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GOIN will rethink, repack and return

GOIN has to repack, regroup, and rethink a couple of things, before we can return when worldwide circumstances for travelling have improved. In the mean time GOIN Travels is going into hibernation. It would be irresponsible (and a bit stupid) to keep offering travel options under the current circumstances. We want to offer you a great retreat or holiday, but we can’t do any of that for the rest of this year. It hurts to say, but GOIN has to cancel everything.

If you follow GOIN on Facebook, you will have read that I always keep a positive mind. I’m almost naive about it, but I think that is better than living in fear or negativity. I’ve kept the Transylvanian retreats on for as long as possible, as well the guided holiday to New Zealand. I was sure we would be able to organize at least something this year, and offer people an amazing experience. But the reality is, that the measures against covid-19 are throwing everything upside down. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not talking about the virus, I’m talking about the measures.

Retreats in Transylvania

Here in Europe… it is more about politics, than about healthcare. In May, June and July, we’ve seen measures being lifted everywhere and countries opening up again for tourists. With my Dutch background, I focussed on Dutch and Belgian tourists first for the retreats. But especially these countries score bad in the covid-19 lists (whatever those numbers are worth). The Romanian government therefore wants people arriving from those countries to go in quarantine upon arrival for two weeks – at least until July 15. I’m sure this will change before the August retreat, but it is not a pleasant message.

As far as numbers are concerned, things in Romania are better than in many other European countries. But the Dutch government gives out a travel warning for Romania, advising people to go only when it is absolutely necessary. At the same time, the Dutch government says it is perfectly safe to go to Spain, France and Italy. They are countries where the situation was, and still is, far worse than in Romania. No bad feelings towards those countries, but this shows a double standard from the Dutch. They say it is about public health and safety, while in reality it’s all just stupid politics. After a European decision, the western countries got what they wanted. But countries in this part of Europe came last… again.

The result is, that I can’t organize a retreat. As it is now, some flights remain cancelled, and travel advices are negative. I don’t know when and how the circumstances change, but they will. However, following the numbers apparently doesn’t matter. The decisions come from backrooms in Brussels and The Hague. And I’m not taking a risk that we have to deal with last-minute restrictions. So, I will hereby cancel all retreats for 2020.

New Zealand

New Zealand is a different story in itself. People who have been watching the news, know that the country successfully got rid of all covid-19 cases. But they did so at great expense. The country was completely isolated when all flights and ships were banned. Thousands of people were stuck (tourists in NZ, and NZ citizens abroad) for two months. And the most important industry in New Zealand, tourism, came to a complete stop. Plans to restart the industry will take many months, with foreign tourists remaining banned until the end of 2020. That makes the tour I had planned from November 11 simply impossible to do. Even if tourists would be allowed into the country by then, everyone has to go into two weeks of quarantine.

It is a big question-mark what will happen in 2021. The official analyses and overall plans I have read so far, speak of a somewhat normal situation by 2022. By that time, it is my (our) personal intention to live in New Zealand and operate this business from there. If we can do something in the mean time, is not sure. I would like to. But only if we don’t run the risk of another complete closure of the border, and without quarantines of course. For the Spiritual New Zealand guided tour this year, that is all too early. Therefore, I hereby also cancel all New Zealand tours for 2020.

The future

I have no idea what will happen to the travel world in the near future, let alone for the next years or even decades. Things will change, that is inevitable. But people will always want to travel to other countries and enjoy everything those foreign lands have to offer. And that will always be possible, one way or the other, I have no doubt…

GOIN Travels will be out there to think with others in the business about these possibilities. After a time of crisis it would be stupid to go back to exactly what it was before. It is the ideal opportunity to come up with new ideas and better ways of tourism. Maybe GOIN’s focus will change to sustainable holidays, or active retreats, or healing through travelling, etc. There are many options. The world is a big place and the only limits are the limits of our imagination.

