The Life Traveller - About Me
The Life Traveller - About Me
about me

The Life Traveller - About Me - Manon


How wonderful that we have crossed paths.
My name is Manon Valesca Maria. I'm Dutch with a drop of Indonesian blood. The Life Traveller is established in 2014. I had this vision of creating an online relaxing place for positivity, spirituality, inspiration and mindfulness. A space where you can take a deep breath from the long way you have come. The Life Traveller is a meeting point, where other inspiring travel companions share their experiences. You can get some ‘take-away’ inspiration for the continuation of your journey and personal help is offered to get going, when it’s unclear which direction to go. I also share some of my daily adventures. Motherhood is a huge part of that. The Life Traveller travels light and follows the light on its journey into eternity. Have a magical trip. Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to follow my trace!


I have had work experience for more than sixteen years in the field of Dutch magazines as a fashion, beauty & health director, image coordinator, editor, stylist and text writer. Beside motherhood, the most important role of my life, my days are filled with charity work and sharing light. Feeling good and sowing the seeds of love are my main goals. Beside that I combine writing for magazines with this blog. I am also the creator of Naramatisho, a Kenyan handicraft label. Additionally, I have a healing and coaching practice for awareness and personal growth. I support other travel companions as a life coach through aura reading, chakra balancing, healing techniques and coaching. Everyone deserves to be happy.

I'm a very blessed mother of a wonderful rainbow family. I'm married to a brave, supportive Dutch sun warrior, Michel, and mama moon to a beautiful African sonshine, Micah, and a sweet Welsh corgi dog named Vos (Fox in Dutch). We have been living in Kenya and are now dividing time between Kenya and our home in Amsterdam.

I live simply and am down-to-earth and spiritual all-in-one. And I like seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Travelling is in my blood. I love exploring the world, hiking in nature, walking barefoot, yoga, meditation, dancing and music, watching Indie and art house movies, having fun with friends and preparing pure, organic vegan dishes..and capturing moments in a picture. I get inspired by nature, animals, the sun, the moon, the stars and trees. I collect stones, gemstones, feathers and Native American Kachina dolls..and positive thoughts.


If you have a question, feel free to email me.

In need of personal guidance? The Life Traveller offers personal help to get going, when it's unclear which direction to go (sessions can take place by email or skype).

For a personal consult or questions, send an email to:

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The Life Traveller - Back Home
back home

meeting point - passport

Felice Zevenbergen

I would like you to meet my friend, Felice.

Felice, 27, is co-founder of iiwiiCork.Amsterdam. She lives together with Iyiapo (also co-founder) in Amsterdam.

Hi Felice! Good to see you here!

When did you decide to become a vegan? What was the main reason?

“I stopped eating meat and fish when I was about 19 years old. As long as I remember I have always loved animals and felt strongly connected to them, yet funny enough never really gave much thought to the meat on my plate actually being the flesh of a once living animal. Now the thought of it really disgusts me. I remember the last fish I ate, it was at restaurant De Struisvogel in Amsterdam, it’s head was still on and I swear I could hear it say help me, please. Too late of course, I ate it and got sick the same night. Apparently my body did not agree with fish any longer. The dairy, cheese and eggs I left behind some years after that, it didn’t make sense anymore. The industry is just too ridiculous and harmful. I don’t call myself a vegan though, I eat vegan. But sometimes I feel like eating cheese, and then I eat cheese. I don’t feel guilty for that, I know striving for perfection will suck all the energy out of you so I do my best to leave that alone.”


What is the most fulfilling part of starting your label, iiwiicork?

“The creative process of building the label. It’s about letting go and that’s both challenging and fulfilling. What’s also fulfilling is to see the amazed looks of some of the people in our shop when they learn about cork fabric. That always brings joy.”


Your items are made out of cork. Why have you chosen this material?

“My partner and I weren’t really looking for anything, we came across cork fabric and simply fell in love with it. I will first explain what cork fabric is because it’s not so well known. It’s a leather replacing fabric, made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It’s strong, waterproof, lightweight, stain resistant, maintenance free, hypo allergenic, supple, super soft and very beautiful. The natural textures and patterns of the tree are alive in every piece of it.

