Why would you go on an adventure? Something with personal development…

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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

Why would one go on a hard adventure? (Personal challenge & victory)

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 5 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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Why does one leave the house and goes on a adventure?

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 5 (there must be millions more, but for me there are 5 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 5, in the next part I will see how it is with the challenge & victory… If you have any ideas about this, or I’m missing some essentials, let me know!

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.

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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!

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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!

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Tranquility on the water

“Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; but paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.” –  Pierre Trudeau

IMG_90682Normally my adventures and journeys are packed with excitement, a bit of adrenaline and cycling up hills or long distances. But this was different. This was calm, almost serene.

The main idea was to get a canoe from Vissershang and be away for a couple of days, finding out what the biesbosch means in a fully built country like the Netherlands. From a different perspective Henk and I watched the creeks go by, we met a black pig, hurled our canoe over muddy hills, witnessed beautiful sunsets and sometimes paddled like there was no tomorrow. And drank wine at a fire. Very important!

The first couple of hours were a bit clumsy. We had to find out how to move on water, but since were Dutch (most of our country is below sea level) we adjusted quickly and after a while we slid trough the water like all the ducks we passed. We started to like the canoe, and figure out how to move it properly without flipping over. Everything got a little wet, but when your surrounded with water the water will also be on you, and your stuff. This is how it is and it is ok. After sliding for some time we found our castle for the night. An small cabin, with outside fireplace and benches to sit and cook. We couldn’t ask for more! We made a fire, food and reflected on the day, where we met farmer Jan. Living in the park with his wife and 160 cows. We talked about his idea’s of why nature is important for people. It seemed that he found nature is there for people to enjoy. Without people the nature would have no purpose. In my idea, nature is there first and people second. People should adjust to nature, take care of it and not try to form it to their own needs. Because nature doesn’t like to be formed. It cannot be formed; it always grows back to its own form. With this still in our heads we laid down in the cabin and went to sleep.

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The whole weekend the weather was perfect, and it add a extra dimension to the trip. Paddling for hours and hours in the sun gave us the energy we needed to keep going trough this beautiful area. We noticed how easy it was to slide trough the water, and it felt like this was a way how people should go from place to place. The first minute in the water felt like pure joy! After some hours of paddling the sun started to set and we decided to go further in the dark. Then it got totally dark, now this was a new experience. The world gets smaller and smaller, until it only contains of the canoe and your light. With the dark evening like a blanket on us, we went trough creeks, saw square cows and the eyes of ducks. In the dark everything feels more unreal, and this is adventure at its finest. All the senses are heightened, your eyes wide open en still you hardly see anything. It became even better when the batteries of my headlight became weaker and weaker. It heightens all of the senses even more! The small world flows by, and we see only fragments of what we hear. After a couple of hours of going trough this dark world we returned to the cabin and searched for some firewood. Even in the forrest we got lost. Walking 10 meters away from the cabin, and we were lost… Yes, dark forests have magic powers to push you an other way then you think you are going.

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Strong coffee, soup and bread is what our stomachs got for breakfast. We went up early, but not too early. The previous days we got the hang of sliding relaxed trough the water, and sleeping in comes naturally with this sort of relaxedness. After going trough passes we didn’t took yet, we managed to find the house of Henny. She is a lady living in the Biesbosch, in touch with nature. We had a coffee “Biesbosch style” with her and talked about nature, man, history, why the Biesbosch should finds its own way and the beavers living there. She tries to live off the land as much as possible and although she is 72, she still manages to do her own thing, living on the edge of the forest with her feet like roots in the soil. Nature will find her way, she doesn’t need humans, and she definitely doesn’t need humans who knows what is best for her! I think Henny must know, she already lives there for years and years and the nature is part of her as she is part of the nature.

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We had to go back, the sun was setting and we chose the big river Maas to paddle back. We slowly got into society again. Big cargo ships were passing us while the sun was orange and shone his last rays over us. We got back while it was already dark. In the cozy cafe of Vissershang we drank a cold white beer and had great food in our empty-paddled stomachs. Our arms were almost sore from paddling 4 days. Almost… We were back in the real world. Dirty and smelly but relaxed, full of fresh thoughts, experiences and renewed energy. On the way back we philosophized about nature, humans, our system, the planet and how we live on this planet. Because its not OUR planet. We just live on it, but were acting like it’s ours. The Biesbosch showed us the greatness of nature we have here in the Netherlands, the beauty and how we need to keep this. The Biesbosch is not ours, it’s just there.

