You know that guy living next door? With his motorbike? Yeah, the one who is never at home in the summer. Also he is gone during the winter vacations. Actually he is gone during most free days. Setting off towards exotic destinations. Or maybe the national park around the corner, who knows? This is what I call “The next door adventurer”.
In this piece I’ve interviewed your neighbors. People like you and me, who made journeys of every kind. By bike, by motorbike, with and without backpack. With a camper or with a transport van. They talk about their journeys and give you some tips ’n tricks on travelling. This is part two, enjoy! (Check out part one over here)
Henk (28) www.henkvandillen.net
Erwin: Heyhey Henk. Tell me, what kind of journeys did you make?
Henk: About five years ago I started with a interrail journey trough eastern Europe. I was couchsurfing my way around. But a little later I fell in love with cycling. I made a couple of smal cycling journeys and then me and my girlfriend decided to cycle to France on a tandem. After this I cycled from Rotterdam to Singapore.
E: These are pretty heavy journeys, not like backpacking or so.
H: True, at some point I get bored when I go backpacking. Im searching for something more then a busride from A to B, to meet some people and drink a beer. I’m searching for a physical and mental challenge and a goal. If I go off on a backpacking journey, I miss a goal where i can occupy myself with.
E: But why are you searching for a goal?
H: I don’t want to just go around. If I have a goal it makes everything way more clear for myself. For example the long cycling journey. In a way it was real clear what I wanted to do; I just wanted to go from Rotterdam to Singapore. Singapore was my goal, it doesn’t matter what road I take, or how long it takes, it’s all about the journey not about the point of arrival. At tough moments during the journey I know exactly what im doing. Cycling to Singapore.
E: These are quite personal goals, unlike Isa who was making pictures for other people. What do you like about these personal goals?
H: Well, I’m not a person who wants to set a record or something, but I’m in search of my own boundaries. That’s important to me. I also like to make beautiful pictures of the landscapes or people I came across, but that’s not my main goal. My main goal was the trip itself, cycling trough deserts or over mountains.
E: Why did you fell in love with the bicycle?
H: It was quite practical. Actually I wanted to go backpacking in Asia, but this costs a lot of money and your experience is like that of thousands of other backpackers. I wanted to have an unique experience, so I was searching on how to get an unique experience. So I’m not really in love with cycling, but it was a very practical solution for my problem. If you would, for example, walk from Rotterdam to Singapore it would take a couple of years, and by cycling it’s way faster.
Cycling in the desert
E: But then you could also go by motorbike, like Remco.
H: Yeah, but then I would be too comfortable. Just throw some petrol in there and go. On a bicycle you’re more vulnerable to the weather, people and the nature. I mean, if you cycle to the top of a mountain you’d be totally sweaty on the top, and with a motorbike this is different. It does interest me, because it’s way easier to see beautiful places, but I think you’d miss a lot of experiences that you would have on a bicycle.
E: Do you have any tips for cyclists?
H: It might be difficult, but just set yourself a date and tell everybody about it. It worked really good for me, because everybody knew about my journey and the date. If you decide to ditch the idea, everybody will be questioning you about why you cancel your dream journey.
As far as preparation goes, all the stuff you think you will need… You probably don’t need them. Somebody asked me a while ago about preparation for a long distance hike. I started thinking about my own stuff. I mean, you have to be protected agains the cold and such but you can totally lose yourself in all the outdoor gear that is available. It costs loads of money and I think it’s better to save put that money into the trip. Here in the western world we are used to only the top of the notch gear, because marketing told us we need that. I mean, I bought a second hand bike and cycled with it to Singapore! Loads of long distance cyclists tell me it’s impossible, but let me tell you, it is possible. By getting a second hand bicycle I didn’t have top of the notch stuff, so I was more vulnerable because things break faster. But because of this, I got in touch with loads of people who I wouldn’t meet if I would have a €5000 bicycle. And this is what counts, these contacts.
Camping in a dry river
Erwin: Hey Marijn, what kind of journeys did you make?
Marijn: Well, I went to Sicily, Curaçao Krakow and about four years ago I traveled around the half east coast of the United States with my parents.
E: Sounds nice! Can you tell me something about the USA trip?
M: We’ve spent about six months int the States. First my sister and I went to school, that was pretty cool, to see everything from a local point of view in stead of a tourist one. After two or three months we were free so we decided to decided to travel the country with a caravan. I always tell people I went with a caravan to New York, hahah.
