My name is a Dutch one, as I was born and raised in the Netherlands. I was a happy boy growing up in the countryside. We had a small holding, and I sometimes still miss having all the different animals around nowadays.
I expanded my horizon when moving to the ‘big city’ of Utrecht at the age of 18, to study environmental sciences. Combined with an active trumpet playing life, I managed to graduate after four years. Having met a whole new mix of people with different views, it was clear I was not the early settler type, but more of the adventurer kind.
After a year of environmental consultancy I plunged into the unknown for a while, starting in Santiago, Chile. Travelling north with the sunny season, several adventurous trips got me to Vancouver in Canada, roughly a year later.
During these travels I got hooked with the outdoor life, as well as with the natural diversity on earth. As I had enjoyed volunteering with young people before, I made the decision to specialize in environmental education. After a year of work with the Dutch government I quit my job and came to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Since then, I got my MSc degree in Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education at the University of Edinburgh, inspired Brighton youth to contribute to a sustainable community, and helped young people develop personally and socially at Scottish outdoor education centres.
In my spare time I play trumpet with jazz bands, big bands and symphony orchestras, hike up mountains in various parts of Scotland, climb rock faces and sea cliffs, and find myself enjoying the shelter of a bothy occasionally.
Now being up here in the Flow Country, I enjoy all parts of life. My job as learning officer is diverse, challenging and fun. Part of it is taking pupils onto peatlands for outdoor learning. This is one of the best parts of my job. Being out there, having fun learning about the landscape which is often only a few minutes from where they live.
I believe the peatlands are an undervalued and underutilized learning resource. Not only because they are important for climate change, but also because they hugely influence the way we live our lives up here. So I am working with teachers as well, to raise the profile of the peatlands and to help them integrate aspects of the local landscape in their curriculum.
My office is in Strath Halladale, close to the RSPB’s Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve. The drive in never bores me. Deer, rabbits, birds of prey. There hardly is a day that I do not encounter one of them. Also, seeing the colours of the land changing with the seasons amazes me.
And sure enough, there is plenty of opportunity for trumpet playing, and the countryside is there to be explored! Most important of all, the people I have met since moving up here are just the best.