Everest base camp

My top 11 travel experiences

People often ask me 'What's the most beautiful country you've been?', 'Best place you've visited?' or 'you all time must go?'. It's a tricky question. It's as hard as naming your favorite movie or song. There's so much to choose! But here we are, back at it again with the lists. A countdown of my top travel experiences. There we go:

Bushwalking in Tasmania
I went to Australia for 3 months and ended up in Tasmania for most of the time. I fell in love with the landscape, the people, the food culture. All of it. Hobart quickly became one of my fav cities in the world. One of the best things to do in Tassie is doing the Overland Track. This short trek takes you through all different possible landscapes. Muddy forest, snowy peaks and fields full wavy leafs. This might be one of my all time favorite treks I've ever done. 

Sandy dunes in Namibia
I came to Namibia with zero expectations. And left the country with a bunch of inspiration and huge love for Africa. Especially Namibia. The red dunes, the welcoming people the animals. I felt instantly at home. Like I've been there before. 

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Eye to eye with gletsjers
We drove around Iceland and ended up at Jökulsárlón. I've never seen anything like this before. Gletsjers in the colour white to all shades of blue. Magnificent. We spent quite some time watching them float by. Some parts ended up the black beach on the other side of the lake. No words.   

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Enjoying unknown cultures in China
Somehow I ended up at Lugu Lake. Which was the best place I visited in China. At the time it wasn't a popular or well known place. So we were in for a treat. To get there took us what felt like forever. But then.. Double rainbows, biking around the lake, meeting the local people and learning about their customs. What really struck me was the Mosuo women. Seriously, read about this feminine driven culture some day. 

Walking on the foot of the top of the world
I've told you about the Everest Base Camp Trek before. It was such a great adventure to walk in the footsteps of the most badass mountaineers out there. Of course, we only did make it to base camp (5365 m) but I felt like I was on top of the world. 

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Ticking stuff of the bucket list in southern Africa
I had a long bucket list. With all different things to do and see. In Africa I got 'rid' of a few of the must do's. I jumped out of an airplane above the Namib desert and jumped off the Zambezi bridge with a rope on my cowboy boots. Check. Never doing that again. 

Driving around with strangers in California
Some of the best travel experiences come from the annoyance of things like a canceled flight. That's how I drove from LA to Mammoth Lakes with the most eclectic bunch of people I could imagine. Age 22-82 we drove and discussed international affairs, green living, traveling and everything we saw on the road. 

Diving into the interesting food culture
Me and Sophia went to the Faroe Islands to make a story about the food culture. Whale hunting, fermentation, wind huts, salmon nurseries and no veggies or fruit in sight. Read all about it in ELLE Food. 

Motor crossing over the old Ho Chi Minh Trail
I went to Vietnam. Which was great. And then I decided to follow the old Ho Chi Minh road. I came across small tribes, communist souvenirs, the best noodle soup I've ever had and piece and quiet. 

Glamping in a stone desert
It doesn't sound cool, but it is. Glamping. Well only if you do it right, let's settle for that. My first trip to Marrakech brought me to Scarabeo camp in the Agafay desert. Well, pure magical. 

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Spotting Geisha's
Japan offers so much. It's nature, food, culture, people, fashion. Everything really. I was in Japan for only two weeks and went to Tokyo (Oh mennnn, sooo super cool) and Kyoto. And when in Kyoto... With a little group of people we went geisha spotting. And we managed! Such a wonderful experience to hear them coming from afar. Their wooden slippers ticking on the streets, their jewelry making magical sounds, their voices careful and polite. Such a beautiful tradition to see in real life. Nothing like it. 

JMT versus EBC - how do they compare?

Frequently I get the question what trek was harder: the Everest Base Camp trek or the John Muir Trail? Honestly, these two aren't up for comparison at all. The length, miles and facilities (or lack thereof) couldn't be more different. 

When I finished the Everest Base Camp trek I felt amazing. I felt proud, strong and had a ton of inspiration. It felt like I did something that wasn't for everyone, something that makes you hardcore. After the John Muir Trail I felt exhausted, done with hiking and proud. Proud that I finished something that was super hard. Comparing the EBC to JMT was comparing a walk in the park with a walk in a beautiful... hell? 

