There’s life after Vladivostok

Be afraid and do it anyway‘ – it’s been on my Facebook page for a while. Not in any sense was I afraid of humans, animals, accidents, or anything else really. The only thing that frightened me big time was: reaching Vladivostok. Countless people asked me the ‘what if … ?’ questions: what if you get in trouble, get lost, get an accident, get robbed, raped, killed three times in a row and whatever else that’s highly unlikely to happen in my perception.

But I too had one ‘what if …?’ : what if I indeed reach Vladivostok … then what?

It’s been in my mind since years and years! Anyone who knows me a little, has heard me saying ‘I want to go to Vladivostok’.

What if I’ve been there and done that? Then what?

But I did it – despite my fear. Now there’s life before, and life after Vladivostok: there’s a great change coming up!

Coast to coast … to coast

Riding my motorbike from Vlissingen in Holland, to Vladivostok in Russia – from coast to coast – that was the idea. And nothing more than that: just an idea. In fact I just wanted to travel and live on my motorbike for as long as it’d feel right. Where and how and when were questions I refused to answer; I was traveling free and independent – from others and from a plan. ‘Whenever I come across a place where I want to stay, I’ll stay’ was my answer when people asked me how long I intended to continue.

That place – a little piece of paradise – indeed crossed my path, rather unexpected.

To cut a long story short: although Vladivostok has never been a final destination, it turned out to be a turning point. My journey will continue for approximately another 15.000 kilometers: coast to coast … to coast indeed. The Asturian coast in Northern Spain is where I’m headed next. A beautiful half hour’ drive from the Cantabrian Sea (Gulf of Biscay) up in mountains, there’s a secluded off-grid mountain cabin waiting for me (and Harry) to come home.

Almost exactly on the day that I’m turning my compass in Vladivostok – heading west instead of east from now on – I’d become the lucky owner of this pure and peaceful place in the middle of a protected nature area Sierra de Penamayor. It offers me a home base but doesn’t take away my freedom. I can live my life as I’ve always pictured it: living off my own land as much as possible, following the rhythm of nature; appreciating and taking care of the precious surroundings. This place doesn’t put me on a mortgage chain which allows me to come and go as I like – and so do others who wish to escape the hectic and pressure of nowadays’ society.

A great big THANKS to my brother Abbe for his logistic support getting it all organised!

So yes: I found Vladivostok. The city sign – with my sticker on it – may be here, but ‘my’ Vladivostok is where few of us expected it to be!

Adios España!

After almost 3 months, I passed the ‘now what?’- impasse. After having enjoyed ‘being back’ in Spain, finding my rhythm in solo-traveling, doing the first oil and oil filter change, practicing a bit of off-road riding and eating away a lot of tarmac, meeting old and new friends, the first brake-downs of equipment, doing very different Workaway-stays, and much more, I decided that it was time to move on. The euphoric feeling of the first kilometres, the first hours, the first weeks, the first adventures had gone. My idea to ride out the winter in sunny Spain had seemed so logic upon departure, but meanwhile it seemed like an enormous hurdle of time – blocking my way to move and head eastwards.

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Unexpected meeting

Tuesday morning, a rather uninspiring town, somewhere along the east coast of Spain. The winds have been extreme over the past days and my mattress broke down on me a few nights ago: it was time for a room in a cheap little hotel.
3 non-ordinary looking guys are maundering about when I’m saddling up on the street; I saw them in the hotel earlier on and I’m wondering if one of them was the heavy snorer from the room next to mine. They speak a language that sounds like Russian. When I’m almost ready to go, they finally approach me. One of them starts a conversation: the usual ‘are you travelling all by yourself’ kind of talk. Yes, I’m traveling all by myself. He did as well, he informed me. On a motorbike. He’s gaining my interest. I ask him where he went. His list of countries follows. And Vladivostok – the only town that seems to be of important to mention, although I never told him my direction (he didn’t ask for it either). He virtually continues his track to Australia, then on to Africa. He points at the scar in his face as a result from a robbery in one of the southeast African countries. ‘He’s a tough one’ his friend adds and I almost forgot that the other 2 were still there – so much was I absorbed by the travel-tale of the person on the other side of my bike. I can see the memories passing by in his mind. Eyes start to shine when he says ‘and now I’m going again. With a yacht’.

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7th of December – a sunny special day!

Sunshine was the absolute red thread through my birthday on the 7th of December. I enjoyed the early morning rays of sunshine appearing from behind the mountains to the east, and the beautiful golden sky when the sun sunk again behind the cliffs to the west. The hours in between, I indulged myself with the warmth of the Spanish sun on the beach in La Herradura.








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A white dress and stinking faces in the Grand Canyon

The last weeks before my departure in September had been pretty turbulent. Traditionally, I didn’t manage to do all the good-byes and reassured the people who I missed out on, that I wouldn’t be far away for the first few months… I would try my best to meet up with anyone who’d fancy spending some quality time in the Spanish sun together instead of doing the quick and obligatory goodbye in Holland. And so it happened that I met Mark and Radna in the beautiful Cabo de Gata nature reserve in southern Spain.

