I was blessed to add another country adventure to my belt. Another work trip, to Japan this time. A real long flight and a crazy time difference.

Japan is not a country I ever thought I would visit. Asia is so different from what I am used to. But as it turns out, I loved my time there.

Yes, I went there for work, so did not get the full sightseeing adventure. But there are things I have fallen in love with. Cakes!!!! They certainly know how to make delicious cakes. Not too sweet, actually just perfect!

The cherry blossom season is upon then so all was spring like in the stores. Another thing I loved! Beautiful flower patterns, well thought out lunch boxes and cups. Pretty!!!

Kimonos! Even though I did resist the urge to buy one especially for tourists, I can’t help but be in wonder at the beautiful ladies in their gorgeous kimonos. So colourful and elegant, with their socks in wooden flip flops.

Shabu Shabu was not quite how I expected it. Clearly not like the western style in Wholefoods. But a great experience and delicious soup after!

Would I go back, given a chance? Absolutely!!

My Top 10 Photos and the Stories Behind Them

In preparation for the release of the gallery part of the blog I decided to show my top 10 pictures and the stories behind them. Photography has been a huge part of my life and is one of the main ways in which I can be creative. I have been asked ‘why photography’ a lot and for me it allows me to show the world from my perspective. Something which you could walk past every day, is beautiful to the next person. So I try in my daily life to imagine what would make a good picture.

I have done some interesting things in my life and so I thought about sharing my top 10 pictures and also why I took them. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places in the world and have seen and experienced so many different cultures and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else.

  1. My First Long Exposure Shot – MadagascarIMG_8087

Back in 2012 I went for 10 weeks to Madagascar where I had an unforgettable time! It was genuinely one of the best trips of my life. Everything was super photogenic out there and one evening whilst sat watching the sunset, I just looked down and saw this log being washed ashore and saw the beautiful patterns and decided to try my first attempt at long exposure photography. This was the result. Yes the focus isn’t perfect, nor the composition, but it was my first attempt at something I had been too scared to try. The reason I chose to include this in my top 10 is not only because it was my first attempt, but I love the movement of the water and I love that it tells a story.

2. Ethiopian Man – Ethiopia


I took this picture whilst I was there for my first time in Ethiopia. During that trip we were taken to a religious festival in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was so happy and the people of Ethiopia are all just so beautiful! Whilst having lunch I looked up from my food and noticed this old man standing in a doorway just watching the celebrations and I just thought that that would make such a beautiful picture and I just couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and taking the shot. This was the outcome…It still remains as one of my favourite pictures from my trip.

3.  Why Did the Bear Cross the Road – Yellowstone National Park, USA12698140_10153445388827613_5201671014563450931_o

A couple years ago, my parents and I decided to do a proper American road trip. Starting from Minnesota and passing through 5 states before coming back to Minnesota. One of the major stops on the road trip would be Yellowstone National Park. On our first morning in Yellowstone, we had breakfast in a diner where we spoke to a couple who had been going there for years and hadn’t seen anything other than bison and elks. Well the morning before we had already seen a baby bear, so we were having a good start. Later that day, whilst driving around we spotted a bear walking in the bushes and quickly decided to drive slowly whilst the other cars were parked. And that gamble paid off…the baby bear decided to walk next to the car and then cross the road right in front of us. What an awesome way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Yellowstone!

4.  Sisterly Love – UK17861959_10154584511697613_2200926202777938493_n

These 2 beauties are the gorgeous daughters of some family friends. They were the perfect models and behaved so well! Bare in mind that I did have a broken finger on my left hand and could barely carry my camera. So just before this moment, I had my back turned to the children whilst talking to the parents. I turned round to see the big sister tenderly touching her little sister and I caught this moment. I love taking pictures of children and babies as they are just so unpredictable. Blink and the moment is gone! Seeing the joy on the parents face when you show the final product, makes all the stress of shooting on the day, worthwhile!

5. Taking a Deep Breath – MadagascarCamera 14MP-9PC

Whilst on the trip in Madagascar, we visited one of the islands nearby to where our camp was and visited the reef there. Whilst snorkelling I suddenly spotted a turtle swimming really close to me and decided to swim alongside it for as long as it would let me (whilst keeping a respectable distance!). This moment was just so special for me as it was the first time I had seen a turtle in the wild, it also allowed me to swim with it for about 20 minutes! It was just amazing!

