One week down, the rest of my life to go

Be like bamboo

This week, as I’m in transition to life as an entrepreneur, felt very much like a ‘welcome to the first days of the rest of your life’, and I loved all of it.


I have always worked as an employee, with a predictable income and the basics such as excellent Dutch health care covered by affordable insurance. This sounds kind of nine-to-five, and it was, and yet it wasn’t. I was always motivated to work in the cultural sector in the Netherlands by the belief that I was producing something with more value than a purely economic one. To facilitate events, moments where people meet and exchange ideas and be touched and learn something.

This is ultimately what I want to do with my company here in Yunnan. Create cultural exchange between the inhabitants of this beautiful corner of China and the rest of the world.

Country living

To mark the transition from my previous job as GoKunming editor, and to explore possible partnerships with interesting venues further afield in Yunnan, I decide to decamp for a week. One two-hour train ride later, a short bus ride, and I’m in laid-back Xizhou, just north of touristy Dali.

The Linden Centre

I do have a great meeting with Brian and Jeanee of the Linden Centre, a hotel-cum-cultural venue in a beautifully restored historical Bai mansion. We discuss a partnership in relation to a Dutch Artist in Residency program I’m developing. Domestic tourism in China has bounced back now the worst of the Covid-19 crisis has passed, and they are busy welcoming guests from all over China. They are also contemplating new projects.

Dali days

After two days of observing the comings and goings in the Linden Centre, interesting talks and enjoying the tranquil surroundings of Xizhou, I bid farewell to my rooftop office surrounded by rice fields. I head to Dali.

Dali is a bustling tourist destination, but I’m staying just outside the Old Town, in a quiet hotel with lovely owners. I spend most of the day working, writing and sleeping.

Erhai Lake

It is here that I finally wash away my old job, quite literally. Yesterday I cycled out of Dali old town and met with some friends of a friend in a field by the lake. A soft-hued landscape of mountains, lotus ponds and billowy clouds surrounds us. Picnic blankets under a tree, kites getting stuck in the same tree, chatter and laughter. I’m the most relaxed and happy I have been in months.

Together with a friend I walk to the edge of Erhai Lake. This involves wading through a dense bamboo forest, following a narrow path. The sun is sinking below the Cangshan mountain range as I first dip my toe into the lake. Then I wade through the weeds towards the open water. Finally I swim. I’m free, I’m laughing, I’m the happiest I have been in months. I have no idea what this business will bring me, or where money will come from. I know with absolute clarity that I have made the right decision.

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