Cork is one of these materials that everybody is familiar with, but few really know about it. It’s a gift of nature and we would be stupid not to use it to its full potential (which goes way beyond the usual wine stoppers, notice boards and floors). The cork oak tree is the only tree that sheds its bark, and can live without it. It let’s go of its bark every 10 years or so. So we can take it of, use it, and come back when it’s regrown, and the tree will be there for over 200 years… Cork oaks grow in what are called cork oak forests spread throughout the Mediterranean. People living in and around these forests have been living in harmony with them for centuries. Their livelihoods come from looking after the trees and using the cork. They even still maintain the same harvesting methods.

So basically, we have a natural material for which no animals had to suffer and that can be used sustainably. On top of that it is extremely practical and very beautiful. When we first learned about it, we couldn’t understand why we had never heard of it before. So that became the mission we set ourselves upon. Promoting cork fabric through fashion items such as bags, shoes, headwear, but also tech accessories, wallets, cushions, and even yoga mats and umbrella’s. It can all be made from cork fabric.”


Did you do the designing yourself?

“Yes and no. Some of our items are designed by us, others not. We have gotten quit excited about product design though and have ideas, so expect more of our designs in the future.”


What is your favorite item in the collection?

“My favourite item is the beret. I love wearing it, it’s very versatile. I can stick all my hair up in there, or wear it with the peak at the back or even the side. Whatever I feel like. It’s super comfy because it is lightweight and has shaped itself to my head. I put it on and it feels as if it belongs there.”


Can you share a bit about your artistic journey?

“As a child I was always creating, building houses from sticks, drawing, painting, working with wood. Making things with whatever I could find. It has always been an outlet for me. When the pencil touches the paper, my hand will follow it, and my mind becomes still. Something is creating, through me. And if I resist that flow and try to make something I had thought of it usually turns out really unsatisfying. So the lesson would be to have faith and just let things be, give it space so it can grow into something.”


How would you describe your signature style?

“Thats a difficult question. I wear what I feel like at that moment, and that can go into any direction. I love colour and unusual colour combinations. As for our collection, our style is simple, elegant and practical, letting the cork steal the show.”


What and who inspires you?

“Anything and anyone can inspire me. But I can’t tell you this or that inspired me to do that or this. I think things just come to me as long as I am open to receive. For that I need to feel connected, which I find difficult at times. The movement of nature has a big impact on me, it goes straight to my soul. So I could say that nature plays a big role in inspiring me, but maybe it’s more guidance than inspiration. I’m not sure.”


What does happiness means to you?

“Happiness to me means to be free. I think it starts with faith and acknowledgement, without judgement. With this I mean is that the only thing you can be sure of is what you observe, and all the thoughts you have about what you observe are just thoughts, coming from you. They may have a purpose, they may not. But they don’t necessarily say anything about what is really going on. To accept this and just enjoy what’s there.”


What is your life motto?

“It is what it is.”


Favorite movie?

“Don’t have one in particular, but I like movies in the genre I call tribal sci-fi. Future civilisations, with a mix of action, nature, technology.”


What do you like most about living in Amsterdam?

“That you can just be yourself.”


Would you ever live anywhere else?

“Yes, one day I will move out of the city, somewhere with space, green and quiet.”


What is your favorite vegan restaurant?

“To be honest I prefer our home cooking best. My partner and I both really enjoy cooking and are quit good at it as well. But to answer your question, I will have to say Vegabond. A cute vegan supermarket/lunchroom on the Leliegracht here in Amsterdam.”


What is your favorite recipe?

“I don’t have recipes. I don’t like cooking when I have to think about it too much, I just put in the pot whatever I feel like. Most of the time it turns out nice, sometimes not at all.”


Anything else you would like to share with us?

“Yes, if you’re curious about cork fabric, how it’s made, what it feels like… Visit us in our shop in Binnen Oranjestraat 11, Amsterdam. We will show you more about it. Thanks for reading.”




free work by Iris


I asked Iris van Tilburg, who has been visiting us before, in this category to share some of her latest free work. Since she knows how much I love plants, she created some beautiful green friends!

Hi Iris! Thank you for stopping by. How long does it take to create an illustration?

“Hi Manon! It takes an average of 3-4 hours to create one, when scanning to work in Photoshop it will cost a little extra time. But once I start illustrating I no longer think in time, so time plays no role anymore, which I love. It seems that time doesnt exist anymore.”

What do you love most about illustrating?

“I love the process of drawing, although it can be challenging sometimes not to focus too much on the outcome and the need that it should look beautiful.”

Do you use pencils?

