Bohemian Carlijn Meijst features in our Portraits series, no. 31. Born in the Summer of 1968 in Amstelveen, the youngest of four daughters is raised in Amsterdam.
After her study graphical design and art direction at the art academy in Amsterdam she soon realised that her ambition reached beyond a two-dimensional world. And found her creative love around theaters, decor and hospitality design.
Carlijn’s drive to learn more about life and the world – outside protected Europe – led her to Africa where she worked and lived for several years. And fell head over heels for the warmth of African people and places.
Around her 35th birthday she met her husband Marten, a Dutchman who happened to live and work in Portugal. In the south of Portugal Carlijn found her proverbial golden mean, in the middle between Africa and Holland. Marten owned an artisan tile factory and Carlijn started to restore and decorate old furniture.
Together they created the biggest eclectic interior decoration store – or rather, warehouse – in Algarve: Gosto Interiores & Arte in Boliqueime. They roam the world to find unique items and art for their store, looking for beauty in different cultures. They live in the Algarvean countryside with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Lulu and Zippo.
How do you feel about being over fifty?
Still a bit confused. More or less surprised that being over fifty qualifies for me. I always have a sense of ageless feeling, not only for me but also for the people close to me. What I do know is that I feel stronger and fitter then 10 years ago.
Which age is your favourite time? Would you like to go back?
Sounds cliché but I really am convinced that each age has its particular charm. Alongside challenges and obstacles, but getting older is more about dealing differently with these hurdles in life. Around my thirties I felt on top of the world, now I feel more at peace. I now feel the confidence, power and focus I was looking for around that age.
What would your ideal day look like? No restrictions in time, money, people or whatever.
Of course we wake up in Africa… At 05.00 o’clock in the Serengeti National Park in the North of Tanzania. Our gamedrive while the sun rises is magical. We enjoy breakfast in the fields where baskets with homegrown delicacies are spread on folding tables. Only us, breakfast and endless views. But that’s not all. We finish the morning with a balloon safari and watch the great migration of animals from above.
With the energy from Africa I meet my three older sisters in Amsterdam. We always try lunch at a new place in town, today it will be our first time at Neni Amsterdam. Eastern Mediterranean kitchen located in a large former Citroën garage building from 1931.
In the afternoon I meet Marten again in Bilbao and we wander through the Guggenheim museum. To stroll through the city afterwards and stop for tapas in the late afternoon at one of the town’s numerous authentic tapas bars.
With our dear friends we enjoy a Portuguese dinner, outside overlooking the sea at Restaurant Caniço in Alvor. Located on the beach, where an elevator transports you along the cliff right into the restaurant. Best spot in Algarve for watching the changing colours of the sky while the sun literally sinks in the sea.
From which experience did you learn, what made you stronger?
During my time in Africa I learned first hand to be aware and respect life, people, animals and environment down to the smallest details. This is still my base for the way I live my life today.
What I’ve learned when I went through my burn-out about ten years ago, is that I have a choice. It was a terrible time, Marten suffered from a severe heart attack and I tried to keep all the plates spinning. Until then I was a closed person, sturdy from the outside but fearful inside. I found it difficult to open up, make new friends in Portugal. I felt lonely. Marten helped me to make my own choices from the heart and I feel like a different person. This process opened my eyes.
What is your golden beauty trick or favourite product(s)?
Daily yoga, healthy diet and don’t deprive me of my sleep! My other mantra is keep that skin hydrated. Elizabeth Arden does it for me. And would almost forget, my daily long walks with the dogs.
Which book and/or film and/or music shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
Two books. Flow and Creativity, both by American-Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Marten gave it to me when I was in bad shape, his support was vital to me and he helped me regain my lust for life. The books did the other part, I learned to set my own course and walk in grace. To revive the unbiased approach we had as children, cheerful and passionate. Without fear or shame. Many said it before me but living in the now and making your own choices is the thin line between live in a hostile world or a friendly world without fear.
Who should we follow on Instagram?
- @rossana_orlandi founder of Italian design & art gallery in Milan
- @milkdecoration_magazine Dutch actress/writer who knows her Photoshop
- @afrostylemagz African multicultural fashion which explores diversity
- @trendtablet trend platform cofounded by Lidewij Edelkoort, leading trendwatcher of the world
- @gosto_interiores_arte no comment, haha.
What’s your favourite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world? example:
- Destination : the island of Lamu at the coast of Kenia
- Hotel : Beldi Country Club in Marrakech
- Museum : The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, both museum and garden
- Restaurant : Canico beach restaurant in Alvor, Algarve
What’s your signature dish? The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table.
If I mention Lobster-in-the-oven I can be sure to add some extra plates on the table. A winning team with my homemade scroppino. Thinking back out my childhood dinner, the first thing that comes in mind is a very Dutch dish. Endive pot roast with cheese crispy bits of bacon.
Trivia time, make a choice and share your favourite brand
- Nail polish or Lipstick? none of the above… natural look for me
- Heels or Flats? Flip flops most of the time. Or boots in winter.
- Dress or Trousers I like the dresses and trousers equals G-star jeans for me.
- Coffee or Tea? at least one bica a day, the Portuguese answer to espresso. And fresh ginger tea.
- Swimsuit or Bikini? Bikini
For more interviews of inspiring fifty somethings, see our Portraits series.
Want to share your life and style in these series or recommend an inspiring friend in her fifties? We love to hear from you. Please send us an email.