September 30, 2009

Tonia has arrived in Santiago de Compostela! After 2,500km hiking through Belgium, France and Spain she did it! I told you already how proud I am. Having walked the last 800km myself, I know this is a very impressive journey. Tonia grew tremendously during this trip. I walked a merely 300km with her on this trip and saw her growing every day. Tonia, my Superwoman

She got rid of a number of fears. She met these special people along the way. New friendships were born and she enjoyed several miracles. Tonia received these incredible insights and also found her life’s purpose, her legacy. This is all so exciting!

When I return home this weekend, I will have a brand new woman. Not just any woman, but a Superwoman. I need to warn you that the picture you see here is my “old” Tonia, the day she started her walk on the 12th of June. She’ll never be the same again… So, next time you meet her, you’ll see this wonderful glow and energy burst around her 🙂

Tonia, again, congratulations! It is official now: I am the happiest person on this planet, especially monday when we’ll finally be reunited again!

Oh, by the way, she is completely in shape, so she decided to go to the end of the world, Finisterre. This is the place where the zero-marker is placed. 0km to go, the edge of the world, the vast ocean in front of you. There she will burn her last remaining fears and some clothing as a final ritual and completion of her journey.Finisterre, Spain, 0km Camino marker She is ready for a brand new start! Watch her…

Here is a detailed map of her journey. I invite you to congratulate her on her blog.

Extremely Proud

August 21, 2009

My wife ToniaAs many of you know, my wife Tonia is on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela (Spain) with her backpack. It’s been an exceptional adventure for her so far. And you know what? She passed the 1.500 km earlier this week! Can you believe that? 1.500 km on foot? Needless to say that I am extremely proud about her!

Here are a couple of reasons why she’s going on this trip :

  • Contemplating about a new direction in her professional life
  • Facing the fear of solitude
  • Facing the fear of asking something to people she doesn’t know (introvert!)
  • Becoming more independent and self-reliant
  • Reflect on who she really is. She wants to become an even better person.

To me, she’s almost the perfect woman. Wow! I love her!

So, if you are loosing track of who you really are or you have burn out/bore out or just want to start over, then taking a hike is probably a great way to get you started. I am not saying you must go on a 2.500 km hike as well. At least 1 month would be an excellent start. Oh stop it! Those are just excuses. Anyone can do it! So, can you!

I’ve met several people on my own (rather modest) trip (yes, only 800 km) two years ago, who also had children, a mortgage,  no preparation and a lot of physical challenges… If people who can’t even see well (lost her glasses), who are over 85 years old or who are terminally ill (with only 3 months to live) can walk this trip, then probably all of your reasons are just excuses. Well, if you would like to settle for mediocraty and the life you are having right now, then please do. If, however, you are longing for a magical, unforgettable, one-of-a-kind life, then it is time to step up and break your pattern! Just get up, out of your chair and start planning. Action is the keyword here… There is so much you can do! And if not for yourself, do it for your loved ones.

I know, I might sound rude. This might just be what you have been waiting for…someone to tell you that you can achieve anything! And it’s not falling from the sky onto your lap. You have to do something to reach it. So, once more, I invite you to reflect on your current life and dream about the life you could have. Setup an action plan and put it to work. A few weeks from now, major changes might have occured. And remember : today is the first day of the rest of your life! Spend it well!

PS : if you need some inspiration of what can happen to you, just read Tonia’s blog (in Dutch) or search for other people who went on the Camino to Compostela…

Tonia’s Journey!

February 22, 2009

A new beginning, a new journey!

“Every walk is a kind of crusade, a move to “the West”, a journey into the wilderness, a trip to selfconsciousness, transformation and the future.” These are Henry David Thoreau‘s words, a 19th Century writer who wandered for days in the forests and in the human mind. These are also Tonia’s first words to announce her newest journey! She has decided to take on a new challenge…She’s going to walk 2,500 km with her backpack this summer!

Yes, you’ve read it right : 2,500 km! This means at a rate of 25 km / day on average, she ‘ll be walking at least 100 days!