“Yes, right now I’m really into drawing with a pencil. I also use watercolor painting in some of my drawings, like the ones with the leaves and hummingbird and succulent.”

Did you use examples to create these illustrations?

“I usually start with examples and once in the process I pay less attention to them. I let go and add colors and put more accents or shapes to my creations. And sometimes I pick a leaf or flower from the garden, but with birds that is quite difficult. 🙂 ”

Any favorites?

“My favorite is the blackbird, because of the colors; they look so good with the black and make it very dynamic. I also love the houseplant (monstera). It just makes me happy. In reality I find it a gorgeous plant as well.”

Well, Iris. I loooove them all! Thank you!

Visit yrisdesign to see more of her beautiful work!

inspiring mama: antonella dixon


The Life Traveller crosses paths with..

Antonella Dixon, 45, a doll maker and artist from South Afrika. Antonella is married to Peter and mama to Alex (9) and Julia (7).



What are you thankful for in 2016?

“Where do I start?  I’m thankful that I got a large order for dolls for a centenary gift at an all girl’s school.  I was able to create a much needed job and employed an amazing seamstress to help me.  She was battling colon cancer and through educating her on diet and mindful practices, along with taking medical cannabis oil she is thriving now.  And we love making dolls together!

I’m thankful that I was able to provide a home for my dad, he now lives in a cottage we built for him on our property and my children get to see him every day.  And he gets to help wrap up dolls to send all over the world.”


What is your best memory of this year?

“A relaxing, bonding family holiday we took on the north coast of Kwa Zulu Natal, in a friend’s house that she generously gave to us to use.”


What did you find challenging in 2016?

“Managing a big workload and being a present mother, wife and daughter.  Keeping creativity flowing when under pressure was also challenging, but with small breaks away from work I managed it. Feelings of sadness and helplessness watching thousands of refugees flooding through Europe, dying to try to find a peaceful place to live and raise a family.”


What did you learn?

“I learned to not sweat the small stuff, it sounds so cliché, but being a perfectionist, it was harder than it sounds.”


Any wishes for 2017?

“Good health, an abundance of creativity, peace!!!”


Thank you so much, dear Antonella, for your inspiring contribution. Love, Manon

Check out Antonella’s beautiful dolls here:

Pictures via Antonella

inspiring mom: Jolanda Mensah


The Life Traveller meets .. Jolanda Mensah (33) full time stay-at-home-mom and founder of TheMamaClub. Mama to Yaw (7) and Akwasi (2).


What are you thankful for in 2016?

“I am grateful for the fact that I have started to learn TWI, one of the most widely spoken language in Ghana. Thanks to my kids I now see how important it is to at least understand your native language. I myself was born and raised in the Netherlands. My kids are so proud of their roots and especially my oldest. He always talks with pride about Ghana to his teachers and classmates, despite he has only been there once. At home we speak Dutch, so the language did not come natural to them. Everything I learn I put on tape so I can make lessons out of them for youtube. I do this mainly for my children. I am very glad I started this; because of this I learn so much myself, that is why I have named it ‘learning TWI together’. Had I not done this then my kids had never learned this language, let alone my future grandchildren. A beautiful language would have been lost within our family.”


What is your best memory of the year?

“Difficult question; This year has had so many beautiful moments. The trips I’ve made with the mothers of TheMamaClub is one of them. Socializing with other mo,s and children within the group that I created myself is just amazing!”


What did you find challenging in 2016?

“I’m pretty shy and introvert. It was a challenge to put myself in the spotlight. Filming myself while I talk to the camera and then share it with the world. ”


What did you learn?

“What I’ve learned is not to worry about what others think of you. Follow your own gut feelings. Do not let them get to you.”


What do you wish for 2017?

“Having fun, happiness, health and love.”


Thank you, dear Jolanda, for sharing! Love, Manon

You can follow Jolanda ->instagram


learn TWI together with Jolanda -> youtube

inspiring mama: Kim



The Life Traveller meets..

Kim Kugler, 41, team manager, partner of Léon and mama to Nyah (3 years) and Adam (* and + in 2009)


What are you thankful for in 2016?

“I am thankful for the opportunity to live in peace. My time abroad (3 months in Nigeria from December 2013) to unite with Nyah made it even more clear to me that I should be happy with what I have and be grateful for the ability to think what I want and express myself freely.

2016 gave me opportunities at work that offered me challenges which made me grow and taught me to make choices even beter.