Maybe there will be a free weekend coming up for you, maybe you can search for a canoe and maybe you can take a tent and go out for some days. Because you can travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; but paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature…Schermafbeelding 2014-11-11 om 11.30.25

A weekend adventure in the autumn…

It’s rainy, stormy and wet… The perfect conditions to go out, and enjoy the autumn to it’s fullest! This weekend “Adventure Henk” and I will go for a short mid autumn adventure in the “Biesbosch”. This is one of the many national parks we have in the Netherlands. The last journey we did was a 160 kilometer walking trip, and it was exhausting, hard, wet, tiring and rough. So all in all it was great! I strongly believe in doing new things, therefore I’ve been searching for a sort of transportation I’ve never (or hardly) used before. The KAYAK… The Biesbosch is one of the last extensive areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in Northwestern Europe, so a kayak was the natural way of moving around.

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Many people would think: why would you go out in autumn weather like this? Why would you sleep in a tent, or in a bivvy bag in the cold weather? I ask myself: why would I hang out on a couch watching crappy TV, if I can be out there in the fresh air? It’s the feeling of being outside, in the nature that makes me feel alive. Sometimes you just need to get out of your comfort zone to appreciate what you have. And when that is done with a kayak in the Biesbosch, it sounds like a proper way to energize yourself to me! Just being out for a couple of days gives me the energy in need during the week. Although the weather is rainy, wet and cold right now Im looking forward to spend a couple of nights in the Biesbosch…

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It’s just a short weekend microadventure. It doesn’t have to be a month long expedition. We will make a short film about it, and write about it. Then we leave it behind us, for others, as an inspiration for going out there yourself.

I want to say thanks to Vissershang canoe and boot rental for helping us with the Kayaks!

Without-a-map day 3 &4: Coo and back!

This is the story of a guy who finds out what it is to get lost. Just for the sake of experiment, and for the love of cycling! If you would like to know why this guy is doing this, you can click –> HERE. Or you can start at part 1 or part 2 of this epos…

This would be the third day of my trip. I was almost in Coo, Belgium, all the way from Maastricht, NL. Around 80 kilometers from the beginning point. When I woke up in the early morning I felt good. The night was fresh and dark, and gave me enough energy to bike to Coo and maybe even back in 1 day. The weather was good, and it seemed to become a warm day. After a refreshing wash in a small stream I got on my bike and cycled the remaining 10 kilometers to Coo.

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The roads went up and down, up and down and even more up and down. But before I knew it I was in Coo! I’ve made it! Now, Coo is not like a paradise… I mean, it’s nice but far away from the place I’ve camped my first time. It was a touristic spot; lots of cafe’s, restaurants and a beer for 4 or 5 euros. No thanks, I’ll rather have a swim in the river and be on my way back to Maastricht again!

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Washing all the salt from my body felt good! Thats the thing with cycling and camping out in the forrest for some days; when the opportunity of  washing comes by, don’t let it go! The next time you have this change might be in a couple of days! The layer of salt on your body might keep you a little warm in the winter, but I rather be fresh and without a layer of salt…

For sure I wasn’t planning to take the same way back, and after some kilometers I found a bus shelter with a map in it. So once again a own map was made, and I followed my way trough the beautiful Belgium landscape. My wheels rolled trough tiny villages, rocky trails and big roads. It was great, the sun was constantly shining and I enjoyed the fresh indian-summer-air. Sadly enough my bike didn’t have anything that shows how fast it went, because at some point I was on a big road, only going downhill for at least 15 kilometers. My ears plopped because of the descent, and this is rare for me as a dutch guy! I’ve must have been going at least 50 kmh… I celebrated this with a cola at a hotel, and when I cycled away, my eye fell on a map. Yes! I checked out the map, and saw a place with trees. By now the Ardennes were behind me, so you could imagine I was happy to see a green spot on the map!

