Tough, intelligent and beautiful. That’s the best way to describe outdoor babe Babette de Koning. She grew up in the Netherlands but travelled the world from the age of 17 for modelling and solo travel. Four years ago, after obtaining her marketing bachelor’s degree, she left for countries including South Africa and Australia; where she built her own camper van and travelled around for 1.5 years.
Who are you, and where are you from?
I am Babette, grew up in Dordrecht, where I lived at home with my parents until I was 19 and studied in Breda. I moved to Cape Town for my marketing internship with a tour operator in 2013, which was really cool (and I went on the 5-day tour along the south coast myself)! After that, I immediately went to live in Amsterdam (my favourite spot in the Netherlands), and I graduated from a management consultancy agency.
What was your first individual travel experience?
I was 17 when I took a gap year (between HAVO and HBO) and went to live in London to study Cambridge English and work as an au pair to take my English to the next level. The family paid board and lodging, and I spent my study partly from pocket money and partly from modelling (which I started when I was 14). I really recommend London because you learn the language the right way. Later this year, I went to study English in Malta (at the time the cheapest place to study English in Europe and the best weather).
Why do you like to travel so much?
My parents took us everywhere on a trip. From childhood we were already on skis, we went on summer holidays with the family (I have two slightly older sweet sisters) and friends camping in Southern Europe. We often went on a city trip during the May holidays. Although we always travelled comfortably, we never did this extremely luxurious. My mom taught us that if you are creative with money, you can experience fantastic holidays/adventures.
For example, we learned to ski in Southern Germany (and after we were experienced to more significant places) and my mother always had a knife in her pocket, and we ate freshly spread bread rolls in a beautiful park instead of always eating out. This inspired me enormously, and I knew that I did not want to save for one expensive holiday for years, but that it is possible to experience several fantastic adventures.
How can you describe your way of travelling?
I always organize everything myself, possibly based on recommendations from people I know (via). Travelling is really my lifestyle and not so much a holiday – I always strive not to “want” a vacation. Almost every trip has a purpose for me, and nowadays, my destinations are geared to where I can do modelling, practice my profession as an online marketer and where I can enjoy my free time. For me, that is often outside activities and pleasant weather. So the balance is essential to me. You won’t see me drinking cocktails all day long in an all-inclusive resort for 14 days on a beach bath.
You take a lot of photos. Which photo are you most proud of?
So many pictures! All photos with emotional value. The snapshots when my parents see me surf for the first time and surf on my own in remote (and sharky) Western Australia. But also the selfies in which I had finally finished my camper van myself. I also love the photo lying in the ocean. This was the first time that there was rainfall after the extreme drought on January 20 in Australia. That feeling was indescribably beautiful.
What can’t you miss when travelling outside of your photo equipment?
My iPhone, credit card (s), passport and my Dr. Martens boots haha. I can ride with it, build a motorhome, but also wear it under a nice dress!
I always try to travel very lightly – in the end; you don’t need much.
Have you become a different person by travelling?
I have experienced, seen and learned a lot from so many different perspectives. This has given me a much broader view of life. One of the most important things I’ve come to understand is that you have to do everything you like and where your passion lies – no matter how cliché it sounds!
What will you never do again?
During travelling? Build a camper van in winter and live in it at the same time without storage, far away from home (Australia) without family / close friends and any experience haha. This has been my greatest challenge ever! I worked full-time on an online marketing project (which I could flexibly organize), so I built my ‘van’ during the day and worked online in the evenings. This was very intense but in the end, worth it! I am so very proud of what I built, and luckily I enjoyed it all spring and summer and sold it with great profit to a friendly new local owner.
What is your best travel tip?
TO GO! Make the journey you want to make and don’t hesitate! So often friends/acquaintances say they would like to make that one trip and have doubts …. You will never regret it – it is an experience, and no one ever takes it away from you! Take tips from locals/friends (friends of) and if possible, visit friends/acquaintances at your travel destination. All my travels came from that, and there are beautiful other plans. This is how I have always travelled, and that is my biggest tip! I only built Australia up myself, and I didn’t know anyone! This took me a long time to build up. Never plan too much. Travelling is really about the experience – not about crossing off what you’ve seen and where you’ve been.
You have travelled through Australia for two years. Why did you choose Australia, and what did you do?
After completing my marketing studies, I started doing modelling on my own and travelled between Cape Town and Europe. I wanted a new adventure, and I wanted to keep the same adventurous body style as South Africa. If you are under 30 years old, you as a Dutch citizen can easily get a 1-year working holiday visa, and if you do three months of social work in your first year, you can get one year. This sounded good, and I actually went straight to Australia without a real plan. Pretty soon, I got my first camper and immediately started my “rural work”. I began training horses in the outback and the North Coast of the province of New South Wales.
When I was done with that, I voluntarily rode/cared for rescued horses (due to extreme drought/mistreatment). I had tried some side jobs in my freshman year, but that was not always a success, they often abuse travellers in Australia. I flew back for a few months to the Netherlands / Bali for modelling, and in my 2nd year, I got a full time remote online marketing job and my modelling went very well. I lived in my campervan in Byron Bay and occasionally drove or flew to Sydney for more significant work. I also made a three week road trip with my parents on a 4X4 through Western Australia. Nature is sooo beautiful there! Lucky Bay, Esperance is really my favourite! There the kangaroos lie on the beach.
You lived in a campervan for 1.5 years and built your campervan. How did you come up with the idea to choose this lifestyle?
This was never my biggest dream, but I am quite open-minded, and it came my way! I wanted to give #vanlife a try. When I saw buying one of the vans was cheaper than renting, I first bought my little van. I loved that, and I wanted a bigger one. This was super expensive, so I decided to build it myself haha! It has been my best lifestyle yet. I was all alone, which I had to get used to, but later I started to appreciate this so much. It was very primitive. I showered on the beach which was often magical but also cold in the winter or sometimes very busy in the summer haha.
More photos can be seen on Instagram: @babettedekoning