6. Conquering your fears – Costa Rica


Those of you who know me, know that I am PETRIFIED of heights! Yet this opportunity in Costa Rica, was one that I could not let slip! I took this picture with my GoPro to give the widest angle of where we were. Yes I was scared, but after one bridge that fear was gone! The nature was just so beautiful that I was distracted! When you are surrounded by the beautiful scenery, you can’t help but take pictures everywhere!

7. Tree With a View – Minnesota, USADSC_0041

Whilst Canoeing down a river in Minnesota, we noticed this beautiful bird sitting in the tree. Now it isn’t crazy to see Bald Eagles in Minnesota, but there were hundreds of people below it and hadn’t spotted it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Minnesota over the last couple years and yet every single time I see them they blow my mind! I was so lucky to see such a beautiful bird so close by with such blue sky as the perfect background! I think I ended up taking about 50 pictures of this single Bald Eagle. It was clearly waiting to spot a fish!

8. Miniature World – Wisconsin, USA14525015_10154011743427613_4904568668393714772_o

A couple years ago, I treated myself to a macro lens, and this opened up a whole new world of photography for me! Whilst taking pictures in a garden in Wisconsin I suddenly spotted this tiny spider and I thought could I take a picture of it with my new lens? It was incredibly jumpy and I knew it had moved just as I took a picture. To my surprise when I looked back at it, it was staring right into the camera! It stays one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken with my macro lens as this spider was smaller than your little finger nail!

9. Curiosity Never Hurt Anyone – Madagascar544481_10150927775222613_1435884139_n

Whilst going on a walk in the forest in Madagascar, we came across this tiny chameleon! At the time it was the smallest known chameleon! This picture was taken whilst it was in my friends hand! And again just as I took the picture, it decided to move its head towards my camera to get a good look! I just loved the curious nature of this chameleon and that it really wasn’t scared!

10. Flashy Chameleon – Madagascar 529121_10150924222632613_1178186907_n

So as my last picture I couldn’t not chose this one! It has always been one of my proudest shots! The story behind this picture is that whilst we were at the camp, this panther chameleon strolled into the camp. My friend picked him up and I suddenly noticed how striking the colours were on the perfect background!! The dark background brought out his colours perfectly! A while back I actually entered this into the National Geographic photo of the year and it got into the top 10. It is one of my biggest achievements in my photography career!

So what about you? What is your favourite shot and why?

~ I love photography because I can show people the world through my lens ~

Why the Marine World?

I have had a lot of people ask me “why do you like the ocean so much?” or “why marine biology?”. So I thought, why not tell my story…

It all started when I was a young girl…since I can remember, I have always loved swimming and the ocean. Whenever we would go on holiday near the ocean I would want to go in and watch all the fish! I still remember that the majority of the time either mum or dad would have to come in to the ocean to tell me to come and have food as I would go snorkelling for hours! Something about the marine world fascinated me!

My 7th birthday came and my parents decided to buy me the video boxset of Jacques Cousteau’s discoveries (in Dutch). I started watching them and within a couple minutes, I asked my parents “what does he do?” to which they responded that he was a marine biologist. As a 7 year old I had already dreamt about being an astronaut or a wedding planner, but something in me clicked whilst watching the video. I knew I was going to become a marine biologist!

That was it for me, my obsession started! I wanted to read all the books I could find on marine biology and the marine world, wanted to watch all the videos and wanted to talk to everyone about it! I don’t think my parents were fully aware what they had done!

Fast forward 10 years and it came time to think about university options and what I wanted to study. I knew it had to be marine biology but there were so many different courses within marine biology. But only 1 really stood out! Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University in North Wales. Now I wish I could say that it was an easy path for me to get into university. However, it really wasn’t! I didn’t do well with my final exams and that meant that I had to repeat a year and redo some of my exams. However, in that year I also realised that I wasn’t quite ready to go to university. So what then…here came the trusty google search. What could I do to postpone university for another year but also be something worth while! I stumbled upon Frontier Gap Year’s website and that was it. Multiple projects jumped out at me but only 1 really caught my attention. Madagascar. Marine conservation and diving…now that was something that I thought was worth it to postpone uni for.

After spending an incredible 3 months in Madagascar, my love for marine biology grew so much and I was ready to go to uni! My experience at university was a mix of amazing memories and times I wish I didn’t have to go through (check out my post about living with a hidden…not so hidden illness to learn more!). But 3 years later and I had completed my BSc and was applying for a masters degree! Who would have thought! But every time I finish something, my love for marine biology grows!