When it is time for GOIN to return, the website will look different anyway. The current website will remain in the air until the new one is ready. I will not (or hardly) change this website in the mean time. If you’d like advice or help on your holiday to New Zealand (when this is possible again) or Transylvania, please let me know via: info@gointravels.com. Until then… stay safe and do what makes you happy…

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Vlog on covid19 for Pure off the Road

Recently, I recorded a vlog for “Pure off the Road” on covid19 measures in Romania. Pure off the Road is a great online magazine for travel stories, hidden gems, and photo series. My sister-in-law, Angelique, a journalist and musician, has set the magazine up with Henk Bothof, an amazing photographer. You may have seen some of Henk’s pictures in the international press. Or you may have read some of Angelique’s stories on travelling, (jazz) music, or sustainable lifestyle.

Check out their website (in Dutch and English) for some great stories, background info, tips, and awesome pictures. This duo also offers holidays to some unique places in the world. If GOIN isn’t your style, maybe Pure off the Road is. They will definitely take you off the beaten track (or road ;-)). I can highly recommend them! Below, you find the vlog on YouTube. To see more, and to check out the other vlogs (from New Zealand, Uganda, Norway, Botswana, and Italy), check HERE. The Facebook page is HERE.

Paint a picture

Angelique asked me to record a vlog, to give an impression of how covid19 and the measures effect Romania. How they effect the people, tourism in general, GOIN in particular, and of course myself personally. It was very difficult to shoot proper footage in the city and I couldn’t go anywhere else. The travel restrictions didn’t allow any other travel than just the absolute necessary. As soon as you left the house, you had to declare exactly where you were going, why, how, and what you were doing. There still is a military ordinance and officials can stop you anywhere to ask for your papers. The government imposed a curfew between 22:00 and 06:00. The city itself was a ghost town and travelling outside the city was forbidden. But I could hike to the other side of the forest, almost to our retreat location. It was quiet in the forest…

Eventually, the only pictures I took, were more recent (after the government lowered a state of emergency to a state of alert). Some shops are open in Cluj, and you can travel within the city again. Also, the roads are getting busy (no more deserted highways). In the vlog you’ll see people lining up outside an office to pay their electricity bill. Down the road, the police station had a long line, too, as did city services. Everyone’s temperature is measured before entering shops or buildings, and masks are mandatory. There’s the 2 metres distance, and the constant cleaning of everything. Slowly but surely, people go back to work. And they need to.

Two worlds in one

The government helped a little, but most people still lost more than half of an already very low income. Even more people lost their job entirely, often leaving them for weeks without money to buy food. That is one part of the world I saw. In the beginning of the crisis, people were very scared and anyone without a mask was considered dangerous. But it quickly became clear that working with a mask on, especially physical labour, is impossible. So, many people felt they had to choose between feeding their family and following regulations. They could not afford to stay home and lose their income, so many ignored the regulations.

In the city now, everyone wears a mask. Inside they are mandatory. Outside they’re not, but 90% wears one outside anyway. Many people are afraid (partly because of severe scaremongering), but it’s not just the virus. There is also insecurity (I discussed part of this in a previous blog). And people especially fear the rules, the fines, and how they’re all regulated. Most people don’t trust the police and they’re afraid neighbours will snitch on them. For people over 50, it is a return to the times of communism. The younger generation is different… and that’s good.

The other part of the world, are the people who can “afford” the lockdown. It’s about the ones who have versus the ones who have-not. They are the people with a big house, a garden, a car, and the ability to work from home. For them, it has not been hard. They are also the ones who have ignored the regulations the most, and got away with everything. Police and military were nowhere to be found in those areas. They were too busy patrolling the poor neighbourhoods. This is an ongoing inequality.

Illegal logging

Speaking of inequality… there is something very nasty going on in Romania and it is exemplary for that inequality. This beautiful country is the last place in Europe that has large primeval forests (beech forests in the Carpathians). There are other primeval forests in Europe, but those are different and much smaller. Romanian forests are home to brown bears, wolves, wisents, lynxes, and many unique birds. Local and foreign companies have been cutting the forests for many years, and more than half of it was illegal. The Romanian people are outraged (article), but officials have done little to nothing. In fact, none of it could have happened without the government being actively involved.

