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The long road

My recent writings have confused some of my readers on where I am. Therefore a quick overview of the last couple of months.
In September of 2011 I returned to Europe for a relatively brief visit. Old friends from business school in South of France, my parents and of course Amsterdam. Quite honestly, ‘visiting’ Amsterdam probably was one of the weirdest things I’ve done. The actual reason for coming back to Europe was my grandmother’s 95th birthday. We celebrated it with the entire family, including 5 great- grandchildren. Grandmother was doing great and it came as a great shock for us all that she suddenly passed away only 2 weeks later.

Once I left The Netherlands, I wondered whether continuing to travel made any sense at all. Sure, I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of the world last year and it will take many lifetimes to see it ‘all’. But do the additional experiences really add that much that they are worth forsaking precious time with family and friends back home? I don’t have the final answer to that.

First of all, I went back to my old love ‘Berlin’. One of my favorite places on the planet. Any temporary stay in Berlin is to short and thanks to my great host and old friend, time passed even quicker than expected.

Up next was Austria, meeting a new friend. The seemingly ‘ancient’ civilization of Vienna was a shock for somebody who has spend the previous months in countries where a 100 years is considered long ago. To my own surprise we even ended up on the Austrian ski slopes with a great combination of amazing snow and sunny weather.

I had, for the second time during this trip, the pleasure of spending some quality time with my parents. We decided to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao and visit Madrid. Needless to say we had an excellent time and saw equal quantities of paintings and tapas places.

And suddenly and completely unexpected I was traveling on my own again. Without realizing it, I had spend several months visiting friends around the world. From sunny California and Austin to drizzly Berlin and freezing glaciers in Austria. And there I was: on my own on a terribly touristy island (Gran Canaria) looking for a sailing boat, which took longer than expected. As usual during the tougher moments of this trip lady luck smiled at me once again. The boat I found was better than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Not only did I have my own cabin (and shower), the French captain is a former cook and his wife cooks even better. Our already healthy diet was supplemented by freshly caught fish and fruit we picked ourselves during day trips on the shore.

I originally wanted to visit Africa and Central/South America on the second leg of this trip. However, I couldn’t be happier when we decided to visit the southern tip of Morocco. Actually, I could be happier as later I found out that this place was the self proclaimed second-best-kitesurf-spot-in-the-world (after Hawaii). In Dahkla I slept in the most basic of nomad tents while kitesurfing until the sun set behind the dessert mountains. Friendly locals everywhere. And their amazement at my travel modus (boat hitch hiking), made me realize once again how lucky I am.

And then it was time to do yet another ‘first’ during this trip: sail on the ocean for 4 days and nights to Cape Verde. Strong winds and relatively high seas (up to 7 meters). Life lines, life jackets and loads of reading (finished 2 books in 48 hours). And yes, endless seas and long watches under star filled nights does make one more philosophical.

Cape Verde has been one big surprise. I had never been in a country with a Caribbean – African culture. And by God, have I missed on something. It sounds like a cliche, but the warmth of the people here is really amazing. The other day I wanted to go for a long hike. I only made 500 meters as I got invited into three different houses with people eager to talk. Being Dutch is a great advantage here as many Cape Verdians worked in the Dutch shipping industry in the early 60s and everybody has family in The Netherlands. One of the most heart warming stories was of an elderly man who, took me in his house to look at a poster of a boat from the HAL, the Holland America Line. When even in 2012 most Cape Verdians don’t have money to leave this archipelago, he had the opportunity to go to New York and many other cities with this cruise ship. When I asked him what he did on board, this fellow sailor eyes shone and he proudly stated that he painted the yacht that had a central spot in his living room. In rusty Dutch he confessed that the 9 years he had worked for the HAL were the best years of life…

And now I’m temporarily ‘stuck’ in Cape Verde due to a car incident followed by a robbery. The good news is, there are far worse places to get stuck 🙂

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