Last time we got together was in Switzerland, getting in trouble on a ‘via-ferrata’: what was supposed to be an easy-going vertical adventure turned into a serious consideration to call in the rescue helicopters when we got caught up in bad weather, climbing through waterfalls coming down out of a sudden, and seeing no other way out than the way up. We managed to get out safely and recognizing the big mistake of putting our loved ones without any mountain experience at risk, Mark and I couldn’t stop laughing over it while warming up with Swiss cheese fondue that night. Obviously Radna, his girlfriend, was a little reserved to meet up with me again this time and I was wary not to (unintentionally) challenge her again. I tried … really. But it didn’t take long, before we ended up in the next adventure. A little less foolhardy, this time.

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An exciting night and wine for breakfast

In El Berro – a little village in the Sierra Espuña national park – I have a chat with an employee and motorbike enthusiastic. He asks me about my plans and gives me some suggestions of backroads in the area. That was just what I needed, since I had no clue yet where to go from there.

So I leave a bit later than expected and set off to the southwest, towards Sierra de María and later Sierra de Baza. What a great ride that was! Passing through pine forest with their particular smell, and landscape that makes me wonder whether I am Africa or still in Spain. Magnificent! Harry was treated in the morning with a thorough cleaning of his chain, but it doesn’t take long before he’s covered in dust again. That’s what a bike should look like! Read more

6 years in a cave

These days in Murcía are like a road trip down memory-lane; it’s about 7 years ago that I checked out this area with Peter – my boyfriend at the time – looking for options set up an outdoor-activities project for people with physical limitations. Much remained as it was, but some things have changed. They put up a barrier for example, avoiding people from camping along some of the pretty beaches between Bolnuevo and Punta Negra.

Respecting the signs, I take another road – guessing it would lead me up the hills, providing a nice view and a feeling of ‘look but don’t touch’. Soon the tarmac ends and the road turns into gravel. Then dust. Then stones. Big stones. With holes in between. Driving steeply uphill, trying to survive, sweat starts to run down my back. There’s no way I could turn around here and to be honest … I wouldn’t want to. Curious where this path is leading, I continue. At some point the path splits: one way leads to a little house, and the other downhill. Steeply downhill. No more rocks now, but dusty sand which doesn’t stop my sweat from running. I take a short moment trying to convince myself ‘it’s just a matter of rolling down – just keep going’ and off we go. Harry and I are onto an unexpected adventure again. Read more


I took a short break from driving; it was time to stretch my legs, and so I did. I found myself balancing, stretching and reaching out in every direction; I discovered the most interesting yoga poses – not in the gym or fancy sports club, but high up in one of the many olive trees that I’ve been picking together with a great Canadian couple, a girl from Mexico and a guy from Germany. What a great time it was! 10 days of climbing trees, bringing the monkey in me back to life!

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Walking is done sideways. On the street not per se, but in the camper van for sure. That way you’re smaller, thus you’ll leave more space for your housemate. Passing by is done shuffling, a snake-like dance alongside each other. A bit of pushing is allowed. Saying sorry or asking ‘can I please pass by?’ is not needed, otherwise we’d be doing that the entire day.

We’re living on a small six squared meters for two months now, in a very small house on wheels. It requires discipline and agreements are necessary in order to keep it livable. Each agreement carries a reason, and is based on (sometimes painful) experiences or advise from seasoned fellow-camper-dwellers. As long as we are both at home there are always 20 toes within the swing-out-radius of the fridge, so in case of opening it: you warn. Always. The fridge door is exactly low enough to get stuck with toes underneath, forcing toe-nails in a vertical, uncomfortable position.

Material of only one activity at a time is allowed to ramble around. Rock climbing material must be stored, before diving material may be taken out. The shower is a multi functional area. It serves as washing and as drying space, not only for ourselves but also for clothes, wetsuits, and canopies. When the shower is occupied, moving of i.e. laundry to the drivers’ cabine is allowed. As for the limited water capacity, washing and bathing should take place moderately, and creativity is appreciated. The sea, a hotel swimming pool where we can hop in without being seen, or the sporadic rain drops all offer alternative bathing opportunities.

The little house is built and put together like a jigsaw puzzle; diving-, climbing-, skydiving-, kitesurf-, and camping-material all have their own place. The cupboards all have their fixed storage plan: cords, plugs, and chargers in the electricity-cupboard; books on the bookshelf. And then, there’s the ‘everything-else’ cupboard. Different as one would expect, it is not ment for everything else to be dumped in! This needs to be discussed and we have to be strict in order to keep the place livable.

For personal attributes received from family and friends, different rules apply. Those things travel with us and are being cherished, regardless their practicality or functionality. Pictures of brothers and sisters have their place on the wall, and the bathtub duck lives in the sink. The ‘authentic’ Spanish bulls-head sits at the door; every so-often after the occasional bump in the road we have pick up his horns from the floor, put them back in place and put it faithfully back onto its hook. The plastic flowers may be kitsch, they don’t drag with them any pots of earth when they fly through the van, and they fit quite well with the sticky plastic Thai flowers in front of the window.

Before take-off a thorough check of all cupboards is carried out, doors and windows are checked if closed and the floor is freed from obstacles. The first curves however remain exciting. Was all properly fixed, or does something fly, fall, roll, or shuffle through the van after all? In that case it is our challenge to guess what it was, without looking backwards. Of course keeping fingers crossed that it isn’t the cutlery draw with the sharp knives.

For anyone who considers living on six square meters: it’s a matter of adaptation, but definitely worth it. Even if it seems impossible, it is in fact a great experience. And honestly, is there a better place to turn into your cooking island than the beach?