14 Nov The Oceanpreneur : Suzanne van der Veeken
Name : Suzanne van der Veeken
Date of birth : 10-02-1986
Nationality : Dutch
Where our paths crossed : Bali, Indonesia in January 2014. Her lifestyle intrigued me from the start.
A friend of mine introduced me to this special lady who is guilty of inspiring me to jump on a sailboat with zero experience to cross the Indian Ocean.
Determined to save our oceans and adventurer describe Suzanne best. After ten years of globetrotting – and counting – she discovered that her mission in life is to contribute a great deal to saving our oceans. As a passionate sailor, freediver and kite surfer, she spends a lot of time in the water where she gets confronted over and over again with the issues our oceans are facing.
Adventure comes naturally
Never have I heard this woman talk about filling her pockets with money and collecting things. From a young age on she knew that this is not what matters to her. Sacrificing a comfortable and safe life for unknown adventures comes naturally to Suzanne as she sees the bigger picture. As the Oceanpreneur, Suzanne creates awareness regarding the footprints that our society leaves on our oceans. She inspires people to take responsibility and to stand up and make changes in their everyday use of plastic.
Hitch sailing the world
Suzanne is hopping from one sailboat to the other in her mission to save our oceans by creating awareness. Home is where her fins are and all her belongings fit into her backpack. With a big smile and a heart full of enthusiasm she travels around the world showing the state of the oceans through Facebook and Instagram from every corner of the planet.
Children inspire me to keep releasing the inner child in myself
Tell me Suzanne, what inspires you?
Water, especially the vast wide ocean, inspires me. When I see, feel, hear, smell or taste water I’m excited. Whether I’m on a boat, diving in the deep, or walking along the shore, when there’s water around, I feel happy, peaceful and creative. In, at or near the water I’m the best and most alive version of myself.
We’re born out of water, our body is mostly water, our planet is 2/3 water, and we cannot live without it. The sea provides most of the oxygen we breathe. Water is the source of all life. Seeing life disappear in world’s waters also inspires me. The trashed and fishless waters, which I see on a daily basis, inspires me to act to turn the tide. Water inspires and activates to play but also to tackle the world’s water and ocean challenges.
Kids also inspire me
Children inspire me because they just play and be. They have an amazing imagination and haven’t been conditioned as much as adults. They don’t worry, don’t care about what the rest of the world thinks or does and they just lose time in unproductive, but very rewarding, activities. Children are happy and satisfied with the smallest gestures, tree branch, block or a toy. Children laugh more and they just say things without caring what one may think. Children inspire me to keep releasing the inner child in myself, which I hope to never stop doing.
What did you achieve you thought was impossible?
I don’t think anything is impossible. If you set your mind on a dream and you really want it, you can make it happen. Drive, passion, and purpose get us anywhere. It seemed quite a distant reality for me to become a sailor, as I didn’t grow up with boats. I had no idea about sailing and no budget to take a course. Therefore, I decided to hitch-sail (hitch-hiking on sailing boats) oceans and seas to learn as much as I can about sailing, seamanship and life at sea. Now, 9 quite adventurous hitch-sail experiences later, and many lessons learned, I feel ready enough to be a captain. The seemingly impossible is not the path of the least resistance, but definitely the most rewarding one.
Exploring limits of body and mind
That’s also a reason why I love freediving so much. It’s a sport to explore limits of the body and mind. Freediving has taught me that just by staying calm, chilled-out, and intensely in the moment our body’s capabilities go far beyond what I thought was possible. The more you are in a state of flow, the better you perform. It’s the same above the surface. When we explore beyond what we think we are capable of, nothing is impossible. The less realistic a dream might seem, the more I can be driven to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The next seemingly impossible thing to achieve? Sail around the world and save the ocean. Let’s make it happen! Step by step.
What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
Be your authentic you and to do what excites you, at any age in your life. Don’t be who you think others would like you to be. Don’t do what you are told you should do or what the rest of your world is doing. You should follow your own path and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back. Be and act in the now. Not, ‘When I’m age X’ or ‘When I have X amount of money,’ I will do this or that. The right moment will never come because there are too many variables along the way. Dreams are meant to be pursued. Not postponed. Who knows if tomorrow will even arrive?
Go out there and experience
Like most of us in the western world, I grew up in this ‘funnel’ of going from institution to institution to institution. That’s our system getting you ‘ready’ for the big bad world out there. When high school is finished you are supposed to go to the next building. I fully realize it’s a dream for many and I am fortunate to even be able to choose and study. But at age 16 I was still way too playful to sit down and study. I wanted to learn through experience and go travelling. But everyone told me not to. “You should study something” (everyone, 2003). So I just picked ‘something.’ I had no idea what to study because I had no idea about what was happening in the world, what I could dedicate myself to with passion, and what matters. To really get a broader view of the world out there, you have to GO out there and experience.
Now, a few years later I would love to study and enrich myself with background knowledge of the world that I have explored. Until now… I have no regrets about anything but I did take some detours and did waste energy on worrying about what my surroundings would think. So 16 year old Suz: Just be YOU and do what excites YOU and don’t worry about anything. Now. Always now. If you are happy, you can be your best you, and your surroundings will be happy as well. Happiness is contagious.
And the last advice to my younger me
Don’t eat so much crap and check where the food you eat comes from. One of the best choices we can make every day for our own health and the planet’s, is a conscious one, of what we put into our bodies.
Last but not least; don’t go a day without outdoor play!