E: Wasn’t it hard to spend three to four months in a caravan?
M: It wasn’t too bad, I thought it was tougher because we would live the whole time on top of each other. But since we were outside a lot of the times it was ok. And next to this, every three or four days we would move on to another place, this makes it easier and more interesting. Actually we only slept in the caravan…
E: And where did you stay with the caravan?
M: We camped at the most diverse places. State parks where there was no comfort what so ever, sometimes even without a toilet. These were kind of natural area’s, a piece of land where you can just put the caravan. But also at regular campsites with all the comforts of toilets and such.
Their house for a couple of months
E: Does this experience make you want to travel yourself?
M: YEAH!! For sure, especially discovering new things and being away is something I really like. I would really like to explore the west coast of the United States.
E: Oh, and you were also in Curaçao and Sicily, right?
M: Yeah, that was an exchange with my school. I’ve spent a week with a local family, they were quite spicy, haha! But it was an amazing experience. Sadly I just stayed at one place, so it wasn’t a real journey. But when I was in Sicily we made some nice hikes. One of them was up the Etna volcano. Our teacher really loves hiking, and so we did some long distance day trips.
E: And do you have some tips for people who want to do something like that?
M: Well, if you want to hike a volcano, don’t take to much stuff. The ground is mostly ashes, thats quite heavy to walk trough. And make sure you have warm clothes with you! And, most important, check out the weather forecast. When we were there, we were surprised by a large thunderstorm. All of a sudden we were in the middle of it, like it was not above us, but all around us. We managed to take shelter at a weather station, and after staying there they decided it was not safe for us to continue, or even go downhill. In the end they took us back with a tracked vehicle. That was quite cool actually!
At the ashy Etna
Eveline (36) www.happyhaarlem.nl
Erwin: Hey Eveline, what kind of journeys did you make?
Eveline: Well, mostly they were a combination of a study, street performance and living. I also did some “expeditions”, like loads of excursions in the nature, i really like hiking. Next to this I want to learn from the local cultures I encounter. But my big trips where mostly in combination with study or work.
My journeys are quite diverse. Working two summers in France, and two summers in Spain. After this I traveled here and there and did odd jobs wherever I went. Next to these short journeys I lived in six countries: Sweden, France, Czech Republic, Spain, England and here, in the Netherlands.
Er: How come you lived in these countries?
Ev: Sweden and Spain where for studies. In France I worked as an au pair and that’s where I got to meet real travelers. In Czech Republic I was a snowboard instructor, so I had to live at this place, obviously. And in Spain I was performing on the streets a lot.
Eveline preparing her boyfriend at the time for some street performances
Er: Performing in Spain? What kind of things did you do?
Ev: I really did a lot of stuff. Anything that made money and was quite easy to do. Like making balloons for children, being a living statue, making henna tattoos, I’ve sold beer, worked on markets and indirectly selling work from artists. And I must say, I made quite a living from it! It was exciting and that was nice. But not because I didn’t know if there was enough money to earn, I noticed that I would always find some money here or there. Next to this I lowered my cost of living by squatting and searching for free sleeping places.
Er: Do you think you always found some money to earn, because this is in your mindset?
Ev: Yeah, I think so. I mean, for two years I lived without water and electricity in Spain, so I know I can handle these things and know how to deal with them. It surely helps that you know you can depend on yourself.
Er: Do you have any tips for people who want to earn money as a street performer during their travels?
Ev: Well, you need to have courage to try and take on different things you can do. If you want to make some money as a performer you need to know that it’s not you who is standing there. It’s the role you take as the street performer; people like to see somebody in a certain role. The role as street performer in this case. When I was selling balloons to children I totally painted myself and was standing on a place where there were many parents with their spouse. That was quite hard in the beginning, because I had to overcome a certain fear. (An extra tip Eveline told me: “I gave the first balloons away for free, so the children could tell their friends somebody was selling balloons.”)
Right now i’m in the same process as I’m a city guide. People think in shapes or roles so they see you as the role you form yourself into. For me role you took, and if you understand the role you took, it will work very well. It takes courage to take up that role and to experiment with it. I can advise to invest in low budget things. Balloons for example, or henna tattoos. Most of my ideas are low in investment, they cost next to nothing. Then it’s just a case of grabbing the courage to go for it! If it works, awesome. If it doesn’t, well then it just doesn’t.
Eveline in Ibiza; this rock was her house for a week
Could you be my next door adventurer? Leave your story in the comments, I’m excited to read them!
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