Published On: Tue, Jul 31st, 2018

A liberating experience

Hilbert Haar - foto Milton PietersBy Hilbert Haar

We’re getting closer to the beginning of our big trip towards Asia. St. Maarten is in the rearview mirror, after we left the island at the end of June. It is still weird not to be involved in what’s happening out there. There is so much to say – and to write – about this place that we’ve called home with great pleasure for twelve years. But with so much distance between us, I don’t think it’s fair to open my big mouth telling everybody what’s what. That’s history now, but St. Maarten will for always be in our hearts.

During the past couple of weeks, we’ve visited out children and grandchildren in the Netherlands and our family in Belgium. Soon we’ll be in Paris to see a couple friends before we hop on a plane to Warsaw and from thereon to Moscow and places further down the (rail) road.

As reasonably seasoned we may be as travelers, the adventure ahead of us is of a different nature. When we left our 40 square meter apartment in Mont Vernon, on the French side of the island, we had to pack our life into a large suitcase. It weighed all of 26 kilos.

Since our arrival in Europe, we have taken another bite of our earthly possessions. Now everything has to fit in two backpacks. That means getting rid of jeans, shirts, shorts and everything else that is only going to bog us down. Hard drives have been replaced by USB sticks and right now I wonder why on earth I bought a laptop and what I am going to do with my camera and my Kindle.

Everything that seemed reasonable sized when I was still at home now seems too large, too heavy and too cumbersome to drag along.

I’m telling you, throwing things away – or, as we did with a lot of stuff – donate it to the Red Cross or another charity – is a liberating experience. You start wondering why you needed all that stuff in the first place. All this came even clearer into focus during our stay at my youngest sister in law who hasn’t been able to throw anything away for the past five hundred years. (I’m kidding but I figure that you get the picture).

Also, I started to get slightly uneasy about being retired. I began to wonder about my sense of purpose. Traveling seems just fine – and exciting – but at the end of the day you just want to do something. For all those who are looking forward to retirement without a plan – be careful what you wish for.

Hilbert Haar life in two backpacks

Now that our earthly possessions have been whittled down to two backpacks, the trip of our life is becoming more real. So far, the weather has been fantastic; it’s like we never left the Caribbean. Paris is gonna be hot and the forecast for Warsaw is also very Caribbean.

I am still torn between the life I left behind in St. Maarten en the life ahead of me. I follow the developments – if there are any – around the dump and I wonder whether the Parliament in Philipsburg will have the guts to call a referendum about independence. That would be the cream on the cake for Jose Lake Jr.!

From wherever we will be, we will keep an eye on the weather in the Caribbean. And while I’m not into praying, I sure wish that the current hurricane season will be kind to the island that I have come to love so much.