It is time to take some time off, to step out of her daily patterns of stress and finally create time and space for herself to reflect, to explore in depth who she really is and to contribute to her own legacy, which is yet to be defined. This journey will start at our home in June and will take her through Belgium, France and Spain. Yes, she is walking to Santiago de Compostela and finally to Finisterre, the end of the world 🙂Tonia : Op weg naar mezelf

I congratulate Tonia and am proud of my superwoman that she stepped up to take control of her own life and am looking forward to an even happier life together!

You can follow Tonia on her own blog (in Dutch mainly) and she will add pictures too!

Have fun, always,



June 21, 2008

BertoniaToday we are lauching a new website!

Yes, Tonia and I have created a new website about our passion for travel, photography and life!

It is called BERTONIA 🙂


Of course, it is full of pictures (check out the galleries!) and enjoy our extended galleries on Picasa as well! We’ve included pictures from Bali, Goa, Normandy, Zeeland and the Camino to Santiago.

Tonia wants to create more inspiring pictures and contribute to share her view on the world. By being a passionate photographer, you can already sense her ability to make you part of it. It feels sometimes like you are with her at that right moment the picture is taken. Excellent!

Now, dream away with BERTONIA and tell us your first impression…

Enjoy every day,
Loving Life

Camino to Santiago

May 15, 2008

It’s been 1 year! Last year, I started walking on my 800km “Camino” to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. My life has changed tremendously in the meantime! Since then, I am focusing purely on activities that I really love.

Create : I am an expert in generating ideas! New products, services, applications, markets, combinations, etc. Too many excellent ideas…you want some?
Connect : Extensive business contacts in various industries and expertise in networking (I am doing what Jan is teaching 😉 ). I am a true matchmaker! Try me…
Contribute : helping people in need by adding value (e.g. setting up charity fund, Banana Man, …) If you want to help rightaway, buy the Banana Man book
Coaching : coaching people who want to transform to live their dreams. I help you to step out of your daily pattern and I inspire you to find your true passion(s), not only by giving you a framework and tools, but also the tangible next steps by providing you practical ideas and connections to realise them! Talk to me 😉

I am now building my dreams! I am really doing it! Only yesterday, one of my clients confirmed another coaching assignment involving me in other departments of their organisation. Friday, I had an interesting chat with a potential customer for my creativity and I also got a potential networking customer calling me for a meeting. Excellent!

During this last year, I not only walked the 800km to Santiago, but I’ve also spoken with several gurus. I’ve travelled to Bali, probably returning later this year. I am extending my network globally and I am having fun most of the time. This is how life should be!

So, where are you? Need help? Let’s have a chat…If I can do it, anyone can!

Enjoy every day,
Bert Verdonck
Create, Connect & Contribute

The “psshht” experience

September 12, 2007

Ever smelled someone next to you ?

All kind of smells reaching your nostrils…going from great parfumes, fresh blends of showergel, shampoo and deo to awfull coffee breaths or garlic conversations… Ever experienced a person who was sweating so much you could tell he/she was coming your way from at least 5 meters away? What about sitting in the same car or on the bus for a couple of hours? Or standing in line?

Didn’t you wish you had brought an air fragrance or small deo or perfume bottle with you? Just a little spray (psshht) and the world would look (rather smell)  like new again 😉

I’d never think it would happen to me…this is being “psshht” at.

How did this happen?

On the Camino, you only have a handful of clothes with you. It was raining a lot, so your clothes are not getting any time to get washed and dry properly. Sleeping with a couple, dozen, even hundred other (stinking) people in one room might give you a good insight. On top of that, if you are walking up and down hills, you (well at least I did!) sweat a lot too!

Now, arriving in Pamplona, we rushed for the albergue, enrolled and then went looking for a cheap car rental agency. What happened. Well, Tonia en I arrived in France by car. Tonia was joining me on the trip for 5 days, but she had to go back to France to pick up the car. Since there is no real connection (e.g. bus) between the Spanish border and France in the mountains, you could walk back or take a cab. We heard some amazing prices for a taxi, so we decided to rather rent a car instead. Anyway, we had to find an agency first. Arriving in the early afternoon, Tonia found a couple of cheap agencies, but they were closed, due to siësta…

Consequently, we had to wait for a couple of hours, so we visited the city, being at the south of the town and the albergue in the north, we didn’t shower that afernoon. So, finally the agency opened up and we got in. They were out of cars! Apperently, a lot of tourists hired all of his cars. Only a couple of big, unaffordable cars (executive and grand class) were available.

