East 2 West, Rollerblading the Netherlands in winter. What did I learn?

This is the last part of the series about my winter rollerblading trip. Did you miss it? Here you can read part 1.

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Day 16, February 17th: St Anna ter Muiden – Scheemda
The last night wasn’t really cold. Now, that was really nice, because the night before was cold as ice! But still, on this relatively warm morning I went out early, because I pitched my tent illegally on a camping and also because today was the day I would be going home. It would be a seven hour trip taking the bus and train. The trip on my skates was 14 days in total, so you can say that 2 days skating is to equal to 1 hour in the train or bus. While I was sitting in the bus from Sluis to Vlissingen, I saw the roads I’ve been riding the days before. Beautiful smooth asphalt through the farmlands with a small village now and then. I didn’t feel the headwind from the comfort of the bus, but I knew it was there.

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Once in the train from Vlissingen the memories started to appear; the last 3 kilometers riding on tiles in the dark towards the Belgium border. The beautiful sunsets, the national parks where I spent the nights in my tent, cooking delicious and simple food. In the beginning of the trip I asked myself why I went on this adventure, and what the adventure actually would be. Because every day I went to a supermarket to buy food. Every day I passed numerous villages so there were constantly people around. Or might the adventure be that I would camp out every night? I mean, then I could put a tent in the garden every night; it would make life a bit easier.

But no, it was the whole package. Every day from A to B and C on rollerblades. Living with my backpack. Not knowing where I’m going to sleep in the evening. And last but not least, all the emotions that come with such a trip. Emotions that change, as the road changes. Smooth road means happy thoughts, tiles mean clenched fists and an angry look. The emotions change depending on how much I eat, drink and rest during the day. A trip like this strengthens all the emotions you have. These kind of trips make you more wild; sleeping in a tent on the ground in the middle of nature, with all the animals around you (you hear them constantly, but never see them!), being dependent on the weather; the cold, sunshine, wind, rain and mist. Traveling from place to place every day; making kilometers and searching the best ways to go. But also your body becomes an important factor. Every day you feel the effort of your muscles, your skin being exposed to the weather and, especially in this case, the blisters. This all together makes you more wild than in your “normal” life. It’s like there is a flame bursting inside you. Like some kind of primal energy starts flowing. A energy we tend to forget because of our daily comfort. Central heating, hanging on the couch behind the tv or computer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy when I’m inside my warm house when it’s -10C outside. But to leave these warm and nourishing comforts, is good for a human. By spending 2 weeks outside in a tent in the middle of winter, a primal energy starts to flow inside you. And everybody has it, we are just not aware of it anymore.

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But next to all the wild stuff with your inner caveman coming out, it’s also very exciting to go on an adventure like this. Not only going on an adventure is exciting, but some weeks before I started, I felt the excitement flowing through my body. Was I really going to skate across the Netherlands with a heavy backpack on my back? With me, not being a good skater at all? And sleeping outside in a small tent in the middle of the winter? How would that be? I kept on imagining it, and this gave me positive vibes of excitement through my body, a week before I actually went. Great!

Sometimes I was struggling. Sometimes there were no thoughts in my head for hours; I was just skating. Sometimes I was thinking about life, society and the world. The hard moments are the moments that count. These are the moments you grow as a person and see what you’re made of. Wandering for one and a half hour through a swamp, trying to search a spot for my tent for the night in the middle of farmlands. Three kilometers trying to roll over cobble stones in a pitch black street at the end of the day. Bad roads which gave the feeling your feet are being sandpapered. These are the moments you find your inner self and pull yourself together. These are the moments that make reaching the endpoint feel so much sweeter.

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Of course these moments are overshadowed by the beautiful moments: flying through the forests of Gasselte, where there are only smooth roads and no other traffic. The nature of our biggest national park “The Veluwe”. Perfect sunsets and a chilly but clear sunrise on a meadow next to a windmill. Moments of pure bliss while sitting on a bench in the cold fog when the warm rays of the sun touch your face, and the only thought in your head is: wow, life is beautiful. But also a free cup of tea, a good conversation while drinking fresh coffee and experiencing Zeeuwse hospitality.

Now, would I do this again? Yes please! I’d love to! Actually I’m already looking forward to the next adventure, and for some kind of reason I think it will not take too long before I’ll go again.

To see other adventurers, trips and outdoor stuff make sure to like the Raw Sleep-out page.

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East 2 West, Rollerblading the Netherlands in the winter. (Part 3 of 3)

It’s becoming spring right now. Temperatures are getting higher and so about time to go out and go camping again! But nearly two months ago it was cold, dark and even a little snowy. In this cold and dark times I went on an adventure; rollerblading 450 kilometers trough the Netherlands, with my backpack and my tent. This is part 3 of my journey, here you can read part one and part two or join the Facebook page. 

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Day 10, February 11th: Casa Peetzak (Hilversum) – Linschoten
And there I am again, resting in the woods overlooking the meadows. I have reached the busiest part of the country. When I first arrived (I even had to look it up on Google Maps) I tried to take in the surroundings while sitting under a tree. High voltage towers are running through the fields and I hear speeding cars passing by on the highway 100 meters further on. The car lights resemble fireflies all flying orderly in a row. Witnessing this spectacle sooths me. I’m relaxed by nature, but the combination of highway and meadow really contrast the busy and crowded with the peace and void.

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So, the busy part of the land. Lots of roads and between the towns, small meadows with lots of water. Incredible to see a country change this much in only 50 kilometers. 50 kilometers behind me there were rugged woods and wild boars! All in all, today was a hard day. Not because the roads were bad, not because of wind or rain. I think it is because I took a break. Apparently, my body has switched into chill-out mode. After only 2 days! It could also be the special beers I drank the day before. I’m counting down the kilometers and when I look on the map it seems I’m almost there. Obviously I know better. Western Zeeland is nowhere near Hilversum! The notion of covering kilometers seems to change, skating on the stretched roads passing meadows on both sides. The monotonous roads make my thoughts shift continuously and when I look back, it seems time stood still and I suddenly reached the next town. Enjoying some fresh air, as the Dutch call it?

Day 11, February 12th: Linschoten – N480, 2nd windmill on the left12This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.

As difficult as it was yesterday, as smooth it went today! It wasn’t the wind that got me going, but it did help a bit. I have entered the ‘authentic’ Dutch landscape. Canals, meadow, sheep and yes, windmills. I started on a small road along a canal this morning. There was nobody, maybe 3 cars within 6 kilometers. Following was a country road along a canal with 5 cars in total. A small town with canals, old houses and typical Dutch knotted willows. The small town revealed another small road with….well, you get the picture. When I looked at the map yesterday, I wasn’t expecting this! A lot of nothing! Farming fields with occasionally a farm or a small town, where the villagers get together and chatter at the local supermarket. Every town I visit I’m being watched with suspicion. It beats Eastern Groningen! Now I can finally rebuttal, when people dare to say we, up in the north, are peasants.This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.

