You must surely be a bit crazy

You must surely be a bit crazy

05/11/2023 - 13:16

Mark van Eijk takes the ‘Discover Your World’ of BUas quite literally. After 16 years of teaching, he will now ride to Japan on his motorbike.
Built Environment
  • Stories

Mark van Eijk studied Verkeerskunde (Mobility) at NHTV (now BUas), and was a lecturer in urban development and mobility for years. When I talk to him, he is just about to be on the pedals. He is really going to do it now, and that is what he had not expected of himself. Riding on his motorbike in the direction of Japan and seeing what it will bring him. ‘You must surely be a bit crazy!’ 

In search of the unknown 

‘I already had five countries in mind, and if you draw a line between them, you’ll end up in Japan. It’s just a rough plan, no goal in itself,’ says Mark. ‘It mostly means being in search of the unknown. I’ve ridden a motorbike for twelve years and already travelled to north of the Arctic Circle, right across Iceland and through the Balkans too. Now I’m ready for a following dimension in motorcycling. Being en route longer, travelling through vast and desolate areas. Seeing unspoilt nature.’ 

Once in a lifetime 

‘It’s not so very hard at all. There’s a lot to be found about it. Blogs on the internet, handbooks of experienced motorcyclists with do’s and don’ts. And they all write: you’ll probably do this once in a  lifetime; are you willing to cut your life lines?’ Certainly! Mark decided to quit his job and give up his house and undertake the adventure. ‘I first thought of a six-month sabbatical and wanted to hold on to my apartment, but didn’t feel happy with that idea. I don’t consider it an interruption of something. I’d rather consider it a new chapter in my life.’ 

Not very different 

‘I’ve also never really mapped out a career path. I don’t believe in certainty that much. I do find it hard to leave family and friends behind, and of course I think it’s exciting. What am I going to experience on my way, who am I going to meet? My experience is that most people are OK. You must surely have that confidence. And if I fail to be successful in doing something, I’ll have to look for a solution. Eventually, it won’t be so much different from what I’m doing now; I’ll have to take care of the food, and take a break every now and then, and perhaps I should pick up a hobby in my spare time!’ Big smile. 

Nice list 

The five countries that Mark has in mind are Georgia, Iran, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and who knows Japan. Nice list, how did you compile it? ‘It’s the Old Silk Road,’ says Mark, ‘or at any rate, in the tracks of... Where civilisation started; there are beautiful cities.’ As an Urban Designer it makes your heart beat faster of course? ‘That’s for sure,’ laughs Mark, ‘but only to a certain extent. I’m mostly interested in other cultures and their people. It’s not different from what I work at BUas for. The kick I get out of working here is mainly in meeting students and having them develop.’ 

A mix of cultures 

What cities do you want to explore at any rate and why? ‘Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Isfahan in Iran. Why? Just google them, then you know why! I feel that Russia, China and the Middle-East come together here and that mix of cultures is noticeable. But I must wait and see if I manage to get there. That depends on what will be possible at that moment. I’ll have to pass Azerbaijan and that country still has travel restrictions in place now (at the moment of writing, eds.) due to Covid.’    

Rough route 

If you should encounter any trouble, in what area will that be? ‘During my very first motorcycle trip I ran into considerable problems. I had mapped out everything in advance, and things were running quite differently on the very first day. That frustrated me very much. In the meantime I have experienced quite some ups and downs and now I accept that everything doesn’t have to be superb. I’m going to face motorcycle defects without any doubt, perhaps visa problems or problems entering countries or bad weather for days on end. I’ll just let it happen, I’ve planned a rough route, but I’ll just see en route how I will ride on.’ 

In full kit 

How does that ‘en route’ look like? ‘A tent on the back, light-weight yet strong. I want to camp out in the wild, which is new for me. I’ve never done that. And a hostel to have a shower every now and then! I once brought my motorbike to BUas in full kit. Is that everything!? You surely can’t be serious!? Those were people’s reactions. I once had a heavier motorbike, but my experience is that the more space you have to take stuff with you, the more stuff you drag along with you and actually that’s just deadwood.’ 

Not alone 

So as little deadwood as possible; is that why you travel alone? ‘I hadn’t look at it that way, but travelling alone is a conscious choice indeed. I want to be independent and have as much freedom as possible. My experience is that you’re more open to your environment when travelling alone. People approach you more easily. You get to know yourself. I also say to students: Do yourself the  favour of getting to know yourself. Go on holiday alone and you’ll find out that you’re not alone! Be in for a surprise and don’t plan so much, trust your own feelings most of all. Go and explore what your dream is!’ 

Enjoy writing   

What are you going to miss? ‘The students at any rate,’ says Mark decidedly. ‘I’m going to miss inspiring them, encouraging them, holding a mirror up to them, and making them think. I secretly hope of course that I’ll do so a bit with my travel stories. I notice that I’m starting to enjoy writing and I get very positive responses. I mostly like some kind of creative writing, using unusual vocabulary, stories about minor things, in the present tense, as if people themselves are there with you. And, you know, writing is also a way of making people think!’ 

Follow Mark’s journey on his motorbike via


Interview by Maaike Dukker - 't Hart