For our readers:
Besides being a PATER, Gerben is a serial entrepreneur, with a life experience ranging from being at the peak of success to mind-crushing bankruptcy. Embracing the waves of life as a father and captain, he was born in 1980 in the Netherlands, graduated in Business Administration, carrying 15 years of business experience in several countries, and loves to connect and inspire, discover the world, and sail.
P&F: Dear Gerben, we are grateful to have met you, even if not in person yet, but hopefully, we can make this happen very soon!… You contacted us in July 2020 and we’ve been following your adventures ever since. Wow! Your story really comes with some flavour! …
Tell us a bit about you: Who is Gerben? What were you doing before you decided to start a new life, and how did it all happen?
Gerben: Wow, where to start?… Okay, I started sailing as a farmer boy at the age of four and started dreaming about sailing the world. The moment I turned 24 I got testicular cancer, the same cancer as Lance Armstrong. After two years of surgery and chemotherapy and surviving cancer, I promised myself that I’d become a millionaire before my 40th birthday so I could start sailing around the world. So, I started three companies, all related to Internet Technology and sold one company after two years for several million. Then, I sold my house and bought my dream sailing boat, the Perfect Sense, in Greece. And then boom. My other company got into deep trouble and long story short, I lost everything. All my money, the boat and even worse, my mental health.
Luckily, a guardian angel came into my life just before everything collapsed. She literally saved me. She gave me the power to survive, bought back my dream sailing boat (still can’t imagine how she did it) and together we created our life plan. This was 2018 and at the end of this year, our son Benjamin was born, which was a miracle after my testicular cancer. In 2019, we sailed from Valencia, Spain, toward Turkey for eight months to see whether the sailing life was meant for all of us. We loved it so much and the moment we came back to Amsterdam we knew it for sure. We wanted to sail the world. Now I am 40 years old 😉
P&F: Besides outlasting bankruptcy, you also survived cancer. In the shortest time, you switched from what seemed to be the perfect life to a perfect storm… That was a lot to endure all together for a man, but also for a family! How did you overcome this psychological breakdown?
Gerben: The moment the breakdown really hit I was driving in my car and almost made the decision to crash it. But, luckily, I did not. I had just begun my relationship with Rianne. We met when I was on top of my game, a successful tech entrepreneur chasing his big dreams, who shortly after became a depressed guy lying in bed. The moment I lost everything, I literally had one bag with two sets of clothes, and Rianne offered that I start living with her in Amsterdam. She took care of me, gave me the strength to keep breathing, fighting and all the space to recover. I was so depressed that I couldn’t tie my laces anymore. When she sent me to the supermarket for bread, I came home with bananas.
Because the bankruptcy was top news in the Netherlands, national television and newspapers, everyone had an opinion about what happened, and this had a major impact on my relationships with friends and family. When I had cancer, everyone was there for me, and everyone wanted to take care of me, but when I went bankrupt, most of the people in my life ran away from me, including some close friends and family. At that moment, it was very painful, but now, it is a blessing. You know exactly who your real friends are. The inner strength came back, step by step. Rianne is a life and business coach and she knew exactly how to get me back on my feet again. It all started with an early morning ritual, getting out of bed, starting to exercise, read, journal, meditate and visualise. And slowly, I got back on my feet. The moment I was able to travel she booked a flight to Greece so we could prepare the sailing yacht Perfect Sense for selling. Rianne had never sailed before but the moment she felt this incredible way of travelling she was hooked. One day later she decided to buy the Perfect Sense. She didn’t know how, but she managed with a loan from one of my former business partners..
P&F: Is mental health something you still struggle with sometimes?
Gerben: Yes. Until December last year, mental health was still a struggle for me. It is like a bunch of crazy monkeys in my head trying to take control and lead me into negativity, self-doubt and anger.
P&F: When did you find the strength to get things started?
Gerben: After one year of total breakdown (I call it my meltdown), the strength was coming back. Rianne gave me all the tools I needed to get back on my feet. She showed me how to create the best version of myself and create the life I always wanted. We started planning our life on our terms and conditions and, with all the gifts I gained in life and my entrepreneurial spirit, things started to change. Last December, Rianne sent me to Tony Robbins. I did a course with him called “Date with Destiny” and it gave me back my inner masculine “Freedom”, away from anger, self-doubt and negativity. This was what I needed to become unleashed again. I had the privilege to have a one on one with Tony Robbins and shared my story with him. He helped me to become stronger than ever before.
P&F: What was the one thing that really mattered in life when you decided to put all your eggs in one basket and embark for a completely new life, leaving everything you had behind?
Gerben: That one thing was the love for life, the unconditional love I have for Benjamin and Rianne and the desire to spend as much time as possible together whilst living our dream.
P&F: What would be your most important advice for people going through similar circumstances?