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This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.
To end this story in a nice way, I will be sleeping in a meadow, and yes, next to a windmill. On my journeys I always try to visit beautiful spots to spend the night, and tonight’s dwelling is certainly making up for the swamp I recently visited!

Tomorrow I’m passing (and I really don’t want to go through) the big towns and then it’s up to Zeeland. Bridges, water and a heap of salted herring!

Day 12, February 13th: N480 2nd windmill on the left – Esscheplaat
How in god’s name can you find a place for your tent if there are only fields? Searching, very intensive searching and making compromises. While I’m writing this piece I’m at the Esscheplaat. Google it. It’s pretty close to the middle of nowhere. After I bought my dinner, I found a good place to rest and check the map thoroughly. Meanwhile the sun was going down, so I needed to find a spot soon. 3 kilometers off the route there was a dash of green on the map. While I was skating towards the green spot, the sun slowly set. (foto van kaart)

It’s such a beautiful sight to see the red sun disappear behind the clouds. But this also meant it was going to be dark within half an hour! There is only one thing you can do at such moment. Full speed ahead! Racing through the meadows with a strong headwind isn’t easy when you already have been skating for 7 hours. Only, at such a moment I just don’t feel the pain in my ankles and feet. Everything goes on pure adrenaline. It has to be, because finding a good spot can take up a lot of your time. When I reached the fence of the natural area, I saw a sign that said: “Beware of the cattle, they can be unpredictable towards visitors”. Ehhhh, ok. But I still put up my tent because it was this or the meadows. I really hope they stay away from that interesting piece of fabric I’m sleeping under!Schermafbeelding 2015-02-18 om 17.45.17

I think today is a small indication of what lies ahead of me the next couple of days. Long stretching roads through meadows with a hard headwind and few options for setting up my tent. This is new for me and I secretly look back with grief, thinking about my time in Drenthe, where the woods were dense and campable! But on the contrary, I’m nearing the most westword point of The Netherlands! Kapow!

Day 13, February 14th: Esscheplaat – Kranendijk (Oud-tongere)
Today I had a smooth start. When I woke up I saw some people in the natural park where I had put up my tent. I immediately assumed they were from Forestry Commision, so it seemed a good idea to get out of the tent and drink some coffee sitting on a nearby bench. Once I sat down a herd of Scottish Highland cattle came hurtling at me! That’s a nice way of waking up, drinking coffee amid some 20 huge beasts.

After the first bridges connecting the islands I arrived tiredly in Oud-Tongere. A place where a nice egg-sandwich was waiting for me in snackbar/café ‘t Vosje. Meanwhile it was already passed 4 o’clock and it was time for me to find a place to sleep. I asked the other customers if they knew a good spot for me to camp. The lady behind the counter asked someone, and I immediately heard: “he can sleep at my place, with the chickens!”. Haha, nice. After a minute, someone walked out of the café and asked me if I needed a place to sleep. I could set up a tent where he lived. Chill! So after I finished my sandwich, I drank a couple of beers with Rik (that was his name) in the very cosy local pub and we went to his place. I took a lovely shower, washed my clothes and ate some toast with filet. A tiny and unexpected paradise.13

These are the things that make my journey such a cool experience. Unexpected encounters and the kindness of strangers. It is beautiful to see the goodness of people you have never met before. But what can I give in return to show my appreciation? Leave 10 euro’s on the table? Or shall I pay it forward, showing a stranger the same goodness, that was given me tonight? This seems the best thing to do. The help I received this evening, will be passed on. Maybe tomorrow I will give 1 euro to a homeless person, or by returning a found mobile to its owner. Someone once told me: “The more you give, the more you get”.

Day 14, February 15th: Kranendijk (Oud-tongere) – Veerse Meer
I had the wind at my back today! Literary and figuratively. After a nice warm bed and a breakfast I was ready to cover some serious ground! But first I needed to do some filming, because after all, I am making a film about this journey. With the help of Elanda we shot some beautiful imagery. Only it was time for me to get those 8 wheels rolling again towards Zeeland. I immediately noticed the wind at my back and I don’t think I ever reached such speed on my skates. It must have been 30 kilometers per hour. You can imagine with this speed I covered around 55 kilometers. And I also went across a 6 kilometer long bridge crossing the Oosterschelde, and this was very cool.

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The entire journey I was fortunate to have the wind at my back. This is very nice, so I don’t have to drag myself forward on my skates. On the other side, it does take away some of the suffering, and therefore some of the victory. I had to think about a well known adventurer who experienced headwind for two weeks in a row. This will drive you mad and after a week you can only dream about tailwind. I must say, I did learn to appreciate the wind at my back, because there are plenty of other elements making this journey a real challenge. For example dragging 15 kilos in your backpack or enduring the freezing cold. And I can’t help feeling that it’s going to be freezing cold again tonight!

The original concept was to cover 450 kilometers in 14 days. Tomorrow it’s Monday and I still have 42 kilometers to go before I reach my final goal. The wind plays an important part and can really influence the outcome. In the end it isn’t a choice of reaching your goal. I just won’t give up, even if it would take all of my strength to get there!

Day 15, February 16th: Veerse Meer – St. Anna Ter Muiden15
Today started like any other day. But it was cold, very cold! This was to be suspected, seeing that I noticed a layer of ice on the inside of my tent at 20:30 yesterday. So after a night of waking up a lot from the cold, it finally got light outside. I got out of my igloo and made me some breakfast on the field next to the water. During eating my breakfast it started to get really misty and this persisted the entire day. It looked like I was on an entire different planet! Who knows what creatures were hiding behind the clouds… And there I was, racing on my skates through an extra-terrestrial world, finding the next town on my journey. I arrived at Middelburg, a town nearby Vlissingen, where I’m going to take the ferry and only 20 kilometres to go!

The last 20 kilometres didn’t go easy, though. Headwind. Only headwind. So in retrospect, regarding the piece I wrote yesterday, I can say this wasn’t easy. And still I arrived at the village of sluis with only 3 kilometres to my final destination; the sign that says BELGIUM. The road that leads to the sign was torture. Headwind and paving stones! Who is responsible for this? Skating for 450 kilometres to reach my destination, to be confronted with paving stones on the home stretch! Something with the last straw is breaking the camel’s back…

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Man, I couldn’t be happier seeing the much awaited sign! I took some pictures, shot some film and well…walked back to the village (yes, this time I walked) to find myself a place to sleep. This is difficult considering the desolate surroundings. A sign, a busy road and a tiny restaurant. The objective was only a figment of my imagination. It is on the map, but there is nothing to be found. Now you can find a blister bandage stuck to the sign with a bit of writing on it. A bandage used for blisters is appropriate, I think.

Meanwhile writing this story, I’m in my tent, illegally set up on camping grounds. I snuck it in through the back entrance, after which I made myself a well-earned festive meal. Because what better way is there to celebrate a personal victory? Correct, with a can of pea soup and a can of Schultenbrau beer.

