For the past 9 years I have met more than 30,000 people. How? By traveling the world and handing out Dutch pancakes for free wherever I go!
My story started 9 years ago, when I was studying in Hong Kong for a university exchange program. My friends there cooked Asian food for me and in return I decided to serve them Dutch pancakes. This was a big success and people liked the pancakes and the atmosphere a lot. Back then I already thought that if this event was such a success in Hong Kong, why not anywhere else in the world?!
When back in the Netherlands I started hosting people at my apartment on Saturday nights, first for 10 or 20 people, but when encouraging my friends to invite more people, it soon grew out towards 100+ people every week. A few months into this, my landlord decided that he wanted to sell my apartment. At that moment I had to make a decision whether to rent a new apartment or to invest my salary in flight tickets and to travel the world in my free time. I decided on the second one and have since then been a nomad for the past 5+ years.
Initially I just approached my own friends who lived all over Europe and asked them whether they fancied to host an edition in their apartments. This worked, but the pace was low (only 1-2 editions per month). At one point I decided to approach strangers on Facebook, Couchsurfing, etc with the question whether they would know of suitable locations or to host the event in their own apartments. Luckily I was always able to find a location this way. However, nowadays the event has outgrown the capacity of regular apartments, so I decided to switch to bars, hostels and more professional venues.
Over the course of these 9 years I have organized the pancake events for around 460 times, in 78 countries and in around 200 different cities, literally all over the world, from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and from Dar es Salaam to Boston. During these events we prepared more than 50,000 Dutch pancakes!
All the places I have visited are of course very different from each other, but the atmosphere at the events is surprisingly similar: people are generally very enthusiastic, easy-going and open to meet many more people. They are also often very willing to help and support, for example by finding locations for the events, helping with groceries, bringing along cooking material, preparing pancakes, or help with cleaning. Occasionally the location even looks cleaner than before the event!
I have always wondered what drove the success of these events. I think the following factors made the difference:
Even though I have organized these pancake events for 9 years already, I never looked further than 3 months. There were many moments that I thought about stopping, for example if I experienced disappointments or setbacks or if I did not feel like putting in the effort required to organize more editions. However, there were always many more moments that I felt so happy having completed editions successfully and getting a lot of positive feedback from participants. That has always kept me going!
As for the Dutch pancake nights, I keep on searching for ways to make the experiences for the participants more unique, for example by making them larger (I now think of creating an XXL edition for more than 1000 people), at more unique locations (in an embassy, on a yacht, etc), by creating social impact (e.g. community building, charity), or otherwise.
In case you are also curious to join a Dutch Pancake edition, feel free to visit the event in Hong Kong on Saturday 21 July: https://www.facebook.com/events/201543413811969/
If you cannot make it to the edition in Hong Kong, then here you can find the calendar with other editions: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Dutch-Pancake-events-1127435713963068/events
Here you can find two related videos about the Dutch Pancake Night:
– My TEDx speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPa7V5shQAs&t=250s
– An impression of the event: https://vimeo.com/256783761
Next to that, I do hope that people will be inspired by this journey, connecting people through 3 different ingredients: milk, flour and eggs. And I do hope that people will also start using their own ingredients to shape their own unconventional lifestyle!
Robin Vogelaar has a background in finance (at MIT Sloan School of Management) and management consulting (at The Boston Consulting Group and ING Bank in Amsterdam) and currently travels the world bringing people together through Dutch pancakes and supporting NGOs and social enterprises with volunteer consulting on any strategic topic.continue reading
Most people can probably relate to the fact that you don’t get to travel the world very much when you are a teacher in your home country (and definitely before you start your career in teaching). For me personally, I had only been able to travel to 10 different countries before I moved away to start my first international school teaching placement.
Of course, I realize that ten countries might be a lot for the majority of the world’s citizens. Most people would be lucky to have the chance and money to travel to that many countries in the world. But for some people, it only makes them desire to see even more!
There is something addictive about traveling to and experiencing firsthand the many different countries in this world. You do see a lot of similarities (i.e. there’s always a fruit seller selling his/her fruit, the local barber has some shop cutting people’s hair, etc.), but the fun part is seeing the different things or even how each countries does that same things slightly differently.