Gerben: Step up, get out of bed, create your morning routine, start meditating and invest in personal development as much as you can. Read books, find a coach, be close to nature and find your purpose or passion in life as quickly as possible.
P&F: Can you share your favourite daily happiness-mode-routine with us? :-))
Gerben: I get out of bed early, at around 05:00; drink a big glass of water; sit in silence and listen or watch the beauty of Mother Nature (sunset/wind/rain); do my affirmations and incantations, visualisations, some exercise or a run; read a chapter or two of a book, and write down my to do’s for the day and what I want to achieve. This sounds like a lot but I combine, for example, running and my incantations (shouting out loud: ‘I am determination’, ‘I am love’, ‘I am passion’ and ‘how can I share my gifts with the world?’). By using emotions and physical effort I rewire my nervous system. Sometimes people look at me if I am completely crazy 😉 When I am finished, I am more than ready for the day and make a delicious breakfast for the family while talking about our goals for the day — this can be content creating, sailing, exploring, deal-making or growing.
P&F: You chose to set up house in a sailing yacht and travel the world for the next few years. What led you to this decision?
Gerben: Sailing the world was always my dream and I am very lucky I met the love of my life who shares the same dream. She was actually born on a boat in the Netherlands but had never sailed in her life. The first time she sailed was onboard the Perfect Sense. So, together, we decided to start sailing around the world as a business couple with our kid.
P&F: Let’s talk about your brand ‘Feel the Breeze’. What is the main purpose of the company? And is it possible to be a sailing entrepreneur living full time on a yacht? Sounds like a great plan to me! 🙂
Gerben: We created Feel the Breeze at our kitchen table from scratch. We started with our core values and asked ourselves questions: What would our ideal day look like? What would our ideal week look like? What would our ideal year look like? Since we are both entrepreneurs, we created our dream life around our core values and skillsets. The main purpose of Feel the Breeze is to inspire and help as many people as possible to live the life of their dreams. Because we believe the world would be a better place if people were happy and balanced.
P&F: Living on a boat as a sailing family, isolated at sea for such long journeys, must surely also be challenging. Doesn’t it get claustrophobic sometimes?
Gerben: Hahaha, it doesn’t get claustrophobic luckily. I have to admit the boat is a nice size, but in the end all boats get small when you live on them. Our longest crossing so far as a family has been four days in a row at sea, but we have to admit that we are looking forward to our Atlantic Ocean crossing at the end of this year, which will be roughly 21 days at sea. I shall answer your question again the moment we reach land in Antigua 😉 And….. Rianne has her own lady cabin where she can pull back when she is sick and tired of me.
P&F: We know that sustainability is an important issue for you. What are your most fought for causes and how do you draw people’s attention to them?
Gerben: We try to be as sustainable as possible. We move our home using 99% wind energy and are completely self-sufficient by making our own fresh water and electricity. Besides that, we love to try out new sustainable initiatives like the first non-toxic antifouling in the world. It is a Dutch invention, based on the principle of a sea urchin, and consists of a wrap instead of paint, called Finsulate. It’s a long-lasting antifouling without biocides. The traditional antifouling paints usually do not last long and are polluting. In our YouTube videos, we show sustainable solutions to draw attention to this issue and discuss the alternatives.
P&F: What you are planning to do with your family is in some ways a circumnavigation of the globe, while letting all your fans and followers track where you are and take part in your adventures. Have you ever considered applying for the Vendée Globe one day?
Gerben: Feeling and sharing the breeze is our mission in life, which means inspiring and helping people to achieve their dreams. We do this by sailing around the world whilst setting up multiple companies, and the Vendée Globe is definitely not my dream. I am more a cruiser than a racer. Sometimes I love to sail solo, but cruising with my family and friends is my dream.
P&F: Your wife Rianne founded a sustainable luxury fashion brand a few years ago. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Gerben: Yes, Rianne founded a sustainable luxury fashion brand, made to measure, to empower ladies in the corporate world. This was her first company. She started after her career in the corporate world. She had just started it when my meltdown started, which was very intense for her, so after two years she decided to close down the company since our plans became slightly different.
P&F: Where do you visualise yourself and your family in 10 years? How do you see your son growing up in this environment?
Gerben: We visualise ourselves somewhere in the Pacific on an island where we will have built our self sustaining house on a beach, in the neighbourhood of a waterfall we can call home. From this home-base we will still travel the world by LandRover and sailing boat, running multiple companies and contributing to a better world. Benjamin will be 12 then and will have seen a lot of the world already, having been educated partly through homeschooling, online school, different local schools and lots of skill learning from all the interesting people we meet along our journey.
P&F: Thank you for sharing these inspiring moments with us and our readers! We wish you empowering and enlightening experiences we will make sure to follow!
Gerben: That’s fantastic to hear and thank you very much. We love to travel in style and you are my best companion, since most days I walk around in swimming shorts.