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Translated from the Dutch magazine Sante « Esther Jacobs – NO EXCUSE...

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Translated from the Dutch magazine Sante
“If you really want something, there is no excuse”
Esther Jacobs (39), known for Coins for Care and European Survivor, has no job, relationship, money, rich
family or other securities. Yet she has a life many dream of. She has traveled through one hundred countries,
lives on a tropical island and works only a few months per year. In her book ‘What’s your excuse?’ she tells
us how she did this.
Esther Jacobs spent the last eighteen months on the tropical island of Curaçao. There she rented a small house
in the middle of nowhere and swam and surfed every day while she wrote her new book ‘What’s your
excuse?’ Now she is here in Amsterdam, where she stays in the home of a friend- her own house in
Amstelveen is sublet indefinitely. How long she will remain in the Netherlands, she does not know. The plan is
a few months, but it can also be that Esther will wake up in the morning, grab her backpack and travel again.
She is a free spirit, she says, always looking for a new adventure. So she lived like this since she was
twenty-two, since graduating from Nijenrode Business University. Living in uncertainty is her ‘comfort zone’,
she says she has done it so long that it has become her own.
She is tanned and toned and girlish, with curls, twinkling blue eyes and smooth skin. She talks as
enthusiastically as she writes. Her new book reads like an exciting adventure novel. ‘What’s your excuse?’
stimulates the reader not to take the beaten path and make their own choices. The book is based on her own
experiences – so the conversation is also a range of exciting anecdotes. Esther traveled to more than one
hundred countries, had 1001 different jobs , was on the TV show Survivor- spending weeks on an uninhabited
island in Malaysia- and became the founder of Coins for Care which collected millions of euros for charity.
Then she turned the charity world upside down, founding the Donors’ Association, starting a prize for the
most transparent charity and in general campaigned for greater openness in charities. Not exactly a life
anyone could live.
The message of your book is that anyone can fulfill their dreams. If you really want something, there is
no excuse, you write.
“In our society we learn from childhood to opt for security. Not to risk taking a different path. So often we
don’t do what we prefer, for example because we say we have no money or find that we must prepare for
retirement. But I do not believe in that sort of excuses: if you really want it, it is much more possible than you
think. Security is an illusion of the eyes, life is about taking risks. The only way to learn is by doing, even if
that means failing many times. That’s what happened to me and I learned a lot! We think we are safe by

4/22/2015 10:05 PM

Translated from the Dutch magazine Sante « Esther Jacobs – NO EXCUSE...

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http://www.estherjacobs.us/media/sante/

saving for our children’s studies or to buy insurance against all kinds of things, but I think you can find
security only in yourself. Wherever you are and whatever happens, you can always count on yourself. In my
book I show how fun and interesting it can be to choose an unknown path and how much it can bring you. If
you always use the same method, the result is always the same, but if you create an opening, new
opportunities arise naturally. I don’t say that everyone should quit their jobs and change their whole life. But
be aware that you have a choice. If you consciously choose the beaten path, it is also good, but I want to
stimulate people to think about it. Many people continue living this kind of life, but they are not really happy.
I think that this is a pity. ”
Has this path you have chosen given you a lot?
“I’m just triggered when people say something is impossible. Even in the most desperate situations I see
opportunities. With Coins for Care, I had the idea to collect all the remaining foreign coins for charity with
the introduction of the euro, but because I had no office, money, contacts and reputation, nobody believed
that my idea was feasible. But precisely because I had to start from scratch, I was very resourceful. Also
during my travels I challenge myself in that way. Two years ago I was in a similar situation in Madagascar. I
discovered that it was not possible to use my ATM or credit cards, so I was almost penniless. On the bus from
the airport, I happened to meet a businessman who needed someone to translate for a meeting with the
government so that’s where I earned some money. Then I wanted to go south, but I had no money for a flight.
Some fishermen offered to take me along in their sailing boat for 30$, but warned me it could be more than
one week’s travel, depending on the wind. It was a great experience. All day I sat in a sort of hollowed tree
trunk. I could not move. At one point my I-pod was empty and I had made in mind all my to-do lists. Because
I had nothing to think about, I reached an ultimate peace in my head.”
What do you learn from these moments?
“If you trust yourself, everything will be OK. After my graduation I spent some time on Curacao, selling fruit
salads to banks and trust companies. Every morning I drove by my clients and at one point I sold 150 fruit
salads daily. The idea that I could survive like this anywhere in the world, gave me a tremendous feeling of
freedom. And one thing led to another. After a few weeks the companies asked me to do some research for
them or to create a brochure. Then I developed a system that allowed them to call abroad cheaply. With the
money I earned, I traveled throughout South America. This is how I always come across opportunities on my
path. After a while you learn to trust in these ‘coincidences’ and dare to go with the flow. I used to work from
with my ‘power’, sometimes working 80 hour weeks. Now I learned to be more in the moment and found I
don’t always need to use this power to make things happen myself. If you open up, there may be something
exciting waiting around every corner. ”
And now companies hire you for motivational speeches and workshops?
“The great thing is that I can earn my money now with who I am. Companies ask me to increase the creativity
of their employees; to encourage out of the box thinking. This way of working gives me so much freedom. I
do not work full time, so do not earn a lot, but it takes care of what I need. I can live an easy life without
spending too much. So I rented a cheap house in Curaçao, I never buy expensive designer clothes and I don’t
spend money on furniture etc. I deliberately chose this lifestyle, because I enjoy to have enough time and
flexibility to enjoy life. ”
So you don’t work a lot, you have no house with a large mortgage, no children. Others may say that
without responsibilities is not difficult to lead a free life.
“I don’t advocate that everyone should live like me, but I do want to show that within your own context, you
can always change things. Even if you have children for example, you can choose to travel for a year. Or
choose not to have your regular beach holiday, but go camping with the children in South Africa. I would