Forming a family is not always something that happens naturally and the ability to do so makes me feel enormously rich and thankful. I am grateful for the people around me who I can call family. And most of all I am grateful every day for those two dark brown twinkle eyes and that big smile; the sweetest girl in the world. I melt every time because of her big hugs and ‘luf you, moon ant back’ … ”


What is your best memory of this year?

“Spending time with good friends in Stockholm and watching our daughters enjoying each other’s company. The girls have known each other more than we have known them. Their and now also our special relationship is very precious. ”


What did you find challenging in 2016?

“Keeping the balance between work and private life.”


What did you learn?

“I learned that this balance lies in me and in making choices like daily yoga, regular running and above all spending a lot of time with my family.”


Any wishes for 2017?

“Health for our family and a smaller home.”


Thank you, dear Kim, for your wonderful contribution! Love, Manon


You can follow Kim on ->  instagram

Pictures: via Kim

thankful mom: Amina

In the next weeks you will be meeting several inspiring women at this meeting point who will share their experiences of 2016.

The first one is my dear Kenyan friend, Amina, mama to Sabila (2).

What are you grateful for in 2016?

‘I am grateful for my daughter. For the way she has grown this year, although she still can’t see or walk.’

What did you find most challenging?

‘The most challenging thing this year was having a main business at the beach, beside my work for Naramatisho, that depends on the season while having a disabled child who needed a lot of care, therapies and an operation. So it was much for me since I am a single mom, who depends on herself.’

What have you learned?

‘I learned a lot about everything you have passed through, Manon. Allah has always been watching, in all the problems I faced this year. I never lacked solutions so the problems made me stronger.’

What are your wishes for 2017?

‘I wish to have as stable business in all seasons.’

If you want to support Amina in her journey, buy an item of  Naramatisho or make a donation. Email for further information to, subject Amina.


Last year we met our friend, Janna Deeble, in Kenya while visiting a fairtrade project in Mombasa. He told us about his plans to design an all terrain wheelchair designed for people in developing countries. Since we could see the struggle of many local people on a daily basis, with old and difficult to handle wheelchairs or even without a wheelchair and walking with crutches instead or just hiding in their homes without any tools, we realized the importance of this project. Janna understood that importance even much more, after he had an accident that left him wheelchair-bound for months.

Janna grew up in Kenya. He was a child when he first met Letu, a Samburu man disabled by polio, living an isolated, traditional lifestyle with his family in the wilderness. Letu had been disabled since birth, with no access to healthcare, suitable wheelchairs or any of the assistance much of the world takes for granted. To move, Letu had to crawl; he was totally dependent on others.

Janna didn’t understand the reality of Letu’s situation until, as a design student, he had this accident. As his independence disappeared, he thought of Letu and his daily struggle to fulfil life’s basic needs.

In East Africa alone, 1 in every 200 people lives in need of a wheelchair, imprisoned by their disability. Determined to help, Janna returned to Kenya in 2015 to develop SafariSeat.

Today SafariSeat is a fact. When Janna contacted me recently to inform me about the great news, I was so happy for him and all the people involved.

SafariSeat is a wheelchair designed for people in developing countries. It’s low cost, all-terrain and open source. SafariSeat can be made in basic workshops using bicycle parts, which makes it easy to repair. Where sand replaces pavement, SafariSeat helps people with disabilities lead independent lives.

SafariSeat launched their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter on 19th October, to raise money to build as many chairs as possible, and develop an open source manual. Local workshops can then use the manual to make SafariSeats for their communities.

SafariSeat climbs over rough ground like no other wheelchair. It uses a simple, patented mechanism that mimics car suspension, ensuring all the wheels remain on the ground at all times for maximum stability.

What I also really like about this project is that The SafariSeat campaign is about enabling communities to help themselves. Janna plans to make the blueprints absolutely free, as part of an open source toolkit that will enable workshops to make SafariSeats for their community – to help people with disabilities and create local, sustainable employment.

SafariSeat has already allowed Letu to discover his independence and teach his son what it means to be a Samburu. With SafariSeat, Janna hopes many others will be able to experience the same freedom.

Since launching the campaign, SafariSeat has managed raise the original goal in record time and show little sign of slowing down. With the extra money raised the team will build more wheelchairs and set up new workshops and a disability outreach program to get SafariSeat to people in the most remote areas of East Africa.

