on the silk route 2010 / 2012

The Love story

Namaste! My good name is Hester. Most who are reading Teun’s stories know me a little already and others I could have met along the Silk Route since I traveled parts of it. Finally I can say that I’m joining the trip after what you can call a sweet love story.

‘So he fancy’s girls?! He is not gay? ‘Than you definitely have to join me for dinner’. I said a little shocked to my friend Jacco. That evening me, Teun ánd Jacco had dinner for the first time – a week after we met at a thrilling dance party in Amsterdam. Me and Jacco were curious if he still had ‘the moustache’. He did!

We made plans to have a drink together (which spontaneously evolved in dinner plans) after a telephone call in which I learned that:

  • Teun has a back bone: he turned down my invitation to join me and friends to a gay club (remember I thought he was gay and I was happy to add another gay friend to my collection). He already made plans to study the next day.
  • He just came home from a live music concert: nice way to spend the Friday night!
  • He played football, as a forward ánd he was gay: interesting combination ;)
  • He was going to travel the world for a year in a minicar that is used by disabled people in The Netherlands: WOW!

The last was incredible to believe! And here I am doing the same. To plan such a remarkable thing and actually make it happen also touched me. I was ‘searching’ you could say, finding my own path in life. My job of 4 years was finished which I didn’t really enjoy in the first place. I was uncertain what steps or career move to take next: study, travel, maybe an internship combining the 2? At age 30 I found myself at the ‘30’s dilemma’. I felt the freedom to do whatever I set my mind to, but how to lead the rest of my life? The last 3 years I lived a free spirited, uncommitted single life. Working, playing sports and discovering myself and my new found freedom after a relationship of 10 years. I was a party girl: enjoying the Amsterdam party scene with my friends. Losing my job was a good opportunity to make a change. I wanted to be more aware of the choices I was making. I wanted to use my qualities better. I wanted to live a more conscious and more meaningful life.

With this new awareness I met Teun and we fell in love. It didn’t matter that it was not convenient so short (2 months) before he started his trip; apparently when you fall in love there is nothing you can do about it. Striking moments for me were:

  • Teun reading to me what he had written about me in his journal.
  • Rolling all the way from the dune to the beach while holding each other tight in the middle of the winter.
  • Teun waking me up with 2 cappuccino’s in his hand after I canceled our morning coffee date – what a nice way to wake up after the party until early hours.
  • The relaxed way my parents and Teun met at Chistmas night; spontaneously coming to their house to see me. Teun actually fall asleep on their couch.

On New Year’s Day – after an incredible party in an old Dutch Factory and later on with Teun in club Trouw – a month before saying farewell, Teun asked if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I was too tired to say no ;) . Without really being aware of it we made good use of the little time we had. It gave me a preview how active we were together: spontaneous couchsurfing in Brussel; buying crazy outfits to surprise Jacco on his goodbye party and actually wearing them; ice skating on a beautifull frozen protected lake; meeting family and some of each other’s friends with the Winter Wooferland party as summon.

The first thing I wrote in my journal about the crazy bird was to always be honest to Teun. No matter the consequences. I used to hide parts of myself while getting to know somebody new. With Teun it didn’t matter that he might not like the real me, first came our friendship. That was and still is most important. To accept the other person as he/she is, means also accept that you might not stay together when personalities and behavior don’t match any more. We would not take each other for granted. It got tested too, this honest view on relationships. It also helped us to say goodbye in January.

On the ‘glam rock meets rainbows & butterflies’ goodbye party I met most of Teun’s friends for the first time. ‘Hello, how do you know Teun?’ ‘Hello, I’m Hester, I’m Teun’s girlfriend’. ‘Teun has a girlfriend?’ As we were shining with love, the questions came: ‘It must be very difficult that he is leaving?’ Uhm, yes and no.

  • No not really, ‘it will be interesting to see what will happen’ I explained. We had set each other free, free of any boundaries what also meant that both us were free to meet others too. Not to shield yourself from meeting others is the only honest way to experience what we mean for each other. All or nothing. Our only commitment was to be honest about everything. We made plans to coach each other in what we’d find on our paths.
  • Yes, it definitely proved to be difficult ;) . I remember the unstoppable tears when Vera’s mum’s car left Teun and Sulky in Keulen. Without Teun I drove back with Vera and her mother from our skiing trip. It was like a tedious movie scene with Teun running to the car again for a final last kiss through the open window.