I speak with so many people who have no idea what to do with their lives and I know I am incredibly lucky to have figured out what I wanted to do at such a young age! You just never know how your actions affect the other person. You might just inspire someone and help them find their ideal career! I’d like to think that even if my parents hadn’t bought me that video boxset, I would have still ended up in marine biology.

I’ve done multiple presentations about my field and people always tell me that I glow when I talk about it and I know they’re right! When I talk about marine biology, something in me changes and I become more animated and can’t stop talking! Even just writing this I have a huge smile on my face…

I am now 26 years old, I have just completed my research masters and currently looking for PhDs…my journey is far from over but I know that I am in the right field!

What inspired you to get into your career? What do you love? Let me know in the comments or message us privately!

~  When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself – Jacques Yves Cousteau ~


Christmas is coming!

Christmas…… I have these dreams of cozy family time, roaring fires, love for all, peace on Earth, home cooked meals etc. Am sure you get what I mean…

Instead, I find myself still on another business trip at the end of this year, wondering how I will manage all I want to accomplish before I fly home to spend a couple weeks in the UK. I have not bought any Christmas presents, although my emails are bombarded with ads, promises of cheap and cheerful presents. I have not decorated my apartment, other than the below Christmas trees in the window. No roaring fire, I don’t even have a fire place! Today in the news I saw a New York bomb attack, California wild fires.. peace on Earth is still far away.

What is Christmas really about? Why is there so much pressure on this season? Should we not be celebrating the fact that Jesus came to this Earth as a little babe, to reconcile us with our Heavenly Father? Would it not be sufficient to just be grateful for that, and let the rest pass by?

Maybe that’s what I will do this year.. just be… a little Mary, sitting at His feet, rather that Martha..always busy… I still have a couple weeks to ponder that some more…. what about you?

You Can’t Save What You Don’t Love…

The title is a quote made famous by Joel Sartore, who decided a couple years ago to start a project called the photo ark, and if you haven’t checked it out yet…you should!!! What an incredible project! But in the documentary, he mentioned the quote “You can’t save what you don’t love” and for me, it is a quote that resonated very deeply.


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Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals, and the older I got, the more I realized that I loved animals more than people…It got to the stage that when a person died in a movie I was sad but didn’t cry…If an animal died, however, I would be crying for days on end.

There is just something about protecting animals who have no voice that meant a lot to me from very early on in my life…Movies like Free Willy and Flipper just sparked something inside me. So the earliest opportunity I got in life I wanted to make a difference. I will talk about this in future posts but I went to Madagascar for 3 months with Frontier to help with the research out there and educating the local people how to be sustainable without damaging the environment and then a couple years later I went to Zakynthos for a month to work with protecting the turtles there and again educating both tourists and locals about what they should and shouldn’t do to protect the turtles.


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Every moment of my life, I am trying to think of ways in which I can do something to help protect not only the marine environment but all animals. It can start with a simple thing like adopting a pet from an animal shelter and giving them a new chance at life to shopping with reusable bags rather than plastic ones and shopping for sustainably sourced fish and knowing which fish are currently thriving and not eating a fish to extinction.

So back to this quote, Joel talks about the fact that we are not going to save an animal species or the environment as a whole without falling in love with it. Everyone has some animal that they love, why not try to protect that species, even if they aren’t endangered yet!

Maybe for Christmas instead of buying something material, why not buy an adoption pack of their favourite animal? Or buy something from a charity where the funds go to protecting our planet’s wildlife.

What is your favourite animal? And what are you going to do to make a difference?

~ When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being, I see a friend, I feel a soul – A. D. Williams ~

Sustainable Living

Do you know where your food comes from? Not something I really think much about when I quickly go and do my grocery shopping. It’s a chore I don’t particularly enjoy,  but as we have to eat it’s one of those things that just needs to be done. I try to eat as organic and fair trade as possible and do my bit for the environment and human kind.

Yet, I have been made aware that I may not actually be doing my bit very much at all. Does organic really mean it’s better? Or does fair trade really mean the farmers get a fair share of the profit for all the hard work they are doing?

