I am a Dutch – Australian who migrated twice to Australia. I live in the beautiful Adelaide Hills in South Australia. At the end of my first migration I studied and received a Bachelors Degree in Design and Illustration from the South Australian College of Advanced Education. (The best time of my life). I returned to the Netherlands to get experience in design and illustration but stopped en route in Nepal where I commenced on a 6-week hike and where I seriously started to sketch and write about my adventures. Strongly inspired by my lecturer and artist George Tetlow. I haven’t stopped doing that since.
Sketching whilst being in nature or in foreign countries provides me with a companion. It allows me to study and it is the ultimate social tool. I have had many invites from local people into their houses, shared dinners and I have been given free tours around their towns or villages. Somehow sitting in a park and drawing a scene, has a disarming effect and I have met a whole range of amazing and inspiring people.
I have hiked and cycled in many countries but have a stand-out collection of writings and drawings from Nepal in 1989, Hiking in Tasmania in 1997, Hiking in the French, Spanish, and Andorrees Pyrenees in 2002, Cycling in Tasmania in 2007, Cycling in New Zealand in 2008/9 and the latest 2 month cycling journey through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 2010/11.
In 1997, I was living in the Netherlands, and flew to Australia for a vacation. At the end of a 4-week solo hiking trip in the Southwest of Tasmania, I ended my trip with a 5 day hike on the Thorsborne Trail on the World Heritage listed Hinchinbrook Island. Or so I thought. I took a boat ride from the town of Cardwell in Far North Queensland to Hinchinbrook and I walked for a few days. Together with another hiker Warren Macdonald I climbed the creek to the summit of Mount Bowen. We didn’t make it on the first day and decided to camp out under the stars. In the early hours of the night Warren was trapped by a massive boulder that fell on him while he was climbing the rock. He was pinned and I could not get him out. It rained as it was the end of the monsoon and all night we hoped for the weather to improve while Warren was in a desperate situation. I had to leave him behind in the morning and made my way down through a virtual waterfall as the rain gushed down the mountain and into the creek we’d climbed the day before.
Warren fought off death and insects as well as a yabbie that was eating his toe and I made it safe to the beach and was able to get a Mayday out the next morning. Warren was saved and flown to Cairns where he lost both legs. Whilst he recuperated and had the fight to accept his new life, I was plagued by survivor guilt and slid into depression. The trauma was huge and it took me many years and a few visits to Australia to crawl out of the black hole. It was a bad period in my life.
In 2006 a British production company approached us and we signed a contract to participate in a documentary “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”. A series of 12 doco’s about people who end up in disastrous accidents. Our episode was called “Trapped By a Boulder”. After Warren was interviewed in Vancouver, Canada, the producer came to Australia and I flew to Cairns and travelled to Hinchinbrook Island where I was interviewed and filmed and acted as a guide for the producer Nick Copus. About a year later the show started to run and for promotional reasons I flew back to the Netherlands where I appeared in 2 tv shows and a dozen radio shows. A few days after that I flew on to Chicago and met Warren and we both appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on May 18 2006. One day before my birthday.
This experience, but especially the filming of the doco, healed my trauma. I could now give it a place and get on with life. I decided to return to Australia to live here and whilst I prepared for my migration I hiked from the Atlantic Ocean coast in France and Spain, via the majestic Pyrenees Mountains, to the Mediterranean coast. I drew exactly 100 sketches and wrote a comprehensive diary and journal.
In 2005 I returned to Australia and after working as a graphic designer I started a new career as a graphic design and illustration educator. It has been the most profound change to my live of all and I thoroughly enjoy it. It is a fantastic experience when “I see the light go on”, by a design student, and I feel proud that I am able to connect and contribute to their young lives.
The students inspire me and I am a very privileged person. Telling about my two escape’s and coming out of my shell and presenting my stories and images in front of a group of people was the most terrifying of all earlier adventures. But it was a success and it has strengthened me as I have come to terms with a mild form of depression, caused by earlier anxiety in my twenties.
I aim to help young people with these diseases and symptoms and I hope they can draw strength out of my stories.