Travelling around the world doing something you love sounds like the kind of life we could get used to. And that’s exactly what Mark van der Heijden, also known as the Backpacker Intern, is doing.
Mark quit his job at an advertising agency in Amsterdam and decided to take to the open road in search of adventure. “The original plan was to go and travel the world for half a year,” he says. “But then I realised that my budget wasn’t enough for all the things that I wanted to do so I just thought I that I could use my skills from working in advertising – maybe I could work for one month somewhere. But then I thought, ‘I don’t want to work for one month, I want to see things all over the world.’ So I came up with the idea to combine my two biggest passions: travelling and creative work and just exchange one for another, ask people to pay for the only thing I need – food and a place to sleep – and the rest is just whatever I experience.”
Mark’s only been travelling for about six weeks and he’s already visited Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam, working at various advertising agencies and charities while he’s on the road. He’s already worked on campaigns for Heineken and Chevrolet and at “agencies I never dreamt that I could work for”.
But he says that the best experience he’s had so far has actually been outside the office. “I was being hosted by the family of the Creative Director of Naga DDB, an advertising agency in Kuala Lumpur. I was like a part of family life,” he says. “They had a daughter, Zoe, she was 10 years old and she was my wakeup call every morning. And when I left the family took me to the airport and Zoe had written me a personal goodbye note using four different colours of pen. I save this note with my most important stuff because I don’t want to lose it.”
Mark’s been arranging all of his internships while he’s travelling, from various emails coming in offering him work or through personal recommendation of the people that he’s been working with. For example, he landed some time working with Saigon Children’s Charity in Vietnam after asking at his internship with Tribal DBB whether anyone knew of an interesting charity who might be willing to let him intern there. “I think it always works with connections,” he says. “I worked there so they know what I was capable of and could recommend me.”
So far, his experience has been a very positive one, Mark says that he’s living the dream. “I didn’t quit my job because I didn’t like it. I still like it and I still love the agency and I still like to work as a creative so this is the perfect combination because I’m travelling, I’m meeting new people, and I’m still building on my career.”
And this weekend, Mark’s jetting off to New York City (without any of the necessary warm clothing for the current amounts of snow in New York) to speak at TEDxTeen. It’s pretty top secret what he’ll actually be saying so you’ll have to log in to the live feed on Saturday to find out but we can guarantee there’ll be more tales from his travels. And if you want to know more but you can’t wait til Saturday, check out his website, Facebook or Twitter feed.
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