Karin van den Akker (21), who has just completed her study of Health Sciences, has seen 12 per cent of the world.
Karin van den Akker hasn’t even been back a week, but she already wants to leave for sunnier places. Karin and her friend Marloe Leermakers travelled around South America for six months. They started in Argentina, having done a course in Spanish, but Van den Akker hadn’t much faith in their knowledge of the language at the beginning of their trip. “In Argentina we thought ‘we really don’t speak Spanish’, but fortunately in the rest of South America it wasn’t so bad at all. The dialect in Argentina is very different.”
After finishing their language course, they continued their journey to Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. It was mainly the scenery and the culture of Bolivia that enchanted her. They also experienced a very special moment there. “We were travelling in a little boat on a river and the only light we had was a flashlight, we were searching for crocodiles. When you see a pair of red eyes lighting up, you have found one. When I shone my flashlight into the woods, I saw at least twenty pairs of red eyes. I got the shock of my life!”
Van den Akker also did voluntary work while on her trip, in Cuzco. She worked in a relief centre for teenage mothers, which was not always easy. “It was wonderful to see how different the culture of raising children could be, but it was also hard. Mothers there are very strict for their children. A child has to eat about ten times a day, and if they didn’t want to, it was pushed into them roughly. We were expected to use the same approach”.
The trip was fantastic, but the return journey was hell. “We had two and a half hours for our transfer in Miami, but we were in a really long queue. When it was finally our turn, the desk closed. Half crying, I asked the man if he could help us. ‘Give me your immigration form’ he said. ‘Form? We are only here to transfer’. ‘No form, no passage. Go pick one up and get in line again’. Only when I really started to cry, he conceded and we had a boarding pass in no time. Five minutes later we were on the aeroplane, ready to go home”.
Even though the last part of her journey was no fun at all, she is determined to travel again. Central America or Asia, as long as it is far away and there is a lot to discover. “I will go as soon as I have the money”.