An Interview with Willem Deliemen (Pancake Adventure): Delivering Joy, One Pancake at a Time

If you think that there isn’t much to do with a pancake, think again.

While I was resting in the middle of my walk down from the summit of Rinjani, 2 foreigners came from the opposite direction with what seems to be a… cooking pan.

Their names are Willem Dielemen & Pieter Dieleman, brothers from Amsterdam. As they were setting up their camp, HG and I had a little chit chat with them and found out that Willem is quite an unusual backpacker. Somehow, Willem manages to mix his adventures and his love of Pancake. That is why he brings a cooking pan everywhere he goes, let it be Turkey, India, Australia, Dubai and many more including Indonesia!

To sum it up, Willem Dielemen and his Pancake Adventures aims to deliver joy by giving back to the people through plates of Pancakes! He started by cooking Pancakes for construction workers in Dubai and continued spreading out happiness all over the world. In fact, when I met him in Lombok, he had just finished a cooking project with the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.

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Meet Willem!

We believe that meeting Willem somewhere in the middle of the woods was no coincidence. We took the chance to exchange cards and schedule a Skype interview to get Willem as our inspiring person of the month. What can be more inspiring than traveling in your 20s, spreading out joy all over the world? Check out the interview below!

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TPOB20: Who is Willem in your own eyes?

Willem: Willem is an open minded, creative guy who is always looking for adventures and new stories.

TPOB20: What kind of adventures are you looking for?

Willem: I am actually looking for two kind of adventures: one is the crazy, far from the obvious encounters. The other is my pancake adventures.

TPOB20: So what is it that do you do for a living?
Willem: I’m traveling around the world making pancakes. When my money runs out I find another spot where I can sell my pancakes to save money for new adventures. The last place I did this was Australia, soon it will be New Zealand. Those are for working, but for traveling I have traveled from Turkey to the Philipines overland. This includes Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Dubai, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. After Cambodia I ran out of money and went for a year to Australia to sell pancakes

TPOB20: Wicked story! What was your major in college? And.. why pancakes?
Willem: I actually studied Dutch Language and Literature, and took a master in Book Publishing. It has nothing to do with Pancakes and my Dutch language skills haven’t been very useful around the world either.

I started making pancakes as a gratitude to all the beautiful people I met on the road. Just as a thank you for their hospitality. During my travels I was always looking for a purpose and since I was already making pancakes for my friends, I thought it would be great to share that joy with people who could use some positive vibes

And why pancakes… Back home it’s a dish that we eat to celebrate a birthday or something else. For me a pancake dinner is a joyful happening, so I like sharing that joy with the rest of the world

TPOB20: So it all came down to a family. What does your family think of what you do?

Willem: My parents are proud of what I am doing. They really encourage me. Although when I told my mother of the places I still want to visit, she fell silent; she thought I would be back in a couple of months.

TPOB20: What was your early 20s dream like?

Willem: I am still in my 20s…. at least for 7 more days before I turn 30. I never dreamed that I would be 30. I honestly was so scared of being 30, having a family, being a high school teacher, walking my dog, paying my mortgage… I really believed I would end like that… failing miserably.

I actually never dreamed of traveling either, but I knew I had to do something creative. Traveling was actually a way to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but the only thing I found out is that I want to continue this lifestyle, at least for a bit. 

I had no idea this enriches you so much. There is no study that can teach you what you learn when you have to figure everything out yourself. You become streetwise in a very enjoyable exciting setting. 

TPOB20: How do you see the big three coming?

Willem: Yeah, I don’t know.. I think that now I’m nearly there, all the fears I had about that age are gone and thirty is just another number. I still have people telling me, “Yeah but you’re still young, you should enjoy it while you can,” and sometimes those people are younger than me.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?

Willem: My father gave me one incredible advice when I was a teenager. Instead of pushing me to study law, like he did, he said, “You have a curious childlike spark. Try to never loose that.”

The biggest struggle was figuring out life, I suppose. I think my studies were fairly easy. I was figuring out love and career. But when I graduated I thought, “Now what?” I tried some things but you realize that the comfortable status of being a student is gone and you suddenly are a useless citizen, an unemployed. So I tried a couple of things and failed a couple of times and now, because of those struggles, I think I am pretty successful in life.

TPOB20: Can you tell us about those failures and struggles?

Willem: Finding out that I was doing jobs that were below my qualities. You have all these qualities and degrees and there is nothing you can do with what you really like.

So I had a great master degree in Book publishing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, but I thought a PHD was too scientific for me and I didn’t qualify after all. Fortunately. Then I tried setting up a blog while working in a bar. This was alright but it wasn’t gonna work. Then I got a job as a data entry manager, which is the most boring job ever. It was at a great company of my friends though, so the place was fun. I got sadder and sadder that I was wasting my creative talent and I had the feeling that I missed the boat.

I only wanted to travel for two weeks. Looked on the map. And got greedy. Two weeks was never enough for what I wanted. I wanted to change my life drastically while I still have nothing to hold me back.

TPOB20: Super exciting and dramatic change! So after all of that, what is the perks of being 20 to you?

Willem: I think the perks of being twenty is being wise enough to be useful and still young enough to get away with anything.

As a teenager you are a narcissistic little brat who thinks everything yourself. Then you grow older and you find out you have still a lot to learn about the world. And you do that in a way that is not so serious yet, you don’t really care when you fail a course in Uni. As you grow older you start to realize, life around you gets more serious. The time before that is the best: you have your life knowledge but you’re still playing around.

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Just like that, our conversation ended. Leaving us to a powerful thought to ponder: What are we doing for the world in our 20s? I know that we don’t have to travel the world to do good, but if you can have a full year long holiday to do good, what could be better than that?

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