Paulo Brenninkmeijer: Words From A World Traveller

Travel To Gain A Better Understanding of Humanity

When walking through the stunning architecture of College Hall at Endicott College, Paulo exclaims, “It’s just like home!” Born in Brazil and raised in the United Kingdom, Paulo has experienced different cultures from the start of his life. Brenninkmeijer has a German heritage and Dutch nationality and has lived an untraditional life through his family’s business. Paulo speaks Dutch, German, and English fluently, but is also in the process of learning Spanish and Portugese.

China, Hong Kong, Greece, Sri Llanka, Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Galapagos Islands, Turks & Caicos, Antigua, Maldives, Dubai, and most places in Europe and America are just some of the places Paulo has visited. Paulo has seen an impressive chunk of the world before reaching the age of twenty, and has experienced different cultures, the beauties of nature, and rare wildlife.

ABOUT THE FAMILY BUSINESS

Paulo’s legacy comes from a 179-year-old family business which invented ready-made clothing. The business led the discount retail market in Europe for about 60 years since it’s start in 1841, but it continues to succeed today. Paulo exclaims that the company is able to remain profitable in contemporary society when he states, ” the business diversified its assets in 1999 when entering the Real-Estate market and then in 2002 entering the Private Equity sector where we have also been proven to thrive for the last twenty years.” Paulo’s Basisjaar allowed him to travel the world and enter the businessworld at a young age.

SCHOOLING

Because of Paulo’s upbringing in a business environment he had a different schooling experience. Paulo attended Worth Abbey for his secondary school in the United Kingdom, but at the age of sixteen, Brenninkmeijer chose to learn about the family business to develop the necessary skills that could eventually contribute to his success. Now twenty years old, Paulo is a freshman international student at Endicott College studying International Business and Administration.

When asked how his travelling and work affected his schooling, Brenninkmeijer found both negative and positive effects. Paulo states, “when I should have been studying, I was working in a high-paced, fast-moving environment throughout Europe and I didn’t really have the chance to get to university at the age that I should’ve gone.” At the age of twenty, Paulo is almost two years older than most freshmen at the school, but he feels he is more mature and business savvy.

Another negative that Brenninkmeijer has faced as a result of his real-life work is that he didn’t do learn business through the typical system of ‘book-learning’ but he learnt about it through first hand experience. Paulo says that, “in terms of academics I would say I am very slow and need to get used to learning without doing.”

Additionally, because of his ambitious experiences in the working world, Paulo finds flaws in the current business simulations used in his classes at Endicott. Brenninkmeijer asserts, ” the algorithm is completely rigged and it’s nothing like the real business world.  I [talked] about it with my Dean and he understands perfectly.”

Although Paulo’s unconventional teenage years have some pros and cons, his experience in travel outweighs what some people may travel throughout their whole lives.

IMPORTANCE OF TRAVEL

Brenninkmeijer is a strong supporter of travel and would recommend it to anyone. When asked why travel is important, Paulo articulates that people should travel in order, “to understand humans, to understand different cultures and be able to mix in with them and build yourself as a person – learn to become more open- and not only that, there are also aspects of nature, architecture, there are so many different things that will change your life and help you experience a different lifestyle – you really put a different value on life after seeing more things that are beautiful.” Not only will one be able to value life more after finding more beauty, but travelers have a better understanding of humanity which is crucial to meeting new, interesting people.

Paulo’s Foreign Artifacts

According to Paulo, individuals who travel will not only learn about the “circle of life,” but also about themselves. In his experience, Brenninkmeijer has found growth in travel. As he describes this growth, “It’s made me a lot more susceptible to things that I didn’t know were possible or could happen. I mean I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people I didn’t know existed, made loads of good friends, good connections, and obviously learn a lot about cultures,” says Paulo. “And it helps you be more extrovert, it helps you be that person who isn’t afraid of approaching a foreign group and wanting to intertwine with them and work with them.” Making connections is something that Paulo has learned the significance of over the years, as he still keeps in touch with people he has met in his travels.

In addition to growing to be more extroverted and cultured, Paulo remembers to remain true to himself. He explains, “And at the end of the day I still have my own values, I’m still my own person, I didn’t change to belong.” It is crucial to be unapologetically yourself when meeting new people in order to spread your own values and culture to others.

