis. Any chance now that you’re home and house guest free that you might like to do a tribe story for Profound Journey? No pressure and no rush; just thought I’d test the waters.

      1. Hi Karen. I just saw this as I was going through my emails… I’m so far behind! I would love to participate. I have a guest blog coming up with Donna at the end of September, then one in Oct. After that, maybe? Let me know how it works. I love being a member of this tribe!

        1. Hi Janis,
          I’ve written you an email to tell you about the process. I am glad that you are a member of the Profound Journey tribe, and that you are interested in contributing a tribe story. You’ve made my day!

    2. Aaaw, thank you, Janis! Mark and I loved meeting you as well and hope we can repeat the experience in the not too distant future. One evening was way too short! I’m glad that you are having a wonderful and exciting summer, full of adventures and visits. 🙂

  8. Ever since I discovered Liesbet’s blog (via Donna’s blog), I have greatly enjoyed reading about Liesbet’s adventures. It is also fun to connect online with fellow writers and learn about their writing projects and processes. That is another reason that I like Liesbet’s blog.

    Liesbet, your life of travel is fascinating, and the story of it will make a great memoir.

    Jude

    1. Thank you, Jude! I am very happy to have found your blog as well!

      While the memoir project has been temporarily put on hold, because my help is needed with our business right now, I am looking forward to writing more soon and finishing that project. Problem is… I have been collecting so much material in the form of experiences, adventures and memories, that I can fill multiple memoirs. 🙂

  9. I was just today reading an article by a woman who said that her secret to being a good writer is living a life of adventure and learning. I agree, Jude, that Liesbet’s memoir can’t help but be a good one given the experiences she has had and so graciously shared with us through her blog and here on Profound Journey.

    1. Karen, I appreciate the faith that you have in my writing. 🙂 Yes, the lifestyle and content is there, but putting all that in an attractive package that is enjoyable and inspiring to read…mmmmm… not so easy. 🙂

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