Now you might be wondering how did I get to those ten countries before I started working at international schools, being that I hadn’t started my career yet or was only making a state school’s salary for a teacher just starting out. The first one was because I decided to do a study abroad program through my university, to Spain. I believe I was a junior at the time. Even though I went to that country to study for only 2.5 months, I made sure to visit two of the neighboring countries during my time there (France and Portugal). So, now I was up three countries visited in just one year! It was in Europe too, before the Euro currency had taken over, so I feel lucky that I got the chance to see those countries before the big change. Because this was a study abroad program through my university, I did have to pay for this “trip”, but it would have been a very similar amount if I had just stayed at my university to study there instead.
Just a year later after that study abroad experience, I found another program that would take me to another country, and a very unique and interesting one at that…Russia! I went through a program called Camp Counselors USA. You do have a pay some money to go on this program, but it wasn’t that much and many people also got paid some money while they were there. Basically, you have to work and teach English at one of the many summer camps all around Russia (a popular tradition there). This adventure was the first time I could experience being completely immersed in a language that wasn’t my home language. Though stressful at times, I have many wonderful memories of that trip. Russia is a country that many people just simply don’t know that much about. I’m so lucky to get a chance to have an insight into this beautiful country and its lovely people.
That’s now four countries, in total.
Then many years passed until I had my next foreign country adventure. I thank the big tax refund that I received that year which allowed me to buy a ticket to Colombia! I decided to go there because one of my friends was living there. You guessed it, she was working at an international school there. You are simply a fool if you do not go and visit your friend when they are living abroad. Traveling to a foreign country can be scary. But if you have a friend there, there is simply nothing to worry about any more because they know the way around there and know what to do and what not to do. Another big money saver is that you can just stay at their place while you’re visiting. Now we are at five countries!
A few years after Colombia, a friend tipped me off to another program for teachers. One where you could travel completely for free, all expenses paid for a three-week trip. The program was called People to People Student Ambassador Program. My first placement with them was to travel to all four countries of the British Isles. Even though it was a free trip doing amazing things traveling around these countries, your main job is to be a chaperone to 30-40 middle or high school students. But it isn’t that bad at all. Looking back, you really get to do very unique things that you probably wouldn’t have done traveling there by yourself. You also stay at quite nice hotels that you probably wouldn’t have booked and paid for if the money was coming out of your own wallet! The total countries visited now is up to nine.
The last country that I visited before I took my first international school job was to Australia. It was a dream to go there! And I got to go there for free as well, through the same People to People Student Ambassador Program. Three weeks traveling around Eastern Australia was definitely a dream come true! Back then, no way did I have the money to fund this kind of trip if I was going to travel there on my own. Australia was country number 10!
Once that country visit was over with, a few weeks after actually, I hopped onto an airplane to start my first international school teaching placement. I have worked at three international schools in total now. Throughout those 10+ years working at international schools, I have now visited over 70 countries!
Have I visited enough now and is my desire to explore the world waning? I don’t think so. The dream to experience different countries and cultures firsthand is still pretty strong. Even if I moved back to my home country and ran out of “extra” money to traveling with, I’m certain I would find some ways again to explore new countries for free or for very cheap means. There are probably even more programs out there nowadays, especially for teachers. Luckily, my international school teacher/expat lifestyle is still affording me the opportunity to travel on my own and/or with my partner. It still gets me excited to open up Kayak.com and start searching for my next trip/adventure!
This article was submitted to us by a guest author and ISC member.continue reading
Traveling Around: Zhouzhuang, China
Can you relate?
Access International Academy (Ningbo) – 48 Comments
Beijing BISS International School – 67 Comments
Beijing International Bilingual Academy – 53 Comments
Canadian International School (Hong Kong) – 134 Comments
Changchun American International School – 111 Comments
Concordia International School (Shanghai) – 166 Comments
Guangzhou Nanfang International School – 163 Comments
Hong Kong International School – 127 Comments
Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan) – 81 Comments
Keystone Academy – 94 Comments
QSI International School of Dongguan – 64 Comments
If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us here with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences. Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock. Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 1 free year of premium membership!continue reading
Eating out and finding a really tasty restaurant in your host city is the best. Such delicious local food (or ‘expat food’ cuisine) to be had! While not all local restaurants will be the best, there are sure to be some excellent ones. Typically you find these out from the veteran teachers at your school. They’ve been there awhile, so they are the best ones to let you know where to eat out at. And if the cost of living is low where you are, you might just find yourself eating out all the time (see How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #2: Go out to eat all the time!)
