Dreams and animals…

When I was a little kid, there was always one item on my birthday wish list: a Shetland pony. I’ve always loved animals: domestic pets but preferably the bigger ones, like donkey’s, horses and deer. I wanted to become a veterinarian in primary school. Maybe I should have!

Every autumn I love to go deer spotting in the woods in the East during the deer rut. And here in the dunes in my backyard I love watching the wild Galloway highland cattle.  I’ve even seen the birth of one of the baby cows! Last spring I went for a day hike with a donkey and I’m planning to do that again this summer. Connecting with our fellow friends is so grounding and healing to me. Must be my Sagittarius star sign!

One day I hope to live on a farm again where I can offer music, vocal coaching, meditation, inspiration workshops and….walks and coaching with animals! I even dreamt a very beautiful name for it already!

What are your dreams?

 

 

Me time

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the world from someone else’s perspective for just one day! Have you ever done the Meyer-Briggs personality test?  I’m one of the visionary  type of people (ENFP), which means that my doing is driven by ideas and inner values.  I really need to feel the love for a project to be able to get anything done. But once I do…. Inspiration can fullfill me that much that it makes me feel in love!  And the other way around aswell….*sighs*….

In my experience people differ the most in the amount of “me time” they need. Some people need thrills all the time, and some people love spending time on their own.

Even though I love my thrills as a performer/entertainer, I’m definitely of the last category. I am a real country girl. I was born and raised in a smaller village and I didn’t move to The Hague till I was 11. One of the things I love about the countryside is just the amount of space and quietness it gives to think. My head is always so full of ideas and impulses that I need time to sort them. When I was a kid my parents even came up with an abbrevation for the Dutch words ‘time to herself’.

Probably one of the reasons I left my lawyer job at the time to escape The Hague to move to a farm in the wild west of Ireland! Wouldn’t that be boring? Not with a head like mine haha!

So which type are you? Are you self entertaining or do you prefer being entertained? Do you get restless of the idea of doing nothing for a weekend or would you just love it? Let me know!

 

 

Living on a budget

A friend of mine once told me I should start giving courses on ‘living on a budget’, because I always seem to be able to save money, even while on a lower budget. All people who work independently know that these tighter periods exist!! So, here we are! I’m sure many of you will have thought about the financial consequences of quitting a fulltime job to start your own business, to follow your passion, to go travelling or just to take a break from the rat race. Don’t think too much, just do it! As a lawyer who turned songwriter I have found out quite a bit about this, so let me share some tips and tricks…

So, I think the biggest challenge is to find a house that is affordable: in the form of alternative housing, house sharing or rent allowance. As soon as that is sorted, the remaining budget really depends on choices for other fixed costs. Apart from health insurance, do we really need insurances for all kinds of unlikely events? Is it possible to share Wifi with the neighbours? Do we need a TV? I love watching movies and series online! Can we get a cheap phone contract? Can we use public transport instead of owning a car, or maybe sharing one? Can we walk or cycle instead of driving? You will give yourself a free workout….plus it’s all better for the environment anyway!

You will see that you will then have quite a bit of money leftover after deduction of very limited fixed costs. I tend to spend it mostly on healthy food. I don’t go out much for drinks and food, as I find it’s usually better healthier quality when I cook myself. And I enjoy cooking. Of course I do have coffees now and then with friends, that is definitely a choice. I find it can be even more fun and relaxing to invite people at home, or bring a thermos flask and food while going for a walk or while taking a train. And again….it’s better for the environment saving all these plastic cups!

Another category is sports and hobbies: Pick a hobby that you only buy gear for once, and that is free afterwards, like surfing, skating, sea swimming, running, cycling. For myself: I love inline skating and I have a cheap contract at the gym.

Being sustainable when it comes to clothing is something I wrote about before. I loving buying affordable quality that will usually last for years! I love fashion and I have a big dress collection but I only add items like maybe twice a year because there is just plenty there anyway. Or try second hand stores. And again: better for the environment.

So do I sit at home all the time? Well I love spending time at home, as I’m a very homely person, but I travel aswell. Trick is to take advantage of offers, for public transport or otherwise. I don’t really want to promote it (not good for the environment at all, this one), but I bought flight tickets within Europe for as little as 20 return. I stayed at budget locations, holiday homes that I could rent of friends for little, and I made deals with 4 star hotels for free accomodation in return for gigs! To combine travels with paid gigs or other paid jobs is another good way to reduce costs ofcourse.

And I love spending time in our own little country. To go for hikes in the woods in the East of The Netherlands, to go to Maastricht for a day, and of course exploring all of nature The Hague has to offer. Saves a lot of hassle travelling. And should I say it again? Better for the enviroment!

Strangely I found that when I was working fulltime I felt a stronger urge to go spend all my money in the weekends, even on things I really didn’t need. I remember coming home with shoes I never wore and then just buying another pair. Such a waste! I still haven’t found out the psychology behind it, maybe it’s some form of happiness compensation? I don’t miss it anyway!

