Be nice to each other

On the ferry from Emden (Germany) to Delfzijl (the Netherlands) we experienced two opposites of human contact within the space of two hours.

The aggressive form

Our bicycles were being brought on board by a captain who was clearly in a rush. When Joke helpfully pointed out in English that her back tyre was punctured he responded as if stung and snapped  ‘Sie sind in Deutschland, mann soll hier deutsch sprechen’and deliberately left her bicycle on the quay. All this whilst Joke was simply trying to be helpful given that a bicycle with punctured tyre would be difficult to roll up the gangway and explaining this in German was more complex than she thought her grasp of the language would allow.

The loving form

Not long thereafter an older employee of the ferry came to us and offered his apologies for the conduct of the captain. In German and English this kind gentleman explained that his colleague had a bit of a problem whilst imitating his agitated behaviour. Apparently the captain had been ignoring him for months and he advised us ‘Ruhig zu bleiben’. I made it clear that we were calm and certainly would not be looking for a confrontation and saying “Wir sollen freundlich sein nach einander”. By that point I had already noted that the captain had gone back for the bicycle and placed it on board. With a relieved look on his face and a friendly nod he moved on to sell tickets to our fellow passangers. Needless to say, this type of confrontation is uncomfortable and the fact that somebody has behaved towards you in this manner is not good for your ego. Thankfully I only needed to let the feeling well for a moment before it vanished into the fresh sea air and the gentle lapping of the waves. 

Skateboarder Jakob from Denmark and dinner at the ‘Roode Haan’

As if by design no sooner had this incident passed before we had a wonderful encounter. The young Jakob was travelling alone from Denmark to Amsterdam. ‘Where can I buy a ticket’, he asks us, having first checked if we spoke English. We immediately feel an unspoken connection. Jakob is travelling with his skateboard from his home to Amsterdam which just a rucksack and a lightweight tent. His plan for the coming night is to sleep over somewhere in Groningen. We offer him a place to sleep at our home and once the ferry lands we travel together to the cafe “de Roode Haan” in our village, owned by Teus and Karin. Sometimes you find magic in little things such as the fact that a couple sitting next to us speak Danish and (again) another skateboarder passes the terras. The food and drinks are excellent and we feel a positive energy encircle us here in the pearl of the north, Westeremden. Jakob explains that he is extending his gap year and that ‘by not constantly being concerned with what I want to do, I expect something will come my way’.

My first thought is ‘He’s right’, but I cannot help volunteering the suggestion that sometimes it helps to nudge the subconscious into the light. ‘What are your top five values’, I ask him whilst I suspect having already recognised a few.

Anyone who decides to travel alone on a skateboard from Denmark is likely to value a combination of adventure, lifestyle, perseverance, courage, trust and freedom. Or does he have a need to prove himself due to the fact that his parents travelled extensively when they were young and set the tone for their family? Jakob explains that even if that was the case it would be difficult to match his parents travels even if he wanted to. We conclude that the act of travelling alone in itself allows you to gain a wealth of life experience and understand what you value. I have to say that I admire and respect this young 21 year old Danish adventurer.


The next day after breakfast we drive to the drop-off point near Middelstum where Jakob continues his journey. As he is travelling around fifty kilometers a day I calculate he’ll be halfway to the Afsluitdijk before nightfall. “Something for the Guinness Book of Records” I say enthusiastically. He smiles but avoids the compliment. It strikes me that modesty is as much a virtue as strength as I give him a farewell hug. “It was very nice to meet you and thanks for everything” Jakob says before leaving, firmly pushing off with three steps left and right of his board. Safe travels Jakob,’ I think, watching him head towards the horizon on his skateboard, towards new adventures.

Translation and advice: Jonatan de Haan

Music tip:

Fred Freddies Drop, the Raft

Quote: Love is a verb, show that you mean it

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