Paulo notes the importance of love when discussing travel. “And then I also think it’s taught me that I guess finding something you love should be everyone’s primary goal in life” he says. “I’m in one of those positions where it’s very difficult to do that whilst always traveling and trying to find the next big adventure.”

There are many things that make traveling important, and Brenninkmeijer has experienced most of them.

EXPERIENCING DIFFERENT CULTURES

As an international student who has travelled to more than a dozen countries, Paulo has noted the importance of learning about different cultures.

Paulo has spent months at a time in America and has observed some significant cultural differences between the United States and Europe. “I am naturally very biased,” Brenninkmeijer remarks when asked the culture of Europe compared to that of the United States. “I think the European cultures have far more to offer in terms of diversity and acceptance,” says Paulo. “I feel like [America] prioritizes power, and government and politics over social needs and the environment, and I think Europe has done a great job as a European Union itself and the United Kingdom supporting them managing to maintain a stable environment and we have free health care, free education, allowing us to make those kinds of decisions through more equal distribution.”

Brenninkmeijer also notes the working differences between Americans and Europeans, He says, “if you are an mployee in a lower-level social working environment in order to prosper, you need to pretty much do it by the book and work your way up. You need to follow the chain of command. Obviously it’s the same in Europe, but from what I’ve heard, Europeans are a lot more open and accepting when it comes to the chain of command. It’s almost considered ‘normal’ to contact your CEO and give them ideas and feedback you think the business could use to improve. I myself have witnessed this during an internship at Savills in the Netherlands.” Paulo also mentions that Americans have potential to greater opportunities due to the effort the government put into supporting start-ups and incubators.

After discussing the business opportunity differences between Europe and America, Paulo goes on to explain the difference in food, religion, and music.

Brenninkmeijer starts out by stating his opinion about American food, “The food in this country is awful.” According to Paulo, the European Food Administration have much higher standards for food and hygiene. Some of the Dutch MacDonalds for example have 5 star restaurant rating and sell real beef burgers for €21 ($22.77)! In his experience in America, Paulo has observed the hygiene in America, “If you go to restaurants around here, you can just tell that the glasses are all stained and those are small things that most people probably don’t look out for. And I also think the government doesn’t make enough effort to advertise healthy food or to put restrictions on the things that are bad for people in this country like they would do in some European countries.” Brenninkmeijer states that he gets homesick sometimes just longing for European food, “I miss having a good European meal.”

In terms of religion, Paulo mentions the difference he sees in how people express their faith. “I would say that we practice faith a lot more in Europe,” he says. “A lot more people go to church, a lot more people are open about their faith, and faith plays a very big role whereas in this mixed-college society, it’s not often spoken about and people aren’t very open about it.”

Interestingly, Paulo enjoys the music in America which he claims to be primarily trap and rap, but he also brings attention to an interesting point. Brenninkmeijer expresses that because of the legal drinking age of 21 in America, American teens do not get the same opportunities to experience the music that many European teens like the best. “I’ve been drinking ever since I can remember and that also has also allowed me to go to nightclubs and bars when you’re 16 and then when you’re 18 you’re allowed to go into the London, Paris, Milan and all the big countries clubs,” says Paulo, and he attributes his love for European club music to his clubbing experiences.

On both an economic and social scale, America and Europe have completely different cultures while still remaining the most prominent places on the globe.

STORIES

As you may have anticipated, Brenninkmeijer has his share of experiences abroad, both positive and negative. He has seen some of the most beautiful parts of the world, observed extremely rare wildlife, and met incredible people with fascinating stories.

Paulo has met some astonishing people in his journeys, but the craziest story he has heard comes from Lakaku who he met during his time spent in Kenya.

Lakaku is a Massai Warrior in Kenya who has 13 wives and 26 children. Paulo tells Lakaku’s story with fascination and passion. “When he was younger he used to be in the drug trade, he used to work for one of the dictators in Africa, and this was between the ages of 16 and 18. What he’d do is he’d take heroin in small medicine cups and he’d basically smuggle them across the border as a travelling man of Massai.”