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If you liked this rollerblading winter adventure and would like to keep up with my other adventures or shenanigans you can like my facebook page here. (hint: there are more adventures to come…)

East 2 West, Rollerblading the Netherlands in the winter. (Part 2 of 3)

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This is part two of my winter journey on rollerblades, part 1 is over here. By now I was quite used to the cold, and I felt the spirit of adventure rushing through me. Soon I would be half way, take a rest day at a friend and have my blisters fixed. But what came up there I didn’t expect…

Day 5, February 6th: Belt Schutsloot – de Vuursteenberg (near Hattem)                             After 5 minutes on the road, I noticed a car was following me. Ordinarily I would slow down and allow the care to pass. Not this time…. The car kept following me en when it finally overtook me, somebody was screaming out of the window…. It was Trudy, a friend of mine from Groningen, together with Sjoerd! They came all the way from Groningen to bring me a cup of coffee and a banana. Beautiful! We stopped at a resting point and while we were talking about the newest and most trendy outdoor equipment, I was enjoying a lovely cup of coffee. Thank you Trudy and Sjoerd! Awesome! And off I went, on my way to the Provence of Gelderland.

6I’ve seen the country change over the last couples of days. From the desolate potato fields of Groningen with its awful roads, to the woods of Drenthe with its perfect spots to camp illegally, to the swampy waterlands of north-eastern Overijssel where reed is harvested. The next time you see a house with a reed roof; you know it was probably won in this area. A nice way to learn something about your own country. What I’ve also learned is that roads follow a certain formula. Between villages and cities, roads consist out of smooth asphalt and concrete (except in Groningen); a true paradise for skaters, and my feet. As soon as you come close to a city or village, roads change into crappy asphalt. And when you finally enter a city or village: fucking bricks….Every single time! In between villages I’m a speed machine and as soon as I enter the village, I turn into a stunt pilot…. But for now, I’m camping in De Veluwe and lets hope all I’ll find here are beautiful forest roads and wild boars. Who knows, I might see one while setting up my tent!

Day 6, February 7th: De Vuursteenberg (near Hattem) – Elspeter bos                                    Meanwhile I’ve been philosophical, shared ups & downs and giving you a heads up on my whereabouts. But what hasn’t passed under review is what an average day of a skatepacker (thought of it myself and I think it is well invented) looks like. I will now give you an extensive overview of today, Saturday the 7th of February.

05:00 – The cold wakes me…After seeing fresh ice on the inside of my tent (after just one hour) I knew it was going to be a cold night.
05:30 – 07:00 During catnaps I’m dreaming about Arnold Schwarzenegger…
07:00 The alarm clock rings, but because of the cold and dark, I’m snoozing till 08:00
08:00 – 08:10 Staring….and thinking how can I keep warm but still do things.
08:10 – 09:00 Making coffee with frozen water from my bottle. Damn, it sure was cold.
09:00 – 09:05 Will I eat soup with bread or just bread? (everything just goes slower when it is cold)
09:05 – 09:35 Eating bread (without soup)
09:35 – 10:00 Mapping out the way ahead
10:00 – 10:20 Taking care of feet, washing myself with wet wipes and getting dressed
10:20 – 11:00 Packing tent, backpack and find a way to the nearest road
11:00 – 11:03 Wondering if I will ignore the just received advice
11:04 Yes.
11:05 – 14:00 Skating through the woods, beautiful roads covered with ice, snow, branches and other stuff. Did 10 kilometers In 3 hours. Maybe next time I should follow the given advice? 7
14:00 – 14:35 The Jumbo supermarket in Heerde: 1 meatball sandwich, eaten directly. 1 bottle of Spa lemon cactus. 1 bar of Daim chocolate. 1 can of lentils. 1 package of nasi spice mix. 116 grams of green beans. 1 thick piece of chicken filet. 5 pieces of gingerbread. 1 banana. 1 bag of peanuts, unsalted. 35/40 people who are glaring at me.
14:35 – 15:00 On my way to Epe. I’m at the end of my strengths and only skated 15 kilometers!
15:00 – 15:15 Trying to find the right way from Epe to Elspeet. Backpack on, backpack off, raincoat on, map at hands….
15:16 Yes, found my way out of Epe!
15:17 – 15:40 On my way to Elspeet, no water left, rain ,wind and I’m tired. Music gives me the energy to go on.
15:40 I’m stopping at a house asking the folks standing outside if I can get some water
15:43 I’ve been asked to come inside. I’m drinking a nice cup of coffee. Just lovely, chatting a bit, laughing and no skates on my feet
16:10 – 18:00 FULL SPEED AHEAD! Hills, woods and silence. Every now and then a car, but mainly the sound of skates on the road. I see lots of wild boar tracks
18:00 – 18:20 Walking into the woods, trying to find a good spot for the night
18:20 – 19:10 Setting up tent, making my bed, change clothes and I dive in!
19:10 – 20:10 Cooking and eating. A bit scared wild boars are going to steal my dinner.
20:10 – 22:00 Writing, mapping out the way ahead and taking care of my feet
22:00 – 22:30 Reading and chilling
22:30 Arnold Schwarzenegger…

REPEAT

Day 6, February 8th: Elspeter bos – Casa de Peetzak (Hilversum)                                  When I get a whiff of my odor, I wonder if other people can smell this too. I guess they do, but I haven’t been receiving any strange looks yet. At least, no stranger than people look at me speeding on my skates. It has been 4 days since my last shower. Using baby wipes does the job, but it’s just not the same. I feel like a hobo; heavy backpack, greasy hair and a nice penetrating smell of adventure surrounding me.

Today I’ve covered the most kilometers up to now. Around 50 kilometers! When I saw the bar where I was meeting Peter, I was very happy….Oh, I was so fucking happy! Not because I made it all the way to Hilversum, but because tomorrow will be a day all about chilling. Sitting in front of a tv, drinking tea. And washing. And a trip to a skate store. And writing. And checking documentation. Am I going to chill tomorrow? Yes, I will. No skating. I’m going to give my feet and legs a rest. You have to, after a week of on-going skating!

I’m noticing my emotions are stronger. Today I was really angry. I came across a 5 kilometers long road with paving bricks….But I’ve also been laughing out loud! On a viaduct I saw a guy waiting for something, looking at the road. I asked him what he was doing. He replied: “I’m filming trucks passing by”. Ok. I decided to wait for a while and when a truck drove by and we did the universal ‘honk the horn’ gesture’ and the trucker honked! Ha! That was perfect movie material! The boy was radiating and I wished him all the best of luck. The smile on my face lasted for 15 minutes….

These are the things that make it all worth while. The ups and downs that go with such an adventure. But tomorrow no such thing. Just chilling and now for another beer!8

Day 8, February 9th: Casa de Peetzak (Hilversum)                                                                            My legs are still hurting from yesterday’s 50 kilometers. My right ankle is really swollen! I’ve made the right choice taking the day off today. But the more I’m resting, the harder it gets to reach my final destination at the 16th. But I really need the rest, at least my feet and legs need it.

