A traumatic experience like the death of a loved one can be a catalyst, motivating us to reconsider our life choices and consider meaningful changes. My family and I have this experience firsthand. When we were in the early stages of planning our worldwide travels, my father passed away unexpectedly the day before my daughter’s fourth birthday. His sudden death was my catalyst; After prolonged meditation, I found that there was no easier path in life for me to take. I knew then that I had no choice but to commemorate his passing and begin our journey, and every year, one day before my dear Jessica’s birthday, I am reminded that time flies.
As cliché as it sounds, it is human nature to put off things we can do today until tomorrow, and we constantly question whether we will be able to achieve the impossible. But before I had my moment of clarity, the doubts were gone. Do I have the courage, strength and financial resources to make my wildest dreams come true? The latter is usually the first thought of uncertainty that shelves the idea of a long-term overland trip. It’s tempting to walk away from the challenge, to pat ourselves on the back and say, “That was the right move; we couldn’t afford it. We’ve just saved ourselves a lot of hard work and dedication to something we’ll probably achieve in the next 5 years, maybe 10, or when the time is right.”
Nadja Ensink’s life changed abruptly when she suddenly lost her husband. Their newborn daughter Fleur was only 11 days old. Nadja finally got over her pain. With the lessons she learned, she became a counselor, helping other women process their grief and move on in life. The sudden death of her husband, Jeroen, was to be Nadja’s catalyst and she decided to honor her husband’s passion for travel and embrace her desire to live life to the fullest by sharing her experiences with her daughter.
Everyone experiences loss differently. I believe that overland travel has helped me deal with my grief; Nadja found it was the same, and eventually discovered that this elusive happiness enriched Feur’s life and her own.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Nadja Ensink-Teich and I have a seven-year-old daughter, Fleur. I’m originally from the Netherlands but left home when I was 19 to work and travel abroad. I met Jeroen, the love of my life, in London in 2010. We married in 2012 and when Fleur was born in 2015 she was the icing on the cake.
On December 29, 2015, Jeroen Fleurs sent birth announcements to friends and family. Tragically, Jeroen was stabbed 5 meters from our front door by a random stranger suffering from cannabis-induced psychosis. Jeroen died instantly while Fleur and I were at our home, unaware of the tragedy that was unfolding outside. Our lives were turned upside down in a second and nothing was ever the same again. I now had to raise our daughter and face life as a widow.
On the afternoon of my husband’s death, I promised myself that I would not be bitter and that Fleur would not lose me in grief.
What motivates and inspires you to travel?
As expectant parents, Jeroen and I aspired to travel and work abroad and to show our children the world. Traveling as a single mom with a young child is a different story. My husband was a water and sanitation professional dedicated to improving the lives of the less fortunate. On the day he was killed, I promised to show Fleur the world, which is a driving force behind my motivation.
What is your life philosophy?
The poem entitled You May Shed Tears He’s Gone by David Harkins embodies my philosophy of life.
You can shed tears that he’s gone
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray he’ll come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all he has left.
Your heart can be empty ’cause you can’t see him
Or you can be filled with love that you have shared.
You can turn your back tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can look forward to tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he’s gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do whatever he wants:
Smile, open your eyes, love and move on.
I first saw it in one of the condolence cards I received and it saved my life at the most difficult of times.
You have decided to travel from South Africa to Uganda in a Land Rover Defender. Why and how did you choose this path?
I bought my Land Rover Defender in Cape Town, South Africa, our base. When we left in the cold South African winter, we went to Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Our itinerary was flexible and we made our decisions based on our intuition. Rather than making Tanzania our next stop we changed our plans and ventured into Zimbabwe, returning to South Africa before traveling through Namibia and further north into Uganda. On the way we visited development projects, former students and employees of my late husband. Through them I can show Fleur a different side of Africa and they can tell her stories about Jeroen that I can’t.
They said everything on the street is amplified – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Can you explain that in more detail?
I have a perfectly stable life at home in the Netherlands, but it’s not very exciting. When we’re on the road, no day is like the other. When we set out in the morning, we have no idea how the day will go. On the way we meet different people who open their homes and hearts to us, which is the complete opposite of our life in Europe. But when things aren’t going well, I realize we’re on our own and missing the comforts of home. Raising my daughter on the street doesn’t always go smoothly either. Sometimes it is very challenging for them. We homeschool and she misses her friends. All of these things bring their own challenges.
Are there organizations that support or sponsor you when you travel?
We are committed to the Jeroen Ensink Memorial Fund, a scholarship we set up to support students from Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia who are committed to improving public health in developing countries and are pursuing the MSc Public Health for Development course want.
You mentioned that Fleur is currently home schooled. Will it be reintegrated into traditional schooling when you return to the Netherlands?
The idea was for Fleur to return to school, but the longer we travel the less confident I am. I can see how traveling has changed her, how much more flexible she has become and how she expresses herself outside of societal norms. She follows her intuition much more, and there is room for her to do just that. She is now fluent in English and is learning more every day. I can imagine that when we return to the Netherlands she will lose some of her new found freedom and expressiveness and I’m not sure if that’s for the best for her or me.
How has traveling changed you?
Travel has brought me back to life. After losing Jeroen I went into survival mode and can honestly say that traveling was my method of grieving.
What surprised you most about overland travel?
I love it – to explore without a fixed plan and to be able to change the route as you wish.
What are your favorite overland destinations so far?
South Africa. The diversity of the country is amazing. One day you are on the beach and the next in the mountains driving over one of the many passes. This, combined with its comfort, makes it a firm favorite for me. The friendliness of the people in Malawi can hardly be surpassed.
Are you planning more overland trips after your tour of Southern Africa?
I had planned to travel for a year but there is so much more I want to see, feel and explore. Our trips may take a little longer, but we can return home for a while and leave again later.
How can you afford to travel?
I rent our house in the Netherlands and I am lucky enough to have a widower’s pension. Africa may not be the cheapest continent, but it is cheaper than living in the Netherlands. Camping doesn’t cost much and we tend to cook meals, with gasoline being our biggest expense. If I want to save money, we slow down and stay in a certain place a little longer.
You recently published your therapeutic book on loss, Dag Lieverd, Tot Zo (Bye Sweetie, see you soon). Can you tell us more about it?
the Book are my memoirs about loving and losing, accepting the impossible, rising from the ashes and even forgiving. My book describes my journey through Asia, where we (Fleur and I) traveled extensively when she was only three years old.
As a Land Rover owner, I am biased towards your choice of vehicle, a Land Rover Defender 110 TD5. But could you explain why you chose it?
The Land Rover chose me, not the other way around. I followed another Dutch family on their overland adventure across Africa and loved their daily posts. When I saw a post that they were selling their beloved Land Rover something clicked in me – this kind of adventure is exactly what I wanted to do with Fleur!
I find that people either love a Land Rover or they don’t. I see a lot of Land Cruisers here in Africa and people joke that a Land Rover keeps breaking down. We are very blessed because our Land Rover has been very reliable and whenever we have had an issue we meet a Land Rover fanatic who is more than willing to help. The Land Rover community here in Africa is large.
(Our) Defender has been converted with two Eezi-Awn rooftop tents, an awning, a 50 liter water tank, a compressor, a fridge, a solar panel, an inverter and additional diesel tanks on the roof and under the car for cross-country driving. Everything we need is there.
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