Happy birthday in a shop window, Italy (2015-04-08)

Happy hopeful — How to be an optimist


In honor of my birthday I was going to muse about travel & age today. But then two things happened that made delving deeper into the idea of being an eternal optimist more appealing.

The first thing that happened was that two of the insurance companies through which I hold pension plans refused to let me cancel the plans and get the money held in them into my bank account now. Apparently these funds are to be used for when I retire. And only when I retire. Well, I turn 36 today. So retirement is a long way away for me.

I wrote before I set out to Walk Home that I don’t want to go back. I don’t want a steady apartment, steady job, steady life. I want to be a nomad. But even nomads need to make a living. While I don’t need to pay for food and lodging if I WorkAway, I do need roughly 300 euros a month to pay for my health insurance, a small pension plan and to host my website.

For some reason or another in the past 12 months I only rarely opted to stay put somewhere and get a job. So not getting the insurance payments means I am pretty much broke. I currently have access to 600 euros, 450 of which I owe to the lovely person who took me to see the gorillas when I was in Uganda. If all goes as planned I’ll get a tax return of about 750 euros sometime in the next couple of months. My website, though lately it has at least begun to generate income, still cannot support me.

There is a small but audible voice inside me that suggests admitting defeat (for now) and going back to Berlin. Germany anyway, for its abundance of job opportunities. But better, yet, Berlin because I might be able to crash my sister’s couch.

Then the other thing happened: Sjaak is free. After 3 years, 4 months and 12 days he was freed from captivity in Mali by a French commando unit who didn’t even know he was held in the camp they were raiding. Yet, he is well, has reunited with his wife and might already be on his way home as I write these lines.

When I heard about these remarkable events there was a train of thoughts going through my head.

The first wagon said, ‘It’s awesome that Sjaak is free.’
The second wagon said, ‘Will his life ever recover from the past 3 years, 4 months and 12 days?’
The third one, ‘Let’s hope Steve and Johan will also soon be free.’
And then a long wagon entered: ‘If Sjaak is free does that mean the other two are lost?’

If you will indulge me, look at the two events and give the following question a thought:

What will happen if the worst case scenario is true?

Alright, I am guessing that you’re not in a happy place right now. Therefore think about this question:

How much more likely are any unwanted outcomes if I resolve to believe in the best case scenario?

Better, isn’t it? See, while positive thinking as such won’t help positive outcomes, negative thinking will grow at least one negative outcome. Because while waiting for an event that you might after all not be able to influence you will also feel miserable. And you have to be a really unpleasant person to want anyone to feel miserable. So why wish it on yourself?

That’s why I choose to be an optimist. Every time over again.


Last summer my phone died, didn’t want to charge anymore. I kept it, carried it all the way to Tarn with me. On an idle Sunday afternoon just after Christmas I decided to plug it into an outlet. It has been working perfectly (for a four year old smartphone) ever since.

  • What will happen if the worst case scenario is true?
  • How much more likely are any unwanted outcomes if I resolve to believe in the best case scenario?


Do you have anything to add? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know!

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