And so we said goodbye for the first time, and already met again a month later in Croatia! Here I saw the joy of traveling with Sulky. I already knew how some Dutch people reacted to the car: in Venlo most not particularly interested – what a difference in Zagreb. It was an ongoing horning and waving to all the smiles on people’s faces. After 2 intense weeks together we found that we were pretty serious about each other. We said goodbye for the second time, not knowing when we would see each other again. Teun wanted to set a date to travel together in The Middle East. I couldn’t: my dream was to go to New York and find a job there. Falling seriously in love with Teun made it difficult to unravel this plan. How to plan for your future while another thing concerning it can’t be planned and is consuming you too? It was only when my close friend Saskia asked me to join her to a wedding in Israel that I decided to go. How beautiful to combine the Middle-East trip with Teun with a short holiday partying the fore-seen goodbye tears away in Tel Aviv.

When I packed my back-pack I had little money in my pocket and didn’t know what to expect from this trip. We wouldn’t only explore other cultures but also each other. The trip was full of proving ourselves to each other and doing crazy things. I found out that Teun’s risk takings were even bigger than mine. He literally proved that by climbing on a 10 meter high pillar in Aleppo citadel.

I also didn’t lose face: racing on camels and looking politely but firm back at all the unshameful stares at my uncovered face and arms. Wearing a dress and legging is not very typical in Syria, not to forget holding hands with Teun in public. What a perfect place to celebrate our love! I managed to hold face in this country were women are treated as jewels: covered up and hidden in faults or you can’t guarantee that men will restrain themselves from taking these precious desirables. You hardly see women in public (some exceptions there off course, mostly in Damascus), they live domesticated and when they do go outside their homes you can only see their eyes because they wear burkas. It became my mission to portray public female strength and affection in this land of female vacuum, this land of male dominance. Portraying that it’s not wrong to celebrate beauty in life by showing affection in public and wearing colorful outfits that show the female curves. Despite disapproving looks every now and then, I found that I also got a lot of approval and big smiles by more modern Syrian people as well. I’m writing this now with un-washed hair and an outfit that I’ve worn the last 3 days since we are camping ;) .

During the trip I also re-discovered my joy for traveling again, feeling free and alive like I remembered from over 10 years ago when I worked and traveled in different parts of the world. Highlights in the trip:

  • Climbing the Aleppo citadel
  • Camping with the Bedouin in the Palmyra dessert
  • Learning how to ride and race on camels
  • Making love on the top of the highest mountain in the desert
  • Partying in the underground gay scene in Beirut
  • Breaking up and falling in love again

We were so high from being together and feeling the active stimulation of each other, that we postponed getting cold turkey. So Teun joined me to Israel were we met my friend Saskia at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The coming end of this trip was threatening as we joined all the crazy Dutch friends of the couple to be married in the days before and after the ‘thousand and 1 night wedding’ of Keren and Martijn. Then we had to say goodbye for the third time…

A little heartbroken but rich with all the experiences on the trip I left Israel. I took a plane to Amsterdam and Teun flew back to Albania to continue his trip. Luckily the co-planning of the wedding of Jacco and Janmaarten – kisses for you! – kept me busy. As Teun also had 2 weddings (1 of the founders of this website) – and missed me ;) – he decided to fly back to The Netherlands. Love was in the air: we celebrated 3 weddings in 8 days!

Saying goodbye for the fourth time we laughed, when would we meet again? It was only a couple of weeks later. Teun was stuck on Rhode Island because he couldn’t enter Turkey.  We randomly checked the prices to fly there from Amsterdam. 50 euro’s seemed worthwhile and having 1 last week of fun together would make a very nice start if I indeed got the job I applied for at AkzoNobel. It was an incredible week being one with nature ;) . The morning after we put up the tent on the most beautiful beach of Rhode Island, it appeared to be a nudist end of the beach. It became our camp. We were in our own little paradise cooking fresh fish from the sea on the beach. All last facades where literally peeled off, being naked without any need to impress each other. Off course Teun couldn’t resist joining me to Amsterdam to arrange papers for the car. Here we also experienced a little ‘normal’ life. Teun got to pretend to be the attending houseman cooking dinner for his hardworking partner. Other highlights were:

  • Enjoying the Faithless concert on the hill at Westerpark with a couple of friends after Holland beat Brasil in the World Cup.
  • Driving the back-up Sulky around in the partying mass at Leidsplein with Tanja. Scary when Dutch drunken fans climbed on top of the car.
  • Partying at Costa del Soul on an Amsterdam beach with a whole lot of friends. Who noticed the rain?.

