Edo Ankum’s life today is a childhood dream that has become reality. Even as a young child, Edo knew that he wanted to go to sea. Despite this,he followed his parents’ advice and chose a ‘safe’ study path in law. He worked for five years as a lawyer, but his yearning for the sea remained. In 2002 he decided to change tack, literally, and made sailing his career.
I had a part-time job during my studies running my own little business, importing Scottish food specialities to the Netherlands. I continued with it for a year after graduating, but realised that I wasn’t really well-equipped for it with a degree in law.
So I thought I would go and do something similar, but on a bigger scale, at Unilever, Sarah Lee, etc., but I never made it through the selection rounds. Eventually, I realised that I had better take up a job that did fit with my education. I applied for jobs at several law firms, and was immediately welcomed to Houthoff.
It was never my passion to be a lawyer. I found my work very interesting during my five years as a lawyer, met some interesting people and learnt a lot.
But there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that there must be more to the world than a career in law. There is so much to see, to do, so much to enjoy and learn, that even now I cannot imagine spending the rest of my days working for just one company or in a single sector.
When I turned 17, and it was time to decide on some kind of professional training, I wanted to go to nautical college. My parents didn’t think much of the idea and urged me to start studying a ‘proper’ subject. The CIOS (Dutch National Sports Training Institute) and the army also attracted me, but I didn’t have the courage to suggest those options at the time. What to study then? I had no idea. My father was a professor of Roman law at the University of Amsterdam at the time, and made the decision for me: “If you don’t know, Edo, then I do. You will go and study law in Amsterdam”.
And that’s what happened, of course, but the longing for the sea remained. So alongside my work as a company lawyer, from 1998 to 2001 I studied commercial sailing at nautical college. From that moment on, I was able to make sailing my job.
It must have been in 1995 that my wife – who was working for Stibbe at the time – and I realised that neither of us wanted to grow old in the legal profession. We wanted a different lifestyle where we could see the world, without placing too much emphasis on material things. Without a completely thought-out plan, we began saving like mad. As our savings grew, our ideas grew with them and slowly but surely began to take shape. In 2000, we finally decided to buy a yacht. We had a beautiful, modern yacht built for us in France which was delivered in 2002, and almost immediately we sailed away from IJmuiden into the big wide world.
During my time as a lawyer, we lived in a former cargo vessel on the IJ. In 2002, we moved into our yacht, and in the five years that followed we sailed around the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Red Sea.
We then sailed around the Indian Ocean and along the east coast of Africa. In South Africa, we sold the yacht and moved to the Middle East, where my wife was keen to get back into her former field of work. Since then we have lived wherever her international career has taken her. While she had short-term jobs in London and Geneva we lived as a family in the Wageningen area. Then we moved to Manila in the Philippines for four years. At the moment, we are based in Luxembourg.
No, since we began our sailing voyage in 2002, I haven’t done any more legal work.
One of the things I learnt in the legal profession is how to write logically, with structure, separating the main issues from side-issues and the importance of retaining the reader’s attention. That held me in good stead when I began writing articles for sailing magazines during our five-year family voyage.
Later, I published a book on our adventures, called ‘Rondom Afrika’ (Around Africa). Since then, I have regularly skippered yachts in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and most recently in the Philippines and Vietnam. I am currently finishing a second book on our more recent sailing adventures and have also taken up photography. And for a number of years now I have been travelling overland, with the family or on my own. I travelled for several months through Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and later through Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. I also explored Central Asia and Mongolia in a specially adapted four-wheel-drive wagon. These adventures should also appear in book form soon.