When people ask me the common question:”So what do you do?” I used to have a hard time. I did so many things, I could never limit myself to one. I see too many opportunities everywhere I go, and only over time became aware that most people don’t think like that.

I grew up in the Netherlands, wasted away at public education just like many others, with many unfulfilled desires. In my early twenties I realized that the ordinary path of studying, getting an office job, lease a car and mortgage a house just wasn’t for me. I left the Netherlands in 2006 and went on to study philosophy at the same university as Socrates.

For three years  I lived in Cyprus where I worked in trust and finance. I got skilled at the computer and learned a trick or two in design, marketing and writing. But most of all, I enjoyed hearing unusual (success) stories of businessmen who had chosen to do things differently. Many of them by accident, some by design, they had come up with business ideas that resulted in more customized, fulfilling individualistic lifestyles.  I  met and married a wonderful girl, moved to Panama and became an entrepreneur, designed and build my own hotel. There on the edge of civilization I became what I always wanted to be: self-reliant. In that I found a true calling: I realized I can do a lot more than I thought I could do. Repair stuff, build things, draw plans and make them come to life.
Living in rural Panama on the edge of the jungle, my outlook on the world changed. I love civilization, technology and the products of industrialization. But if I was forced to choose between the two, I choose nature.
My hotel had a good acre of sloped land around it that was severely degraded. I started working the land, building terraces, improving the soil, planting many edible and ornamental plants. I found great joy and satisfaction in the work, even though the sun was often merciless and so were the bugs. The hotel guests became a way to sustain my gardening.

The strain of a business on ones’ private life is enormous; what seemed idyllic for a casual observer became unworkable.  I left Panama by the end of 2017 but not before I completed one personal goal: to build myself a cabin with as little help as possible. For three months I lived without running water, electricity or any form of plumbing. I washed in the river, boiled river water for drinking, and relied on the forest as my bathroom. I slept in a tent, would get up when the roosters started crying and put in as many hours as I could. I booked a flight to Europe and made it my deadline. One week before leaving my bathroom and kitchen were operational. I turned the key and left.

One extraordinary year later I return from to Panama with a lovely Panamanian girl I found in France, with renewed energy. I have many passions and ideas, and I am more ambitious now than ever before. This is what I will do in the coming years:

  1. Create a home with art studio for my wife to be and have a family (in progress)
  2. Design at least one other building (bigger than my hotel)
  3. Reforest a minimum of one square kilometer of land.
  4. Never run a hotel-restaurant ever again


Y&M Castelo Branco
Avec Yani, ma muse panaméenne