“Step by step I create a lifestyle around my curiosity for the world. I go on long-term adventures with many small adventures in it. Whatever adventure I’m on, it has to be meaningful to make it rewarding.” — Suzanne van der Veeken tells her story to become a full-time adventurer.
My first big achievement during an outdoor adventure abroad occurred when I was 8 years old. In a wild river, somewhere in the Belgian Ardennes there was this ‘BIG’ Rock, just sitting there. It had to be climbed. So, with my little pink rubber boots on my feet I hopped into the water and climbed that rock. I felt on TOP of the world and screamed at my parents: I’m standing on a rock! Nothing has changed ever since, while at the same time everything has changed.
I followed the conventional path. I was 17 when I finished highschool. I wanted to go travelling but everyone told me not too. I should study something. Young, privileged and full of assumptions, I listened and I went to university. For two years I surely had some fun but studywise I wasn’t getting really excited. I didn’t feel like I was learning something useful. Was this it? “Shouldn’t you maybe quit your study?” Said mum (yes MUM!). I didn’t even consider that was an option that narrow minded I was. Around that same moment one of my best friends took me on my first snowboard holiday to France. Wow! That excited me. This tasted for more. So ciao studies and hello five month snowboard season!
This big outdoor adventure abroad opened up my world and mind completely. I was in 5-month flow state. From playing in the snow in the Alps I went to another few months of tasting salt, surfing at the Atlantic Coast. I did go back to studying but it had to be something international so I could somehow stay in this adventure flow. So I did.
One of my best friends said to me this week: “For me, you are the master of manifesting your dreams.” That’s eventually the idea of a dream, right? To make it happen!
Dreams are meant to be pursued, not postponed. I’m dreaming a lot about exploring this world. So the latter is what I’m doing. Now.
I roll from one adventure into the other. You know that feeling of super excitement, that make your eyes sparkle, that makes you derive all you energy towards it, that makes you loose sense of time and any other nonsense occupying our days. For me that comes from exploration. In the broadest sense. I developed an extreme curiosity for discovering new cultures, places and adventure sports.
So step by step I created a lifestyle around my curiosity for the world.
The last 9 years this has brought me to every continent except Antarctica. I’ve been trekking the Peruvean Andes; I learned to kitesurf like a pro in Tarifa, the outdoor playground of Europe; I rappled caves in Brazil, I’ve explored depth learning freediving in Indonesia, and I hanged out with the locals in Tonga paradise. I don’t see myself as a traveller though. I find travelling shallow, exhausting, and expensive. I go on long-term adventures with many small adventures in it.
I usually stay in a place for a few months, if not ten. But no day goes by without doing something outdoors. I explore places living them local style. It makes me able to experience the real essence of a destination, to get to know the cool local spots and places, its culture, its people, its uniqueness. At the same time I’m doing work I find fulfilling and contribute to the local scene at the best I can do. That may be the most important thing I figured out after all these years of slow traveling: Whatever adventure I’m on, it has to be meaningful to make it rewarding. For example, in Peru I helped Andean communities develop small scale tourism experiences; In Tonga I researched about tourism and adaptation to Climate Change; In Indonesia I worked with locals helping them to get the word out about their small tourism business.
“Vertical thrillseeking the cave in Brasil today 72 meter vertical drop, freediving into 80 meter deep stalagmite landscape, and then luckily there was some energy left to rappel 72 meter up, out of the cave. One of the most unique adventure tours I have ever come across! Operated by local adventurepreneurs!”
You might ask, how do I finance all this?
The number 1 most asked question I receive, is how do I finance all this?First of all, my lifestyle is at a considerable lower cost than the average person who asks me this question. I choose to live with little to gain more freedom to explore. I value time way more than money. This requires some creativity, proactivity, and adaptation efforts. I don’t own stuff and I find this extremely liberating. No house, no car, no furniture. Just some kitesurf and freedive gear. I’m Dutch, being cheap is in my blood. But really, what do we need? I rather invest in memories than stuff. I wish I could become some 500 years old, just to experience all the things I would like to experience. It’s unlikely that I reach that age so better use my time wisely.
At the end of the day I of course do need some pesos. Through my travelblog and consultancy work in sustainable tourism I facilitate the adventures. Sometimes I earn some pesos, other times simply the experience. There is ALWAYS a way.
So what’s next? Probably the biggest adventure of my life so far!
A big dream coming true. This november I’m embarking on a 6-month sailing adventure around the Atlantic. I hope to be an inspiration and useful resource for other adventurous souls out there, looking for action, responsible and local style travel. My mission is to broaden minds, and to make others aware how they can get the absolute most out of travel and adventures. Not just for themselves, but for the places and people they are visiting, that are in most cases less fortunate than the traveller.
Or simply follow her stories here on Medium Suzanne van der Veeken.
This story is part 8 of 14 stories called “Becoming Heroes” by Epiclist.
Read further stories here on Medium.