We last spoke to Mark Van Der Heijden (also known as the Backpacker Intern) as he was about to jet off to New York City to speak at TEDxTeen. Since then, he’s had some even more crazy adventures – including bumping into Chris Martin and Avicii while hanging out with Nile Rodgers (of CHIC fame). We caught up with him as he was in the middle of an internship at Red Bull Creative to find out more about what this travelling intern has been up to.
“I practised the whole night until 1am or 2am in front of the webcam because then you can see yourself back,” Mark says of the night before his big presentation for TEDxTeen. “There was too much happening and I didn’t have enough time to practise before then so I didn’t get much sleep the night before.”
It didn’t really affect his talk too much though. And even Nile Rodgers was VERY impressed with Mark. “I walked back to the audience to sit down after my talk and Nile said ‘Wait, wait, you tall crazy Dutch guy, come back on stage. Before you leave I want to offer you an internship at my studio in New York.’” He explains. And Nile kept his word. “The next day I got a message from Nile, he said ‘Hey Mark, you were great yesterday, let me know when you want to come to my studio, here’s my number and my email address.’”
And so it was that a few months later Mark was set to fly into New York to spend a week working with Nile. Except that at the last minute plans changed and Nile had to go to LA on business. So Mark went along too. The week that he spent with Nile in LA was a blur of meeting new people, attending meetings, going to the studio (and hanging out with Chris Martin and Avicii), and attending the Walk of Fame ceremony for Luther Vandross (that Nile nearly didn’t get to attend – let alone Mark!).
“When we got to the hotel for the Luther Vandross presentation, the security guard didn’t want to let Nile in and the other guy was like, ‘He’s the head speaker, let him in!’” Mark explains. “So he gets in but they blocked me. But then Nile turned round and saw it and he was like, ‘Hey! He’s my intern, let him in.’”
The week he spent with Nile was crazy but Mark says that he really enjoyed working with him. “He’s just very down to earth and really smart but he’s a bit of a bad ass. It was really interesting. He’s just such a cool guy. He has so many connections and he made so many amazing records but he’s still just a human being – but a really cool one.”
And Mark’s work with Nile isn’t finished yet. He’s not allowed to say too much but he’s still working on a campaign for Nile. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out but it’s still running so we’ll see how it goes,” he adds.
After a whirlwind of a week in LA, it was back on the road for Mark. Although he was originally only planning on travelling for six months, he doesn’t have any plans to go home yet, despite being back in Amsterdam recently. “It was a little bit strange going back,” he admits. “I landed at Schiphol and I was walking out of the airport and I heard a lot of people talking Dutch and I was like, ‘I’m not ready for this, I don’t want to stay here!’”
So after a brief stay in Amsterdam to catch up with family and friends (and watch Holland in the World Cup, of course!) Mark got back on the road and headed to Austria for a week with Red Bull Creative. And the adventure doesn’t end there. Later this month Mark will be heading to Saatchi & Saatchi in Bulgaria. That internship was arranged in possibly the most unusual fashion: knowing that he’d be in Europe and looking for something to occupy his time, Mark hit Google Maps to work out where was near to where he was and where he needed to be. Then he headed back to his Gmail and started searching some of the countries nearby. And when he typed in Bulgaria, he found an email from Saatchi & Saatchi.
“In the first momentum of this project I had a lot of offers from all over the world,” Mark explains. “And I did one thing which was really important – I replied to all of them. I gave them a personal response. It took me hours and hours and nights and nights but it was worth it because now I have a lot of open doors.”
And this internship is definitely proof of that, it was five months since Saatchi & Saatchi emailed him but because he’d replied at the time, all he had to do was send one email and it was arranged.
We’re pretty sure Mark’s going to be having some more adventures over the next six months – he wants to travel for at least a year in total (though we won’t be surprised if he never goes home!) so make sure that you’re following him on Facebook and Twitter.
And if you enjoyed Mark’s TEDxTeen talk and want to see more like this, O2 has partnered with TEDxTeen to bring the event to London in October, apply for audience tickets now.