What is it like to be very successful and one day lose everything again? From millionaire to bankruptcy, it happened to Gerben Abbink (40). After a deep depression, he finds himself again and together with his girlfriend Rianne Hottinga (35) and their toddler Benjamin (17 months), they embark on a new adventure on their sailing boat, with the aim of sailing around the world in the next years to come.
In this interview with 10 questions for Stylish Travel Tips they share their story how it all started. What is it like to really have nothing left, and still chase your dreams? How is life on a sailboat and what are the plans for the coming year? An inspiring interview with beautiful pictures of their first sailing trip through Europe. One thing I know for sure, we are going to hear from them a lot more often, so keep an eye on them because they have great plans.
1. Who are Gerben and Rianne and how did your sailing adventure begin?
Our sailing adventure started last year. We had just become new parents of our baby boy Benjamin. He was three months old when we first flew with him from Amsterdam to Valencia where our boat was moored at that time. We had decided to go test sailing to see what it was like to sail with a baby and decide if we would like to sail around the world, cause that was our common dream.
However with the arrival of a baby a lot changes and and we just came out a difficult period. The moment we got on board we knew it right away, this was the life we wanted to live.
It was March and not yet very warm and the first three months we sailed around Ibiza. Explored all the bays and made many small sailing trips.
In June last year we sailed along the Spanish islands to Sardinia, and via the Italian coast and its islands to Greece and finally arrived in November in Bodrum, Turkey.
In December we flew back to Amsterdam to finally make our choice. Actually after two weeks of experiencing Amsterdam life again we knew for sure, we are going to sell the house and sail around the world.
2. What did your life look like a few years ago and what made you decide to sail across the world?
A few years ago Rianne was making a career in the corporate world and Gerben as an entrepreneur was busy with his companies. When Gerben’s dream company went bankrupt our world was turned upside down, Gerben lost everything overnight.
Everything he had carefully built up in 12 years had disappeared like snow before the sun, including himself and his house and boat. The boat had to be sold, we had just had a relationship for three months. The boat had to be sailed over to another port to prepare her sale.
When Rianne saw that sailing around the world was a long cherished dream of mine and now it was falling apart, she decided to buy the boat. And actually, at that moment the choice was made to go sailing around the world.
3. You guys just became parents before the trip. What is it like to sail with a toddler?
It is fantastic to sail with a baby, you’re together 24 hours a day and close to nature. You see him grow up, sometimes there are nights and you wake up and see that he has grown up again. Every day on board we get up at sunrise and experience the waking up of the world as a family together and that is indescribably beautiful.
Benjamin has seen 5 countries and discovered already different cultures in the first eight months of his life. During sailing and on longer crossings it is hard work with this small “monkey” on board. Of course it is also very exciting, around us there is always water and therefore always danger lurking.
4. What’s life like on board of a sailboat? What are the fun and less fun things?
Life on board is pure, simple and close to nature. Generally the weather is warm and you will walk all day in your swimming trunks and bikini, explore the bay where you are, sightseeing and meet some very interesting people.
The less fun things are when it storms and you have to take shelter, the insecurity and violence of nature.
In addition, everything is a challenge, think of shopping. We are not anchored in harbours but behind anchor. Harbours cannot be paid for and certainly not in high season. When you have to go for grocery shopping you get in the dinghy and sail to the beach. But then?
Then you have to hitchhike back to the nearest supermarket and load the groceries back into your dinghy through the beach and board again. These are the less fun things.
In addition, you have to deal with the elements of nature, salt water, sun, wind and waves. A perfect combination that ensures that there is always something to do on board 😉
5. Along which countries / cities have you all sailed so far?
We started in Valencia, Spain and sailed via Ibiza, Menorca, Mallorca to Sardinia in Italy. From there we sailed to Ponza, Ventotene, Ischia, Capri and via the Amalfi coast to the Aeolian Islands.
From there between Sicily and from the heel in Italy to Greece. Finally from Zakynthos via the islands to Athens and all the way to Bodrum in Turkey. In total we sailed with the boat for 8 months.
6. How’s life on water, describe your day on a sailboat?
Life on water is something magical for us. We get up when the sun rises and we experience this together as a family. We do our morning ritual which consists of meditating, doing sports, writing down the daily goals and swimming around the boat.
Then we make breakfast and start our tasks for the day, this can be work on the boat, for our company or anything me-time.
We divide the day where each of us take care of Benjamin for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, so we really have some time for ourselves to perform our tasks or read a book and make phone calls.
Afterwards we have lunch together, this can be on board but also on a deserted beach where we discover an island/city/beach. In the afternoon we change tasks till at the end of the afternoon.
Afterwards we will cook and eat most of the time on board and watch the sunset together. Usually the three of us in the hammock and when the sun sets we go to bed. This is when the boat lies quietly at anchor and when we are not sailing.
When we are sailing we are constantly working, adjusting the sails, navigating, keeping an eye on the weather. The boat moves continuously. Also while cooking dinner, going to the toilet and sleeping. We sleep in shifts, day and night.
After all, you can’t drop anchor in the middle of the sea or stop for a while. We therefore plan crossings for a maximum of three days. But as soon as we cross the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean, we will sail for three weeks in a row, without a stopover.
7. Are there any special things you should consider with Benjamin on board?
The biggest fear is that Benjamin will fall overboard so we do everything to prevent that. He is always on a leash when he’s on deck, and we’re going to put a net around the boat. A boat is set up as if everything can move and therefore all drawers and lockers are locked, so actually a boat is very child proof.
Of course Benjamin has his own life jacket. In the first month of our trip we had two paediatrician on board for a special baby first aid course. This was super handy and good to know.
8. What are the most beautiful memories you made during your sailing trip?
The most beautiful memories are all the moments we experience together every day, every day we make memories. If we really have to name the peak moments, that would be the special crossings between islands, discovering bays and caves, night sailing under a crisp starry sky, or meeting people who have lived in a cave for years, ending up at a special feast in a monastery on the edge of a volcano, and dancing late into the night at traditional music.
9. You’ve been through a lot. Did it change you and what are your life lessons?
Everything you go through shapes you and makes you realise that life is finite, only one thing is certain and that is that after every day your life becomes shorter. That’s why our life lessons are to make dreams come true, regardless of whether you know or have known enormous setbacks, to live on your own terms and to be gentle with Mother Nature. Nature has all the answers to our life questions.
10. What are your plans for this year and what does your sailing route look like?
Our plans are to come back to our floating house in Turkey as soon as possible from the Netherlands. We are going to do this with a LandRover “Lilly” with rooftop tent, which is now our house.
Arriving in Bodrum we want to sail via the Mediterranean Sea to the Canary Islands, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean at the end of this year.
Then we want to go via the Panama Canal to the Pacific and discover all the islands there. And who knows, we might find a place where we feel at home and decide to stay. Or not and then we sail on to Australia and New Zealand. Important is that we like what we do.
In addition, we are building our company, which is called Feel the Breeze, we document our lives on YouTube and Instagram and want to inspire people with our passion and drive for everyone who wants to live their dream.
That is our gift to the world. In addition, we are entrepreneurs and are engaged in initiatives in the field of health and sustainability.
“We have a plan in our lives, but life also has a plan with us”
~Feel the Breeze~
Gerben, Rianne & Benjamin