Now, as soon as the government imposed a lockdown because of covid19, the logging activity was increased. I’ve seen many huge trucks with hundreds of logs pass in front of my house. Estimates are that >60% of that is illegal. It’s a very depressing sight. The illegally cut wood is then transported via the railroads across the border (that was closed by the military). It is called the wood mafia for good reason. Workers beat people up and several forest workers were killed in an industry that involves more than a billion euros. This is just very wrong and very rotten, from the bottom to the top. Check out this and this video from news networks, for instance.

Action

The European Union has warned Romania that they need to do more. Studies have proven beyond any doubt, that much more is cut than is officially registered. But a clear report in October 2019 (after many years of study and data) was even censored (article), in stead of having it lead to immediate action. Now, the national government is finally taking action. But that probably has little to do with increasing pressure from locals (and social media), but more with Brussels (money). But like I said… none of this would be possible without (local and national) governments being actively involved. So, I have little hope of quick and effective measures. And with climate change consequences getting more and more prominent, they are necessary, even essential. If not for us, then for the next generation and the ones after that…

Below, you find an introduction to a documentary on the destruction that is going on in Romania. There are several documentaries online, some quite shocking to see. I may write more about this subject in the future. The more I look into this, the more I find. I need to share that. So, to be continued…

PS: Don’t forget to like and follow GOIN on Facebook.

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I am a Highly Sensitive Person

That’s right… I am highly sensitive, and that’s great! I didn’t understand and didn’t like my sensitivity for a long time, but now I embrace it fully. High sensitivity does not mean I’m introverted, or overly emotional, or that I’m not a real man… It just means I’m different from most people. The work of dr. Elaine Aron has changed the world’s view on high sensitivity. We are decades since her groundbreaking work “The Highly Sensitive Person”, and scientists worldwide (like geneticists, neurologists, psychologists, and behavioural physiologists) research high sensitivity. Being highly sensitive is no longer considered to be a fault in someone’s personality, or a weakness of character.

In 2015, a great documentary was released, called “Sensitive, the untold story”. When I saw this documentary, things started to fall into place and I finally felt understood. Suddenly, I was able to connect the dots and understand why things happened the way they had. Being highly sensitive is not a condition or disorder, it is an innate trait, even talent. People are born with it (read: genetic basis), but it’s not hereditary. Either you have it, or you don’t. About 15 to 20% of all people is highly sensitive, with equal percentages men and women.

Many HSP’s struggle with their sensitivity in modern society. Most will avoid crowds and busy places, many cry easily, and others feel other people’s emotions. Also, HSP’s (especially men) often feel misunderstood and not accepted by non-HSP’s. High sensitivity is of all times, but acceptance of HSP’s has changed, parallel with changes in society. Many HSP’s experience problems at some point in their lives involving that acceptance and their role in society. They also feel they’ve lost their connection with nature. This struggle can results in suffering, even bun-out. For some, this leads to spiritual awakening. Others just keep on struggling, or never notice a thing…

High sensitivity is often misunderstood (especially in men)

Are you highly sensitive?

Highly sensitive people experience life differently, more intensely, more deeply. That sounds great, but it isn’t all that. HSP’s often feel they don’t belong, or that there’s something wrong with them. And the way society is build, the buzz of everyday life (especially city life), is the opposite of what HSP’s need. So, many HSP’s end up compensating one way or the other for the permanent mismatch they feel.

You can ask yourself a few questions to find out if you might be a HSP. Are you easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, loud sounds (like sirens), etc? But do you also enjoy your senses more deeply and delicately, like with art, food, music, and animals? Do you need to withdraw in a dark room to recharge from time to time? Perhaps you often avoid confrontations, or cancel appointments because you don’t feel up to them. Do you have a rich inner life, but also prefer to arrange (even limit) your outside life to avoid upset?