We went on to the second agency. They did not open until 17h00! We got in and hired a small car. While we are checking in the manager arrives as well and comes out of her office with an air fragrance and “psshht”s us. Wow, I can tell you, not a pretty experience! But, hey, another lesson learned 😉

Did something similar ever happen to you? Do you dare to share?

Enjoy every day,


Four crazy Belgians on the Camino…

August 28, 2007

My good friend Edu is about 2m tall, so some people nicknamed him El Chiquitin (the little one). He is Basque and speaks Basque (Euskera) and Spanish. He understands just a few words of French and English, not enough to conversate, so I tried to speak Spanish (always including a few Italian words, right Edu?) to him. Eventually, we managed to communicate very well. I even learned him some basic German words…I know we would have all day during the hiking, but just imagine you want to tell a story of 10 minutes and synthesize it into 5 sentences, otherwhise it would take too long to explain 😉

Anyway, he once told me he had met just a couple of Belgians on his Camino and all were loco (crazy). Indeed, he told me about these four crazy Belgians

Of course, I don’t need to explain myself. Everyone knows me 😉 No comment!

I already told you about my new friend Sandrita. I must admit, she sometimes acts like she’s crazy… Singing, dancing and joking all the time, she is truly fun to be with! She is indeed a great person with a caring heart, sincere and giving. On top of that she speaks 7 languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish) fluently. She’s an actor in theatre productions, animates children (and adults) and is a tour guide (currently in Ecaudor!). Does this sound too much like an ad for her? 😉 Well, she’s single and who knows who might be interested…

Number 3 is Roger, a 73 year-old Belgian from the Walloon area. He is reknown for his incredible speed. He walks like his feet are on fire! Wow! Impressive, but he is probably best known for his funny, limited conversations or quote, which goes like: “Ca va? Ca va? Mangez? Mangez? C’est bien, no? C’est bon!” So, many people might refer to him as “Roger Mangez” 😉 Everytime you meet him he repeats this quote, over and over again! I’ve seen people going crazy, because they’ve spend a lot of time with him 😉 No, seriously, he’s from a different generation and I respect him for walking 800km at his age, knowing that he does this for his wife who is diagnosed with cancer. I wish him all the best!

Then last, but not least comes our famous fidler, Caroline, also from the Walloon area (rest assured, my team is politically correct 😉 ). She is a pretty good violin player, who missed her instrument too long during the trip, so she decided to buy one on the Camino. Can you imagine someone with a backpack, carrying a violin too? She sometimes plays unaware of several peregrinos sitting quitly behind her on the stairs, enjoying the lovely sounds…Or she teams up with other musicians along the road, we had guitar players from Italy, El Salvador, Spain, France, etc. , next to flutes, piano and a lot of homemade instruments. The true sound of the Camino!

So, if these 4 people were the only Belgians you’ve met on your trip to Santiago, Edu’s right : Todo loco!

Enjoy every day,


The pineapple story…

August 27, 2007

Yet another Camino story…

At a certain point on the Camino, called the Meseta,  we had to walk a straight part of 17km without bars, shops, towns or anything else from civilization.

Some people were afraid or feared to be bored by it. Others raved on it, because finally we would go on a great plain of (almost) untouched nature. The only thing reminding us of humans is the electricity cables in the sky, at a distance.

Anyway, before leaving the last town, I decided to buy a large pineapple. People told me I was crazy! Everyone is looking to minimize the weight of their backpack, I just added 3kgs to it 😉 I decided to ignore them, smiled at them and told them it was my favorite fruit…

So, I carried the heavy pineapple on my back on top of my backpack for 17kms. At the first town, the first building was a refugio. Although I had decided upfront I would not stay there, it was time for a break on a rock in front of this refugio. I took my pineapple and sliced it. I offered a fresh piece of pineapple to everyone passing by…

At first people were surprised that someone offered it to them, but then I saw them smiling from ear to ear. They all enjoyed a juicy piece of pineapple, it didn’t matter how tired, wet or concentrated they were! Needless to say that it was a priceless experience to contribute to their happyness, even if it was for just a moment on their challenging trip to Santiago…

So, now you know the story of that crazy Belgian who brought a fresh pineapple on the Meseta!