We had the awesome privilege to visit a coffee farm. Not one of the commercial tours, but El Toledo, a working farm who like to share the coffee process with those who want to learn. And learning we did! The tour started out with a little syrup like drink made with the fruit of the coffee plant. Who would have thought the fruit can be used for other things than just getting to the coffee beans for coffee! The farmer explained to us the difference between the different types of farming, organic versus the old way (using more chemicals than in the organic tradition), traditional versus monoculture. He said that one cup of coffeee uses 100 litre water in the process! He explained how their farm was now a traditional farm, much how God intended it to be. Not just coffee but also bananas, beans, mangos etc. Not depleting the soil to get as much profit as possible, but farming for the long run. Sustainable. He explained how it had transformed their thinking, and with it, hoped ours would too, they don’t export, but sell all their coffee and produce locally. He explained that that would produce the most profits for the farmer. The farmer does not need to pay for shipping and export costs. 

After sampling the different roasts of coffee, where light has the most caffeine and flavour, and dark the least coffee and more specific flavour, he showed us how the roaster works. Lots of things influence the roasting process. I had no idea coffee has such an art to it. After this tour I now know I like dark roast, and Geert likes light/medium roast. Opposite to what we thought! 

I now know that buying local produce outweighs the fairTrade products I buy to support our local farmers. I will pay a little more attention when I do my weekly grocery shopping tour. It’s no secret I like farm shops. I will visit those more! I also know that no matter what coffee I buy, the one straight from the roaster in Costa Rica is best.

It was not just fun, it was educational!

Coffee roaster (15 kilos)
Light, medium, dark roast
Testing the stages of roasting the beans
Traditional farming
10 months from flower to picking
Square bananas!


This morning I was watching the livestream at our church, where my husband just got up to share a life story with the kids there. It’s too much detail to retell it, you can watch online via this link (http://stanboroughpark.adventistchurch.org.uk/)

The point of the story is worth retelling though. You are valuable!!! No matter what happened to you, crumpled, dirty, alone… you matter!!!

You matter to me, and you are valuable to me.

Happy day!

Costa Rica Part 2

So I know this is waaaaaaay overdue. But the second we got back from Costa Rica, it has just been full speed ahead with my masters and before you know it, it is several weeks later!

Anyway, I honestly didn’t think it could get any better after the first week in Costa Rica (Read my other blog post if you don’t know what happened!!!) . But after another full working week of masters and watching the various storms roll past, it was time for the next part of the adventure to begin.

Friday evening, some of mums colleagues took us out for dinner in downtown San Jose followed by the most amazing dessert, hazelnut brownie!!! The food was incredible and the company was even better!!! Saturday was a chilled day for us, just relaxing by the pool and just taking a day to recover from a hectic week, and getting us ready for the big adventure that would occur the next day! Sunday was going to be epic!!

The alarm went off at 4:30am, and reluctantly we got out of bed! We got dressed and made our way to the hotel entrance, of course all the hallways were deserted! We were picked up again by mums colleagues (who organised the whole trip for us!!) and we were on our way! About 30 minutes later, we swapped cars and I met another one of mums colleagues and her partner (their car was bigger) and then we were off again. I was convinced I was going to nap in the car until we got to the destination. Boy I was wrong! Conversation flowed from one topic to the next, and before we knew it we were facing Arenal Volcano. Little did we know that the sight that was before us was extremely rare, we were able to see the full volcano in all its glory! And the view did not disappoint!!!

After a quick stop over for breakfast in the village (3 hours in car later!) we finally made it to the destination! Mistico Hanging Bridges!!!!! Now a lot of you will know that I am PETRIFIED of heights!! But this has been on my bucket list since I knew what bucket lists were! So no backing out for me!! The walk to the first bridge was one of the longest walks of my life!!! Each step took me closer to one of my fears! And all of a sudden, there we were….a hanging bridge 45m above the forest floor and 75m long!! I reluctantly took one step onto the bridge, and then another…not looking down and holding on for dear life on anything I could grab. But when I got to the other side I realised that it actually wasn’t that bad….the same, however, cannot be said for my mum. I have NEVER seen her so scared before in my life!!! The next 5 hanging bridges were a breeze for me and I loved every second of it, looking down to the forest floor and up to the tree tops was incredible!! The longest and highest bridge was the waterfall bridge which was 45m heigh and 92m (only the last bridge was longer by 5m but a lot lower!). This was definitely an experience that I want to repeat though!!! The views were just too incredible and the wildlife too spectacular, not to go again!!!

