Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
I’m the head of OpenVRT, a community for young digital creatives supported by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. At OpenVRT I try to create opportunities between students and young freelancers, and a public broadcaster. Being a freelancer myself, I know it’s not always easy to find your way in the media or creative scene, so a good network can take you a long way. OpenVRT aims to help you create such a network by organising events where you can meet likeminded people, facilitating brainstorming sessions and setting up co-creation opportunities between VRT and young creators. It’s a job that gives me a lot of energy.
The energy that’s left over is put into my projects and passions. I would go as far to say that they are my vitamientjes voor het leven, or “vitamins for life”. Together with my boyfriend Bert Sap, we created a video series five years ago entitled The Ride Life. On top of that I also co-founded Run Crew Brussels together with Tim Verheyden, with whom I share a passion for running and meeting new people. So every two weeks we meet up with people in a different part of Brussels and run 10km. Afterwards we have a beer and chat. Projects like this keep me going.
How has Brussels shaped you as an individual as well as your professional activities?
I arrived in Brussels at the age of 18, eager to get out of Bruges, which had grown too small for me. I studied radio production at the RITCS and it opened up my eyes. Coming from Bruges, a lovely touristy yet dominantly white city where everything is clean, you know your neighbours and everyone mows the lawn on Saturdays, Brussels immediately felt familiar, like a comfy pair of sneakers. I felt at home from the first day.
Brussels shaped me into who I’ve become in many different ways. I discovered diversity through food, from Lebanese to Thai and Portuguese… It’s all there. Besides this, having neighbours with different backgrounds puts life into perspective. Living in such a lively city also helps me channel my own energy into personal projects, running and going out. Brussels taught me that sometimes you need to take (calculated) risks.
We met all of our current friends and acquaintances through The Ride Life, meaning that we can’t stop by Bar du Canal or Dunderwear without saying hello to the owners. Nobody is afraid to share a table with strangers on a terrace, that’s another thing I love about Brussels. You never know how the evening will end.
With the new cycling lanes along Boulevard Poincarélaan, it’s an easy and a safe ride towards the beautiful park. Totally worth the climb.
List three things you like the most about Brussels.
- I love the fact that Brussels is a rebellious city. Some kicks to the shin have really changed things around. When I arrived a decade ago, nobody cycled. But today, if you’re seated at a bus stop in the morning, you see bikers passing by constantly.
- Everything is close by. I can see five different countries in a 10-minute bike ride from my house: Congo in Matonge, Portugal in Saint-Gilles, Lebanon just around the corner, Italy when I go to the supermarket and Asia around Bourse/Beurs.
- You could think that being a Dutch-speaker is a disadvantage in Brussels, but I love speaking French. I wish I could speak it better, but it has improved over the years. Whenever I go and visit my family in Bruges, I miss ordering in French. In my experience, the francophone culture is warmer than the Flemish. I’m quite an open person and always up for a chat, so I guess that’s why.
List three deciding factors that converted you to bicycle use.
- Cycling is somewhat of a habit or a no brainer to me. I grew up in Bruges, where people cycle everywhere: to school, ballet class, hockey training, youth groups or your first boyfriend. It’s an easy and fast way to get from one place to another while helping you process things. I’m more energised cycling back and forth to work than when I take the metro.
- Cycling just comes naturally to me. I don’t really think about it. It’s easy, fast and cheap – if that even counts.
- It’s no secret that cars are still kings of the road here in Brussels and giving more confidence to cyclists is something that can only happen if politicians believe in a greener, safer and cycle-friendly city. We need brave politicians to argue that fewer cars and more bicycles will make Brussels a better place.
List three favourite bike routes in Brussels.
- From our house near the Porte d’Anderlechtsepoort to Forest Park: with the new cycling lanes along Boulevard Poincarélaan, it’s an easy and a safe ride towards the beautiful park. Totally worth the climb.
- My daily route to work: it’s not the prettiest route, but it takes me past a lot of Brussels’ landmarks on a daily basis. When I leave my house I take the elevator up to the Justice Palace, a beautiful, neverending construction site, then cycle towards the European Quarter to finally end up at Place Meiserplein. This route lets me unwind after a busy day at work.
- I basically enjoy every ride, although in Brussels you know you’ll have to go uphill at some point.