Charles: “Stephanie and I don’t want to be colleagues, so we both have our own jobs. Stephanie: “I would love to work for his travel agency, but I would have to break up first and then apply for a job.”
Charles: “After completeting my law studies, I left for Kenya in 2014. I wanted to go to Africa to gain life experience, have an adventurous life and become an entrepreneur, although I didn’t know how or what yet. I first did an internship with a mobile payment company. That was fun, but I discovered that I liked travelling and seeing, and experiencing things better. I organised safaris for expats, got to know the country well and started a travel agency. I want to show people a different Africa and take away the prejudices, for example that it is a scary and unsafe continent.”
Stephanie: “You are often travelling through Kenya and other African countries in search of special places.”
Charles: “I live and work in a compound in Nairobi where my staff also live and work. My agency also has an office in South Africa and in Uganda. I travel a lot in search of new experiences. Often with a film crew that makes promotional material. Afterwards, I spend a few months at the office again. But I find management quite difficult.
Stephanie: “The compound is a jungle-like garden of four hectares, really a fantastic place.”
Charles: “Before Corona, I had sixty employees, a third of whom were local people. Now there are only twenty-five left, because we don’t get any government support here.”
Stephanie: “Charles and I know each other from our student days in Utrecht. Then I started working at a video production company. Then I lived and worked in Texas for two years, as a copywriter and photographer. In November 2019, I moved back to the Netherlands. A few months later, I met Charles in Cape Town. That’s where our relationship started. We share passions such as travel, film, photography and developing ideas, and neither of us long for fixity.”
Charles: “At the moment we are on the coast in Kenya, where we have organised a trip for remote workers. We came up with the idea because of all those home workers in the Netherlands. They can also work in Kenya and do fun things in the evenings and at the weekend. For example, we go fishing, motorcycling, to a safari park, dancing, and do yoga.”
Stephanie: “During trips I help with photography and filming, but it’s really Charles’ company. I work full-time as a marketing manager for a company in lifestyle gifts in the Netherlands.”
Stephanie Zee (33) studied communication and information sciences. She has worked in sales positions and as head of production for a video production company. She lived and worked in Texas for two years as a copywriter and photographer. Now she works as a marketing manager for a company in lifestyle gifts and lives alternately in the Netherlands and Africa. She earns twice the average income.
Charles Witlox (31) studied law and has been living and working in Africa since 2014, mainly in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, for his own travel agency, Charlie’s Travels. Charles has an average income.
Curious about Kenya?
Charles: “A personality test once showed that I have zero ambition. It’s true that I can leave tasks undone if I don’t feel like it, the bookkeeping for example, but I can also be super-driven and work really hard. I do have a very clear idea of what I want.”
Stephanie: “Yes, you always think about what you want and are always working on new ideas.”
Charles: “I’m not driven in the sense of ‘how do I increase revenue.’ But actually I am always thinking about work. Even in the shower and while running.”
Stephanie: “You are ambitious when it comes to realising your dreams. But when I put on some nice music and light some scented sticks, he relaxes, you know.”
Charles: “I do need to find a better balance. If, in twenty years’ time, I discover that all I thought about was work, that’s not good. Maybe it’s also because I live in my office. It’s practical, because I travel so much. I don’t value comfort at all, I could easily live in a guesthouse for 10 euros a night for six months.”
Stephanie: “Last summer we spent a couple of months in Amsterdam, staying at eight different places for the night. It was fun, exploring all those different neighborhoods.”
Charles: “I think it’s great to discover life in a new neighbourhood. I am curious.”
Stephanie: “I have that too. But I do always carry a few candles, statuettes and photos of family and friends that I put in the place where I’m staying.”
Charles: “And a hug.”
Stephanie: “Then I immediately feel at home.”
Charles: “My dream is to build eco-community lodges in nature. Lodges that are run by the local community, with me providing the capital and the knowledge. I would like to do business responsibly.”
Stephanie: “With sustainability in mind, people are therefore encouraged to come for a longer period of time.”
Charles: “Stephanie and I don’t want to be colleagues, which is why we both emphatically have our own jobs.”
Stephanie: “I would love to work for his travel agency, but I would have to break up with him first and then apply for a job.”
Charles: “I would hire you right away. By the way, I think working together would go quite well, but it is a bit risky. There is a danger that you never ‘turn off’ yourself. We do want to live somewhere permanent at some point, and probably in the Netherlands for a while. Enjoying time with family and friends.”
Stephanie: “Family and friends are my foundation, so a bit of structure is good. Besides, I have very nice parents-in-law.”
Charles: “They also sometimes feature in a promotional film for my company, to show that the trips are not only for young people. This year, the four of us are going to Madagascar, which might be a good country for the ecolodges.”
Stephanie: “We’ll see how it all goes. For now, we are very happy with this life.”
© 2020 NRC Rush Hour