Well before I could walk, my parents took me on a two-and-a-half train journey to Greece. Ever since, I’ve been traveler. As a family, we traveled in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. When I was seven years old, I started writing diaries about our travels. Every day, I wrote about what we saw, what I thought was funny, strange, beautiful, or memorable. They were straightforward books. Initially with a sloppy handwriting and quite a few spelling errors, but every year, they got better.
Before I was ten, I started counting the countries I had been to. Every trip was one wonderful discovery of places I had never been before. Of people whose language I didn’t speak and sometimes could’t even read. Of food that I never tasted before. Of landscapes I had never seen. Of money that I had never used before. It instilled a permanent curiosity in me. That curiosity has always stuck with me – and I have no reason to believe it will ever leave me.
I finished high school, and worked in IT for a couple of years. I had holidays, and used Interrail to the max to explore my home continent Europe. But the restlessness in me was just too strong for an office job. I quit, and traveled for a year in Africa and Europe. I worked as a freelancer, and studied Spanish. Then, I enrolled in University – studying Political Science/International Relations. It helped me understand the world from a different perspective.
But I was too restless to just be student, so I applied for a job as a Flight Attendant. For 3,5 years, I combined a full-time study and a full-time job. My idea was to quit flying and apply for another job once I finished University – but when I graduated, I realized that flying was a perfect job for me, and decided to pursue a career. It allowed me to see manny places for work, and spare time between flights gave me the opportunity to travel even more. I climbed the ladder of hierarchy and am working as a Senior Purser (manager on intercontinental flights) since 2008.
Meanwhile, I had continued to travel to countries I had not been to – always in the pursuit of new impressions, new excitement, and new wonders. In 1999, I had started a website on which I shared my travels through stories and photos: traveladventures.org. It was a project that grew much bigger than I had ever anticipated – and even now, I continue adding new photos and stories to it regularly.
Going after “193″
I had been to 117 countries when I decided to go for it, and visit every country on the planet. I was going through a rough time in my life, and it seemed the perfect medicine. I made a list of countries I had not been to (some of whom I had never even heard), and studied the best season to visit, and the amount of time I would need to visit them. It took another nine years before I would cross the last border of a country I had not been to before: Ireland.
In the meantime, I lived one adventure after the other. Deciding to visit every country on earth proved to be the best decision I had made in my life. It took me to places often overlooked by travelers, it took me to places that my government considered no-go, and it showed me the reality on the ground that was so very different from what we see in the media. It also made me meet many wonderful people, who broadened my mind, who made me see things in a different perspective, and who made me feel humble. Yes, it taught me a lot.
It was only when I visited my last country that I started realizing what I had actually done. I found myself thinking back of all the adventures I had lived on the way, and soon decided that I should write a book about my adventures. A book would give me a better opportunity to tell stories in a way that would not work on my website. One of the things I had learned during my travels was the importance of sharing – and writing a book was my way to share some of my experiences with a wider audience. It took the pandemic of 2020 for me to find the time to actually write the book, and get it published in both Dutch and English.
The process of writing was so satisfying, and the reactions to my book were so gratifying and stimulating, that I soon decided to start writing a second book. I am still busy with that – and also thinking about a third one already.