Wouldn’t it be great to share your passion for the outdoors or your passions in general with your partner? To be able to share the amazing moments, but also support each other in more difficult situations. To me, my good friends Tom and Soraya are a great inspiration: often going on adventures together, challenging themselves in every way possible and having so much fun together! I joined them for a climbing adventure in Ibbenbüren, Germany, and asked them to share their vision.
Could you briefly introduce yourselves?
Tom: I am 23 years old and I currently live in the Netherlands. Most of my free time is spent outdoors in the mountains. Highlining (slacklining at great height) and climbing are my main passions, and since 2.5 years I can share those passions with my girlfriend Soraya. I am also part of the Dutch Dreamwalkers highline team.
When I am not outside, I am doing a research master in Sustainable Development with a focus on energy systems and climate change at the University of Utrecht.
Soraya: During the week, I work as a social worker in youth care. My job is to guide and treat young people with a mental disability on their way to independence. In the weekends, I love to spend my free time outdoors by going climbing, highlining and wandering around in nature. And I am happy that I can share those passions with Tom.
What/who is inspiring you to go on outdoor adventures?
Tom: My inspiration to go outdoors comes from a great variety of sources. First of all, I live in the heart of a big city in a flat country. Life goes fast here, everybody is either living in the past or future, and (too) many hours are spent staring at screens. I find that time slows down outside. The only thing that matters is what is here and what is now. While this all sounds really cliché, I find it to be very true for myself. Nature tends to have a calming effect on people. Many things that we find problematic as a society actually have little importance when you are in the mountains. Outside, my focus is more on my surroundings and myself than on other things.
For me, going outdoors was also a great way to deal with certain fears and uncertainties in my life. I’ve always been afraid of heights, and through highlining and climbing I managed to deal with those fears. Not only can I deal with my vertigo, this also gives me a sense of confidence and calmness in my daily life. In the past, I never thought that I could walk a highline because I was too afraid to. After having accomplished that goal (and much more), most other daily tasks seem like a small deal.
Lastly, you never go outside alone! It is great to spend time outside with your friends or girlfriend. It is fun to move together, see people pushing their own limits and truly connect in a beautiful environment. Social status plays less of a role. Everybody I meet outside is unique in their own way, but at the same time everyone can truly be him- or herself and is open to meet others!
Soraya: I was always fantasizing about how awesome it would be to travel and discover the world around me. However, I chose to make a career and work hard with the belief that it will come one day. However, on a day in May a few years ago I had a super inspirational workshop about “the art of balancing life” from Dandapani. What really made me think was when he told me that we all live life like we live forever. But it’s a fact that every life is finite. He also said “It takes tremendous courage, will and self-compassion to break habits, and challenge yourself to live in a different way. If you don’t do it now, when will you?”. He made me think about the way that I lived my life. What do I want and need? What is my desire? That moment I realized that working hard and making a career is not the way for me to live my life.
Being outdoors feels to me as something that comes from deep inside of me – It is a part of me. With this desire, I chose to change my life. From a 5 day work week I went to 4 days and I asked my manager to schedule me more efficiently so I can leave regularly for a few days from Thursday evening to Monday.
What aspect do you like most about climbing?
Tom: What I like the most about climbing is the physical aspect of it. I came into climbing from a highlining background, and while highlining is surely not easy from a physical standpoint, it is more of a mental battle. Every new route, grade of difficulty and type of rock brings unique movements. I am constantly getting stronger and learning something new while climbing. There is always a new challenge waiting for me.
Climbing is actually quite diverse too! From bouldering to alpine climbing, you can have all kinds of adventures and challenges. Also, when you are climbing a route, you are following a route designed by nature. Quite often, the rock just feels like it is made to be climbed on – it is cool to literally be in touch with nature.
Soraya: I started climbing because I noticed I needed this skill if I wanted to feel more safe on the rocks while highlining. Also, I wanted to rig highlines in more complex situations, imagine climbing free standing towers. It started pure practical but now I cannot imagine not to climb! I love to move. I am active in sports since the age of 2 and it has always been an important thread through my life. What I love the most about highlining and climbing is that both are 100% mentally and physically challenging at the same time. Climbing gives me energy; especially when I find a super good hold after a hard move!
What is it like to share your passion for the outdoors with each other?
Tom: To do these things together as a couple is really great. I never have to choose between going outside or being with my girlfriend, I am lucky to have both at the same time!
Further, trust plays a big part in highlining and climbing. You have to be able to trust your life to your partner. If one of you messes up, you are both in trouble. This makes our relationship stronger! Also, preparing and packing for projects is fun together!
Maybe the coolest thing: I always have a badass project partner with me! While Soraya maybe is humble in this interview, she is a really strong woman. In highlining she belongs to the best of the country regardless of sex, and I bet you can’t find 10 ladies worldwide who are better than she is. However, it’s not what drives her and she would never tell you that. She is also a good and safe highline rigger and is pushing it in climbing! Together we have been able to do some amazing projects.
Soraya: The fun already starts when one of us (spontaneously) suggests to go somewhere climbing or highlining. Together we discuss where to go, what to take with us, and then leave. When you go climbing or highlining together you need to trust each other, you must be a team, and communication is the key to success. Because you live more in the moment, we have more attention for each other. There are moments when I encourage Tom, reassuring that everything is going to be okay, or share his happiness. This makes our relationship stronger.
Tom is really good at thinking in possibilities and I love to discuss with him about organizing, planning, and fulfilling new projects. I trust him as my highline rigging- and climbing partner; we keep each other motivated, focused and we both like to push our physical and mental boundaries.
It is nice and super convenient to share the same passions. I never have to choose between going outside or being together. We just go together and it’s so much fun!
Why would you get away from city life?
Tom: I choose to go outside of the city to escape from the fast-paced life and stress that marks city life. Outside, everything seems to go slower and you have much more eye for details you’d never notice in the city. It has a quite relaxing and meditative effect on me. Even one day spent outside feels like a small holiday and gives a little ‘reset’ to your mind.
Soraya: I have the idea that people think you need a lot of money or you need a lot of free time to be able to take a vacation. In the last few years I’ve learned that it is possible to find a balance between work and being able to live the life I love – that is by being outdoors. It is a way of life I choose and to accomplish this lifestyle I work the number of hours that I need to provide my for daily life. In my free time I choose to take the car and drive to a place nearby, even if it’s just for a weekend. It can be as complicated or simple as you wish. When I am away it feels like a holiday no matter how long I go. It is worth the effort.
Did you appreciate the story or do you have any questions for Tom and Soraya? Feel free to leave a comment below! Also, make sure to follow Soraya on her Instagram.