Before we met
We come from different countries and have had very different life paths, but our shared love of travel and new experiences led to us meeting by chance.
Harmony (Copper Lioness)
Harmony is Canadian. She was born in the Maritimes to American hippy parents and grew up in the Vancouver area with her mum and Canadian step-dad, who had a pottery business. After she graduated from an Eastern US university, she came back to Vancouver, thought briefly of finding a real job, but really just wanted to travel. After waiting a bit for her boyfriend to graduate, they finally packed it all up and went tree-planting to earn money for a big trip. After 16 months of itinerant living, including 4 months of backpacking in Central America and another tree-planting stint, they came back to Vancouver, determined to settle down. That didn’t work out so well, as six months later they were teaching English in South Korea. Three and a half years later they came back to Vancouver and Harmony started grad school in community and regional planning. During grad school, she got married (same guy), got hit by a car on her bicycle, ended her marriage, learned to ride a motorbike and crashed the motorbike twice, coming close to death the second time from an errant blood clot (despite no real injuries). Despite all that, she managed to finish her three-year MA in under 5 years, and decided she deserved a wee trip to Europe for doing so. She travelled around Europe for four months on Barney, the purple 250cc scooter. When she came back to Canada, she got a real job, a good one, in local government policy, and a real bike, the bike she’d fallen for at first sight in Paris, a BMW F650cs. It was purely a coincidence that the bike matched her hair – that shared colour and her astrological sign explain her nickname and the name of this site[footnote]When I started the site in 2007, I used nicknames for privacy reasons.[/footnote].
Ivo (Dutch Boy)
Ivo is Dutch, and that’s about as complicated as his nickname gets. He was born and grew up near Eindhoven, where his father worked for Phillips. He started learning languages early, since his parents speak Limburgs, a dialect of Dutch, at home, so he had two before he went to school. He graduated from secondary school speaking three more (English, German and French) and entered university in Utrecht, where he studied physical geography. When he graduated, they offered him money to do his PhD, so he did. During his studies he also worked in Spain (picking up Spanish) and Costa Rica and El Salvador. He also went to conferences in Europe and Australia, including one in Moscow. He also got very involved in local politics with his political party D66, which he calls moderate, but which would be hopelessly left wing anywhere in North America, and studied EU policy on the side. He, of course, rode a bicycle everywhere in the Netherlands, but didn’t learn how to ride a motorcycle until he came to Canada to be with Harmony.
Our lives together
That chance meeting took place over breakfast in a hostel in St. Petersburg in August 2004 while Harmony was on her European trip and Ivo was on his way back from that conference in Moscow. Sparks flew almost instantly, and Harmony was invited to stop by Utrecht on her travels. She spent almost three weeks ‘visiting’, but it was agreed that it was a vacation fling, and she went back to Canada. Both of us being stubborn, it took some time and some heartache before we figured out that maybe we were wrong and it was something else. Ivo came to Canada in July 2005 to see what that might be – whatever it was was good, so Harmony went to Europe for three weeks in October for a nice road trip to Spain. After one more trip each, Ivo came to live in Canada on a one-year working holiday visa in April 2006.
During the year Ivo was working in Vancouver, we travelled around the Vancouver area by bike, to California on the bikes (Copper Lioness’ Intensive Motorcycle Touring School™) and to Montreal, Quebec and Toronto by plane, train and automobile. Ivo also managed to find work that sent him to Mexico and Northern BC. We had planned to travel around North America on the bikes after his work visa expired and before we moved to Europe, but we got pregnant and the fatigue made it impossible for Harmony to get things done as quickly as she’d planned in order to make the trip happen. We did fit in a bit of travelling, to Chicago, where we surprised a group of friends gathered there by getting married, and to the East Coast for Harmony’s college reunion and some touristing. We also got one last quick motorcycle trip in before moving to Utrecht in August 2007.
Once in Utrecht, Ivo started working and Harmony started to learn Dutch while enjoying Canada’s year-long paid maternity leave and taking care of their new son, L (Sprocket – whose nickname actually has nothing to do with motorbikes – it just evolved as his womb name). Delays due to bureaucratic inefficiency had her taking her final exams a bit later than planned, in June 2009, just after she found herself pregnant again. In the meantime, they’d moved from a friend’s small apartment in the centre to a bigger rental on the outskirts of the city. Just after their daughter, K (Sprockette), was born, they finally found a house for sale which fit all their criteria in a great location much closer to the centre, perfect except that it needed to be very fully renovated. As these renovations were wrapping up, Harmony decided to start her own business, doing writing/editing/translating and Ivo got involved in politics again.
All this work and having kids didn’t stop the travelling though, just changed the vehicles. Instead of motorcycles, we travelled with four wheels, first with a station wagon and then a VW camper van, which suits our travel style much better. We’ve also taken some trips with the train and the plane.
This has all been great preparation for our current round-the-world adventure.