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No exit for 800 km

No exit for 800 km No exit for 800 km

Bart Heijnen, a Dutch PhD student at Pharmacology who has seen 12 per cent of the world

A good combination of culture and nature is what constitutes a perfect trip for Bart Heijnen. “I don’t want to spend ten days lying on the beach.” What makes it even better is when some of the travelling expenses are reimbursed because he is attending a conference. “Local expenses are paid out of my own pocket of course, but when you are going to Sydney, for example, it makes a huge difference if you don’t have to pay for the ticket yourself.”

Together with his wife, he added a two-week trip to a conference in Los Angeles, travelling along the west coast of the United States. “We drove some five thousand kilometres. We had made hardly any preparations, just took a look at the route. Driving there was a joy. When we were back here, I was stressed after driving for just a few hours, while over there it was so relaxed. The roads are quiet and you can see miles ahead. At one stage the satnav system indicated that we had to drive straight ahead for eight hundred kilometres, without a single exit.”

For Heijnen the most impressive experience was the Grand Canyon. “An enormous hole in the ground; really great. We walked around for a whole day. We also saw the sun go down. Complete with shadows in the gorge, fantastic.” Las Vegas was also quite an experience. “The hotels are an attraction in themselves. In the Venetian, it is just like you are walking into Venice, there are even canals. In the MGM Grand, there were lions beside the gaming machines. Behind glass, of course.”

The US appeals to him. “We’ve also been to Washington and New York and I would like to go to Florida again. The people there are extremely friendly. When we were looking for a hotel, people immediately came to help us.” Other places that he still wants to visit include Iceland (“completely different countryside”) and the South of Thailand (“I have been to North of Thailand, which was absolutely magnificent”). But it will all have to wait for a while. “We have just built a house, so no major journeys for a while.”

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