SafariSeat is the first project from Uji, a social enterprise company determined to make a difference. Their goal is to design tools that help people break free from the poverty cycle. The Uji philosophy is to help people help themselves – to avoid a culture of dependency, by operating on open-source principles.

Support the Kickstarter campaign now and visit !

Akke Aimaq

The Life Traveller meets..Akke Aimaq, 40, married to André Aimaq and mother of Avra Grace, 4 years. Akke is a designer and lives with her family in Berlin.


With great pleasure I introduce to you: Akke. Akke and I were in the same class at primary school. At that time she was already a beautiful gazelle when I was still a chubby wad.

For years I did not see her, until one day we literally bumped into each other in a New York Soho boutique. No coincidence, of course.

I love the way how Akke approaches life including motherhood.

To me it seems like we understand each other without words. The way she has made her amazing accessory line, Akkesoir – also popular by celebrities – into such a great success truly inspires me.

Enjoy reading!

Thank you, dear Akke, for this wonderful contribution.



Describe yourself in a few words.

Lively, open, positive.

Tell us about your work.

I currently make limited series jewelry for my label, Akkesoir, which I created in Berlin seven years ago. I won the New Faces Award and was part of the fashion circus. I designed 2-4 collections every year and my items were sold in stores like Luisa via Roma, Jades and Theresa. Despite the success, the pressure was high and sometimes I felt like a slave to the whole machinery and bank to customers who paid late or not at all. Now I combine my design passion with a consultancy job, which I really like. I am a people-person.

Has it always been your dream and ambition to have a private jewelry and accessories collection?

No, that desire was born during the art academy, in my last years at the fashion school. It became more accessories design instead of sewing clothing. I’ve always been a collector and started to process ‘findings’, for example existing jewels, into new accessories.

How can Akkesoir best be described?

Eclectic and unique.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Freely creating in an inspirational flow.

Where do you get inspiration for your collection?

From old fashion and architecture magazines, from markets and auctions.

Share your best work memory so far?

I had a presentation during Paris Fashion Week and flew in a big old suitcase from the early 1900s on a cheap airline. The suitcase, 180 x 60 cm, was nicely decorated on the inside; it was full of my jewelry and accessories. It was quite a challenge to get it to the showroom through Paris’ morning traffic. When it finally was all set, I was very happy with my mission.

You live in Berlin, how did you end up there?

It was on my path, I was attracted to it a number of years. My cousin, musician and jewelry designer, lived there for many years and I occasionally visited him. The bustling atmosphere, in which music played an important role, has brought fond memories brought to my Berlin time, early 2000.

How is life for a Dutchie in Berlin?

Spacious! It is wonderful to have so much space on the streets, but also inside, at home or anywhere else. More space, more freedom! Berlin is not really Germany, I would not like to live anywhere else in Germany. The cliché that Dutch are very direct fits me. I can be very open and call things by their name, so to speak.

Would you ever live anywhere else?

I would like to have more nature around me and also water. And nice weather. Berlin can be cold for a long period of time, more than half of the year for sure. Yet nothing concrete.

Describe yourself as a mother.

Open, funny, sometimes strict.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

How incredibly beautiful it is and how much it suits me.

Is there something you find challenging in this area?

Sometimes patience!

How do you combine motherhood with work?

Now okay. I had to get used to not only thinking about myself in the beginning. I started working very soon. When you have your own business, there is always work to do. At one point I found a good rhythm for myself and also for Avra, our daughter.

How did you get the name of your daughter, Avra Grace?

Avra is a derivation of the Israeli “Abraham”. In Greek her name means ‘Aura’, a name that really suits her, from the first moment on earth. We got the name from the internet and we both fell immediately in love with the sound of it, the letters and the natural meaning. Grace was André’s idea and I loved the combination as well.

Do you and your husband have a certain parenting philosophy?

I’m very open to Avra, I go with her flow and I allow her to do it her own way. I am very intuitive and listen to my feelings, my heart and my life experience. I’m not necessarily concerned in a given situation; André can often be a bit more worried about her to get hurt. It was sometimes difficult to find a balance between allowing her to discover things and to protect her from situations. Now that she is a little bit older, we notice that things go more in a flow and André may also have more confidence.

Any more children in your future?

I am very grateful for what I’ve have and for my experiences, so not necessary more. Being mother to Avra Grace is the best thing anyway, and for that I am grateful every day.

Which women inspire you and why?

Women who do it differently, have a different style, inner and outer. I often notice them immediately. And women who have no problem being around other women. I really dislike it when women don’t get along or envy each other.

