It is an immense honour to receive this award. For the past 15 years I have been guiding day and extended tours across all corners of Western Australia, carrying my heart on my sleeve.
How can you not fall in love with what we have on offer in our own backyard? Pure wilderness in its finest form, from the red dirt to the crystal clear turquoise waters of the ocean, remote bush land, unique flora and fauna and country, our heritage in the oldest living culture on our planet, the indigenous Aboriginal culture.
Being outdoors storytelling and connecting with people is what I have been doing my entire life. As a kid I grew up in the outskirts of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The bit of nature we have in my home town, I explored the lot and always came home covered in dirt with a spark in my eye and another bruise on my arm or leg. I have always had an adventurous heart and an unbeatable passion for exploring and discovering nature and sharing it with others.
After I finished my studies in Education and Media and Cultural Anthropology, I worked as an editor in Amsterdam, guided hiking tours in the French Pyrenees and took courses in Adventure Tour Guiding. I started traveling the globe on a shoestring and worked in the Caribbean as a news editor for a local television and radio company. It was Western Australia that eventually won my heart. This place feels like home and this is where I am meant to be, where I have a feeling of purpose.
Over the years, I found a job as a tour guide when tourism in our state was booming. I did back to back overland stints between Perth and Broome, throughout the Pilbara, the Kimberley and the South West, until I hurt my back on a tour in 2011 and had to go through major back surgery. I could not walk anymore and thought I would never guide again, but the operation was successful and I was on my way to recovery.
I started assisting in marketing and promoting Western Australia domestically and internationally on road shows in Europe. I became a Board member of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation and combined my tour guiding with working as a facilitator in outdoor leadership programs in WA. These roles beautifully complement each other and allowed me to enhance my skills and expand my network in the industry, resulting in setting up my own tour guide business in 2017. I now contract myself out to several tour operators in Western Australia and recently as a guide on hiking expeditions in the Himalayas in Nepal.
Being out there in remote areas amongst the elements is challenging and gets the best out of me, and I guess that spark rubs off. It is beautiful to see the impact of traveling in our state on visitors. They have often never experienced anything like it.
In 2016 and 2018 I was lucky enough to become a finalist in the FACET Golden Guide category in the WA Tourism Awards but 2019 showed me that dreams come true as long as you keep putting in the work and believe in what you do.
With this award I aim to encourage others to step up and follow your heart. If you do what you are passionate about, you will shine as best as you can and the world will smile right back at you.