After almost two years at sea, it’s time for a trip back home to share the 30 sustainable solutions we discovered in Europe with our followers and partners.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife (ESP)
“Lisbon! I think that’s Lisbon” Floris can’t hide the excitement in his voice. We squeeze our faces closer to the window. “Yes, I recognize the river Tejo,” Ivar replies. Seeing the city from above gives us flashbacks to Christmas 2016, when we stayed in the Alcantara docks, discovered the city on foot with Ivar’s parents and enjoyed a fado-dinner with fellow sailors. Despite the perceived proximity, it feels oddly far away and long ago.
Some half hour later we cross the Bay of Biscay. This time no shipping forecast or passage tactics are required. Air travel has its benefits. Still, we booked our flights with mixed feelings. Sailing back would have been the only sustainable travel option, but neither Luci nor the two of us were prepared to do that. We pay a bit extra to compensate the flights’ CO2 emissions, which we agree is not an excuse, but better than nothing at all. Ivar suggests that our spreading of sustainable solutions may eventually lead to CO2 reduction.
After almost two years at sea, it’s time for a trip back home. We visited 30 sustainable solutions in Northern, Western and Southern Europe, which we would like to share with our followers and partners. Of course we also look forward to reuniting with family and friends.
A mere four hours after departing from Tenerife, we arrive in Zurich. Considering that it took us almost two years by sailboat to bridge the same distance, it not only feels like a trip back home, but also like traveling back in time.
Family’s Warmth and Winter’s Cold
Floris’s brother and his family happily welcome us at the airport. Hugging them makes us forget the many days and miles we spent apart. Yet a step outside the terminal quickly reminds us that we have been far away. It’s cold! We’ve become too used to summerlike temperatures, apparently. At the same time we’re excited to taste a bit of winter, so we gladly join a family hike in the forest. A fresh layer of snow on the pine trees make it a picture-perfect experience.
Visits to more family in Switzerland remind us just how long we’ve been away. We meet four additions to the family, all under the age of two! Another child is on its way and we realise that we will miss them growing up. Feelings of joy for the families are mixed with feelings of melancholy at that thought.
The train takes us to Floris’s sister in Southern Germany, where the winter and reunions continue. In-between playing games with Floris’ nephews, we prepare our first presentations. First up is an evening, in German (!), at the Rotary Club Germering, where we find the audience interested in our travel story and sustainability mission. A big Thank You to the club for hosting us.
The next day we meet students of the Munich International School, who welcome us enthusiastically. We have been the topic of the 6th graders “Service as Action” course, so they know us from the videos we sent them over the past months. In them we challenged them to think about sustainable food and to find solutions to plastic pollution. This time we present the renewable energy solutions we’ve seen on our trip. We also have a session with the 4th-graders and share with them the challenges and solutions of the plastic soup. Their enthusiasm and creativity are heart-warming. We are very grateful to inspire, hopefully, the young generation with the sustainable solutions we found so far. Thank you to the school and it’s staff for this opportunity!
Sustainable Transport Innovation From the Lion’s Den
On our last day in Germany, we visit a Munich-based start-up car manufacturer, Sono Motors. On our way, we pass the mighty exhibition centres of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. How can a start-up compete with these forces?
“We believe sharing is the key element of a sustainable road transport infrastructure,” Fabian Duensing, starts out. He is the sales manager and explains that their new car, the Sion, is not their only business model. “We see ourselves as Mobility Provider. A new app will allow users to join a ride, borrow a car or share its power. The Sion will be perfect for that purpose. It’s electric, standardized and affordable”.
We learn that the car has a light-weight construction, and many off-the-shelf components. Its range is around 250 kilometres, and solar panels can add another 30 on a sunny day. Fabian’s colleague Alexandra Namyslowski explains that the innovative car will be delivered in 2019, but more than 4,000 have already been pre-ordered online. Impressed by the concept and the professionalism of the people we met, we expect the Sion to take over Munich’s streets soon.
“Look, we’ll be riding on renewable energy!” Ivar points to a sticker on the entrance of the ICE train that we’re about to board. We leave Munich and enjoy a comfortable train ride to the Netherlands. The time flies by, we hardly have time to catch up with e-mails and social media.
At Ivar’s parents we celebrate Easter with the family. We also meet Göran Christiansson, who started “Eetbaar Soest”. By planting local nut and fruit-trees in public places, he aims to make the food supply in Ivar’s hometown less dependent on transportation and agrochemicals and therefore more sustainable. With him and his wife, we visit an organic farm where Göran planted walnut trees in the meadows. What a smart way to make the land more productive, increase biodiversity and also capture CO2!
Four in a Row
“Welcome to De Schuttevaer”! We kick-off the Dutch leg of our “roadshow” with a presentation a beautiful classic sailboat in Enkhuizen. Our guests respond to our pictures, videos and explanations with compliments and interesting questions.
The evening is followed by three presentations in Amsterdam. Our partner ABN AMRO hosts us in Circular Pavilion “Circl”. This venue serves as a showcase example of sustainable construction and wasn’t even built when we left. We’re not the only presenters here, the place is buzzing with activities around the circular economy. Again, we meet an enthusiastic and interested audience.
Our next event is in Amsterdam’s sustainability temple “Pakhuis de Zwijger”. Before we left for our sailing trip, we regularly attended gatherings here around various sustainability-related topics. And now we are on stage ourselves! Thanks to the good organisation by the Pakhuis staff, the evening runs smoothly and we meet many other sustainability freaks.
Finally, we’re delighted to present in the famous “Scheepvaartmuseum”. The beautifully renovated museum harbours more than 500 years of Dutch maritime history. And today we are allowed to be part of that! Thank you to the museum staff for making it possible.
We feel somewhat overwhelmed by so much interest in our story. Again a big Thank You for everyone attending and supporting us. Hopefully, the postcards of the sustainable solutions we made (from recycled paper of course) help to further spread the inspiring sustainability stories we have discovered.
Ups but also a Down
“We may still have time for a coffee next week.” Family and friends are experiencing how difficult it is for us to see everyone in the short time that we are in the Netherlands. Weekends away, dinners, lunches, meetings with partners, medical check-ups, and King’s Day celebrations fill up our calendars in no-time. It provides for uncountable joyful moments. At times we are completely overwhelmed by the generosity and love of our family and friends. Sadly, we also hear the news that a friend’s 50-year-old brother suddenly passed away. We are reminded of the fragility of our lives. Although we cannot take the pain away from our friend and her family, at least we could be at the funeral to support them.
Saying Goodbye – Again
“Your bag is 21 kilo’s, 1 kilo too heavy,” the check-in lady at Schiphol tells Ivar. “It’s not a problem now, but please be aware when you fly back.” Ivar returns the generous lady’s smile with a “Thank you, I will”. Our backpacks are stuffed to the max. It was quite a puzzle to fit everything in, such as a new mizzen-mast rig, spare parts for the wind generator, cleaning agent for the water maker and many more boat items that are difficult to come by abroad.
Over coffee and sandwich at the airport with our family we memorize the wonderful last few days we spent together at Ivar’s brother’s in Leggeloo. Often we are asked what we miss most on our trip and our reply is always the same: our family and friends. Despite the pain of having to say goodbye again, we’re above all thankful for the great time we had with so many of them.
The time machine sends us back to Tenerife in just over four hours. When we climb back onto Luci, who has been patiently awaiting us on the shipyard, we’re exhausted. The presentations, the meetings and squeezing a year of social activities in just 7 weeks has left its marks on us. But it was well worth it. At the same time, we look forward to the next leg of our trip.
But first things first: let’s get Luci back into the water!