4/22/2015 10:05 PM

Translated from the Dutch magazine Sante « Esther Jacobs – NO EXCUSE...

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http://www.estherjacobs.us/media/sante/

encourage people to look at their options instead of limitations. Do you really want an expensive house and
mortgage? Could you live in a smaller house so you have to work less? Do you really need an expensive
wedding dress? Or could you go to India and have it designed there, so you would include an exceptional
travel experience in the same price? If you are not completely happy with your life, there are always
possibilities to do things differently. It often helps to think in small steps. For example, if you have the dream
of ever going to live in Spain, you can start taking Spanish lessons. If you take the first step, then the next
ones often become clear. ”
You seem to experience each day with an intensity as if it could be your last. Where does this urge come
from, to get the most out of every day?
“I have always been very much aware that tomorrow everything could be different. You can get sick, there
may be an earthquake. Therefore I do not postpone anything until later. If I won the lottery tomorrow, my life
would not be very different: I am already doing what I want. Where that urge comes from, I’m not sure.
When I was sixteen a clairvoyant neighbor told me that the world would come to an end. Although I did not
really believe her, I always remembered her advice not to postpone anything. My father taught me how to
enjoy life. For example during our family vacation on Aruba’s beaches, my father and I decided to go to
Mexico and explored the country in 4 days. ”
Have you been raised with this desire for freedom?
“At a young age I learned to take care of myself. When I was seventeen my parents got divorced. My mother
thought she had taken enough care of her children and wanted more time for herself. During an argument I
left our home and I never went back. Losing your home base at that age definitely leaves its marks. I know
what it feels like to lose all your security. But this has forced me to take care of myself and not be dependent
on others. I even took care of my younger brother, from when he was fourteen till his seventeenth, because
he had nowhere else to stay. My mother is the only one of our family who stayed in the Netherlands. My
father and my sister live in Miami, and my brother is now leading a sort of hippie-like existence in San
Francisco. ”
Do you ever plan to settle down? Like starting a family for example?
“Now that I have rented out my house and am “homeless”, I notice that sometimes I get very excited when I
see all the fine furniture from Ikea. I found that having some kind of base- station, a place to leave your
belongings at and come home to every now and then, is important. So I might rent an apartment together with
a friend. And children? Having a child is a very special experience, but unlike all my other desires, This is not
something that I can ‘make happen’. I just haven’t met the man I want to have a child with yet. My girlfriends
sometimes get real nervous on my behalf. “You’re already 39,” they say. But I think that if it’s meant to
happen, it will. Life is not linear, you cannot control the future. Therefore I try to go with the flow.”
© 2010 Esther Jacobs - What is YOUR excuse?
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