Antwerp, or how nothing comes from nothing and help is everything


It is Monday, September 20, which means I left Leiden more than a week ago. My head is finally starting to get some understanding of the consequences of my decision to give up my job, my house and everyone I know and start on a foot journey that will hopefully take me to Santiago de Compostela, Rome and finally Jerusalem. My body is still protesting every step.

"I dare to claim that I am the least prepared pilgrim ever", I joked yesterday to the presenter of KRO's 'Goudmijn' (Goldmine, a program for national Dutch television about people who have experienced or are experiencing a big change in their lives). Together with a director and camera man she came to Zundert to interview me during the last few kilometres in the Netherlands. "The least prepared pilgrim ever"; that sentence had come up a week ago and I must admit it amused me, as if that were something to be proud of. In a way I guess I thought myself brave, to start out on a journey with four months of preparation, for which some take a whole lifetime to prepare for. It's a fine line between brave and stupid.
Failing at something is always easy if nobody is watching, but in my case, hundreds of eyes are following my every move on the internet. If reality proves to be tougher than my estimation of it, I will not have shown the world the power of social media, nor the lack of that power, but only that I was an idiot to think I could pull this off on such short notice.

I am now in the apartment of Caroline, a Belgian actress living in Antwerp. I have managed to cross at least one border so far. Out of necessity though this is my third day here. My host is as patient as she is hospitable and my next sleepover is still uncertain. A second, not unimportant reason for me to stay here a bit longer is a muscle injury in my right leg. Ever since the thirty-five kilometres from Dordrecht to Breda my leg feels as though a sharp knife is stabbing it every now and then. I hope I have not managed to limb myself in such a way that I have to give up before I have even really started. Tomorrow I will start walking again. Time will tell.

I am staring at a drawing of Don Quixote by Gustave Doré on the wall of Caroline's appartment. Don Quixote is laying broken on the ground against his horse and underneath the drawing it states: "Tell me how you think to fill the void that comes from my fear and how you think to bring light to the chaos of my confusion". The tragic hero of Cervantes's epic tale is known for fighting his own demons. In the foreword of the book Cervantes wrote that he can't break the law of nature that demands that everything created will never be more than that which creates. It is almost autumn now and wind and rain will increase as I move on. I hope my windmills will be up to the test. With the help of people like Caroline though, I will surely make it.

Wijnand Boon