I was born in Amsterdam.
In the 17th century, Holland’s Golden Age, Amsterdam was a centre of global trade. Explorers set sail from the city’s harbour and crossed oceans to discover distant lands and cultures that in many cases did not even feature on maps yet.
In 1645, one of my ancestors also boarded one of these ships. It was bound for Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of Africa. Braving the treacherous currents and strong winds in this area, the ship sailed onward into the unknown, into a blank spot on the map: what would later become known as the Indian Ocean.
On 17 August 1645, the ship finally reached Indonesia, where my ancestor disembarked and began another journey of discovery. He delighted in every aspect of the nature, the people and the culture and soon decided to settle on the island of Java where he married a local princess. From here, he spent the rest of his life exploring South-East Asia.
I have always loved this story, and like to think I have inherited something of my great-great-great grandfather’s spirit. In any case, he was the one who inspired me to set off to explore the world, experience other cultures and learn new languages.
During my travels, I have swum with a whale shark in Djibouti and tracked a lion with a bushman in Namibia. I danced the samba in Rio de Janeiro and got lost in the Amazon rainforest. I rode Route 66 on a Harley Davidson and had Tai Chi lessons in Hong Kong. I even witnessed the end of the Mayan calendar at Chitzen Itza in December 2012. I have visited all continents, except Antarctica, which is still on my bucket list.
I travel to learn more about the world, but also to learn about myself through observing the landscapes, people and culture around me and by seeking out new experiences that I believe will enrich my life. But my travels also have another purpose, and that is to meet people with a vision and discover brands with a purpose.
As a storyteller and photographer, I am interested in recording people’s personal and professional stories in new ways. I give my stories a wow factor and make them sticky so that they are ready to be spread by word of mouth and shared with influencers around the world.
In recent years, I have also observed the growth of the ‘reputation economy’, which has changed the game in my favour. When I reach out to people who don’t know me, the first thing they do is to Google me. The results that show up on the search results make up what we call my ‘online personal reputation’.
As I write about my travel experiences and publish these pieces online, people can get a clear picture of my vision, my achievements and my passion within minutes.
The people I meet are C-level people or business owners. Most of them have an excellent ‘real world’ reputation. But when people Google them, the search results are irrelevant, outdated or, even worse, totally non-existent. When they see how I have built my online reputation, they immediately ask me to help them create theirs.
So I tell them that the first thing they have to do is to stop hiding behind job titles and company profiles. We’re in a new area where people want to connect with people and what they stand for. People want to do business with you, not for what you do, but for why you do it.
I sit down with them and we discuss their vision and their passion. I write their story and publish it online, making sure it will pop up on Google.
I tell them that with the rise of the reputation economy over the coming years our ‘online personal reputation’ may become the most important asset we have.