There has been much speculation about my nationality lately and when I teased a friend for not knowing what passport I carried, he responded “I am surprised you even know where you are from!” after I gave him a list of countries where I had lived in over the years; Italy, Holland, Belgium, NZ, USA, Singapore, Australia and now Scotland. I have confused race organisers endlessly and I have had multiple nationalities behind my name on start lists or recently not even one at all! Although my Dutch passport is proof I am from the Netherlands I can’t really say I feel very much associated with the country having only lived there for a short 5 years between the ages of 9-14.
The beauty of Glen Clova, my training ground
The closest I have to a home is my beautiful sister, Martje, who, just like me wonders the world as an international citizen and now lives with her husband and my 3 nephews and niece in the USA. It used to freak me out when I was younger not knowing where I wanted to end up, almost too much freedom, I could live anywhere I wanted. But the wise words from my sister stuck with me during decisions I had to make in terms of where to go. “As long as you surround yourself with an environment which makes you happy, you can live anywhere” For me that meant I had to be around mountains, oceans, rivers, and loads of space. I wanted to live somewhere I could swim, run, mountain bike and generally I wanted to be able to spend a lot of time outside.
Family doesn't need to be blood related or human for that matter!
There is no doubt I found that in Scotland. With the countries beautiful surroundings, and endless amount of space, I had found my training paradise. It just required a lot more warm clothing than I had in my possession when I first moved here!
The private pool next to my cottage
I moved to Scotland to race, with three big international airports close by it would be easy to travel to the European races. I was on a mission and getting me involved in any form of social life wasn’t really on my agenda. The plan was very selfish, a job which suited my racing, a country which suited my training. I wasn’t after somewhere to settle. After a hellish ending of my life as I knew it in Australia, I was here to fix things back to how I wanted it. Head down, work, train, eat, sleep, and repeat. The plan however didn’t work out the way I had pictured it in my head. Somewhere along the line I forgot to look up and enjoy life. I had lost my mojo on the way. Bad race after race forced me to stop and reassess what I was doing with my life.
One of my bosses Chris taking my pink bigbobblehat up Munro's
This little place called Kirriemuir I found, surrounded by the beautiful Scottish Glens was pretty special and deserved a lot more admiration than I had given it. Being the home of Peter Pan's author J.M Barrie it was very easy to understand where his inspiration came from.
Here I had found a job where I am being greeted by friends each morning rather than colleagues. Who are worried about my wellbeing and happiness and who have invited me into their lives without any hesitation or concern. I work in a place where my dog Fynn has been allowed to accompany me on a daily basis and will be looked after at times I am away. He now also has a fan club amongst our clients. I work for bosses who show me where to go training, who know that cheese sandwiches are the way to nutrition yourself during 24hrs races, who chose a work car big enough for me to fit my bikes in and let me live on a castle estate with a river running through it.
Scotland has given me so much more than I bargained for. I learned that there is something reassuring about running into familiar faces at the supermarket regardless of the time of day. To be missed not turning up for swimming a couple of days in a row and getting messages making sure all is ok. To have friends who cry when you do just because they don’t want to see you being upset. I learned that it is nice to be accepted into a community.
Glenshee skifield a short drive away
For many years now I have lived my life like a gypsy floating around the world and it is very easy to feel anonymous after a while. In the last 12 months Scotland and its people have taught me that it doesn’t have to be that way. Through the hard way I was shown that it is up to me to change the way I exist. I also realised with all the supportive messages I received over the last few months that I might not be as anonymous as I thought I was, and I can’t thank people enough for all the support they have given me. From old Uni friends to people I have met through racing in the last couple of years, it has truly overwhelmed me.
Fynn supporting me
I am looking forward to the next 12 months; With all I have taken on board this year I am working hard towards having things in place to create a solid platform to jump into a well-planned 2015 racing season. Unexpectedly Scotland has stolen my heart and for the first time in many years I am in no hurry to go anywhere. My bad racing season might have been a blessing in disguise after all.
"Having somewhere to go is a home, having someone to love is a family, having both is a blessing"