The new year has already started and the first week is almost complete. The days are short and the weather has been grey, so nothing seems to change, although I can feel time ticking away. Soon, everything will be in full swing again, and I won’t be thinking much about 2018 anymore.
It’s been a strange year for me, both fulfilling and frustrating. I successfully wrote my thesis, graduated cum laude with a research master degree in cultural analysis and thoroughly celebrated this milestone with my family and friends. Our crew at Globonaut wrote dozens of inspiring articles that I couldn’t be more proud of. I turned 25 with my friends right beside me, baking me not one but two birthday cakes. This might have been the best year of my life.
It was a year full of warmth and achievements on one side, but also confusion and lack of focus on other sides. I knew figuring out the next steps after my graduation wouldn’t be easy. I have a lot of passion, ambition and too many dreams in all shapes and forms. In a way, I feel even more lost than I was a few months ago.
But I have had more than enough moments of happiness to be grateful for. And I’m getting there, it’s not like I haven’t been adrift before. I guess those are just phases that keep coming back in different manifestations, and that’s OK. Growing up doesn’t ever go away. Before this turns into a whole essay about being in existential limbo, I want to share a few of my most treasured moments in photos. But maybe it’s more for my future self. I think I would love to read this post again and again in 2028.
Waking Up in a World of Wilderness and Untouched Snow
You know what’s the best thing about a thick layer of untouched snow? It’s the fact that you can wake up in the morning and easily see dozens of crystal clear animal tracks. Snow has such an unparalleled effect on nature. It can immediately change any landscape into a more enchanting version of itself. And out of all the places I’ve been to, there is no place whose transformation is more stunning than Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria.
Amsterdam Became a Frozen City
It was a metamorphosis we only see once in a blue moon. At the end of February, I was looking forward to the start of the spring season. The tiniest flowers were already popping up from the soil. Mother Nature, however, had a different plan. As the Siberian Beast from the East crept closer and closer, the Netherlands fell back into an icy-cold winter spell. For the first time in six long years, the historic canals in Amsterdam froze over.
Sheltering from the Rain Underneath the Pink Cherry Blossoms
Every year, I have to share at least one article about the cherry blossoms. There is just something so irresistibly pretty about all those pastel pink petals! This time, I wanted to see the cherry blossoms at the Westerpark in Amsterdam. Although the typical April showers kept spoiling the sunshine, the temperatures were nice and warm. A few brave picnickers with umbrellas still decided to spend their Sunday afternoon underneath the blossoming trees.
Finding the Tulip Fields in Holland
When winter finally passes and spring season takes charge, it never takes long before the tulips turn the Dutch countryside into a gigantic patchwork of flower fields. Flowers in almost every colour of the rainbow look up at the sun, creating the most enchanting views in the Dutch Bulb Region (Bollenstreek) and beyond. My camera and I decided to explore some of the most beautiful flower fields you can find in the Netherlands.
Missing Sleep for this Sunrise in Friesland
This little country keeps surprising me, even after twenty-five years. I’ve always been a sunset kind of person, but now I feel like a fool for essentially missing over two decades of rising suns and waking songbirds. This morning on the Heegermeer in Friesland is one I will treasure forever. And I think I saw more frolicking little lambs in two days in than I did in my entire lifetime.
Calming Down in Croatia
Fields full of red poppies, purple-orange sunsets, and eternal views of the azure Adriatic Sea. The Dalmatian islands of Hvar and Brac are sunny oases, allowing you to calm down and let your thoughts run loose in nature. In early May, this was exactly the type of environment that I needed. I was right in the middle of writing my final few thesis chapters and I wasn’t leaving my desk much. Croatia calmed my mind.
A Wave of Golden Light in Tuscany
In late spring, I headed to the Italian region of Tuscany for a press trip. This was probably the most magical moment: we finally reached the hills of Volterra and the sun was already starting to dip below the clouds. It was the end of the season, and there were fluffy white tufts floating in the air. Can you see them? The grassy hills, cypress trees, and terracotta roofs were all flooded by a wave of golden light.