The people make the trek
I was in luck with the group I had during my EBC trek. We were crying from laughter even when things got hard, dirty and uncomfortable. At one point we were almost literally coughing our lungs out. No sleep and a fever? Haha! Massive headaches and feeling sick? Haha! It was such a great group and I've never experiences something like it. The JMT crew was nothing like it. The overall group dynamics weren't great. It made for a lot of boring tent staring nights, and trust me there are plenty of evenings to kill. 

Facilities
Walking up the route to Everest you come across tea houses, villages and many many people. Only the last two camps were without a "real" toilet. There's warmth through yak poo heaters, there are bottles of coke and pringles and every now and then you'll find a shower! I can be short about the facilities on the JMT. There are non. Only the stuff you bring. No surprise showers, no western pick me ups in the shape of a can, no guitar solo's at the stop of the night. 

Length
The Everest Base Camp trek takes about 9-12 days depending on your schedule. I took 10 and it was the perfect length. Just when I got sick of walking we stopped. During the JMT at day 10 I felt I had enough and I wasn't even half way! This luckily changed later on, but I've learned the hard way that I'm not a 3,5 week hike kinda girl.  

Food
Who doesn't crave a warm, nice meal after a hard day's work? In Nepal I had omelets, pancakes, curry, coffee and pizza. The food was surprisingly good, it's amazing what they can carry up that mountain. Of course, after 10 days I couldn't see another carb and the first thing I ordered when we arrived in the capital was a Greek salad. California served me a wide variety of 'just add water'-dishes. I must say, they were pretty awesome! I only struggled with the breakfast. I just couldn't do it anymore in the end. 

Physical challenge
The trek (EBC) itself wasn't hard at all. The mileage, the going up and going down - if you do a good training before, you good. After the first day of the JMT, a very mild slow day, I thought by myself "HOLY MOLY, HOW IS THIS A CHILLED OUT DAY?" Well, you get used to it. Trust me. Just give it a week. In the end, when the bag got lighter and the body got stronger things got easier. But not easy. The JMT is just a very hard physical trek. At least it was for me. What both treks have in common is the altitude. The Everest Base Camp trek brings you over 5364 meter, which is a lot for the body. The John Muir Trail, if you do the Mt. Whitney summit, brings you up to almost 4.500 meter. The rest of the trek is somewhere between 3-3.500 meters. For me enough to get headaches and feel sick. (I'm from below sea level, don't judge)

So bottomline, the two treks can't be compared at all. Yes, they are both gorgeous treks and both routes are must do's for the hike fanatics. If you are not sure what to do, start with the EBC. This will give you a good idea of how you react to the altitude and gives you a little teaser of roughing it. 

What's your opinion on EBC versus JMT? 

Food on the trail

Well hi there foodie! As a diehard hiker and dito food lover, you'll have to make some decisions and concessions. You don't want to get sick, get a stomach ache, have low energy or feel unsatisfied. 

Being vegetarian
I've been a vegetarian for 13 years. I've had periods of being a pescotarian, but during my travels I usually stick to the plant based diet. Not without reason. You don't know who's cooking the food, where the animals come from, how fresh your dish is. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a scaredy type that evades street dishes. But.. when your main focus is hiking a trail you were dreaming about for years, you're better safe than sorry. Right?

Snack attack
When your breakfast/lunch/dinner wasn't all you expected, there's always this thing called snacks. Pack them! And do yourself a favour, don't stick to snickers, cliff bars and M&M's. They will bore you. And they will make you sick in the end. I'm all about snack diversity. Oven grilled chickpeas, dried fruits, trail mix, hard candy, gummy bears, mentos, peanut butter (packs), dates and Kendal mint cake. My ultimate favourite were the chickpeas. Mix it up and make one normal batch, one spiced and one salty.

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EBC 

Walking on carbs..

Emergency foods
There are foods that make you feel better and foods that do the direct opposite. At the hut where we stayed after Everest Base Camp I only managed to hold down Pringles and Coca Cola. Bless them. It gives you enough energy and kills germs and stomach aches that are bothering you. But the healthier options are ginger (tea), green veggies and lots and lots of water. Keep away from sour drinks, orange juice and alcohol.

Keep on drinking/eating
The key is to keep eating and drinking even if you don't feel like it. You need the energy. You need the sugars, carbs and warmth. You'll lose enough kilo's anyway, keep the body fuelled. 

How do you prepare your trek food-wise? Let me know!   

