Bram, tell us something about yourself and the role of travel in your life.
When I was younger I already travelled through Europe with my parents. Then my parents went to Asia and I did the same in my early twenties. I started to travel further away and then I really got the travel virus. In 1995 I met my partner Ellen and we went travelling together and after a few short trips we decided to go on a long trip that took us 1,5 year. When we came back and went to our normal life we still felt the urge to travel. Travel is the main part in my life, every day I am thinking and planning and organizing trips (also for others). Almost all our money is spend on travelling and discovering places. Not only to far destinations but also on day and weekend trips. I am still hoping to win the lottery so I can travel every day!
You have been to more than 100 countries. Do you plan to finish them all? Do you have a timeline?
Yes I hope to finish the UN+ list, but I am not in a hurry. I always want to do different holidays in a row. So I mean: when I do a cultural trip, the next time I will go to the mountains for hiking, then a city trip, then to the beach/diving etc.
You say you like to roam in a country. What is ‘roaming’ for you? What do you tend to seek most when you are in a country?
I like to see as much as possible. I rather take one country in full than five countries half. I like to travel around in busses/trains etc. Talk with the locals, visit the World Heritage Sites, go to the capital, enjoy nightlife, climb a mountain, do a hike, visit museums, churches and mosques etc. and if possible do a dive or two.
You have a website with photos of some travels. What is the purpose of the site?
There really is no purpose. It’s only for myself. I started with no knowledge at all about computers/websites. And now after a lot of learning it became a hobby. I like it and my travel friends can have a look at it when I am back from my trip. I never do anything on the internet when I am on holiday. I never bring my iPhone/iPad or anything else on my trips. I also really hate social media, It has made the world worse!! When I am back from my trips I put some photos and sometimes a small travel report on my website.
Your travel map currently seems to lack many areas in Africa and most of the Middle East and the ‘stans’. Are there specific reasons for this?
The Stans I will definitely do in the upcoming years. Africa is not on the top of my list, although I really like nature/animals. It’s also quite expensive but the main reason is that it’s not my top priority. I hope to visit some countries there later. In the Middle East I’ve been to all the smaller countries but not to KSA, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Because of the current situation it will take some time before I go there. Usually I will visit a Middle Eastern country on my way to Dubai where my best friend lives. I’ve been to the Emirates already 8 times and every time when I go there I also visit another country (Kuwait/Qatar/Bahrain etc.).
Tell us about a country which was very different (positively or negatively) compared to what you had expected before going there.
Iran surprised me in a positive way. The most friendly people I have ever seen. North-Korea was a strange experience with 3 people watching the 2 of us from the moment we arrived by train and left 2 weeks later. When your freedom is gone, it gives you a strange feeling!
In 2015 I finally fulfilled my dream to the 7th continent. I already expected a lot from Antarctica & South-Georgia, but that experience was amazing. I got tears in my eyes when I was surrounded by thousands of King Penguins.
You mostly travel with your partner Ellen and sometimes alone. How are the trips different depending on whether you are together or not?
When I travel with my partner it is different because we can share our experiences. We talk a lot about all the things we have seen and visited. Another difference when I am alone, I will walk more and take less rest. Also I will skip some meals now and then when I am alone.
There is a stereotype that the Dutch are very thrifty…does this apply to you? Whether it does or doesn’t, how does this affect your travels?
LOL, that definitely does not apply to me. I will never skip major highlights or trips/excursions because it costs too much money. I always say to myself ”I might never come here again”, so I try to see and do everything that’s interesting to me. I am really not a typical Dutchman!
You mentioned you like visiting World Heritage Sites. Which ones exceeded your expectations and which ones did you find underwhelming?
The nice thing about WHS is that when it wasn’t a WHS I would not have visited the place. Of course all the main WHS like Iguassu, Galapagos, etc. are really nice but you will visit them anyway but it’s about the smaller sites that you never heard of that are quite interesting. Even in my own country there are some really unusual sites I had never heard of before.
You also like diving and are a Padi divemaster. How does your impression of a country change when you dive in its waters? Can you also give away some hidden diving gems from your experience?
Because of the travelling I have been to many dive sites that are in the lists of best sites in the world. Most divers are envious when they see my dive logbook. It’s always nice when diving to talk with the local Divemasters and see how everything is differently “organized” in all parts of the world.
Diving is never our main goal but if possible we will do 1 or 2 dives in a country if the diving is ok! (I am a little bit spoiled).
About the Diving gems; I won a 2 week diving trip to Sudan, that was the best diving ever! Mantas, schools of hammerhead sharks, reef sharks and almost anything else. Malapascua Island in the Philippines for viewing the amazing thresher sharks, wreck diving on the SS Coolidge in Vanuatu. Diving in Silfra, Pingvellir NP, in Iceland. No fish but 200 m+ visibility. Blue Hole in Belize, Poor Knights in New-Zealand, Galapagos, Seychelles, Maldives.etc.
Typing this I feel really blessed I’ve seen so much already!
What are your travel plans for the next 6 months?
We will go in October to Cape Verde, then a short trip to Switzerland, celebrate New Year’s day in the Emirates (Dubai) and after that I will visit another country but I do not know which one yet. In April we will take a longer trip to Reunion, Madagascar, Mayotte & the Comoros.
Finally our quirky question – if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Go back in time! I’ve been to some places in the world where I want to go back and do some things I skipped at that time.
The photos in this article are from Bram’s personal collection and show him in Tanna (Vanuatu), Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan), the Gobi desert (Mongolia), Digue Island (Seychelles), Kangerluk (Greenland), Salisbury Plains (South Georgia), reaching his 7th continent at Brown Station in Antarctica, Kaieteur Falls (Guyana), diving at Shaab Rumi (Sudan) and in Trinidad (Paraguay).