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Many things happened this past week. I’ve been wandering through a swamp in the dark, seeking a place to sleep. I’ve endured frozen forest roads and made lovely meals in the freezing cold. I’ve cursed paving bricks and praised asphalt. And I’ve been wondering what the fuck I’m doing. Why do I put my sore feet back inside the roller skates? For adventure? But what is the adventure? Skating or meeting people on the way? Or is it starting at point ‘a’ and not knowing where point ‘b’ is, subsequently setting up my tent. I think it is a combination. Camping, going from ‘a’ to ‘b’ only using your own strength and not knowing what you will encounter. Searching for the unknown and submit to it. But also knowing you stand strong in varied and strange situations.

When I look back, the extreme moments are the once that get stuck in my head; skating in the dark on 3 kilometers of paving bricks. My tent covered in ice. And the beautiful forest road which I zoomed over. But there are also moments when nothing happened, also in my head. Just nothing, like a meditation. And these are beautiful moments too.

I am worried about my right ankle….It is still very swollen and I hope this will heal quickly. If you have any advice, let me know! (Update in March: I used anti-infammatory pills, cooling spray and kept my ankle up. It was “better” the next day)

Day 9, February 10th: Casa de Peetzak (Hilversum)                                                                            It has been 48 hours since I came rolling into Hilversum. My clothes are fresh again. I ate as much food as an entire family would eat in a week. I cleansed my body, peeling away the greasy layer that kept my body warm. And my ankle is…., well, it is still attached to my leg. I’m carrying with me a package of inflammatory agent and some cool-spray and this should keep me going. After 48 hours it is starting to gnaw at me. I am looking forward getting closer to my final goal tomorrow and finding a new spot for my little portable house to sleep in.

It is getting more difficult trying to find the right route and a nice camping spot. In the northern and eastern parts there are lots of woods and little roads (making it easy to find the way). Where I am right now, it is a different situation. The map shows a lot of roads, towns and very few green areas. But this is also a challenge which I gladly take on! Who knows what hidden treasures I might find?

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I’m hoping to reach St. Anna ter Muiden within 6 days. It is the most westward place in The Netherlands, all the way in the deep south of the Provence of Zeeland. I still have to go 200 km, so you do the math! (let me do it; 33,3 km per day). And then there will be the finish. A huge victory! And you know how I’m going to celebrate this? With a one-way ticket back to Groningen. This will be a personal triumph. No flags, cheering people or other festivities. No finish line, just a blue sign saying; BELGIUM. And I will leave a message on it. This will be my victory!

Ps. Maybe I will bring the sign with me :)

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East 2 West, Rollerblading the Netherlands in the winter (Part 1 of 3)

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When I looked outside I saw it was cold. There was even snow and ice. And I was about to make a 450 kilometer long journey from the most Eastern part of the Netherlands to the most Western part on rollerblades. If the temperatures would drop a little bit more, I could go on ice skates! I packed my tent, sleeping bag and backpack and off I went. The fact that I just learned to skate a month ago made it extra adventurous.

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Every day I wrote a small piece about my adventures, experiences and my mischief. The whole journey took 14 days, this part covers the first 5 days. Enjoy reading!

 

Day 0, February 1st
Today is the day, I am going to leave tomorrow….Yesterday I started packing and the total weight is 12 kilo’s. Way too much! Add another 2 or 3 kilo’s in food and drinks and I’m at 15 kilos. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really disbalances me on my skates! Luckily my journey starts in the middle of nowhere with little traffic. So no problem if I start off wobbling like a kid. This last week I’ve been feeling pretty tense with the upcoming travel
, but in a good way. I was floating in a dreamlike state, constantly thinking about the moment of departure. The German border, the most eastern part of The Netherlands. My thoughts kept moving towards this spot; and all I have to do is skate. Nothing more, nothing less. Putting one foot in front of the other. 450 kilometers long.

What heightens the tension is the notion of me sleeping outside in a tent. Which spots will I discover, will I be putting up a tent in a stretched out meadow, or in a beautiful wooded area? Will I encounter any foxes or other animals? Will the tent hold a night full of rain? Another strenuous element is the cold. Every day I’m checking the forecast, and yes……It is getting cold! But with a sleeping bag from Twin Seasons Groningen I’m sure this won’t be a problem.

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Tonight will be the last night in a warm bed, in a heated room and the last night of my daily routine… I’m looking forward breaking routine and going out on an adventure on roller-skates. Defying cold, preparing food on a camping stove, discovering places I’ve never been before and enjoying the beautiful nature The Netherlands has to offer.

Day 1, February 2nd: Bad Nieuweschans – Wedderbergen2

While I’m heating my supper (cup a soup with bread) I can hear some crows and ducks nearby. It’s dark and in the distance through the trees, I can see lights burning of a small restaurant. I’m really looking forward to tonight. The outlook of heating a sausage on my stove makes me happy….I might sound like a hobo and I feel like a hobo, but this is probably because I’m only 15 kilometers from home. I started today in a rainy Nieuweschans. After 3, maybe 4 hours of skating I’ve now arrived in Weddebergen, a well known place in these surroundings.

I think I’ve covered a distance of some 20/25 kilometers and the blisters are already starting to form….I haven’t experienced any muscular pains yet, but this will inevitably happen in a few days. Seeing the blisters already appear, kind of makes me worry a bit. What will happen after 5 days or 10 days? Time will tell and I will persist!

Tomorrow I’ll rise up early in the morning. A nice cup of coffee and hoping I’ll manage to cover 40 kilometers. It will be a lot easier when the streets are in a better state. Today it was so bad, the wheels of my roller skates sometimes felt they were square instead of round. It is an important choice I have to make. Shall I take the beautiful small trails, with a big chance on walking on skates instead of rolling, or will I go for the bigger roads, which are very boring, but easier to move on. A reoccurring question adventurers ask themselves; am I taking the normal scope or off the beaten track? Believe me, it is different on foot or on bike. Either way, you can get stuck, but on skates it is like someone is holding you back. I will see what happens tomorrow. First let me make a nice little fire!

Day 2, February 3rd: Wedderbergen – Gasselte3
The tent is still wet from this morning. During the night I kept hearing things sliding of my tent….When I woke up this morning my suspicion was right…The entire tent was covered with ice. Apparently it was pretty cold in the northern regions. But, all I needed was some coffee and I was good to go.

Today was a very hard day with new insights. After skating for half an hour, my feet hurt. The part just above my right ankle hurt the most. And I also fell on my elbow, without wearing elbow pads. It didn’t hurt that much in the beginning, but during the night the fun really started. My arm really started to hurt when I stretched it. Keeping it at a 90 degrees angle, was the best position. Add the pain of my feet and nightmarish scenarios start popping in my head. I will never make it, if it is this bad after 2 days!
And why should I go on? I can just go home. No, I will not! I’m going through with this and finish what I started. It’s personal. I’m not doing this for anyone else. If I succeed, it’s my personal victory and it will give me the opportunity to inspire others. To show people everyone can do this. With a sole and 2 socks in the left skate and a Kleenex in my other sock… It does the job and I’m even starting to feel some enjoyment. And the free tea I got at the best bakery of Stadskanaal heightened the joy. I went into the woods when it was already dark, so I don’t really know what it looks like here, but I’m looking forward to the sun rising through the trees in the lovely Provence of Drenthe. And a shower. I’m really looking forward to a shower.

