Back in 2008, when I was still cycling through Africa and had hopes of one day reaching the North Pole, I contacted a young polar adventurer from the Netherlands, Philip de Roo, for some advice. After I got back, I met him on a rainy afternoon in Amsterdam, and since I had not done much research on him, I was expecting a very rugged man with a big beard.
To my surprise, I was greeted by this fresh faced, young guy, tall and thin, very smartly dressed in a shirt and jacket. Was this the rugged polar adventurer? As it turned out, he was, and we had a nice chat about poles, the outdoors, and sustainability, which was already one of his passions then. We kept in touch after that first meeting.
Two years later I was working for Respect the Mountains and was looking for role models that would be interested in becoming Ambasadors for Respect the Mountains. I knew Philip was not just a polar guy, but was also passionate about mountains -guiding on Mont Blanc and other peaks in the Alps-, and very importantly, passionate about sustainability. I asked him to be an Ambassador, hoping that he would say yes, and his face broke into a big smile: ‘I’d like that very much!’, he said.
He was a busy man with his travels to the mountains and polar regions, speaking, and planning new projects, but always willing to help as an Ambassador, and as a friend. He was present at different Envirotrek events in Schoorl, where he would happily guide a group of participants to new Clean Up locations and cheered them on whilst groveling in the dirt himself, looking for litter. He never said ‘no’ if I needed him for anything environmentally or mountain related, simply made time to help the organisation when needed.
Just two months ago, we started preparing a new Supporter Campaign, where we would use some of our Ambassadors to be the face of one of our ‘7 Ways to Respect the Mountains’, in the hope people would relate to them, speaking out to help, make a difference. Philip was one of the first to agree. He was neck deep in his preparations for another explore and research expedition to the Canadian Arctic, but found the time to send us photos, and answer a bunch of questions. He planned to film himself on the ice as part of this campaign, again, to help.
Below his answer to the question ‘Why should everyone join the Respect the Mountains’ Envirotrek Series?’
Because this is your chance to actually contribute. Ties off, gloves on, and get outside, in nature. I have never heard one single person complain that they weren’t having a good time in the outdoors. It gives such satisfaction when you come home at the end of the day with garbage bags full of rubbish and you cleaned a piece of nature from litter. You’ve also been active outside, and have seen how beautiful the area is where you have just contributed to. Plus you had fun with others! You’ll be surprised what you find. Respect the Mountains give you that opportunity, so take it!
And his response to ‘How would you convince the mountain tourist to join you and support Respect the Mountains?’
I support Respect the Mountains so I can contribute. Yes, please live your life, and enjoy it! But please also think about what you can do to contribute and think about what your leave behind. Lots of little raindrops make an ocean together. All small bits help to contribute to the whole. If we want to have fun ion the mountains, then we should give other the pleasure by showing your passion, and showing your responsibility. With Respect the mountains, you can do it in little steps, and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
I was supposed to meet him a week before he left, but as it turned out, he had to be packed that day and we rescheduled our appointment till May, when he would be back.
And then the news came that he is not coming back. On April 30, 2015, the search and rescue mission for Philip de Roo and Marc Cornelissen, both experienced polar explorers, was called off.
What Philip wanted to do was to contribute. What he wanted to do was help. He wanted to make the world a better place. And he did contribute, he did help, he did make the world a better place. A kind soul with a big heart, Philip inspired us to live with passion, and make a difference. We will miss him.