„Boredom is a warning sign that I have become passive about my own life.”
Sometimes you just need to take a break from your daily (work-)life, even if everything seems right and goes as planned. Lonneke would describe herself as „one of the luckiest girls in the world“. She has a big loving family, supportive friends and a flexible job that allowed her to travel across Europe every week. Why she quit that job? Well, to travel even further away. Together with her brothers she decided to go to New Zealand, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to put her business life back in Amsterdam aside for a little while. Does this mean giving up on potential career steps one should take at the age of 28 or is it possible to pause your life for some months and go back to it when you feel ready? In the following interview we talked about the difference between travelling for career reasons or going on a journey from an urge for adventure.
Sooner or later I can’t help myself but plan again. There are simply too many things that I would love to do.
Lonneke, how would you describe yourself and how did your life look like before travelling?
I am tall like a true Dutch girl, addicted to coffee and to my e-reader. Every day I check my horoscope, I could live in a tent, during holidays I switch off my phone and I love hiking. From the moment I went to university in Maastricht, the world opened up in front of me and in the years that followed I lived in Brazil, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam and in Frankfurt. I used to work for adidas for a few years in Amsterdam and in my last job I was head of business development for a network of 23 field marketing agencies for which I had to travel across Europe every week. In March I stopped working and started travelling with my brothers. We have just left the jungle in Ecuador and are now in Peru!
Why did you decide to take a break from your current job and exchange Amsterdam for travelling the world?
Actually my daily life used to be dominated by travels too, but it had a completely different feeling to it. The job I used to have was very exciting for a while, it allowed me to work in almost every big city in Europe and to meet all kind of different people – working for big companies such as Unilever, Heineken, Red Bull, and Bose. I used to have quite some flexibility and could decide to work from home or a coffee bar for instance. On the other hand the job also required me to be completely flexible, I would often not know where in Europe I would be the next week.
At some point I started to have difficulties with the degree to which my work was dominating my private life. I was grateful to have such an exciting job, but I missed being able to plan my free time, meeting with friends, working out. In the beginning it sounds very exciting to travel for work, but being often alone at airports and hotels made me simply miss being home after a long day of work. This – in combination with the possibility to travel with both of my brothers for a while – made it an easy decision to take a break from my working life!
And it had to be the other side of the world?
My brother, Hidde, had a very reluctant attitude towards flying, as his annoying little sister I pushed him to travel with me as far away as possible: to the other side of the world. Luckily he was up for the challenge! Also, we wanted to go to a place where we would feel comfortable to take a road trip for one month. New Zealand was a place we both thought we might never end up going if we did not do so now, so we saved up enough money and booked our flights!
In the beginning it sounds very exciting to travel for work, but being often alone at airports and hotels made me simply miss being home after a long day of work.
How did travelling with your older brother go? Was it a different experience than travelling all by yourself or with a good friend?
We are four siblings at home, two boys and two girls. We all live our own lives quite separately from one another. Nevertheless, all of us are very close to one another, even if we have not been living in the same house anymore for nearly ten years now and don’t see each other on a weekly basis. Travelling with my older brother was amazing! Being together 24/7 for one month meant we got to know each other all over again. Travelling with him helped me realize the personality traits I developed that are not so pleasant for the people around me. Hidde helped me by pointing out that it seems difficult for me to hand over control out of hand and that I get rather uptight when things don’t go my way. During my travels alone nobody would point this out and with friends I believe you hold back more with criticism. Travelling with my brother was refreshingly self-reflecting.
Travelling with my older brother was amazing! Being together 24/7 for one month meant we got to know each other all over again.
But you were living together in a small van for a whole month, didn`t you wish to be on your own sometimes?
Having time for myself was the only thing I missed during our travels, that`s true. Even when you try to take a moment for yourself, you are next to your sibling…ALL-THE-TIME. The first week of our trip my brother and I both did not express when we had the desire for some space, but soon enough you feel when the other is more tense or more distant. During one of our many quality talks we explained to each other that we should be able to pull back – this resulted in Hidde slowly starting his day, reading his book for a while and then preparing breakfast. For me this was mostly the moment we would finish driving for the day, I would listen to some music and then loved to be able to cook dinner without saying as much as one word.
Where exactly did you travel to and how did you plan your trip in advance?