Day 3, February 4th: Gasselte – Stroovledder
Today it was summer. At least, it felt like summer! The snow in the Drentse woods made me suspect it wasn’t summer after all. I felt really warm, but that was probably because I was racing on my skates. Yes, I was passing old ladies on their bikes, instead of the other way around. As you may have noticed, I’m getting into a skate-flow, even carrying 15 kilos on my back. The roads were perfect today and this is more to my liking. Long
live asphalt and concrete! Death to paving bricks and cobble stones!

During eating a nice big plate of scrambled eggs in a cafe, I decided to find myself a warm bed for the night, giving me the time (and warmth) to clean my roller skates. The Inn was 14 kilometers from where I was. It was 16:15, so if I hurry, I could reach the place before dark. The road to Dwingeloo was perfect; beautiful solitary asphalt through the Drentse fields with the sun setting in the background. These are the moments making it all worthwhile!

I arrived at Dwingeloo at nightfall. The streets have turned into……fucking paving bricks! I’m trying to roll, but it is almost impossible. Just outside of Dwingeloo you are aware being in the middle of nowhere. No streetlights anywhere. So I’m trying to find my way through the dark on those fucking paving bricks, using only a headband light…..On moments like these I somehow change into a primitive man, producing sounds like an animal! After half an hour I finally arrive at the Inn, with the outlook on getting a good night’s rest

These encounters give me the feeling I’ve already been on the road for 3 weeks. You can experience a lot in a short time. When I look at yesterday’s pictures of my snow covered tent, I get the feeling I’m looking at something what happened days ago. This is what adventure gives you. Do you want your life to look longer than it really is? Go on an adventure!4

Day 4, February 5th: Stroovledder – Belt Schutsloot
Adventure: “unexpected, exciting experience”

Imagine, you are in Zwartsluis and you have just bought food for the night. The only thing left to do, is find a spot for your tent. A beautiful sundown colors the sky red and you are looking at your map. There are no green areas on the map and all I’ve seen the last 2 hours are meadows…..What do you do? Recently I own a smartphone. Specially purchased for this trip, so you can keep up with my experiences. But it has more functions, so Googlemaps it is. It turns out there are green areas! Meanwhile I’m skating in the dark on a deserted country road and pass such a green area.

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It is in indeed a forrest and off I go, to find a spot for the night. What Googlemaps didn’t tell me is that the green area is swampy peat-soil….. After one and a half hours of hiking through the soaked woods, my courage, like my feet, sank to zero. Ok, fuck it! I’m getting my phone! I quickly find the phonenumber of a bed & breakfast.

The moment of calling the B&B, I’m getting the feeling I’m taking the easy road. Having a phone with me, decreases the chance on adventure. But that is what it is all about; adventure. If I would sleep in a hotel every night, would it still be an adventure? Having a phone with me, makes it a lot easier. What would I have done, if I didn’t brought one? I would have found a spot either way. The story would have been a lot more exciting, and the experience more intense. Even more, I would grow after such an experience, knowing that even if the going gets tough, I would still find my way.

You cant wait for the rest? Like my Facebook page, scroll down and read the whole story before I publish it here! 

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Why adventure? Becoming a wild beast! (Part 4 of 4)

It’s dark, cold and the sky is full of stars. The sleeping bag is keeping me warm, and I feel like being in a warm cocoon. I know I’m all alone; there are just trees, some small animals here and there, a little wind and the only sound I hear are the birds and the occasional owl. This is one of the reasons why I go on adventures, to be in the middle of the nature.

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This is the last part in a series about why people would go on a difficult adventure. Here you can read part 1, 2 and 3.

A little over a month ago I went on a 450 km rollerblade adventure, in the midst of winter with a backpack and a tent. From the most eastern part of the Netherlands to the most Western part, 450 km in 14 days. It was a great trip. It was difficult by times, but I have good memories about it. One of the best memories is just a random one: I was laying around in my tent when I realized that I was looking up constantly, gazing at the stars. Everybody has been sitting in a chair or laying on the grass, at least once in their lives, staring at the stars for hours. All these tiny points, millions, are planets. So far away. And we are here, on this planet with our amazing landscapes. Natural landscapes that we mostly take for granted and that we only notice when we’re in the middle of them. Now I am in the middle of it, and I can feel that.

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The first night of my trip there was a small forrest next to a big lake. There was a road close by and I could hear people sometimes. It was not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but after 2 hours of not hearing people, having a small fire and looking over the water it felt like the middle of nowhere. Some people are scared to sleep alone in a forrest in a small tent; I can imagine, but for me there is no feeling of getting closer to nature then laying around in it. Witnessing the silence of a small forrest, the crackle of a fire and the fresh outside air makes me feel alive. I strongly have the feeling this is good for the mind and the body and after a night of sleep in the fresh air I have energy for two! But that might also be the strong morning coffee… I’ve been basically living outside in a tent for 2 weeks and when I came home after the adventure a lot of people around me were getting sick. I thought that I would be prone to be sick after sleeping in -7C on the ground but no, it seems being in the cold makes you harder! One reason why adventure is good for you; fresh air and exercise makes you as strong as the hulk!

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Every evening I would search a beautiful a place for my tent. A place well hidden from people and surrounded by trees. It might be a place where somebody would walk their dog, a place where a family would have a picnic. For me it’s a place for the night. A little piece of nature that I can enjoy while laying in a tent cooking a small plate of food. Every place is different, every place had their own sounds, skies and sunsets. In Zeeland there was fog and everything was frozen in the morning, Bleskensgraaf where there were icy winds, a beautiful sunrise and thousands of geese swarming and making noises. The forests of the Veluwe where there were signs of wild boars (and the fear they would steal my food) and the swamps of Zandgracht. These are just small places, but seeing these places with adventurous eyes, makes them special.

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After being out and about after a couple of days I feel I become a bit wilder. My hands get more dirty, I’m more used to the cold and my face gets a reddish color. My head gets into a outdoors mode. When I wake up, the first thing I notice is the wind. Is there lots of it? Will be be headwinds today? How are the clouds looking? Will there be rain coming up, or maybe even snow? And how strong is the sun today? At every place that I camped I listen to the animals; are there the same birds? Do I hear foxes or are there animals creeping and crawling? How is the ground where I want to put my tent? What kind of plants grow here? (haha, none! It was winter) All these things combined makes you more wild, more natural, because you are depended from your surrounding.

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After 2 weeks skating, camping in the bush and drinking strong coffee I reach my goal, the border with Belgium. Tired and satisfied I start to walk to the town, where I will hope to find a nice place to put my tent for the night. There is nothing, except for farmers fields, and not the ones with nice grass, but the ones with clay and mud… I decide to go to a campsite, jump the fence and put my tent up. This action fits the next 12 hours. Sitting in the train going home, feeling dirty, smelly, sticky but above all wilder then before.