“Then he met someone named Alex Hunter who was a white man who offered him a way out. He was doing a traveling safari in a car on the edge of the border. Alex saw this young man and (In Massai) basically said ‘Hey do you want to work for me, I have plans to start a camp in the Laikipia conservancy?’ Lakaku didn’t want to do it at first because he wanted to start his own tribe and in order to become the leader of a tribe you have to ‘show great courage’ such as killing a wild cat with your bare hands,” Paulo continues.

“Lakaku managed to do this with a dagger and basically what he did was he made himself bait for a group of hyenas and then when the hyenas attacked him he went for the leader of the pack – he still has scars all over his arms and his back from it – but once he killed the leader, naturally the other hyenas got afraid and they fled. He still carries the hyena pelt that he slaughtered that day and that’s what gave him a name in the Massai Warrior community and that’s what made him have the power and influence that he has in his own right.”

“He owns 13 cows, which in the Massai is probably the equivalent to hundreds or thousands, it has one of the highest values, it’s one of the most valued assets any man of Massai can have and in return for it, he has all these wives and all these children and he has his own village. He was a very interesting person, he didn’t speak any English, wore only a red rag over his shoulder, carried a bow & arrow, a spear, and a dagger on him at all times, he had really big ears because he carried these big, round disks in them, and he also carries one in his mouth, he was very skinny but at the same time incredibly strong, and completely fearless.”

In addition to meeting fascinating people, Paulo has been on some wild adventures and has even faced his fear of heights on multiple occasions. When asked to describe the most challenging thing done when traveling, Brenninkmeijer lists a series of absolutely chilling experiences he has faced. “If by traveling you mean doing a kind of military camp with a bunch of cadets from the UK,  then spending 4 weeks in the wilderness almost getting trench foot after having walked through water for about 3 days and having your feet crunch up whilst being ordered to stay in your tent for reaching the 1st stage of trench foot and you barely being able to walk for a couple of days because your feet are so disgustingly shrivelled and wet, then yes, I would say that was a riveting experience,” says Paulo.

“But thats not all… along with that you can probably include going down really wet cliffs and hurting yourself a lot as well as being ordered to learn how to overcome ‘cold water shock’ – having your boat sunk and watching someone almost drown because if it.” Paulo also notes his other fascinating adventures including “being in a warzone in Columbia, working in Ol-Pejeta in Africa having orders to kill poachers whilst protecting endangered animals, going to Israel where two hours away more than 400 projectile missiles had just been fired into the country from the West Bank, I don’t know I think that’s some pretty weird things – or pretty crazy.”

Now most travelers do not run into these troubles, but due to Paulo’s loev for travel, he has faced many (terrifying) adventures in addition to positive experiences. One of these positive experiences comes from his travels to Ecuador when he was working there for four weeks.

“The Galapagos – it’s an omnibenevolent place. It’s so amazing and overpowering when you’re there because of the beauty of the people, the nature, the location, the animals. It’s pretty much a modern version of the Garden of Eden if I had to describe it,” he says. Everything seems perfect – all your troubles, all your worries, everything goes away. It’s just you, yourself, and this amazing awe that the area just emits – and that the people emit which is also why when you go there you just fall in love and you can’t have time for anything back home, you don’t have time for your little worries and little things in the world when there’s just so much amazement surrounding you.”

Nature and traveling can also be used as a therapeutic tool where visiting new, beautiful places can make individuals forget about any stresses they may have.

ADVICE

Paulo has both received advice and given advice to others about traveling.

The best advice he has received is to “Just to be yourself. Not care about what other people think, but always stay humble and know your roots.”

When asked to give advice, Paulo gave his own advice. “The same advice that I was given. Be yourself. Stay humble. It depends on where you’re going, it depends on who you’re with, it depends on the environment you’re in,” he says. “If I had to just give a piece of general advice, I’d say always think of the worst case scenario in wherever you’re going and have a backup plan and have a contact that you know you can rely on at all times. Maybe even have a satellite phone on you or something  that you can always stay connected to someone who can help you out if something were to go wrong.”

Safety is important when traveling, and having a back up plan is crucial to feeling comfortable in a new place.

GET OUT THERE

Remember that wherever you go, it is important to “Just be yourself” and experience the world around you. Get ready to learn new cultures, see incredible wildlife, and take in the beauty of the world around you.

What are you waiting for? Go book your flight ticket.

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