What does happiness mean to you?

Inner balance, having a deep faith in the flow.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Focus on what works, not what doesn’t. Yoga plays a big role in my life. Through yoga I come into contact with lots of pretty inspiring life wisdom. My favorite composition teacher prefers combining a wonderful flow with great inspiring, often philosophical, words.

Tell us something about your home.

We live in a ‘Altbau haus’ (from around 1880) in Berlin-Mitte, in one of the most beautiful streets, I think: the AugustStrasse. There are many galleries, cafes and restaurants, but not too much and it’s not too busy. The part where we live is quiet and has a cute little playground right outside the door. The great thing about Berlin is the space. We live in a big house with five spacious rooms. The decor is mixed. My love for flea and antiques market, which I cherish for about fifteen years, can be found in our interior, mixed with designer pieces and objects that I brought from travelling. Especially from Indonesia, where I went one-two times a year for ten years. I brought many treasures from there, travel treasures I call them.

It’s import to me to find a good balance, optically but also energetically. I believe in energy cleansing with a smudging sage ritual, Brazilian or Japanese incense or South American wood. From Brazil, I have very nice little packets of incense for specific themes.

What does an ideal day out with your family ?

On weekends sleeping in or getting up slowly, enjoying a varied breakfast, usually at our long table. And afterwards lingering, doing some reading. I often go to yoga or Andre hits the gym, in the afternoon we do something fun with Avra, like going to the playground, meeting friends, or going to the forest or to one of the many beautiful lakes around Berlin.


‘The time is always ripe to do right (by Nelson Mandela ). It gives me a strong stimulant positive feeling.

What dreams would you still like to achieve?

There are a number of work related things that I would like to do, but I ‘m not getting too much into that yet. I would like to connect my vision, experience and ambitions, creative visionary. How this will translate we will see! A concrete other dream is to live in nature or to have a second home in the country, near a lake or the sea preferably.



Vanessa van de Weerd


The Life Traveller meets … Vanessa van de Weerd, 38, senior designer at Libelle magazine and certified yoga teacher at De Nieuwe Yogaschool and BBB Healthclub Jordaan in Amsterdam. Vanessa lives together with Arjan and their ( almost) three year old daughter, Olivia Mae, in Amsterdam.


With great pleasure I would like to introduce Vanessa. I love what she radiates. Wisdom, strength, perseverance and a desire for justice; really standing for something; that is what comes to mind every time I see her, and what I find wonderful about her, beside her beautiful looks.

I hope you enjoy her inspiring words as much as I do.

Thank you, dear Vanessa!

Love, M


Describe yourself in a few words.

Creative, social, communicative, energetic, loving.

Describe your philosophy of life.

Live, love. Let life evolve.

What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is found in the small, yet great things. The first rays of sunshine on my skin, hearing wonderful music, a starry sky on a clear night, a good conversation, being with my family and friends. But above all, health is a huge happiness.

When was the last time something done first?

Three weeks ago. My friend and I booked a holiday with another family we have known only for two months. It was a very spontaneous action, yet also a very conscious one. We are really looking forward to it.

Who and what inspires you?

Oh, there are so many. Mahatma Gandhi, Frida Kahlo. My father, who unfortunately is no longer with us. My daughter. But also the many journeys I have made – before I became a mother – with my boyfriend. India and my motherland, The Philippines, have touched me in many ways.

What is your favorite book?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, the Baghavad Gita, yoga Bible and Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Tell us about your work.

I have been working for fourteen years for various magazines, mainly glossy magazines and for over nine years as an art director. It was a fantastic experience. I have learned many things, created many wonderful things, and met many inspiring, beautiful people. And also made some friendships for life. Meanwhile, I work as a senior designer at Libelle. A creative job, a wonderful brand. I am responsible for weekly style-guides. Libelle has a different theme every week and being able to create the look and feel of an edition is really wonderful.

You are also a yoga teacher. How did that happen?

I took my first yoga class in 2006 during a long backpacking trip through India. If there is any country where you should practice yoga, then of course it is there. But my first lesson was a disaster. I did not feel any connection, and with my dance background I constantly needed to perform on the mat. At the end of the session the teacher said: “And now stretch your leg in the sky and the kiss the sun, kiss the moon and kiss the stars …” It was 40 degrees outside and thought: yeah, sorry, kiss my ** ss!