If you answer most questions with YES, you could be highly sensitive (you’ll find an official, extensive test here). Most HSP’s learned to mask their sensitivity and build a character around their behaviour. Friends may think you’re a bit shy, or even boring, but your best friends know that you truly rock! There is an enormous world inside your head. You may have felt guilty at some point for wanting to cancel something, again… So, you drag yourself out there and go after all. Then, after 15 minutes your head explodes and you have to go home. The next few days you are recovering from a total system overload. This is not unique… this happens to (almost) all HSP’s. And it’s perfectly okay to say NO, because it means taking care of yourself.

The science behind high sensitivity

Dr. Aron started researching high sensitivity in 1991 and she has published many scientific articles and books since. You can find some here. The scientific term for high sensitivity is “Sensory-Processing Sensitivity”, which describes pretty well what happens. HSP’s process (sensory) stimuli more profoundly. Brain scans show that HSP brains react differently and stronger to sensory (and emotional) stimuli. Many HSP’s feel therefore easily overwhelmed by sounds, smells, visual information, and emotions. These impressions can confuse, feel chaotic, or are just too intense and complex. On the other side, tests show that HSP’s are more aware of details and subtleties.

Part of Aron’s research focusses on the processing of stimuli. Brain scans show HSP’s have a higher activity in some regions of the brain. This indicates the same stimulus is processed differently in HSP’s, and the experience is deeper and stronger. The HSP’s brain really works differently. Until this research, high sensitivity was often misdiagnosed, because of rigid ideas of how people ‘should be’. Psychologists and doctors considered HSP’s to just be overly sensitive, depressed, or extremely introverted. Btw, 30% of all HSP’s is an extravert. Many doctors even came up with personality disorders. Needless to say, this didn’t help the ‘patient’.

You can easily remember the characteristics by the acronym “DOES”. D is for depth of processing. A fundamental characteristic is observation and reflection before action. HSP’s process everything more, whether they’re conscious of it or not. O stands for easily overstimulated. Because you pay more attention to everything, you will tire sooner. E is for giving emphasis to emotional reactions and having strong empathy, which among other things helps us notice and learn. S is for being sensitive to all the subtleties around us.

Being highly sensitive is not the same as being introvert

The biology and ethology of high sensitivity

This innate trait appears throughout the animal kingdom. Researchers already found it in more than a hundred species, and there will very likely be many hundreds more. High sensitivity is a survival strategy of a whole group, like a school of fish or a herd of wild horses. Some of the animals are more aware of surroundings, and thus danger, than others. These sensitive animals receive protection from the group and the group relies on them to warn everyone about danger, sense sickness, decide where to go, find food, etc. With humans, it will not have been much different in ancient times. The idea of men hunting for meat and women raising children in the cave, is far too simple. The dynamics within those groups, just as we see in other primates, is much more complex. And the group recognizes the sensitive individuals as important assets for the entire group.

In modern times we don’t need to fear sabretooth tigers in the bushes. But HSP’s still play an important role within a group. They’ll often be the one caring for others, making sure the whole group is doing well. With their strong intuition, HSP’s will be able to ‘feel’ when something is wrong. And they’ll know when someone is lying. Also professionally, this can be very confusing (truth has become a rather ‘fluid’ concept nowadays). Many HSP’s are self-employed, working often in creative businesses. But other HSP’s do not act on their intuition. When they’ve taught themselves to muffle or completely ignore that inner voice, they probably end up doing the exact opposite of what their gut and heart are telling them. Our body will then find another way to get the message across. People will therefore have muscle pains and problems with their gut, stomach, or lungs.