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Why adventure? Personal development (Part 3 of 4)

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Travel widens your horizon. Meeting all kinds of different people, learning from new cultures and seeing how people live in different parts of the world. All these experiences stay with you, for eternity! The more you see of the world, the more cultures you see and the better you can empathize with other cultures then your own. I notice how people who traveled are more open to different people, cultures, eating habits and also unknown food. And I’m not talking about a 10 day all inclusive hotel stay, but “real” travel. Backpacking, (hitch)hiking, cycling, walking, driving… The difference is that you duck into a different culture, and by doing this you notice how your own culture is and how you, yourself are. Different habits of the people around you makes you aware of your own habits. Your habits might even appear as rude, while you think they’re totally normal… In Russia it’s normal to toast to every drink. If you drink before the toast people would probably correct you and tell you how their habit is. Yes, you just developed a bit more!

Next to this all the things you experience along the way are also important. You develop trough all your experiences and this gives you more and more confidence. And you learn how to deal with situations you normally don’t get into, while passing by different sides of yourself which has been previously hidden. Maybe you are a real good leader in sticky situations or maybe it seems your stamina is huge! With this you learn how to deal with yourself in difficult situations, and by this self confidence comes on a personal level. The more you have to trust on yourself (by traveling alone to a far away country, or by doing a hard adventure), the more you grow as a person and know what you’re able of. After 4 weeks alone on my bicycle trough Europe, I noticed that I really missed my friends and my girlfriend at the time. But what can you do if you only have a bike, a tent and a old nokia phone? After some texts with my friends it didn’t get much better… A week long I’ve been watching beautiful sunsets with a heart full of melancholy… But a phone call with my girlfriend at the time made a end to this! It seemed I just needed some social interaction with somebody who was standing close to me! I’ve learned from this that I need contact, and that talking with somebody close to me is something I really need. Every person has a small thing like that, something that is pretty normal, but shows in moments like these.

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Mostly people change after a big adventure or after a long period of travel. They are more self confident and more true to themselves. Actually these people have a head start on other people in life, who didn’t travel or stepped outside their comfort zone. This because these people encountered situations you wouldn’t encounter in your “normal” working-sleeping-working-sleeping life. By experiencing different things or to get into different situations you develop on a way that is very important in life.

Actually one grows on two ways: Cultural and individual. These two things together will help you grow like fertilizer to a plant. It makes your horizon wider and wider in a way that only happens when you bring yourself in hard conditions; it might be trough adventure, backpacking or other ways of travel. So it seems personal development is the most important reason to go on an adventure!

pissedAngry — > (Kind of weird) Happiness!happy

In the next part I will discover how nature drives adventurers. Read it here:

Why adventure? Personal challenge & victory (Part 2 of 4)

Standing in a hostel in Budapest, my bike fully packed (it was totally unstable as the picture might show) I thought by myself: Ok, this will be a challenge to get home, 2000 km’s in a couple of weeks while making a film. Lets go! When I took my bike out on the street I almost fell down and thought: shit… This will not be easy!

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This is part 2 of 4 about the reasons why I think people would go on a hard adventure or expedition. The previous part is about excitement of a adventure. Check it here.

The challenge is what drives me. I can do my skate trip trough the Netherlands (450 km) on a bicycle, but then it will be like my previous cycling trips. I know I can do that and I know how it is. I mean, its lots of fun and a great way to challenge yourself, but for me cycling 450 km in a couple of days not a challenge anymore. Thats why I have to make it harder, to keep a certain amount of interest in the challenge for myself. If a trip isn’t a challenge it hardly serves a purpose for me, and when it doesn’t serve a purpose for me, it also has no purpose for others.

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A challenge is a challenge when you ask yourself: “Is the trip doable?” Or maybe your trip is barely doable. Setting a challenge for yourself is the most important. A challenge where you think: “Damn, I have to put some effort in this, and it will be hard!” The first day of my 2000 km cycling trip or my 160 km beach trip, I really thought: “What did I get myself into? I’ll never make it!” And there is the challenge, thinking that you’re not able to finish the trip, but to try non the less. Taking the risk and see where it all ends up. At the end of your trip you will look back and you feel the victory. Above all its a victory over yourself. You had the feeling you couldn’t do it, but you’ve managed! Now you know you’re able to do it again in the future when its necessary. It seems you can do more then you thought and you’ll take this with you in your normal (read: not being on a trip) life. If somebody would ask me to walk 30 Km on 1 day I think: oh yeah, no problem, I’ve done 50 km on the beach in 1 day so 30 is totally doable for me!

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You will take that victory with you, forever. And the bigger the challenge is, the bigger the victory, the more you know you can do, the stronger and more confident you are about certain aspects in life. From each victory you get a little stronger, and now the phrase “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” is in full effect!

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Struggling is a part of victory over a hard challenge. A victory never comes without a challenge, otherwise it’s not a victory. There doesn’t have to be struggle the whole time, but the struggle is the key that opens the door to the victory. The more struggling one inflicts on themselves, the bigger the victory is, but this doesn’t mean that the challenge has to be harder! But when the challenge is higher, it makes the victory feel better and probably there is a bigger part of struggle.

It’s a “three in a row”: challenge, struggle and victory. In this case the struggle is a way to connect the challenge to the victory. But this is different for everybody! Some people walk through the amazon for 2 years straight, other people sleep a night outside. It really doesn’t matter how hard the struggle is, as long as you see the challenge and have the motivation to go towards the victory. In 8 days I’ll be skating 450 Km trough the Netherlands, but I don’t dare to stand 1 full minute under a ice cold shower… How’s that for a personal challenge!

If you like, you can follow my skate trip on my facebook page here. I’ll try to post something every day.

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This is part 2 of 4, the next part will be about the personal development that an adventure or journey brings you… Read it here.

Why adventure? Excitement (Part 1 of 4)

Imagine this: you sit on your couch, have a nice book in your hands a cup of hot tea on the table and the fire in the woodstove is crackling. The rain is hitting the windows, and you hear how the wind is blowing around your house. You take a zip of tea and think about the adventurer; outside in a tent, cold and tired, trying to make a small dinner on a tiny stove… Now why would a person do this and even like it!? 

In a series of blogposts, I’m trying to give a answer on this question. Probably it will not be the answer of all of the nomads, travelers, adventurers or outdoor people, but its my personal answer I collected trough reading numerous blogs, books, watching films, listening to interviews, talking to people about this and most important, doing this myself. I have found 4 (there must be millions more, but for me there are 4 big ones) reasons why somebody might do this and like it.

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Before I started my current education (Soon I’ll be “Bachelor of Popculture”, yes!) I traveled for a year and tried to ruff it as much as possible. I slept on the street in USA, met streetkids and spend time in their freaky bus, spent a night in a self made snow cabin at -30C in North Sweden and hitchhiked from Portugal to the Netherlands. All these things don’t appeal to the majority of people but I had to do them, to get where I am now. Why did I want to do these things? And what did I learn from them? In the short run just basic stuff. I learned that if you want to sleep on the street, make sure there is some kind of cover to sleep under because you might be awoken by a rain shower. Or if you want to hitchhike, make sure that you know where you are and where your destination is, otherwise it might take 6 hours of standing with lots and lots of traffic passing by.