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When the forrest was approached I found myself in the middle of beautiful farmlands. It was a little before 19:00 so there was enough time to find a spot, set up camp and cook. At the entrance of the forest was a big sign with the rules; No dogs, No walking outside of the paths, No open fire, No camping, No taking pictures when your camera is too loud… Damn, it was clear the Ardennes were behind me. Next to all these rules there was a sign with a guy and a gun. Did it mean people were shooting or hunting here?! On the sign were also times: 6-9 & 19-22. I quickly figured out the guys with guns must be foresters and they will shoot on sight between 6 & 9 and 19 & 22 o’clock. I just had little time left. Quickly I jumped into the forest and found a place for me and my bike. I marked the road and went up to a bench I saw earlier, to cook while I witnessed how the night would fall over the Belgium countryside. Time to make some pictures!

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Sitting there watching the sun go down I felt like a homeless person. I was stinky, cooking on a bench and drinking wine straight from the bottle. And I loved it. These are the moments where tranquility is boss. Sitting, waiting till it gets dark, watching the sky change from blue, to pink to purple and eventually to pitch black. These are the moments where life doesn’t fly by, but slowly goes by, minute by minute and second by second. A moment to reflect on your actions and where you stand in life. And to realize that wine tastes best straight out of the bottle.

A little after 22:00 I walked towards my place into the bush. Quickly I jumped in, and dragged my bike in there. Once cam was set up I crawled in my sleeping bag and heard the forest. This was by far the most loudest forest I’ve ever came across! Everything was squeaking, breaking or falling… Good backgrounds for a wel deserved rest!

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An early alarm clock woke me up before the foresters could, and after a breakfast with the strongest coffee ever (I ran out of water…) I continued my way to Maastricht. There were a couple of hills to conquer, but all in all it went quick. Mostly the road went downhill, and soon I found myself in Holland again. Cycling the last kilometers I noticed the same mountains as I started this trip, but now on the other side.

The feeling of getting lost was certainly there the last days, especially in the beginning. After some time I found a way to navigate by making my own maps. If I wouldn’t have set the rule of allowing myself to make maps, I think it wouldn’t be possible to do it in 3 to 4 days. There are people who did a continent without a map. Or cycled across India only to navigate with the sun and asking people for directions. Adventure can be found everywhere, and when you take away the certainty of a map, adventure crosses your path. In this time of GPS, smartphones, ipads and all the navigation devices it’s great to go out without a map. You take the roads you WANT to take, not the roads you HAVE to take or the devices tell you to take. In the end you’ll get to your end goal, don’t worry… It might just take a bit longer.

I reached my end goal in time for a good “patatje met”!

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I can see myself going on more “Without-a-map” trips. Getting lost, finding hidden paths and exploring unknown territories that might just be around the corner. But for now Ill keep my maps in my cupboard and don’t burn them yet!

Without-a-map: Day 2 … to .

This story is about my attempt to travel from Maastricht (NL) to Coo (BE) and back in 3 days, without a map. Maybe you want to read the first part or maybe you want to know why I do this. But for you who keep on reading I can tell you how I woke up from the last night. Full with energy, and ready to cycle to Coo! At this point I didn’t really know where I was, but knew which village I wanted to go to. Directly I knew asking people for directions was the best thing to do. Now my French is really bad. Or, better to say, there is no French. So it would be a matter of talking with my hands and feet. Within 2 hours I was on 180 degree curves going up, and I knew it was the right direction.

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At 9 in the morning I started cycling because I had no idea how far it would be towards Coo. The day before I just cycled 2 hours, and crossed the same bridge 4 times, so of this 2 hours, 1,5 was really cycling… I HAD to reach Coo quite early today, otherwise I wouldn’t get my deadline of being back in Maastricht at 16:00 the next day. The hills were getting steeper, the forrest became more dense and i noticed the area just became more beautiful. Things were going well!

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The map I’ve drawn for myself was working pretty well. In every village I asked a person for the next village and how to get there. Mostly I pointed to the way I thought was right, and said the name of the village, with a question mark behind it. That seemed to work pretty well. The best thing was that all the villages seemed to be just 3 or 4 kilometers apart! This meant I rapidly from place to place on my map, and if nothing weird would happen I might arrive in Coo in the evening!

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It was a bit further then I thought and saw that it was not possible to get to Coo in the evening. This evening I wanted to have a nice place to make a camp, somewhere in the forrest, and I wanted to make camp before darkness would fall. There is nothing nastier then setting up camp in the pitch black darkness. By this time I was in the true ardennes, and knew there must be beautiful places to camp. I set off to the forrest, made camp, cycled a bit around and sat down for a well deserved glass of wine. I cycled 11 hours up and down in the hot autumn sun, and was exhausted but satisfied. In one and a half day I almost reached my destination without a glimpse on a real map!