So what do you do to keep your budgetary costs low, to allow a lifestyle with more freedom? Have you even considered it at all? I’m excited to hear from you. For me this all has become so natural that it doesn’t feel restrictive at all. Quite the opposite in fact! I hope this whole story will make you a bit more aware next time you’re about to buy something you don’t really need! Enjoy the freedom you will get in return!

 

Health food

I’m sure many of you have set good intentions for the new year, especially when it comes to living more healthily, losing weight, doing more sports and so on. For me workouts, meditation, good sleeps, and keeping a diet have become part of my weekly routine and I’m actually starting to love it by now! After being diagnosed with endometriosis in 2017 I read ALL there was to read online about alternatives to get as fit as possible with this condition: alternatives to more surgery and hormonal treatments with unknown results and side effects.

Thankfully my consultant agreed that to keep a certain anti inflammatory diet was a great option for me! That the diet contained no cafein, no gluten, no milk, no sugar, no alcohol, no meat, no soy and no processed foods was a bit of a shock at first! So I only stick to parts of it, and I still love my tiny cup of morning coffee. Being a vegetarian is usually already seen as unsociable enough, and I don’t wanna lose all my friends and possible dates haha!

Anyway I found it very interesting to read more about it. So many things I wasn’t really aware of: like the effects certain foods have on our hormonal system, the effects of foods wrapped in plastics and what’s in our drinking water. Mind you, I don’t do my shopping at the ecological supermarket since it costs a fortune, but even on a budget healthy changes are definitely possible! One day I hope to have my own place where I have a veg garden and live an even purer and healthier lifestyle. It definitely has made me more conscious of the environment and how we live. And last but not least, it works! Not only for physical health but also mental wellbeing. Oh and I got rid of other complaints like asthma and eczema en route! Isn’t that great!

So, what do you do to keep healthy? Do you see relationships between certain foods and your own health issues? I’m excited to hear from you! Keep it up for 2019!

A happy history!

I hope you all had a good start of the new year! Luuk Lenders and I played a nice concert in an old church on the grounds of the beautiful Dutch Open Air Museum over the holidays. Largely situated in an old forest. I really love old places and history in general. It’s great to step into that time machine to visualize how things were in the past and how they can be in the future. For same reasons I am very interested in researching my family genealogy.

Last summer we even performed in an old castle in Belgium that I stumbled upon while researching the family tree. I found the idea of family links to this castle so intriguing that it was great that they invited us for a show. The Van den Eertwegh family originates from Maeseyck in the Pays de Liège that was a separate country untill the 18th century. The coat of arms- pictured below – looks pretty cool.

Maybe to me it feels even more interesting because I moved 16 times myself between places in Holland, Belgium and Ireland. In nowadays society where residence and work have become very flexible things, I think I value roots and old stories even more!

Do you know anything about your own roots? Do you believe they play a part in your identity? In all cases: let’s all write some good history in 2019 again!

 

 

May the Force be with you!

I have to admit I am a big Star Wars fan. I love the whole philosophy and view on society and spirituality behind it: the ideas of the light side and the dark side of the Force. With Christmas and the winter solstice coming up we all – religious or not – celebrate the return of the light in the darkness. Something you sometimes have to search for when you are having shitty weeks or the world seems to work against you. And I had a few pretty hectic weeks on all fronts myself!

Thankfully yesterday – while playing a lovely concert for a nice audience (picture below) – working together with a deeply appreciated colleague musician, I felt able to connect back to my inner Force again and I was wondering what it is exactly that does that. I think for me it’s love and inspiration and really feeling to the core of your being who you are and what you love doing. And connecting with people who have faith in you and inspire you on your own route.

I am so thankful to have travelled together on my own path with some musicians who I really admire for what they do. People who took risks to do what they love and who live very authentically. I cherish them with all my heart for that, as they have given me a lot of life force just by being who they are, and they still do!

I hope you will all have a lovely Christmas. Surround yourself with the right people. And may the Force be with you!

Killarney 

Maybe it’s because I got soaking wet yesterday while whale spotting, but I suddenly had to think back of my time in Killarney National Park.

This is how I spent many summer hols between my 17th and 27th, volunteering in environmental workcamps and lateron guiding same groups of volunteers from all over the world in the project! Better than a real holiday, so many friends and connections!

Every morning we would take a bus from the National Park Hostel, then a boat trip over the Upper Lake near Eagles Nest and then a long walk through rough terrain to get to the spot where we were working high up in the mountains. That’s where we would cut out invasive rhododendrons to protect the oak woods! No matter how bad the weather. After that lots of music sessions in the evenings! It’s where I got to learn many folk songs. So many good memories!

I was still studying law in Holland at the time, but it was definitely that experience that was part of the decision to leave my lawyer job at the age of 24 and go to Ireland for an indefinite period of time with my guitar!

photo: Jan Kuiper

Whales….and the big things in life!

