In August I went with a group of Dutch girls to the Portuguese Algarve to push my Kitesurfing skills. I booked the trip with „girlzactive“, a travel company started by Maroean Mones from the Netherlands. The trip was a great experience especially as I am not used to enjoy a relaxed, well organized holiday. Maroean made sure that all girls had a good time doing what they love – chilling, wake-boarding, kitesurfing and enjoying very nice company of likeminded people. I grabbed the chance to talk to a real Dutch „Querdenker“ while we were both answering emails and working next to the pool in beautiful Luz.
Maroean grew up in a sporty family as her parents have been in the sport business. The family has been living just next to a big swimming pool so it was a given thing that little Maroean started soon to enjoy swimming and water in general. Sports was always part of her life. As she grew up she played „Korfbal“, a typical dutch sport. With only 12 years she damaged both ankles and after further injuries she decided to play hockey instead. And it would not be Maroean if she wasn’t totally committed to this sport and played on a professional level until her time as a student. Another injury, this time in her knee, stopped her field hockey career .
That was the reason she started kitesurfing because it keeps giving you challenges but you have to battle with yourself as there is nobody who is helping you. It was an adventure when she started with this sport as at that time there were barely any active girls doing this sport.
But that was the reason which made it even more interesting for her as she could show that she was able to do it. It also fitted perfectly to her lifestyle as a traveller: Just bring your gear and as soon as the wind starts have some fun.
Her parents supported her curiosity about sports, „They let me choose the sport I wanted to try and they were bringing me five times a week to a different sport,“ she tells me. But at a certain point her mum said: „You have to choose a direction what you wanna do.“
„I like to use my body. It is for everybody the same, you have to choose either you work with your hands or with your brain. There is no in between. For me this was always a fight because I am not a person that can sit still but I am person who likes to use the brain.“
After graduation and some travel experiences Maroean started a trainee program within a big corporate dutch bank. As a project manager she was providing training for other people. And even she loved her job it was a 9 to 5 job, knowing on Monday what is gonna happen on Friday, wearing a suit and having colleagues who are not interested in sports at all.
„After a few years I got more and more troubles to combine my two worlds and I think this is the reason why „girlzactive“ was born.“
The problem working in the sports world is that as soon as you start to work for a brand there is not so much entrepreneurship connected to the job. That’s why Maroean started her own business to finally combine her passion for sports with her demand of working with her brain.
Girlzactive „somehow“ started already during her office career. Together with several other girls who are all into boardsports like longboarding, wake boarding and kitesurfing she found out that lots of girls would love to try something new but there are boundaries holding them back. Especially as it was (and it still is) male dominated. So she started to organize clinics (workshops) to help out with some coaching.
She realized that girls learn in a very different manner than guys: They want to know exactly „how to do it“, they wanna „see“ rather than just doing it and risking too much. There are lots of females who want to get on a better level but they don’t know how. If they ask a guy he will only give them the advice: „Just do it.“ But the female brain works a bit different. Girls want to be sure that they are safe, they are not hurting themselves. That’s why it is also a different way of teaching which Maroean enjoys a lot. The good thing with organizing girls camps is that you can combine it with all kind of boards-ports like long-boarding, wake boarding, SUP etc. which helps to become better. After three hours on the water you get tired. She smiles when she explains the male approach of kitesurfing: „Guys go to the beach at 9 in the morning, keep kitesurfing till 5 and then they go for a beer.“ It is also a similar experience with couples. While the guy might be already up on the board he thinks his girlfriend has to speed up too. He wants to push his girlfriend who just needs a bit more time to get to the next level. You can clearly feel that there is a lot of experience the „girlzactive“ founder has gained not only as a kite-instructure but also as a project manager and trainer during her office career. She knows exactly how to make her girls active and happy.
„The best thing in the world is when you help someone to improve his skills and make sure he is happy with his result. I have a perfect Saturday at my job with the girls out there in the water and seeing how they improve and how happy they are on the way back. This is also a big compliment for myself.“
When talking about how proud she is seeing girls traveling alone arriving at the camp and becoming friends, Maroean has a big smile on her face. „It makes me proud that groups of friends exist out of the camps and they invite me to go out with them back home, so they start organizing instead of me!“
„Girlzactive started as kind of a joke,“ Maroean explains laughing.
Her activities became very time consuming as she tried to handle two jobs. The other girls she was working on girlzactive with also still had their „real“ jobs. So they all realized that what has felt like a dream job, with 365 days of „vacation“, doing what you love, finally turned out to be hard work.
„It is 24hours per day work and although you have groups around it is a very lonely thing. You miss your friends back home.“
Maroean was focusing more and more on her second job which became her „baby“. She decided to give it a try and to earn money with „girlzactive“.
She never planned anything. But as a little girl she was always dreaming of having her own company but when starting working for a company she was also ok with it.
„Now I love the freedom. But I have to be honest: it is really hard to be alone.“
Maroean is struggling with having nobody to exchange her ideas with, discuss and have a team around to share. She also finds it quiet challenging for her private relationship as being self-employed forces her to give up a lot. „Only with the support from your partner you can manage it“, she admits.
„One day I am happy girl with a big smile on my face because I just sold a trip with my company and the other day I wonder if I will ever earn enough money with this.“
When talking to other entrepreneurs they provided her with some tipps. One thing Maroean keeps in her head is the idea of having a date in your head when you decide if you can make a living out of your dream or not and also stopping and moving on if it does not work out. „Don’t keep on going and lose all your money.“
Another tipp she got is to try to enjoy the first two years and accepting that you wont earn big money.
Just this summer Maroean is celebrating the first year birthday of her own business and she is proud. On our trip there are not only active dutch girls but also Austrians and Germans. One sign that her concept seems to work out! So far she has been on 10 trips she organized with her business.
Traveling was always part of Maroeans life and she laughs when she is telling that her parents already knew for a long time that her daughter will not permanently live in the Netherlands. She lived for some time on Aruba and discovered that her home country is not that bad. „Lacking of social contacts makes me feel lonely and I am starting to appreciate a stable lifestyle when getting older,“ she explains. The travel-bird realized how important it is to share her passion with friends who know her and where she can be herself. So the combination of traveling for work and coming back „home“ seems to be the right one for Maroean at the moment.
„It is hard to find your balance traveling and your social network. Now I am really looking forward of going home but then I am there for 4 days and I want to leave again.“
Maroeans perfect Saturday looks like that: being at home with her boyfriend, going together with their dog to the beach and have some time for herself kitesurfing. This answer just reflects her whole lifestyle. Maroean is living her dream in a very authentic and courageous way and that’s why she is a real „Querdenker“ for me!
„The most important thing with kitesurfing is to start and end the session with a smile.“
– Maroean Mones