Then, after the Dutch team lost the final in the world cup we said goodbye for the 5th time… We both knew that this was a bigger goodbye. It was time for Teun to really continue his trip and I had a new job to attend to. This time we made plans when we would meet again: travelling in India in December. After all the farewells 6 months we can manage, I thought. It proved to be very difficult.

There I found myself again without Teun but this time it was different. Each time saying goodbye felt like breaking up the relationship: we were never sure when we would see each other again. At one point Teun even told me that the trip could take longer than a year or that he might not come back at all. Off course when time passed and we were still in love, we at least knew that we would meet again, didn’t matter where. In spite of all the spectacular memories it wasn’t easy. With every farewell I adjusted from ‘a sweet couple that shares joys and sorrows’ to ‘the single girl that takes care of herself’. Switching between couple and single girl also learned me not to lose myself in the relationship. Un-intentionally, falling in love often also means losing some of your independence. Reality checks kept me standing strong on my own feet. In the 6 months without Teun I truly discovered the difference from the single girl I was before. Although we agreed not to close ourselves from having new encounters with men or women, they didn’t come because there was no room in my heart. So there I was: in a relationship that actually wasn’t a relationship in practice but also missing out on the wonderful encounters that came across my path every now and then when I was single. How wonderfull, I had found true love! We spoke to each other almost every week using skype and gmail chat. I cursed and loved it:

  • Pro skype: You can look at each other which for us meant we didn’t really need to say a lot.
  • Con skype: Very frustrating when de line is bad again. Also frustrating when you don’t share the same experience; when one can speak and see and the other is typing. Very difficult to end the conversation. It requires recovery time.
  • Pro gmail chat: Faster to get messages across and fun too. You can discuss 3 topics at the same time. You can do other things in the meanwhile. Recovery time is little.
  • Con gmail chat: The emotional factor is lacking. You can’t see each other.

This period seemed like a waste of time. Why not enjoy each other’s company? Why live a separate life while we already experienced that we wanted to be together and had double fun that way. Also not having any affection but the digital kind is not what a human is made for: we need to cuttle and hug! Three final causes made me decide it was time to take the next step and join the rest of the trip with Teun along the Silk Route. First I found out that the job at AkzoNobel wasn’t going to make me happy (working at this big male dominated organization is not cut out for me although being surrounded by smart and ambitious people in the communication department I really enjoyed). Second, my landlord offered me some money because he wanted my house back. Career coaching gave me the final push. I understood that by joining Teun on his trip I wasn’t running away from finding a job that suits me well. I have the chance to strengthen my core and self assurance in this trip. My goal is that when I return to The Netherlands I have found out what added values I bring to the table and have the self assurance to apply them in the organization of my choice.

Off course I had to think about it thoroughly. It isn’t easy giving up what you have. Also with the person that you have it with since I shared my house. I joined Teun with no house or job to go back to but with the support of my great family and friends at home. Finally being together with the man I love and doing the thing I love best: exploring other cultures while sharing similarities and making connections. When I met Teun at the airport in Delhi I thought ‘is this the man I love?’. The first 2 seconds I looked at a stranger. I only lasted 2 seconds.

PS1 In other cultures like in Syria love is not so complicated. Your family arranges a partner and in 1 afternoon you decide if you want to spend the rest of your life together in marriage.

PS2 If you’re not my mother and still reading this, making it all the way to the end of this story, let me know and I will sent you flowers ;)

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7 Responses to “The Love story”

  1. Mats zegt:

    I had the pleasure of hosting Teun for a bit and can totally understand you falling for him! I’m really happy you have each other and it was a beautiful read! Take care, both of you!

  2. Eva zegt:

    Wow, what a beautiful story! It brought tears into my eyes… Keep on loving each other and keep on enjoying all the special moments you have together during this unique trip!

  3. saskia zegt:

    Read the whole story! <3
    xxxx and still missing you madly xxxx

  4. Els de Vries zegt:

    Hester, leuk om je verhaal te lezen.Goed kan je schrijven trouwens. Nog heel veel liefde en warmte samen.
    Een ervaring om nooit meer te vergeten!
    Liefs, Els

  5. kalayaparchana Tangmo zegt:

    romantic, simple, wonderful, and feel in love with you. happy to see two lovely people love and so sweet I need to do the same way you are one day you are smart for you life. thanks to share me I will plan about my life. love you kiss
    san’s friend Tangmo

  6. Tim zegt:

    Made it all the way and loved it. I hope to be so lucky some day!

  7. Brittany zegt:

    OMG you two are the cutest!!!! What a sweet, sweet love story… :)

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