Two years later, after my father died, I was back on the mat again. And this time it was just a huge revelation. It was really what I needed at that time. I’ve laughed and cried on the mat. All the emotions passed. I can honestly say that I could give grief and sorrow a better place thanks to yoga.

From then on I have practiced several styles of yoga but I was really coming home during an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class with Johan Noorloos. When I started this style, that is consisting of a fixed series of poses in a row, I experienced a lot of resistance. But still you want to go on to the next position. In a type of flow. A meditation in motion. I love it.

Thanks to Ashtanga I made a deep connection with my breathing for the first time. Something that seems very ordinary and always there, but what happens not be so ordinary. It’s your source of life. And learning how to breathe in a proper way, has brought me a lot.

I wanted to absorb anything that had something do with yoga. Soon afterwards I started the three year Teacher Training with Johan Noorloos, Marcel van de Vis Heil and ultimately a Yin yoga training at Anat Geiger. At first it was not at all my intention to teach, but soon I realized that I really wanted to share the wonderful feeling and experience.

Teaching is something totally different than taking lessons, so I had to find my place in it. But I’m good at it now and love doing it. As a designer, I give much of myself, but teaching a yoga class is much more personal.

Describe yourself as a mother.

I like clarity and justice. And love to go out together, to draw and paint. And acting crazy, dancing and singing! When I do yoga at home, Olivia always wants to participate. It is so nice to already share this in a playful way with her. But I am above all a loving mother. You cannot give enough love to your child.

How do you combine motherhood with work?

That is sometimes a difficult combination. Nowadays we desire so much as moms and preferably simultaneously. Motherhood demands a lot from you. At the same time it teaches me to let go more. I sometimes demand a lot from myself, but you cannot do more than your best. Of course I want to continue to do things besides motherhood that I love. But that is not always possible and sometimes it requires a new balance, and it means giving and taking. I am fortunate that I have a partner who also really grants me that space.

What was the biggest surprise to you about becoming a mother?

I did not know motherhood would teach me so much more about myself. It still surprises me how big my adaptability and patience can be. And how much happiness it gives me! I call it sometimes the happiness of life; this happiness is very primal, coming from deep in your whole being. I knew that motherhood had to be something special, but you only truly know it when you can experience it yourself.

Is there something you find challenging in this area and if so, how do you deal with that?

Time. And its deficiency. With a fulltime job and teaching yoga classes there is often little time. It is always quite a job during mornings to bring Olivia in time to the nursery and to be on time at work as well. It is challenging to bring everything to your child what she needs in her nearly three year old life. She has a strong personality, with lots of humor and she already talks very well. Sometimes she surprises me (in a happy way) with statements .. that I just don’t know the answer! The mother-daughter relationship is very much in balance, if I say so myself. And she can I hold a mirror. In that respect, my daughter is my greatest guru.

Have you changed since becoming a mom?

Yes absolutely. I think I’ve become softer and have developed more empathy. But above all still have learned to appreciate the little things in life and especially I appreciate life itself even more.

Tell us about Olivia’s name.

I read it somewhere, and the name touched me. For years I had another ‘number one’, but Olivia truly fitted her. Even though she was still in my belly back then. My boyfriend also thought it was a beautiful name. When we discovered that Olivia meant ‘peace of the olive tree’ that was it. Who doesn’t want peace?

Do you have a certain philosophy as parents?

The same as my philosophy of life. Allow your child to develop as a human being and to discover the world and life with particular love and respect for others. My friend and I find that very important and we complete each other as a parent. We live in a world that is increasingly focused on the individual and a world full of fears, but I truly believe that we are here to do it together and live from faith. We consider it important to encourage Olivia in what she does and the things she loves to do. We notice that she really likes singing and dancing, who knows where the roads leads. The choice of school we take very seriously. What school speaks to us and her? What would work for her? What does feel good? We see her not only as a child, but especially as a human being.

What dreams would you still like to fulfill?

I would love to make a trip to my native Philippines with my family. I’d love to show her my motherland.

Anything you would like to add?

Thank you for this q&a! I think you are a very special person and have tremendous admiration for you and the way you live your life. Dear Manon, I wish you all beautiful journeys!


Tess van Daelen

The Life Traveller meets..Tess van Daelen (30), fashion journalist. Tess lives together with her partner, Kamal Bachri (33), and their daughter, Yasmine (2), in Amsterdam.