Since a few weeks the shallow Dutch coastal waters near The Hague have a new visitor: a large humpback whale. A new Facebook group was started with many reported sightings, but I hadn’t been lucky enough to see him, even though I Iive right on the beach.

Suddenly everybody walking the beach or the harbour heads would share one common goal: to catch a glimp of this big mammal. It created a whole new social atmosphere between the usually distant beach walkers: everybody chatting to each other, helping each other, exchanging numbers, binoculars and photo’s and a general feeling of shared excitement.

FINALLY I was in luck yesterday and I suddenly caught the whale making a big jump right in front of the place where I was standing. Impressive!

Seeing this big whale also made me aware of something. Living in a big city I noticed people are usually busy looking after their individual career and family goals. The government is responsible for the common goals so why bother thinking about them.

When I lived in a house in the Irish countryside a 10 minutes drive away from a village of 600 inhabitants (quite in the middle of nowhere) I noticed people would look after the challenges of their community very well. When there were problems with electricity people would share gas tanks for heating. People would point each other mountain wells for drinking water when the private water scheme quality wasn’t sufficient.

I think this social awareness is absolutely necessary to face any of the current climate problems and take up responsibility for these, instead of waiting for the government to come with solutions. Plus it creates a nicer social atmosphere over all!

Maybe that’s why it was so special to meet our whale friend: as a gentle reminder that there are even bigger things than us. I hope you will get to see him too!

 

 

The law of attraction

Let’s get a bit more spiritual! I’m sure many of you will have heard about The Law of Attraction, which means really wanting something with all of your heart – without doubts or fears – leads to the result of it becoming true. This largely has to do with positive thinking, really aiming for a result and fully trusting the process. Trust is the opposite of fear, and a positive mindset and a decent amount of determination always open doors. No mysteries so far, or are there?

A while ago I was chatting to one of my friends, about the risks we took realizing some of our greatest dreams. When I quit my well paid job as a lawyer to focus on music, I didn’t have a clue of how I was going to work this out financially. I just gave up my longterm work contract, not knowing exactly how I was going to pay the rent of my city centre apartment in The Hague. The first ‘miracle’ that happened was that my landlord rang the doorbell that same week to offer me a remainder of 6 months free stay, as he had other plans with the building. ‘Yes please, where can I sign?’

In the years afterwards I have gathered many more experiences like this one, which you might call ‘luck’, ‘accidence’ or ‘destiny’. The name doesn’t really matter. It’s about the feeling one gets in the meantime. It truly feels differently, living from a perspective of love, faith and inspiration, when usually all these good things start to happen, whereas living from a place of fear usually leads to a long road of bad experiences. Been there, done that, tried and tested haha!

It’s nice to know that there is always this choice though, even when it can be pretty tough to make the change when you’re on the wrong road. For example like years ago when my relationship in Ireland ended, I was devastated plus I didn’t have a home or income. One day I decided to go playing music on the streets, mainly to cheer myself up. After only one hour of busking I earned over 100 euros, I had met one of the Westlife singers who gave me money, and I got invited to play at a book release event, where I met a TV producer who asked if he could use my music for a TV production! Opportunities!

Or when I arrived to Ireland first and I just wrote a simple email to an info@….. festival address saying ‘hi, I am a Dutch musician and I live here now’, leaidng to a whole range of events getting a great booker, some festival gigs, many stays in a 4 star hotel with spa, great friends in the music scene and many local and international music collaborations!

Anyway, I am curious to hear of your own experiences! Do you believe in this Law of Attraction? How do you take responsibility for realizing your dreams? Have you also had the experience of the universe working with you to get you to places you had never imagined?

Slow living

Cycling to work everyday  in my work suit in busy The Hague traffic at 8 am, meeting the same civil servants at the same traffic lights every morning, very much like the Groundhog Day movie, I thought I wanted a change.  Well it wasn’t only a thought, it was also my body screaming for a break. Stress can really get into one’s system, especially if you experience sensory impulses intensely. I think no money is ever worth endangering one’s health.

Anyway, so here I was in the middle of nowhere in the North West of Ireland, with only a wooden stove to heat the house, no tap drinking water, electricity that often went when there were power cuts. And a lot of silence…. Just a house, nature, birds and wild deer in the garden. The quietness was so omnipresent that it felt I was in a different world, and that the real world with the traffic jams didn’t even really exist and certainly couldn’t be important if it did! What wás important here was to collect firewood and water from a well higherup in the mountains. There was a bus once a week to a nearby town in 20 minutes distance. And I actually met one of my best friends on it.

I started focussing on baking breads every morning, pizza’s, cakes, doing the household, volunteering in an animal sanctuary, making music with the locals, meeting some very talented people in the area. All of this felt so grounding and healing. There was plenty of time in a day, no rush to do anything, no appointments in my agenda. Not even internet in the house, so I had to walk down the road to receive messages.

And I loved it…

Back in Holland I still love spending time in the house or nature just by myself to load up on energy. Are you one of these sensitive people too? How do you step out of the 21st century rat race now and then?