Erwin and Monique van Vliet always knew how to dream big. Their latest adventure might be the biggest one yet. They are attempting to travel all the way around Australia on horseback, at least that’s the ultimate goal. The couple say they are taking it one day at a time and leave timeframe and final destination open.
Being in the last year of Uni, Monique’s plan was to backpack around Australia. Meeting Erwin just a couple of months before departure didn’t defer the plan. He just went with her. Together they travelled in a Toyota Hiace van (not much bigger than a sardine can) all around the country, then New Zealand and Bali. The freedom, experiencing new countries, being together in close proximity and a mutual love for adventure laid a solid base for their relationship.
Back in the Netherlands they started their ‘proper’ life together. Beautiful 1930’s art deco home, new cars, well-paying jobs. Erwin as specialist engineer on digital printing presses and Monique as marketing- communications officer for different companies. Marriage was the logical next step, with a honeymoon (together with Erwin’s parents!) in Australia. Travel was aplenty for work (Erwin installing machines all over the world) and leisure. Kids were not in the cards, so although life was good, something was missing. Having reached common goals early, brings about the question: “what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?”
Image by Steve Huntley
The answer to that one was: emigrate to Australia and start a horse business! Monique grew up around horses, but Erwin always wanted to be a cowboy. He was quick to learn how to ride now he had the opportunity. Proved he was a natural at it. Soon a quarter horse was bought, competitions were entered and the holiday trips revolved around horses and learning. The dream was a big property with a herd of horses running on the hill and giving people the opportunity to share in the love for horses. So that’s what happened. A property was bought just south of Manjimup in WA and Tales of the Trail Western Ranch was established. Erwin broke in and trained horses, competed successfully in reining, bred with his stallion Readies Lil Whizzel (Giles), conducted clinics, gave lessons, organized horse holidays and offered trail rides for tourists. If that sounds busy, it was.
After 15 years of sharing the dream, 7 days a week, it became a burden. Always being there for other people, sharing knowledge, no time for each other, constant hard work; it drains. Erwin started to struggle with anxiety and depression. Life was not fun anymore, to such an extent that divorce was considered. Something had to change dramatically to save the relationship and get back the joy of living. Monique wanted to travel again, go back to the backpack days and enjoy each others company without any responsibilities. This solution was not enough for Erwin to give up his horses and the Ranch they worked so hard for. To let go, he would need a new challenge, a new purpose in life.
And voila the latest dream was born; take the horses on a trip around Australia. Just start riding, enjoy the horses, the landscape and people at a leisurely pace.
When asked about how they manage these life altering decisions the answer is;
“one step at a time. The making of the decision is the hardest, then it is just following the next step. Not that it is easy, but once we are on a road, we never go back. It might take a little longer then planned, but just keep on track and eventually you will get there. You learn along the way and one of the lessons is patience.”
Having made the decision to go looking for a better life, meant to let go of the old one. The business needed to close, the horses sold and the Ranch put on the market. Definitely not easy, especially letting go of the horses. Knowing they went to the right homes made it a little easier. Selling the property in a market when Covid hit, also not ideal. Hang on till you get the money you really think all your hard work is worth or sell for less so you can start to live again, not only wait. To get ahead in life, sacrifices have to be made. Eventually everything was sold, personal belongings stored in a sea container and a horse truck decked out with all that is needed on a long ride.
Now their latest and biggest adventure has begun.