It was only after my first long cycling trip trough sweden that there was a feeling of real sense in it all. In retrospect, this was also my first “adventure”. There was a sense of excitement; where would I sleep and what will I encounter? A sense of challenge and victory; will I make it? And if I made it, it would be a huge achievement! And being in the middle of stunning beautiful nature; the forests of sweden. These are 3 of the 5 reasons. The other reasons for me are: Personal development and Creativity.

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The 1st of February there will be a adventure for me to test if these 5 things are right. I will go from the most eastern point in the Netherlands to the most western point. These points are in the North-east and the South-west and are 450 kilometers apart. Perfect! To make it exciting for myself I will go on inline skates. Did I already mentioned I can’t skate at all? I’m learning as we speak (or read/write) and every time the skates are under my feet, there is a sense of excitement flowing over me. It started when I bought the skates. It starts small. The idea grows, and the closer the trip comes the bigger the excitement becomes. Can you remember when you were a kid and it was the night before your birthday? For sure you couldn’t sleep! Excitement all over! The same with this trip. I guess the night before departure there will be hardly any sleep, due to this excitement.

This feeling also makes me feel good and motivated. I’m working mostly behind my computer, and the sense of excitement to go on a crazy inline adventure makes it less oppressively to sit indoors all day. There is a positive vibe building up towards D-day, with a huge climax of the first step, paddle or skate-swoosh.

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Then the real excitement sets it. It’s not so strong as the build up towards the first steps of the trip, but it’s a more constantly feeling that sometimes comes up strongly. Mostly at the end of the day, when you have to find a place to sleep, put up your tent or make camp. Where will the place be, where you will lay your head for (hopefully) 8 hours? Will it be a beautiful place, with a view over the mountains or a lake? Or will it be a gas station because there is running water? Then there is the “morning excitement”. You wake up (if you have found the place with a view over a lake you’re lucky!) and drink your coffee. What will happen today? What will I encounter? Who will I encounter? Will my gear or my body do what I would like it to do? All these thoughts come up while staring over the lake… This is why I do it. The excitement of the day. Being surprised by everything, because I can’t expect anything!

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This excitement beats being in a cosy, warm house with a cup of tea reading a book. Even when it’s stormy, rainy or cold. I’ll be in my bivvy bag, with a small basic meal thinking about what the next day will bring. I have no clue what it will bring, but I know it will be exciting!

This is part 1 of 4, in the next part I will see how it is with the challenge & victory… Read it here.

Tips ‘n tricks on cooking while traveling

IMG_8556And there you are in the forrest, after a whole day of hitchhiking, cycling, walking or driving. You’re hungry and want to fill that hole in your stomach. In this piece I’ll give you some tips ‘n trick on how to cook, what to bring and finally some good recipes. 

It can be pretty hard, cooking outdoor, with just one pot on a fire. But it can also be pretty amazing to have that slight taste of smoke or fire in your food. You don’t need BBQ sauce with that! There are a couple of different ways to cook: a simple stove, on a fire, on hot charcoal or even on pinecones. Lets have a look at the stoves first.

The stove: There are lots and lots of stoves. Super expensive ones burning on all kinds of fuel and cheap ones made from just a tin can. The stove I’ve been using for some years now is a simple gel/wood stove (on the picture above). It contains a pot for cooking, a burner for gel, alcohol or any type of burnable liquid and a tray to put the pot on. In the tray the burner perfectly fits. Mostly I cook on wood, but at places where there are hardly any trees (northern Scotland for example) its handy to take some burning gel. Gel has my preference as it is much safer then liquids. I remember one day cooking in the side of my tent (already dangerous!) and i accidentally flipped the whole thing over… With proper liquid there would be flames all over directly, but with gel it just slowly drips out. Next to this, most gels available don’t produce smoke and very toxic residue on your pots’ n pans. Firelighter blocks, lamp oil and stuff with oil in it gives huge flames and lots of smoke, something you don’t want to have.

CIMG28802Check out the toxic residue on the pot!

Extra tip: Build your own stove of rocks, bricks or metal!oven

Cooking on a fire: When you want to cook on a fire, you have to keep that in mind when you start the fire. It also depends on what you would like to cook of course. If you happen to have a big pot, its good to stack logs up and make a kind of stove from logs. But make sure the logs will not burn trough when cooking!

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You could also make a bed of charcoal and put you pot on there. A quit tip for cooking on fire, keep the lid on the pot! It’s nice to have a smokey flavor but ashes in your food is not cool. The best thing to cook on a campfire is meat in my opinion. The taste of the fire really goes in the meat and to add some extra flavor you can put some pinecones or birch in the flames.

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But what could you bring? There are some foods or ingredients that are perfect for backpacking. I can tell you that tomatoes are not one of them in my opinion. They’re tasty ‘n healthy but lets face it, would you walk around with a kilo of tomatoes smashed in your backpack? Although when the tomatoes are concentrated and formed into paste they’re the best! So let me give you a list of stuff that is really worth to take.

Extra tip: cook entirely on pinecones; your food will get a great taste!Camera

– Carrots: Tasty, healthy and you can use them in every food. Also good to eat raw as a snack.

– Onions: Onions have a strong taste, so you can use a half one in every meal to make the meal complete.

– Brown Beans: Canned beans are great to eat when you need some magnesium for your muscles and to fill your stomach. Good together with the onions, carrots and other vegetables for a nice stew.

 – Garlic: Garlic is a natural antibiotic and has a very strong taste. If you feel a little under the weather on your travels, eat a piece of garlic before you go to sleep and you can notice that you feel better the next morning. Next to this, you can use garlic for nearly every food.

– Canned Fish: Nearly all types of canned fish you can eat raw. Good for a snack but also good to add to a whole meal.

– Stock Cubes: For adding a bit of taste to blend food. They have saved my life a couple of times! (Naja, saved the taste of my food…)

– Tomato Paste: This comes in handy with everything! Pasta, stew, vegetables, fish…

– Couscous: This is great stuff, it tastes good and it goes well with lots of vegetables. The only thing you have to do to cook it, is to put it in hot water for a minute and its ready! If you consider to take rice with you, take this instead. It saves you 10 minutes of boiling.

– Tabasco: Yes, it spices everything up! Even a piece of dry bread tastes better with tabasco…

– Red Wine: Not only for cooking, but also for drinking!

Next to this it’s always good to carry a salt/pepper mix, chili powder or some other spices. Spices don’t weigh so much, but they can enhance every meal! I like to buy a pack of taco mix or some other mexican spice mix, but italian herbs are also pretty damn good. These 25 grams are worth it, I assure you.

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Extra tip: coffee! It’s not food, but tell me that in the morning…IMG_80022

And after the fire tips and the food tricks some recipes. There is one recipe I tried some weeks ago in the bush above a fire and it was delicious! I tried it a week later at home and it was good, but it missed a outside feeling. So if you ever make this, make sure you prepare it outside above a fire! You can find it here.