Tess and I have known each other from ‘the magazine world’. When my fairtrade shop, Naramatisho, went online, she immediately showed interest for her website, Tessted, while she also bought an item. It felt so heartwarming!

What I like is that Tess is true to her own style. I asked her a few questions about her work and motherhood.

Lots of reading and viewing fun!

X Manon


Hi Tess! Can you describe yourself in a few words.

Passionate, down to earth and open minded.

Tell us about your work.

I have been working for eight years as a freelance fashion journalist, a position from which I work for many different clients. I write for magazines like LINDA. and Bijenkorf magazine, but also for online, for example, Team Peter Stigter. In addition I have a personal website, with a focus on fashion and travel, where I share my experiences and interests. Through TESSTED fun projects enter my path, like for this autumn a press trip to India is planned.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

It’s great to be your own boss and being able to do so many different things. Writing is still my main work focus, but my work includes much more than that. Also attending press launches and store openings, festival visits and press trips I can count as work. I really like the variety and diversity. In addition, I have a wonderful club of colleague journalists gathered around me with whom I can share things and whose company is always fun.

How did you get the idea for your website

At one point I had been writing for, and LINDA online, but I was missing a platform, where I really could give my opinion about things. I was looking for a place to share my travel experiences and fashion finds, but also to publish a weekly column. The day the Dutch Vogue was launched, went live as well and it is getting better every year.

Can you share one of your best work memories?

During my pregnancy I went on a trip to Curacao. I was 33 weeks pregnant, but it seemed like a wonderful trip. Since I had not yet revealed the baby’s gender, I decided to keep a gender revealing ‘shoot’ at the beach. I asked the driver if he could arrange pink helium balloons and a colleague / friend Elisah Jacobs, who also came along, took the pictures. The wind was terrible, so it was even quite a challenge to keep balloon right above me in the air, but eventually we succeeded and the picture remains a very special memory.

Describe yourself as a mother.

Strict, but fun and an occasional goofball.

How do you combine motherhood with work?

I have the luxury that I can work almost from anywhere and therefor can almost always do my job. Yasmine attends kindergarten three days a week. The rest of the days Kamal, my parents and I alternately take care of her. If I have a quiet Monday, we can spontaneously drive to the beach, but on Saturday I can sneak quietly behind my computer for a few hours. This flexibility is great.

What is the story behind Yasmine’s name?

Her father, Kamal, is half Moroccan. We wanted to do something with that. Yasmine refers to those Moroccan roots, but is also very international. Secretly we had this name for years in our mind, so we did not have to think twice. By thinking of Yasmine I always imagined a girl with very dark features but our princess has a super light skin and blond curls. But she has beautiful dark brown eyes.

Has your style changed since becoming a mother?

No not at all, I still dress colorful, sporty and sexy. Recently a friend mentioned that denim shorts actually can’t be worn after your 30’s, that is nonsense! You should be able to dress how you like, regardless any age or motherhood.

Do you dress your daughter in a certain way?

She knows exactly what she wants, so let’s begin by saying that her outfits never completely turn out what I had in mind. She wants cinderella pink socks under a gray dress, insists on a skirt instead of a dress or sandals instead of Stan Smiths. If there is little time, I just let her. Yasmine is a girly girl, so she wears 365 days a year, skirts and dresses. In gray, white, blue tones and occasionally with a showy print. At this moment she is wearing a tulle skirt with a white T-shirt, white sneakers and a small bun, which looks so cute. A look that I would be able to rock myself. My shawls and purses are also being snatched out of my drawers, so stylistically spoken our looks often come close.

What are your favorite kids clothing brands?

Gray label, Bobo Choses and Little Indians.

How would you describe the aesthetic of your home?

We have a spacious, bright apartment. We have large windows and both the floor and the walls are white. I love fresh interiors, it seems like they make me think more clearly. Our decor is a mix of black, white and gray tones complemented by gold and copper accents. Clean and Scandinavian.

You live in Amsterdam, do you find it important that your child grows up in the city?

I am originally from Tilburg, so I love living in Amsterdam. For my work it is now most convenient living here and Yasmine growing up here is fine. But I don’t know if we’ll live here forever. At one point a real house with a private garden might also be appealing.

What is your most treasured possession?

Yasmine and my pug, Billie-Lou.

What does happiness mean to you?

Being able to do what you love most.


Do not take yourself too seriously, but also: No regrets.

What dreams would you still like to achieve?

I would like to live abroad for a while.