Enjoy every day,


Extra sensitive…

July 4, 2007

Being in nature for a long time (relatively) sharpens your senses. It happened to me on the Camino. After a couple of weeks, I smelled better (not only the stinking pilgrims like myself 🙂 ), certainly the vast amount of flowers along the road, the beautiful eucalyptus trees, etc.

My taste changed as well! I tasted more variety in the wines (great Rioja!), the food (even simple bread) and the meals I had.

I felt like I heard better too. At night I could hear the snorers make a lot of noise 🙂 Anyway, I had earplugs and did not hear them until I took them out again… but I could hear the birds (and other animals) sing, approaching cars from far away, …

I also met a Korean woman Sun Ay (like sunday without the ‘d’), who lost her glasses somewhere along the Camino. She probably left it at an albergue, but I am not sure anymore. So, I met her in Pomferrada, where she stood next to me at one of the traffic lights. She asked me kindly if she could join me on my trip that particular day. She explained to me that she had lost her glasses and only could see like 1 m away. So, it’s impossible for her to see the markings of the Camino (yellow arrows or shells)! Only by walking together she could make it to the next town or wherever she wanted to stay.

We took a nice scenic route, but unfortunately, she could not see it very well! It took me some time to get that… Imagine the beautiful nature sceneries I am enjoying, and telling her about it, but she did not see at all! Of course, we laughed a lot and had a great time together, discovering our cultural differences, food preferences and discussing our music/movie top 20.

Why couldn’t she get another pair of glasses? Well, first of all, only big towns and cities have opticians/optical stores. Apparently it takes at least 1 extra day to get the glasses ready and she had planned the rest of the trip completely. Even afterwards, her tickets for Barcelona, Paries, etc. were already booked. So, she couldn’t afford ‘loosing’ a day, otherwhise she would have to take the bus (not done by true hikers!), obviously no option either. On top of that, it might be a great lesson for her to go on without seeing clearly where she was goinglike many of us are doing in real life!

Almost a week later, I met her again and I could not believe my eyes… she could see for almost 3 meters by now (her eyes adapted?), still not enough to walk alone, but she could at least recognize the faces of people she met, find the toilets, get out of a building, etc.

Imagine how your life would look like, if you could only see 1 meter away? All the rest is just blurry… Wow, what an impact that would have on your life, right? Something to think about…

Sometimes we appreciate things the most, only when they are gone! I can truly say that I am very thankful that all my senses are working properly!

Enjoy every day,


If you have 3 months left…

June 29, 2007

A powerful lesson I learned on the Camino from a man diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I met a fairly happy man, who cracked a lot of jokes with several newly made friends on the road, who recently retired and was finally getting a long, deserved vacation, but then he told me in private that he had only 3 months to live! I was devastated!

He was keeping a joly facade to make other people happy and would not bother the others about his condition. He was walking the Camino to Santiago as a reflection on his life. He was contemplating on his past experiences.

What did I do right or wrong? What lessons have I learned in this life? Is there anything worthy of a legacy, a reminder of my life after I am gone? Did I love well? Did I serve well? What will people tell about me at the funeral? (I call these the Final Questions)

He also wrote down a list of (old) friends and people he really wanted to see or call during these final weeks…

He knew that after flying back home, he would enter the hospital, never to leave it again. Only painful treatments to prolonge his life were waiting for him. Probably a lot of frustration about how his body was deteriorating and draining his energy. Luckily, his family would support him till the end, but he couldn’t stand the thought of how they would suffer because of him…

To be totally honest, it was rather difficult for me to say or do something useful, besides giving him a lot of love, courage and energy. He made me realise again that life is too short and that we are wasting a lot of time, energy and money on minor things in life

So, how would you answer your Final Questions?

Take a moment to reflect on them… I am sure something in your mind will change.

Probably needless to say, but my quote grew even stronger:


Start to wear your best suit today, use your finest dishes, have dinner at that great restaurant, book that trip you’ve been dreaming of, call old friends again, have fun and don’t wait until…yeah, until it’s too late!

Have a great , an outstanding, magical weekend!


PS : for people who where with me on the Camino, you surely understand and respect his wish not to tell his name… Thanks!