We travelled across the entire southern island of New Zealand. We had only booked the hostel for our fist night on the island and arranged that we could pick up our van during our second day in the land of the Kiwis. Together with our van we also rented a big book that showed detailed maps of every part of New Zealand, including the camp spots. Our trip was truly planned day by day, we would open the book with maps, pick a spot and drive there. In total we travelled 4000 kilometers across the island, I only drove 100 kilometers of it– but I decided the route as we went. As a true team I would navigate Hidde where to go and he safely drove us there.
Did the distance to Amsterdam help you realize things about yourself and your life the way it was?
Already before my travels I felt like one of the luckiest girls in the world. I have a wonderful family and also an incredible group of friends around me that are equally important, everything I tried in my life so far has mostly worked out and I have no regrets about anything. The distance to Amsterdam only confirmed how wonderful and valuable my friends are and how much I love having them in my life. Luckily the distance and time difference proved not to change a thing. Being away from Amsterdam did make me realize how much I feel home there and that I look forward to return after some more adventures.
You are now going on another travel for another month with both of your brothers to Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Why is it important to be with your family on that journey?
I believe that my brothers and me all had our own reasons why we wanted to travel. To relax, to reset, to take a step back from normal life, to reconsider the direction life is going, to see something new in the world. To travel together means being able to figure out these things in a new, yet safe environment. A place on earth we have not seen, but comfortably close to your family. Also, I believe the older you get, the more unlikely it is that you will travel with your siblings. Chances are bigger you would travel with friends or a partner. To forever have the memory of our trip is priceless.
Do you sometimes fall back into old „brother and sister“ roles from your childhood during the trip?
Already as children, my brothers, sister and I have always looked after each other, no matter who is the oldest or the youngest. There is no big age difference between the four of us, meaning we have gone through life phases at the same time. Nevertheless, we definitely each had and still have our „role”. Hidde is truly the best big brother one could wish for. He is protective and strong and I feel very safe around him. My younger brother, Jurre, is very funny, very sweet and every time I look at him I can’t help myself but wanting to cuddle him. I think that the way my brothers and I interact with one another during this trip is still very similar as to when we were younger. My older brother has always felt very responsible, my younger brother has always been very easy-going, and I have always tried to do things my own way and love to see my brothers explore something completely out of their comfort-zone here in South America. With our sister being at home, she secretly fulfils her role to make sure the anchor stays in place and that the three of us look forward to our return home in a few weeks.
To travel together means being able to figure out these things in a new, yet safe environment.
Did you already make a plan for your return?
So far I know that I will spend some weeks in Amsterdam and try to find a temporary job to earn back some of the fortune we have been spending during these two months! During the summer I will spend some time in Italy and will visit friends in Hong Kong. In the past weeks I have been in contact with Floating Doctors, an organization that provides medical care at remote areas in Panama. I will join the team as of September as their pharmacy and supply manager and as their financial controller. I will use the summer to catch up and spend quality time with good friends before starting this new adventure. So again away from my beloved Amsterdam, but I am sure one day I truly am ready to come home!
So you like making plans in advance even if it`s about adventure?
It is funny how that works. The moment I resigned from my job I was expecting a complete sense of freedom….well…turned out, the only thing I wanted to do with all that newly obtained freedom was to plan my life! All these questions came to my mind: What am I gonna do? When will I start working again? Where would I want to work? What do I do with my apartment? I really had to force myself not to make any plans too far ahead and to just see what would come my way. But sooner or later I can’t help myself but plan again. There are simply too many things that I would love to do…maybe something with sailing? Maybe learn an actual craftsmanship? Cooking? Animals? More languages? What about old people? Massage education? Many things can make me very enthusiastic. To plan a bit ahead helps me to filter and to figure out if an idea is something I really want to pursue or if after a little while I already feel my enthusiasm fade away and am comfortable letting go and fall in love with a new thought all over again!
Do you consider boredom as a bad thing you try to avoid?
Personally I see boredom as something you control yourself. I think you have a big chance of feeling bored when you expect other people or external factors to entertain you all the time. My feeling is that I am responsible for my own happiness. Boredom for me is a warning sign that I have become passive about my own life, a sign that I shifted my focus outside and that it is time to ask myself the questions…what on earth are you doing?! Why are you just cruising along?! So yes, for me boredom is something I hope to avoid. I much rather choose excitement, every single day again!
Thank you so much for the interview, Lonneke.
Fotos: © Lonneke van Merwijk
Interview: Marie Krutmann
Wanna read more stories of strong women who chose to break out of their work lifes in the city?
„Ich habe am liebsten gesessen, gegessen und gefaulenzt.“
„Ich habe ewig auf meinen Bildschirm gestarrt und nichts gemacht.“