On a spiritual side

If a message (like physical discomfort) is misunderstood, it’ll keep coming back until one deals with it. I think many HSP’s are more spiritual than others. Being able to read between words, connecting things, strong intuition, seeing the bigger picture… It all contributes to unveiling the truth underneath systems and human interaction. Where most see the outside, HSP’s experience many layers underneath. They realize simple explanations don’t cover what they feel. They understand the connection between things. Being told things ‘just are the way they are’, is not enough for HSP’s. Eventually, accepting your truth, accepting others don’t see that truth (!!), acknowledging school (and your parents) were often wrong, connecting the dots… Those are important steps in awakening.

Of course, not all HSP’s eventually experience their awakening. Many are very comfortable with a structured and logical world, where nothing unexpected is allowed to happen. And especially men might feel they should live like that. Being sensitive is still difficult in a society that has unrealistic expectations of men. Of course, that goes for women, too. But at least women are allowed to have feelings (like crying publicly). For men, that is not done.

Gentleness and sensitivity are considered feminine traits. Boys with these traits are seen as weak or gay. Many non-HSP women (i.e. 80 – 85% of all women!) expect macho behaviour from men, because that is how they were raised and how they think the world works. I too, have run into those walls many times. So many women say they want a man who understands them, who is gentle and caring, and who shows his emotions. But they don’t want a highly sensitive man, they want a gorilla with manners. The difference between what non-HSP women say and what they do, is very confusing for sensitive men.

What does it mean to be a HSP?

It’s important to know that even when you focus on this trait, you will find many differences between HSP’s. This is partly because high sensitivity is deeply connected to our character traits. And it makes a big difference if someone has acknowledged their sensitivity, or is still fighting it. Because many sensitive people end up having a rather rough ride through life, behaviour characteristics can also be the result of coping mechanisms to deal with society, spirituality, their partner, family, even with nature.

For example: I seldom show my emotions. I have many, but I’ve learned to hide them. When I was emotional as a child, teenager, even as an adult, people made fun of me and took advantage. Showing emotions was therefore equal to danger, getting hurt, or lose control. I never knew I actually had móre emotions than others. I just thought I was doing it all wrong, because others never seemed to suffer from emotions. Eventually, I just put up a mask and hid it all. Now that I know, it’s difficult to take that mask off again. So, some people (even in my relationships) think I’m cold, while I’m actually the opposite.

But let’s not forget that being a HSP is not just doom and gloom. In fact, it’ll probably not surprise you that many artists (painters, sculptors, musicians) are highly sensitive. In the documentary, Alanis Morissette tells her own story and how she recognizes the HSP’s on the first row at concerts. When a HSP goes into nature (alone), it’s like putting the plug into a power charger. Nature can be very intense, full of smells and colours. But that cacophony makes sense. Listening to music, HSP’s hear and connect the details. And a relationship with an HSP is often deep and very passionate.

The HSP's traits can feel both a blessing and a curse

How I felt as a sensitive child?

I’ve always known I was different, I just never knew why. Already as a young child, I honestly believed there was something wrong with me. I was not like the others. I never really understood most of them, and they didn’t understand me. My time in school was a hell. Teachers, classmates, even family told me that I was the problem. Why couldn’t I ‘just be normal’…? So, my conflict with the outside world turned inwards. Eventually, I started denying and even fighting the person I felt I was inside. Psychiatrists and psychologists later stuck all sorts of labels on me. But there was (and there is) nothing wrong with me. I was just different…

After skipping a year in middle school, I was bullied by children ánd some of the teachers. High school also sucked. Classes just didn’t make sense to me. I had to learn things that could not be true. I felt there was something wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And I couldn’t understand why others didn’t see the same. Children didn’t learn to think for themselves. They were conditioned to regurgitate whatever they were fed. I was so disappointed in the school system, teachers, and in learning.

On top of the high sensitivity, I have a sleeping disorder (DSPD), since early childhood. I can’t sleep before 3 o’clock at night… every night! This is disastrous if the alarm goes at 6:45 in the morning, when I was in high school. So, I was always sleep deprived (just like later at university and at work). Teachers, family, and doctors didn’t understand why, or what to do. And this too, resulted in all sorts of (other) problems, that were also misinterpreted.