CIMG28952Pasta del ponte: what do you need? Pasta, tomato paste, olives, capers, onion, garlic, salt’n peppa, stock cube, tabasco, red wine.

Cook the pasta with the stock cube. When it’s done put the pasta in a plate (or on a piece of paper if you don’t have plates) and put the garlic and onion in the pot with a little wine. Cook for some minutes and add the capers. After a minute or 2 add tomato paste, water and some more wine, tabasco and the salt’n pepper. Let it boil for 5 minutes and serve with the pasta. Preferably close to a bridge.

CIMG29232Brown bean stew: What do you need? Canned beans, onion, chili powder, sausage or diced bacon, a carrot, tomato paste, red pepper, mexican spice mix.

Start with the meat and bake it for some time. Now add the onion, and the carrot. Keep steering and when the onions are glassy, add the tomato paste and the chili powder. If you want you can add a little wine with the paste, but water will do too. Add the mexican spice mix and let it simmer for some minutes. When you think it’s almost done add the red pepper. It will still contain all the vitamins, and makes the stew fresh. There u go! A mexican bean stew, full of fibers and vitamins.

For more recipes you can read “The beer can cookbook“. A great adventure cookbook made by Leah, an american traveler.

Happy cooking and don’t forget your spoon in the forrest!

For more adventure / outdoor / travel stuff you can like my Facebook page!

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Be a farmer for a short time, anywhere!

I remember the moment where I felt like a proper lumberjack… Hauling huge 50 kilo logs trough a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Together with me was the farmer (a proper lumberjack), a Chinese guy, and 12 boy scouts. This moment is what you can call a wwoof experience.

I hear many people asking about wwoof, how to begin, what the do’s and don’ts are and how it is. Now I’ve been wwoofing about 6 years, and I had some great experiences. Also there were some less good experiences. I’ll tell you how to start, how to get in touch with the farmers and what to take with you. And I will advise some great wwoofing places!

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But lets say you would like to wwoof. Ok, good! How would one set that up? First you need to have a country where you would like to go to. But lets say you would like to go to sweden (I went there, and would go there again and again!). On the bottom of the wwoof international website are the other websites, like wwoof sweden. The organization is devided in different wwoof chapters all working together. On the wwoof sweden site there is a host list. You can see information, but for detailed information you have to sign up. Mostly you pay about 10 to 15 euros for a year membership. If you done this you can see the phone number, email and all that information from the farm. Now it gets exciting…

If the country is not on the wwoof list, they are probably on the wwoof independent list. These are countries who have too less farms to have their own organization. But they are still worth checking out! So you have found your farm you would like to go to. Now call them. Yes, just call them. I was a bit scared at first, what should I tell these people on the other side of Europe? Well, I told them I would like to come by for 2 weeks (stayed there for 5 months…) on this and that date. That was good. They had space for me. It can also occur that they are already fully booked, so call them in advance. For my documentary about wwoof  I had to call them 3 months before! If you do that, you have more chance they have space for you. But don’t call them too far ahead, I would say 2 moths is the maximum.

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And that was it. Now you have arranged yourself a wwoofingplace! I can advise you to call one week before you get there. In case they are not at home or forgot about you. Some farms can have up to 10 woofers at the same time, so its easy to get lost in the departure and arrival of new wwoofers. This call would also be good to ask for specific directions, if they can pick you up from somewhere (sometimes they do!), if you have to bring special things or other things you would like to know.

You got your tickets, cardboard sign, bike or freakmobile ready, now its time for packing! Do you need to bring certain stuff for wwoofing? Yes. You will be working in the field, with animals or in the bush. Take clothes that can get dirty. Proper dirty. I remember I went to a farm for 10 days, because it was apple season, and they could use people to press apples. I kinda forgot you get totally covered in mashed apples and your shirts will not be clean after that. I took a couple of shirts, all good shirts… Stupid… These shirts still have the apple juice stains in it… So take at least 2 shirts with you that can get really dirty. Same as pants and sweaters. Also hiking boots come in handy. There might be a time where you have to go trough mud, water or swamps. Or cow poo. Yes, you’re on a farm, don’t take your best shoes. Although you go to a farm with beds and sheets, I would always take my own sleeping bag and towels. You might end up with 10 other wwoofers so having your own sleeping stuff is no luxury. I would also take my tent and mat, but this is personal. I like to sleep outside whenever I can.

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Like I said before I have been wwoofing for 6 years and next to this I used helpxchange. Similar to wwoof, but there are not only farms, but also hostels, sheepherders… anything really. There were some wonderful experiences, but they all depend on your state of being and how open you are. I could share the experiences, but then I’ll be typing for hours and hours. But what I would like to share is the best places I’ve been around the world to wwoof or volunteer. Here my best two:

Rosenhill tradgard; Ekerö/Stockholm, Sweden                                                                                                                           For me this is heaven on earth. The people are amazing, the work is great and the overall ambience is beautiful. A place where you can heal, develop yourself, develop skills, make music and make apple juice in the autumn. This place is close to the city of stockholm so a night out is no problem. They have a bus you can sleep in (almost the same like the one from “into the wild”) a caravan or wooden cottages. They also have a yoga/meditation place and great food!rosenhill appels

Happy hippy hostel; Letovnik, Bulgaria                                                                                                                                      When we arrived we got offered a shot of own made rakia (type of liquor) and when accepting there was a: “welcome to the family” This is the essence of wwoofing in my opinion working like a family. This host is in a tiny tiny village on rural bulgaria, and a great place. The work i did at the time was building. After 1 day of 10 hours work in the burning sun (sometimes wwoofing can be quite hard) we got rewarded with a sauna and a dinner at a restaurant. Great place, great people, great atmosphere. Did i already say 1 of the owners is a chef and is making dinner every workday?hhh

So these are some of the nicest places I have been. I also had some nasty experiences, but this mostly had to to with not being in one line with the people of the farm. The most extreme case was in a farm in Bulgaria, where me and my travel partner were 18 hours when we decided we should leave. There was no handshake when we arrived, just a very short tour and we directly had to work. At dinner there was no real conversation mostly just rambling from the farmer, and the next day she totally ignored my travel partner. So we decided to leave. It was a hard choice to make, because these people take you in their house, but when she said: ah, its ok, the next wwoofers will be here tomorrow I really thought: well… screw you, we are not numbers!

It should be fun, so let this also be a reminder that you are not a slave; a apple and carrot is not a lunch. Especially not when you work for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a difference to a helper and the owner of the farm in my opinion, the owner of the farm should be happy that you would like to spend your time helping him/her. But then again, I’ve had 14 hour workdays… And I did it with joy. Because the people were thankful, and this is more worth then money. Oh yeah, and they took us for a ride on their sailboat the next day :)

If you have any more questions about wwoofing, the farms or you would like to have some tips, don’t hesitate to ask me!

Cheerio, and happy wwoofing!

For more adventure / outdoor / travel stuff you can like my Facebook page!

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