Founding an extreme adventure travel company and launching a whole new travel concept on my own in South Africa is not something I ever thought I would do. However, when an idea strikes you and the passion for it begins to take over your 9-5 job, you just have to chase it.
Extreme Adventure Travel Company
Having been an avid adventure traveller for over 15 years, I came to the realisation that starting a business is very similar to the mindset needed for the charging of waves, slopes, or jumping out of an aeroplane. I understood that to participate in any of these activities you must have a willingness to take calculated risks, make quick decisions, and the enthusiasm to venture into the unknown on a regular basis. Extreme sport enriches the lives of every participant through powerful altered states of consciousness and gives us a glimpse of what human life is really about, so I figured that I was ready to take the same approach to running my company.
I’m Michiel. I’m originally from Belgium and launched my extreme adventure travel company in April 2018. It’s not a coincidence that I’m currently living in Cape Town – the cradle of adventure – as passion for extreme sport lured me here and has yet to release me from its grasp.
I grew up in a pretty normal family. My mum was a teacher and my father was a salesman who started his own business when I was around 7 years-old. My only brother is 2 years my elder and smoothed bumpy roads for me on many occasions for which I am eternally grateful. I have been sailing since I was a year old when my parents bought a sailing boat and our family would spend all of our weekends away. By the age of 12 I began skateboarding and quickly moved onto windsurfing as well.
The bubble I was living in with my family burst when my parents separated. It was a good thing to become more exposed to the real world, but how the whole family situation evolved ever since is not something anybody could be proud of. Things changed drastically at the age of 14. These were hard times for a couple of years but my new-found passion only became stronger. I focused myself on the pursuit of the flow experiece that windsurfing, surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and BMXing provided. I came to the realisation that living in the moment was my escape to my first world problems.
How Windsurfing Dominated My Life
I can safely say that my passion for windsurfing and my wish to do this amazing sport as often as humanly possible has shaped my life in many ways. Windsurfing has been the determining factor in almost every decision I have made including my motivation to start the extreme adventure travel company. I studied Physical Education and Sport Sciences at Ghent University as sport always has been the biggest talent I possessed. Good at everything but the best at nothing… well, perhaps the sprint and long-jump but the training bored me so I did not pursue the athletic dream. Instead, I decided to pursue anything I deemed new and exciting.
Some very prominent views on life began to formulate in my mind; When was the last time you did something for the first time? If you haven’t tried everything, how can you possibly know what to devote your life to?
These were the questions that sparked a desire to travel from a young age and gave me the distinct feeling that I would be more at home in a place other than Belgium. Belgium just didn’t have enough abundance of what I loved.
After many winters of windsurfing in Belgium in harsh conditions and a few winters abroad, I found a great opportunity to work as a product manager at FlowTrack. FlowTrack is an adventure travel company (surf – bike – snow) where I was organising surf travel for groms, youth and adults. It was at this point that I was introduced to the cool (and often stressful) world of business. At the same time it gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time working close to the beach from my self-converted van in France and Spain, and the freedom to travel for windsurfing during European to Chile, Australia and South Africa. I’m very grateful for these 5 years at FlowTrack as I met a lot of cool people and gained valuable international experience. Because of this experience I am organising a Cape Town surf adventure in September.
Cape Town Calling
Despite my amazing travel and sporting experiences, my visualisation of a youngster chasing the dream to live abroad was still not fulfilled.
In 2016, I decided to try something new (again). Based on my studies (PE and sport sciences with a specialisation in Sport Management), 5 years of experience in tourism at FlowTrack and my 15 years of sailing experience, I created a new opportunity. But this time in Cape Town. Since the first time I’ve been in Cape Town in 2009, I could feel this place was different than any other place I’ve been travelling to.
Two businessmen from Johannesburg their ultimate bucket list adventure was to sail the Cape2Rio race. The Cape2Rio race is the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere and takes place every four years, attracting sailors from all over the world. Rob and Shaun bought a classic 64 foot racer, Voortrekker II, designed by Lavranos and build by the South African Navy in 1982 to fulfill their dream. And they hired a captain/engineer to refurbish the boat completely as it was in a bad condition. Voortrekker II had a bright future of becoming a charter for mileage building and long distance sailing adventures to Saint Helena Island, Brazil, Mauritius, etc.
We tested the boat and team setup 4 months prior to the start date at the Mosselbay race to qualify for the Cape2Rio race which went pretty well. We experienced some awesome sailing and I witnessed the most magical phenomena of my life while rounding Cape Point at 18 knots – dolphins swimming alongside the Voortrekker II under starry skies. Crazy fluorescent trails everywhere!
On the 1st of January 2017, the Cape2Rio commenced. We were fully equipped; new sails, new mast, new navigation instruments. Everything was new except the hull and steering mechanisms. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan and a few days after the start of the start of the Cape2Rio the connection broke between the rudder and the helm, leaving Voortrekker II and the crew steerless 500 nautical miles from Cape Town. A small leak was assessed to be unstable and it would have taken too long to get a towing ship, so the captain and owners made the heart-wrenching decision to abandon ship (international law states that you must sink the unmanned boat so it is not a hazard for other vessels).
On a merchant vessel to Brazil (Vitoria), the adventure didn’t stop. You can read the full story on Rob’s blog.
Variation Colours Life & Sharing Is Caring (Viral Dreaming Concept)
If I was a rich man I would ask all my friends what adventure they crave the most; where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do at least once in their life. I would create a bucket list of my friends’ adventure dreams, create itineraries to live the dream together. This concept resonates with me as I would get to experience adventures that I would not have envisioned myself; we are merely a product of our experiences in the surroundings we grew up in.
I have always been a dreamer, but I prefer to look at them as goals as I am willing to put in the hard work to make those dreams a reality. I challenged myself to bring this concept to life without bucket-loads of cash at my disposal as I believe all hurdles can be overcome with creative thinking and through inspiring people to take positive steps in their lives.
Although the Viral Dreaming concept has been tweaked and changed as I have learnt more about conducting business online, realising my own dream by making the dreams of other people a reality is still at the very core of Viral Dreaming’s values. Viral Dreaming is an extension of who I am – something that is impossible only until it has been achieved.
Live Your Dream
So, don’t hesitate to share your adventure dream on the enter to win page – I really would love to read it. Once you sign up 5 friends with your unique URL, I’ll make an customised itinerary of your trip that will be published on the same ‘book-it list’ as the Cape Town surf adventure. I also give you marketing tools and a budget to form a group of adventurers who want to join in on your adventure dream.
Once enough people book your dream, YOU, my friend, can join for free! Sign up here.
here is a video of travelling to Chile a couple of years back (only waveriding)