Class was over and work beckoned, but before he settled into the corporate life, there was something else Klaas Langeveld had to do. In August 2008, Klaas, then 25, packed his bag and became an around-the-world traveler. For nine months he made his way around the world, pushing the adrenaline envelope, learning words in new languages, sampling foreign food, meeting fellow travelers and mingling with the locals.
I met Klaas on the Inca Trail in Peru, and he changed my outlook on travel and life. Now back in the Netherlands, Klaas is settling back into the daily grind, but he recently took a few minutes to answer six questions about his around-the-world travels. I hope his story inspires you the way it has me.
1. When and why did you decide to travel around the world?
After I graduated from high school in the Netherlands, I lived in Canada for a year as a Rotary exchange student. During that year my passion for travelling was aroused. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to travel quite a lot within Europe during my bachelor’s and master’s studies, partly because travelling with my international student association was very well organized and cheap. I decided that I wanted to go for a big trip outside Europe after my studies and started saving money for that.
I love travelling because it gives one the unique opportunity to experience different cultures. One sees different places, tastes different foods, plays different sports and smells different spices, however most of all one has the chance to meet people with different backgrounds from different cultures.
Because of two friends with whom I would travel, India, Nepal and Australia would for sure be included in my itinerary. I also really wanted to go to New Zealand and when I looked into prices for different tickets it became clear that from New Zealand it is hardly more expensive to travel back via South America, which completed my around the world trip.
2. What was your around-the-world itinerary and were there any must-see sites that you had to experience?
I started travelling in Nepal with a friend. From there we traveled overland to New Delhi in India. After my friend flew back to the Netherlands, I went to Mumbai by train. After India I continued my trip in Thailand and Cambodia, and my last stop in Asia was Hong Kong. Then I flew to Australia where I met up with another friend from the Netherlands. Together we drove over 15,000 km through the country. Next, I traveled through New Zealand before going to Chile. From Chile I traveled to Bolivia and Peru. I finished my trip in Brazil with another Dutch friend and we spent a day in Argentina to see the Argentinean site of the Iguacu falls.
Here are one or two must-see sites out for each country I have visited (one should note that I always only visited part of the country):
Nepal: The Himalayas and Chitwan National Park (to spot rhinos).
India: The Taj Mahal and the busy markets (of the beaten track) in New Delhi or Mumbai.
Cambodia: The temples of Angkor What and S-21 Prison and the killing fields.
Thailand: Khao Sok and Khao Yai National Parks and diving at one of the islands.
Hong Kong: The wet fish markets followed by a dim sum lunch and view from the city center from Kowloon (by night) and the peak (during the day).
Australia: Just drive, ask the locals and see where the road brings you.
New Zealand: Abel Tasman National Park and the Tongariro Crossing.
Chile: The desert around San Pedro de Atacama.
Bolivia: The salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) and the difference at high altitude-located ‘lagunas.’
Peru: Machu Picchu.
Brazil: Pantanal and the Iguacu Falls.
3. What was the most memorable moment of the trip?
This is a question which is often asked and probably the hardest question to answer, because for me it is impossible to compare a sunrise over the Himalayas, with, for example, diving between sharks, dancing with Brazilians in the favelas, camping between the kangaroos, climbing to the top of a 6088m mountain or partying on the beach with locals until the sun comes up.
4. How has your around-the-world trip changed you or your outlook on life?
The trip around the world has pointed out (again) that people can be very happy without having much moneywise. Friends, family and great experiences are a lot more important than, for example, a car or the newest phone with all the gadgets.
My trip, however, also pointed out that many people around the world have to live without enough means to support their families with the basic needs to have a good life. It’s very sad to see that in certain parts of this world for example children are kidnapped and sold for begging, child labor or being (sex) slaves.
5. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of traveling around the world?
Ask locals and fellow travellers for tips and try to not always just to follow your guidebook. I think that your trip can be enriched if you try to visit non-touristic places such as local markets, restaurants, bars, etc. I’m not saying you should avoid every touristic place, however it’s not all there is to see in a country. Furthermore, use common sense, to ensure you keep your valuables, you have the right insurance, your family knows how to contact you, etc.
6. What travel plans do you have for the future?
I think I will go diving in the winter for a week. My next big trip is either going to be through Patagonia in Argentina and Chile or to Africa.
Photos courtesy of Klaas Langeveld.