My top 5 pieces of gear

If you're an outdoor lover chances are high you have a closet full of technical clothing, rain defying covers and interesting pieces of hardwear. You can shop yourself poor. Gear is expensive. And not all of the gear I've bought brings me a lot of joy during my treks. This is my top 5 gear list:

Osprey pack
During a through hike your pack is your life. Don't underestimate the power of a terrible backpack. It aches, creaks, hurts and nothing ever really fits. As a woman the options aren't plentiful. For the 3 weeks JMT hike my eye fell for the Osprey Xena 85L backpack (red). I already owned a green 28L Osprey Manta that I wore during the EBC trek and it was everything I wished for. Both packs have handy pockets, strings you can hook your carabiners on, a place for your camel bag and a waterproof body. Try before you buy. I changed my pack for a smaller one when I noticed the back piece wasn't fitting perfectly. 

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"The pack"

My 47 lbs bundle of joy

Salomon hiking boots
Hiking boots are very personal. Some like it heavy, others like them light. My Salomon hiking boots are very durable, light and keep my feet dry during river crossings. I would recommend them to everyone who's looking for the same specs. 

WakaWaka solar charger
There are plenty of solar charger options on the market. There are several reasons why I chose the WakaWaka. 1) With every WakaWaka you buy, you give another WakaWaka to someone in need. 2) It's compact and light. 3) It has a build-in flashlight with SOS-function. 4) The WakaWaka stores the solar energy for a later moment, that means you can charge at night. 

Therm-a-rest
With long physical days come long nights of rest. That is, when you've created a good sleeping situation for yourself. I bought the Therm-a-Rest Evolite regular sleeping mat and I've slept wonderful. Okay, truth to be fair: there's no place like home. But this feels comfy enough for your home away from home. 

Hiking underwear
I never thought I would buy it (but I did) and I never thought I would write about it (but I am). But here we are. Take my advice and invest in specially designed hiking underwear. Especially you ladies! I opted for Craft Active Comfort Boxers and chose them over my regular underwear. They are fast drying, breathable and comfortable. Plus they didn't annoy me underneath my hiking leggings. Really, this makes life a lot easier on the trail. 

What's your favourite piece of gear? Was it something that was well discussed on hiking platforms and such or were you surprised? Let me know in the comments below!

How to train for the John Muir Trail

It doesn't matter if you take 1 or 3 weeks to hike the John Muir Trail. What does matter is the level of fitness. Why? The fitter you are, the more fun you'll have! I have a few tips for you on how to train for the John Muir Trail, so you can make the most of it. 

Begin sooner than later
Yes I know. Going to the gym sucks. But believe me when I say that you get used to everything. Or even better: you'll miss it when you skip a training. The trick? Start 6-9 months training in advance and increase the amount of training days as you go. You don't sport at all? Start with 2 days a week. Already very sportive? Pick it up at 3-4 days. The last month you want to be active 5-6 days a week. With a week of rest just before your trip.   

Mix it up
Spending 10 hours a week on a treadmill is one way to give yourself a burnout. It's repetitive, boring and doesn't do much. Therefore: mix it up! In the weeks before I was getting fit for my EBC and JMT trek I was doing a combination of kickboxing, crossfit and running (EBC) and weight training, swimming, cardio (JMT). I'll do a complete workout guide in another blog soon!

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JMT

SOBO or NOBO?
#TeamNOBO

There's no such thing as being too fit
"My training is going so well I can skip tonight." Nope. There's no such thing as being too fit. You won't, I REPEAT, you won't get bored because the JMT is too easy. If the JMT is not a physical challenge, in case you are a super human, there are many side trek options to make the most of it. Mountains everywhere! 

Don't focus on how you look, but how you feel
You can't always tell how strong someone is by looking at their physique. You can be a badass MF under a thin layer of winter fat. You might be a petit fighter with professional wrestling muscle strength. You really can't tell. I've seen people doing 20 pull ups without breaking a sweat who couldn't finish a day of walking. Don't focus too much on how you look or what Instagram labels as "fit". Do you feel good? Like you can walk for days with a big pack? Feeling confident? Then you're ready! 

Make it fun!
You have taken on the JMT adventure because you love to hike. The best way to train for your hike is... to hike. Well, living in the Netherlands well under sea level didn't really give me many options for hike training. So I combined the necessary with the pleasant: slaying on the stairmaster for 30-60 minutes with a 75% pack watching the latest episode of my favourite series. Before you know it you're done! 

Want to know my exact workout regime before my John Muir Trail and/or Everest Base Camp trek? Stay tuned!