Watching Alabaster Sculptors Create Timeless Masterpieces
There is more to Tuscany than panoramic vistas of green rolling hills. The local alabaster stone has been used for thousands of years to create sacred objects and artworks. Even the ancient Etruscans sourced the stone to create funeral urns. Unfortunately, the alabaster sculpting craft was almost completely forgotten in the Middle Ages, but the practice survives as an artisan craft. Giorgio Finazzo and Roberto Chiti are specialised master sculptors in Volterra. It was an honour to visit their studio and watch them transform slabs of stone into timeless masterpieces. Everything was covered in a layer of white dust, and it almost felt like stepping into an otherworldly space.
Cycling to the top of Monte Cucco in Umbria
Monte Cucco in Umbria is a special place on Earth, especially for nature lovers like me. The admirable story behind the regional park makes the experience even better. All the way back in 1289, long before any of the climate discussions we’re having today, 40 families decided to work together and buy the lands of Monte Cucco from a nobleman. They understood how important the mountain’s ecosystem was for humans as well. Just think about their supply of wood, water, and animals. The name of this local organisation is “Università di Uomini Originari di Costacciaro” and it still exists to this day.
Retracing the Paths of Medieval Pilgrims in Assisi
The summer crowds in Assisi weren’t the usual selfie-snapping tourists. There were nuns everywhere, wearing white, blue, or black habits and veils. The colours of their clothing varied, and so did the colours of their skin. Assisi draws pilgrims from every corner of the globe, religious or not. They’re walking the Cammino di Francesco, following the footsteps of Saint Francis. Although I only saw a fraction of their path in Umbria, Assisi was a place I won’t forget to remember.
Spending the Summer with Friends in Germany
This summer, I decided not to plan one big adventure, but to take it easy and spend quality time with friends. I went on two shorter trips to Italy, but at the end of the summer I headed towards Germany with friends. We relaxed in Brunswick, eating our breakfast at the botanical garden and surviving the summer heat near the river. Next, I spent a few days travelling solo in Hamburg and continued up north to Kiel, where I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in two years. There is probably no better reason to travel than to spend more time with brilliant minds.
Hiking in Veluwezoom National Park
The oldest national park in the Netherlands is a precious little pocket of northern European nature. It survives in the midst of densely-populated suburbia. As the sunny season ended, two childhood friends and I decided to cross the purple meadows and immerse ourselves in the last bits of bright green foliage. Summer’s epilogue had begun.
Flower Picking by the Amstel River
This past summer and autumn, I went on many blissful bicycle rides along the banks of the Amstel river, often during golden hour. On one of those evenings, I stumbled across the Aemstel Schooltuin, a special garden where kids learn how to grow vegetables and flowers. Once a year, everyone in the neighbourhood can drop by and pick as many flowers as they want. Together with a friend, I went flower picking on an idyllic autumn day, and we collected so many of them that our bicycles basically looked like gardens on wheels.
Reaching the Summit of Seceda Mountain
Somewhere in the dreamlike valley between the seasons, I headed to Val Gardena for a press trip in Italy, experiencing summer and autumn at the same time. We hiked up the mighty Seceda mountain in the Dolomites and there was a mountain dog beside us at all times. We heard marmots screaming their lungs out in the distance, and then we even found a herd of donkeys. The views at the summit were so freaking phenomenal that my brain failed to register that I was actually looking at a real landscape, not a romantic painting. Well done planet Earth, well done.
Seeing the Moon Rise over the Mythical Dolomites
The mighty Dolomites are an unrivaled mountain range in Europe. Really, it is no wonder that so many fascinating myths and legends were born in this monumental region. As you follow the ancient trails, the dramatic peaks will leave you in a speechless awe. When the clouds roll in and the misty atmosphere envelops the summits, the landscape looks equally intimidating as majestic.
Experiencing Halloween for the First Time in Northern Ireland
Before this past year, I had never actually celebrated Halloween. It’s not really a popular holiday in the Netherlands, so I jumped on the opportunity to experience the spooky season in Derry, the Halloween capital of Northern Ireland AND Europe. I wrote an article about the festival in Derry for We Are Travellers (in Dutch).
Ready for 2019?
When I think about it, this was only a fraction of the precious moments I got to experience in 2018. And all those moments when I didn’t have my camera with me also count, but I’ll save those away in my memory. I hope you’ve had an amazing year as well, and I’m excited to continue my journey ‘on the road’ into 2019. Here’s to another great year full of growth, opportunities and unexpected experiences!