Being different

Society doesn’t like people who are different. Many sensitive children run into the limits of society, bouncing of its walls, if they are their true selves. This results in lots of stress and the label of being a problem child. For me, being that problem child was just as confusing… “Am I crazy, or is the whole world crazy?” Now I know the world is truly crazy, but back then, people said I was the crazy one. I decided they must be right, so I started to put on a mask. But if HSP’s hide themselves to blend in, they will be just as stressed from being fake. It just takes longer to express, because that fight happens inside – where others can’t see what’s going on. Only now, as an adult, do I finally realize this.

I don’t blame myself for thinking bad thoughts about myself, nor do I blame others for speaking that way to me. I understand what happened… and why. Non-HSP’s did what they were taught to be right. This realization was a crucial step in my healing. And in understanding who I truly am. Knowing and accepting that I’m highly sensitive, changed everything. I now fully embrace my sensitivity. But that has taken 40 years of my life. For the first half of my life, I was fighting the world around me. In the second half, I was fighting myself. You’ll understand that my problems were completely misdiagnosed. People have even linked them to psychiatric disorders, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Doing the wrong thing right

Since acknowledging I’m highly sensitive, I realize my sensitivity has been with me throughout my life. After my dramatic childhood and teenage years, you’d think my adult life would surely be easier. Well, it wasn’t… But by then, I had learned to fake it, so to make it. I restrained myself to not fall out of tune with others. I graduated from university, had my career, bought a house, was in serious relationships… In the eyes of society, I was ‘normal’. Meanwhile, I felt awful and thought it was all my own fault.

My personal motto is: “it’s not about doing the things right, it’s about doing the right things”. No matter how good I was in what I did, it was never going to work. I was busy trying to do the wrong things right. Although society rewarded me for this, I’ve always felt I needed to do something else. Eventually, everything collapsed… seriously collapsed. And at the deepest point of that misery, five years ago, my spiritual awakening started.

I started doing the right things and everything was slowly falling into place. I worked hard on myself, and met the most amazing people. One of them was my HSP coach, Susanne. Mostly because of my work with her, I decided to throw my life around and do what I’m really good at. So, I never went back to IT. I emigrated, I travelled, and… I started GOIN! GOIN combines my passion and my sensitivity. Massage is an obvious example of using sensitivity and passion, but also cooking and writing. Or travelling, hiking, nature, especially related to New Zealand. Organizing is also a passion where I can really put my sensitivity (and creativity) to work. And when things are overwhelming, I just withdraw for a while… and that’s okay.

Coaching and HSP

My coach is Susanne de Munck Mortier, a Dutch woman who lives in beautiful Tuscany, Italy. She’s the founder of the International HSP Center and she also works a lot with children and sensitivity in education. She coaches people from all over the world. Many adults first work with video sessions and assignments. You can do these assignments in your time anywhere. Most coachees eventually travel to Italy for one or more periods of direct coaching. I ended up doing this direct coaching with her in the summer of 2019. I stayed in the lovely town of Monte San Savino for 2 weeks, while we had daily meetings in the area. This was an effective way to pick up some of the loose ends from the video sessions. And at the same time, we could go into issues that took more time and energy.

GOIN also wants to offer personal coaching. I’m not (yet) the professional, like Susanne is, but I’m learning. Of course, I can relate well to HSP’s and I’d be very happy to coach you when you are a HSP. It can really help to understand each other better. But for truly profound and professional HSP coaching, I prefer to refer you to Susanne. The coaching will focus more the spiritual side, like guiding people during their (often messy and chaotic) awakening. It’s very possible to combine online coaching with a retreat or holiday. Travelling really helps us evolve spiritually (check here and here). But you’re more than welcome to come to Transylvania any time for more intense one on one talks and coaching sessions. Basically… we’ll do whatever works best for you. Check here for more background ideas about GOIN coaching and contact me via coaching@gointravels.com.

Don’t forget to like and follow GOIN on Facebook.