There are also just your favorite things to do in the city. Maybe it is taking a jog around the corniche if you live in a city in the Middle East. Maybe it is going to a posh bar downtown where a lot of expats frequent, like the Bund in Shanghai, China. Maybe it is just a quiet park that you like in Western Europe where people go to just relax and enjoy the clean air and surrounding nature (and people watch). The best part is you don’t know your favorite things to do in your host city until you arrive. You could say this aspect is one of the more exciting part of living abroad and teaching internationally.
Another cool thing to do in your host country and traveling around and exploring the different places it offers. If you like the mountains, hopefully you will live not too far away from one that you go to do on the weekend (let’s say if you live in Zurich). If you like the sea, maybe there will be a nice coast that you can take a local bus to (let’s say north of Barcelona). Enjoying your day at the beach can be a great getaway from your sometimes busy life at your international school. In China, they have these really beautiful water towns. Many international school teachers in Shanghai are bound to have a favorite water town that they frequent every so often.
So many favorite things, so little time. Especially if your plan is to only stay 2-3 years in your current host country, it is good to frequent your favorite places and often! Soon enough, you’ll be moving away to live in your next location and you’ll certainly miss all of your current favorite things! (see Going back to a place you once lived – I almost cried!)
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of your favorite host country restaurants, places and things to do. There are a total of 394 comments (May 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of 65 comment topics called – “Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“Cheongna it is pretty easy to get to the famous Hongdae area of Seoul. The area has tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, street food vendors, and live performances. In Cheongna itself, there are new places opening all the time. Current favorites are Roy’s (a Mexican place), Wembley’s Bar, Chicken & Beer, Big Grill (a Korean BBQ place), Texas BBQ, and Hans Craft (craft beer pub). For activities, many teachers like to use the boats in Lake Park or go for a picnic. Many teachers enjoy mountain biking and hiking on the nearby trails. Screen golf and screen baseball are fun activities and of course noraebang (singing rooms).” – Cheongna Dalton School (Incheon, South Korea) – 42 Total Comments
“Oslo has an amazing fjord. Its cheap and plenty of little islands can be got to for the normal cost of your monthly T-Bane card. There are fantastic restaurants – but you will need a mortgage before going out for a good dinner here. Skiing and hiking are cheap or free and we spend our summers picking berries in the forests and winters skiing or skating. Its a paradise in truth.” – Northern Lights International School (Oslo, Norway) – 28 Comments
“Zurich is definitely a city worth walking through. Ambling through the narrow lanes of the old town is a treat. Pop into either the Fraumunster church to see the stunning Chagall windows or walk to up the tower of the Grossmunster church, or walk into the cript of the Water Church. On a nice day a short boat ride (Kleine rundfahrt) which starts at the main boat docks near Burkliplatz is worth the time.” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 33 Total Comments
“Tianjin is a very beautiful city with lots of canals and urban parks and greenways. It is incredibly flat. There are two lakes next to school and expat teachers live in apartments around the lakes. It is a wonderful location for running and exercise in all seasons of the year.” – HIKSVS International School (Tianjin, China) – 30 Comments
“One of my personal favorites is a nice place in Paragon called Midtown. They have a large menu with a lot of traditional Thai dishes and a few international options. Some of their spicy dishes are fantastic (if you can handle Thai chili peppers).” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 242 Comments
“We just went to Bait Al Luban near to the Corniche Mutrah. The food there is delicious! It really seems like they use fresh ingredients and things made there are done to a really nice perfection. Another favorite restaurant that we’ve been to is in the Wave area. It is a Lebanese restaurant that’s called Zahr El Laymoun. We got some hot and cold mezza dishes and every single one was so tasty. Will definitely be going back to these places soon.” – American International School of Muscat (Muscat, Oman) – 34 Commentscontinue reading
Traveling Around: Muscat, Oman
Can you relate?
Al Batinah International School – 10 Comments
Al Sahwa Schools – 7 Comments
American British Academy – 34 Comments
American International School of Muscat – 34 Comments
Muscat International School – 6 Comments
United Private Schools – 7 Comments
If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us here with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences. Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock. Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!continue reading