Once the hanging bridges were done (to mums relief!!) we then went on to the second part of the adventure. We first tried some of the local delicacies that can be found everywhere in Costa Rica…Pipa…You will hear that being shouted everywhere! It means Coconut water…now I’m not a fan of coconut water that you can buy in the supermarkets, but this was incredible!!! Did not taste like coconut at all!!! Once you have finished the water, they can break it open for you and then you can eat the flesh, again did not taste like the coconut we know in Europe! Once our taste adventure was done, we then went on a boat ride, and we literally had the boat to ourselves (there were only 6 of us!) and we had a relaxing cruise on Lake Arenal. By this time, the volcano had completely disappeared in the clouds, but the views of the landscapes surrounding us were still amazing! Along with the wildlife that we spotted, like egrets and kingfishers! Before we knew it though, it was time to head back and we had to say goodbye to Arenal. On the way back we stopped off in Zarcero and looked at all the cool shaped hedges before getting some ice cream to cool down before arriving back in the hotel!

The week was the same as the previous week, lots of masters work on the balcony with more storms passing by and before I knew it it was one of our last evenings in Costa Rica 😦 but to make it special, mums colleagues took us out for traditional Costa Rican food (lots of plantain) and it was AMAZING!! Sweet plantain baked with cheese is just amazing!!

It then came to our last full day in Costa Rica and what better than to go into the rainforest and go on the aerial tram. The drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park was just breathtaking, with mountains appearing from the mist. The aerial tram was also amazing, going from the forest floor, to mid tree level, to pretty much the tree tops, gave us a whole new perspective on the fauna and flora of Costa Rica. Our guide was super friendly and informed us of all kinds of features that we would never have known! After a super relaxing hour and fifteen minutes, it was time to go for the walking tour. Not long after getting off the tram, the guide saw a super venomous snake (it was tiny!!!). He showed us all kinds of wildlife that inhabited Costa Rica. However no sloths and no tapirs! 😦

Arriving back at the car we were determined to keep driving till we saw a sloth!! But that idea stopped very quickly when we realised that the battery of the car was dead!!! (Lights were left on with no warning…) So after some batting of the eyelashes, two of the gentleman that worked there were able to charge our car battery and off we went in search for sloths.

Our driving adventure took us all over! Dirt roads to driving next to a huge banana plantation to driving in little villages. In one of those villages I happened to look up into a tree in on of the gardens and saw something light coloured and scraggly, at first I thought no way is that a sloth, but the closer we got the more excited I got! I screamed at the top of my lungs to stop the car and that there was a sloth right above our heads!!! We quickly jumped out the car and took pictures (much to the locals entertainment) and the smile on my face was beaming! So with task completed, it was back to the hotel we go!

The next morning it was up again at a very early hour before heading to the airport, and to my disappointment, away from Costa Rica! Back to Minnesota we went and on to our next adventure!!!!

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IMG_4676Yesterday and today are turning out to be me feeling a little lonely, and emphasise the fact I am all the way in America and my loved ones are in Europe. It goes a little like this:

For weeks there has been a buzz going through the Adventist church, particularly the younger ones (read teens and young adults, typically classified as youth). The International youth congress is taking place in Valencia, Spain and 1000s of young ones are gathering for a week of friendship, worship, good times etc… my husband and the band he drums in have been practicing and gearing up to go…. the church community I belong to (Stanborough Park Church) has teens going, my niece is going… and I am far far away…

My husbands flight was early this morning, Sunday… we have a six hour time difference… so we called him at 9pm Minnesota time to ensure he got out of bed, before the taxi would arrive to take him to the airport…. it took a few rings, but he answered… and got ready to go…without me..

In the mean time, my phone started buzzing… the family Knopper chat…. my niece is on her way to the airport also… ready to go to Valencia… my brother and the other 2 in his family started driving to go on holiday…. without me (we like going on holiday together)

What about me? I am a little sad…. am far away, different time zone, not travelling either on holiday or to participate in the congress (am feeling youthful). These are the moments my year away feel lonely, I have to work….

Well, gotta pull myself together… so here is the plan… the theme of the congress is ‘Journey’. There will be plenty of opportunity to follow along via Facebook, instagram and the webpage: http://www.aycongress.org/

This way, I won’t have to feel so lonely… hope to get a glimpse of my husband on stage also!