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Tonight would be a meal of kings, made on my little stove. Bacon, beans, onion, carrots and spicy sauce. It smelt really good, and I think I was not the only one who thought that… It was pitch black dark at the place where I set camp, and all of a sudden I heard a loud roar about 50 meters away. The roar went trough my bones and all my senses were immediately working for the whole 100 percent. I heard the animal walking, and don’t know why but I turned off my headlight. Now I was sitting in the pitch black dark, and couldn’t see anything! The animal came closer and closer, and I felt my heart beating in my throat! After some seconds I heard the animal was so close, so I turned my light back on, and shone the animal straight in the eyes. It was a huge red deer! It wasn’t further then 10 meters away from me, and when I stood up, the deer slowly walked away… Now I don’t have any experiences with these kind of animals, but when you’re alone in the forrest, in the middle of nowhere, it makes your heart pump faster! For the night I decided to put my bike in front of my bivouac so no animal could get in, and I had at least some feeling of safety.

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It was pretty easy to find my way towards Coo. Everything just took a little more time, since I had to ask people for direction every 30 minutes. And in French. But it worked out, the people where helpful and somebody even drew me a map of how to get to the next village. It seemed traveling without a map wasn’t too bad, as long if you find your own way to get around.

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I would reach Coo, thats for sure, but would i make it back in time? Two days were left, and for sure I wasn’t taking the same way back! But that will be for the next time!

Without-a-map: Day 1, Maastricht to …?

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Imagine: you have no map but you need to go south. There is a river going south, but the road just stops and ends up in a garden. You bike back. No, now you go north. Trying numerous ways to go south, but the road only leads you north or east. You have no map, and the only guideline you have is the river, but there is no way to follow it… And then…?

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The weather was good, the autumn is coming so I decided to squeeze in a small adventure before its too cold or rainy to sleep outside. I had the idea to travel Without-a-map. Why? You can read that here. After 4 and a half hour ride to the Limburg (Maastricht to be precisely) I arrived at the train station around 16:30, armed with a compass, a book and some pencils. Just 3 hours before the sun would set and darkness would kick in. Walking around the station I quickly found a map of the area, and made my own little drawing of it. The city was devided by a big river, “The Maas” and I saw it went south. That’s where I needed to go! So I followed the river, after taking care my (waaay to heavy, who packed all that food?) wouldn’t fall of my bike every 20 meters, and quickly found myself in Belgium. It was relative easy till this point. Just 100 meters into Belgium me and my bike came across a huge highway with a cycling path next to it. Is this the right way? Left or right? This would be a moment one would look on a map to know where to go, but instead I looked at my own made drawing.

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It told me nothing, but my compass told me to go right. There was the river again, with a bridge, so I crossed it and was on my way again. After following the river for some kilometers the path ended, and I had to go into a village. Dusk fell over Belgium and still no place found to make my camp, or a useful way to make a map for myself. Just at the moment that I thought: “shit, I’m never getting out of this village, a bus shelter popped up with a map of the area! Woohoo! With a smile on my face, and renewed energy I quickly found a way to make myself a map.

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My objective for the day was done, making a map that I could use to get to Coo. Now to find a place to make camp for the night. Most of the times the map would provide me with green spots, and I would check it out if its camp-able. In this case it meant biking around till I found a place somewhere. But I had to be a bit quick because it was already getting dark. After biking around for some time (crossing the same bridge 4 times) I found a place next to a construction site. It was a nature area, where lots of beavers also making their camp for the night. Without a map this place was a true discovery. A small lagoon on a place where I already saw myself sleeping on the side of the road…

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In the Beginning of the trip I really felt lost. The uncertainty of not having a map or a orientation point was a bit frightening as well as exciting. The first hours were just about finding orientation points, to see where I actually am, and where I would have to go, to go more south. I was so happy when the map with my beginning point and Coo on it was in the bus shelter! Traveling without a map creates the sense of adventure I’m looking for, the appreciation of small things(like a map in a bus shelter), the uncertainty of where to end up, and how to deal with these kind of situations. Because how do you get to point B when you have no idea where point A is?

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The next days were easier because I made a good drawing, but now the area became really hilly, and there was even an nightly encounter with a curios red deer… But this you can read here!