Meet Arita Baaijens, Dutch explorer, biologist and writer
Arita Baaijens grew up in Ede and studied biology in Amsterdam. After seven years working as an environmental biologist, she traded her job for a risky adventure in the Egyptian desert. She purchased camels, and as the only Western woman, traveled the Sahara alone. Not only did Arita learn to survive in the desert, her self-imposed solitude changed her outlook on life. The barren landscape of sand and rocks brought her back to a pure existence. Without time being filled with economic and cultural activities, one cannot help but become reflective. Although confrontation with vast emptiness can be frightening, solitude brings out one’s strength. The desert taught Arita to turn her fear of the unknown into a positive force. After all, if there is no one to ask for help, you are forced to find your own solutions. A true master learns to make something from nothing.
After two decades of sand and camels, Siberia called. It was in the Altai Mountains that Arita began looking for the mythical Shambala, a legendary paradise tucked in a hidden valley, surrounded by icy mountain peaks. After searching for many years, paradise remained elusive, but it was through meetings with local shepherds and shamans that Arita became intrigued with their unshakable belief in nature spirits and nature as an animated being.
As a biologist, she wondered how it could be that these people seemed to experience a different reality than she, herself. Could a landscape affect the mind? Does science have a monopoly on the truth? She embarked on a new expedition and experiment to find out. In 2013 she circled the entire Altai Mountains on horseback, 1500 kilometers through hard to reach areas in Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Russia. The quest itself and the result of the experiment turned her life upside-down and, at the same time, put it back on track.
Arita Baaijens has received international recognition and awards for her research on the meaning of landscape. In 2014 she received the International Women of Discovery Humanity Award and was named Traveler of the Year 2014 by the Spanish Geographical Society. She is a member of, among others, the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club. She is one of 50 explorers portrayed in “Modern Explorers” (2013, Thames and Hudson). About her travels she has published “A Rain of Eternal Fire”, “Farafra Oasis”, “Desert Nomads” and award-winning “Desert Songs”. In 2016 she published “Search for Paradise: a Search for Truth and Reality in the Heart of Central Asia”, (Atlas Contact).
Desert Songs is a triumph. A real classic. I have so enjoyed reading it
I read a beautiful and remarkable book today
Some people change the way we live, some people change the way we dream
The quest for paradise is about a longing, about something we once had and lost
How strong are you when there’s no back up? Where do your limits lie?
Magnificent and impressive book
She held her audience spell bound
Breath taking performance
Thoughtful, insightful, inspiring
If you can't solve a problem, it's because you're playing by the rules.