‘‘I was very content, but in my head increasingly louder voices were shouting, ‘Tamar, are you coming outside to play?’.’’

Made in Maastricht: Tamar Valkenier

Imagine: you graduated successfully, found your dream job and live in the city. You seem happier than ever. At least, until you get restless. Would you leave everything behind and go? Tamar Valkenier, alumna from Maastricht University, would at least. Since 2015, she has been a full-time adventurer. What does her life look like?

A real city girl

Nowadays, Tamar says she is ‘addicted to adventure’. Rock climbing, hunting for food, practising survival skills ... it can’t be crazy and different enough for her. Yet, once upon a time she grew up in Haarlem as a real city girl. “In this region, I studied Business Economics, Criminology and Psychology. For my master’s programmes—Forensics, Criminology and Justice; and Psychology and Law—I ended up in Maastricht. One of my professors was Peter van Koppen. He taught the Legal Psychology course, which made me completely dedicated to this field.” In short, a flourishing career in law and psychology seemed evident for Tamar.

“Are you coming outside to play?”

After her studies, she had successful careers - first as a Michelin-star chef, later as an investigative psychologist with the Dutch National Police. “That last job was my dream job. Every day, I was busy with interesting, exciting and complicated issues, such as murder and sexual offenses and threat management. It went well, thanks in part to an additional postgraduate programme in investigative psychology and a summer course in America.” In her spare time, Tamar travelled as far and wide as she could. “Or I was skydiving, motorcycling, climbing, kite surfing, saxophone playing in the Netherlands ... I was very content, but in my head increasingly louder voices were shouting, ‘Tamar, are you coming to outside to play?’.” (text continues below photo)


12,000 km bicycle tour

“At the age of 28, I ‘retired’. My job at the National Police was great, but I think the world has more to offer than just working full time.” Since March 2015, Tamar has been experiencing adventure after adventure. “Although my working life was pretty adventurous, I wanted to try traveling for a year. It was exciting, because I had never been away for more than five weeks. I resigned, built a bicycle myself and I left in March 2015. I cycled 12,000 kilometres through Europe, Australia and Indonesia, while sleeping in a tent every night.” And that definitely gave me a taste for more ...

Eagles, reindeer and donkeys

All kinds of unique trips followed after the immense bicycle tour. For example, Tamar went rock climbing for months on end. She also bought a horse, a camel and a dog, with whom she travelled through Mongolia for four months. “We travelled with nomadic eagle hunters. These are people without a permanent place of residence, who hunt on horseback and with the help of eagles. This trip probably impressed me the most.” Tamar also rode reindeer in Siberia, admired 24 bears and 14 wolves during her survival training in Canada and walked 600 kilometres through Jordan - with her own donkey. (text continues below photo)


Visit by Floortje Dessing

Precisely because Tamar's life is so unusual, people are very interested in her stories. “That's why I occasionally write articles, give presentations and organise trips. That's how I make ends meet, even though I live out of my backpack and I don't need much.” Moreover, Tamar can be seen in the new season of the popular Dutch TV program ‘Floortje to the End of the World’. “Three months ago, I defied the high mountains of New Zealand, along with Miriam Lancewood [author of the book ‘My life in the wilderness’]. We sat deep in the wilderness and hunted and gathered our own food together. Presenter Floortje Dessing visited us for an interview then.”

Australia ... or Maastricht?

Where does Tamar sees herself in 10 years - in the Netherlands or still traveling? “I dream of a piece of land with a tree house in Australia, where I grow my own food and keep animals - including a falcon. But every time I want to work on that, I feel a little suffocated and want to experience more adventures first. I will return to Mongolia soon!” Will Tamar ever come to Maastricht again? “Never say never, Maastricht is a beautiful city. Take the bookstore in the Dominican church, such a beautiful place to get lost in your book. And I have warm memories of my UM master’s programmes. They still come in handy, because knowledge of psychology is useful, whatever you do and wherever you are in this world ...”

By Milou Schreuders, June 2019