After the lockdowns travelling still isn’t where it used to be with airports being short staffed or dealing with strikes. As a frequent flyer, something I used be kind of proud of…, I feel somewhat curtailed in my freedom. On the other hand, maybe all of this is just good: better for the environment for sure and I think we all value travelling in general, and destinations close by, much more than before.
Making memories is what it’s all about! Personally, I tend to forget to take out my camera, but Sietske van ‘t Hooft is always strapped. Sietske is a lawyer turned photographer and co-owner of the Moai Collective. We became friends through Bearleaders in 2019 and in the summer of 2020 Sietske asked me if she could take our beach towel on a road trip through Spain.
Why did you choose this specific part of Spain for a road trip in 2020? We had initially planned a safari into the wilderness through Namibia and Botswana, for 4 weeks in a 4x4. Unfortunately, that trip could not take place that year because of Corona. But if Corona has taught me anything, it's that there is so much beauty close to home. I always wanted to go far, farther, farthest, but this was the time to make a journey closer to home.
We bought a rooftop tent for our Defender to make road trips in Europe. I actually didn't know Spain very well, with the exception of Madrid, Barcelona and Ibiza. The North of Spain turned out not only to be a fantastic culinary place, but we also discovered incredibly beautiful and untouched landscapes. There is even a desert!
What do you like about our beach towel? I am a sucker for beautiful things and things with a story. This towel has both of those for me. I can't always describe exactly why I like something, but with this beach essential it's the colours and the pattern. A colour is hit or miss for me. This towel is just right. You want it. A timeless item that goes well with everything and makes you feel happy. Besides that it is just very soft.
I don't need to say much about the story - everyone who's following the brand knows. I volunteered in an orphanage in Africa in the past and I know how those children cherish the meagre possessions they have. We can learn from that. So it's nice to be able to contribute to that in a small way by supporting Four Leaves.
What is your personal favourite shot from the trip? The photo that evokes the best memory for me is the wide angle shot of the lake. This was such a beautiful place in the North of Spain. I haven't been this relaxed in years. Making paella from crackling fresh (squid) fish, a glass of cold white wine on a chair in the sea, an afternoon nap in the rooftop tent, gathering wood and lighting a fire, swimming naked under the beautiful starry sky - and then drying off with the towel of course. No TV, telephone or internet. The ultimate freedom.
I love the car you were driving on this adventure. What’s the story? This Defender drove around Ibiza for years, until the owner came back to the Netherlands and it turned out not to be a practical car for the Amsterdam canals. We were looking for a project, bought it and had it disassembled and rebuilt. It really is a wonderful car to drive, every ride is an experience.
Not always a good one, by the way - in the north of Spain it came to a standstill and we were very lucky that someone could help us. Recently, it short circuited again. 'There's always something' that's what the Defender is known for, but it's worth it. Especially now that it has a rooftop tent, you can really use the car for what it is intended for - going on safari. Searching for the ultimate freedom like that moment at the lake.
What are your sleeping hours? I’ve been a morning person since childhood. I rarely sleep-in and always want to wake up early, go outside, experience new adventures and see new things. I get very restless if I lie in bed too late. In the evening, on the other hand, I like to crawl into my bed early. It may sound silly, but I really enjoy going to bed early. I love diving under my (Four Leaves) duvet at 10pm and read for a while. I especially get excited about going to bed early when the Four Leaves percale variant is covered, snug under the crispy sheets, the ultimate hotel experience. I'm a hot sleeper apparently haha. My boyfriend is in the linen camp, I am in the percale camp.
You shot our scented candles, what does Refocus, Unwind & Create mean to you? Refocus. 'Hocus pocus, keep your focus', this is a Dutch saying that is often said to me. I always have a thousand plans and ideas that I want to execute at the same time. But that is simply not possible and certainly does not lead to the best end result. So I often have to refocus to keep focus :-)
Unwind. I love my bath - it's the place where I relax, where thoughts come to me, where I can organise my thoughts, where I prepare my presentations and where I can deal with some emotions. This candle is also placed on the rim of my bath.
Create is easy. I really enjoy creating new things, that's when I'm my happiest and in flow - art, interiors, food, experiences. But you need the right mindset and inspiration to create - that can be a place, a person, a thing, but also a scent.
Can you tell us something about Moai? Ever since I was a student, I wanted to create something with impact. Make a difference in the world, do something for the climate, for animals or for people. I didn't know exactly what. Together with my two partners Saskia and Pauline, we as Moai now try to make a difference.
At Moai we develop programs for companies where we teach professionals (leadership) skills that help them to become more balanced and more resilient. These skills allow them to grow both personally and professionally with the organisation where they work. We do this through awareness exercises, such as breathing, movement, meditation, intuitive writing and techniques such as setting intentions and visualisation.
Within the legal profession and beyond, I have seen a lot people struggle with stress, work-life balance, lack of compassion and the culture. By applying these skills on a daily basis, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, you can deal with them much better. Not only that, you become healthier, more focused and more creative. The exercises are not floaty or weird - that stigma is still there - it is science, extremely powerful and in our opinion just as important as brushing your teeth, eating healthily and exercising.
Moai is a concept from the Bluezone Okinawa in Japan. This is an area where people live longer, healthier and happier lives than average. Research shows that the main reason for this, is that people are part of a Moai. These are groups of friends who - from childhood - support each other through thick and thin, financially and socially.
Because of that connection, people suffer much less from stress and loneliness and they live longer and happier lives. With the help of our training, people come into contact with themselves and with each other more easily. What I like about Moai is that it allows me to use my skills and experiences as a partner at a law firm and my creative side.
How do you care for yourself? When I stopped practicing as a lawyer, I suddenly realised the fast pace that I had always lived. There was nothing wrong with that in itself. I learned a lot, did nice things, met great people, but I lived very little in the moment. I was often preoccupied thinking about the things that I could have done better, had not done or had yet to do. After I stopped and made more time for myself, I suddenly met all kinds of new people and all kinds of wonderful things happened.
Now I pay much more attention to being present in the moment, paying attention to the people around me and being grateful for what I have. Through Saskia, my co-partner in Moai, she is a yoga teacher and breathing expert, I learn every day about what certain exercises can do for you. Such as yoga, conscious breathing and simple things like setting your intention in the morning or writing down what you are grateful for.
I also enjoy eating and drinking, travelling and discovering new places and meeting people. And my morning ritual is very important to me. A glass of water, a cup of coffee, going outside or exercising, eating a soft-boiled egg and answering some apps and emails. I really notice a difference if I skip this morning ritual.
What's next for you as a photographer? That's a very good question… at the moment Moai is consuming all my time, we are growing fast and start-up life is busy. You know that better than anyone. For photography I really need time and space. You don't do that in the evening between nine and ten. Especially when travel, I get so much inspiration, then I get into the flow and everything arises. There are plenty of plans.
Just like through Moai, I also want to draw people into the here and now through photography. By creating work that makes people pause. I work on creating types of ‘dream worlds’ in which I incorporate photos of different landscapes, animals and people. A kind of journey that you can make in one image, which leave you amazed and where you always see new things or come up with stories. I also want to start shooting analogue again and learn to make prints myself. I still remember the tension of the past when you handed in your film role to be processed. You also paid a lot more attention to taking that one photo. Time for a new adventure I think...with the Four Leaves beach towel in my suitcase of course :-)