How I Got To Here

How I Got To Here

Welcome, my name is Arie Hoogerbrugge and this is the [short] story of my experiences that got me to this exact place in time.

To friends, family and random interactions with people I am described as interesting, unusual and definitely different compared to anyone else they have ever personally met.

Born May 18, 1973 and raised in Grimsby Ontario, spending most of my working career in the greater Hamilton and Haldimand area.  I have also spent some time and lived in Alberta, PEI and Vancouver.

Career Summary

My bed room back in high school 1989
My bed room back in
high school 1989

A 4 ft lizard had free roam of my bedroom
4 ft lizard had free roam of my bedroom

I have been working a long time; I started my first job when I was 10 years old delivering newspapers that quickly grew to two newspaper routes and a flyer route.  Most of my pay checks ended up feeding a growing interest/hobby in high school - herpetoculture (the keeping of reptiles and amphibians in captivity).  In high school I had over 50 types of reptiles in my parents basement.

(3) Reptle Store business card
Reptile Store business card

This hobby later became a business that became many businesses.  In 1997 I started a reptile wholesale business called Reptiles Unlimited; supplying reptiles, feeders and my own dry good line to 100 stores across Ontario.  For sure I was the dominant reptile wholesale company in Ontario at the time when it came to quality and service.  This business eventually evolved into opening my first retail store called the Reptile Store.  I also built a reptile party room providing educational birthday parties to 1000's and 1000's of children.

The Reptile Store 1999
The Reptile Store 1999
The Reptile Store 2001
The Reptile Store 2001

I even opened a fish store. I had about 13 full and part time employees at the height of it all.  These businesses definitely taught me about reliability, reputation, business ethics and excellence.  At the time I can safely say my store lead the industry standards for cleanliness, reputation and excellence.

Reptile Show in 2008 - Albino Burmese Python
Reptile Show in 2008,
Albino Burmese Python

In the years since I have moved on looking for more different and interesting experiences.  In 2011 I worked for a season in seismic (exploration of natural gas and oil) in Alberta.  That was a brutal job; working as a mule, laying cable through the wilderness in the middle of winter fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.  And I got my first experience in helicopter!  This seismic experience opened up an opportunity to take a heavy equipment course in PEI.  I thought when else would I ever get an opportunity to play on a excavator, backhoe, dozer or loader?

Later in 2011 was also the year I did my first expedition bike ride across Western and Northern Canada.  6,500 km's in 14 weeks less a day would be one of my greatest experiences of my life.  Read more about that here

In 2013 I needed to make some career changes and found myself taking an AZ truck driving course and ended up driving a truck for Voortman Cookies long haul.  Now I realize driving a truck is not on every persons radar as a respected profession.  But I have also come to realize that unless you have been in the "big boys" seat that these opinions are a bit misguided.  In all my years of working and of all the experiences that I have had; driving a truck has been the craziest and most challenging.  Voortman Cookies runs a specialized trucking company from the perspective of having to unload the trailers by hand and our delivery locations - storage units.  Most storage units are not designed for 53 foot trailers. 

Parked in New Mexico
Parked in New Mexico

Whether during the day or night; rain or shine or snow, navigating a storage unit in a large truck will put you to the test.  All my co-works have 20 - 40 years experience I had 6 weeks driving school. I have come to realize based on my experience that driving for Voortman's is being part of an elite driving team.  I run New York City regularly but I have also travelled all of the Lower-48 except for Vermont. (Have to figure out how to make it to Vermont someday).   And yes New York City is a very crazy place in a truck.  It is difficult to imagine any challenge ahead of me more stressful or challenging then backing a truck through a narrow gate in the middle of New York rush hour.  Truly the hardest most stressful job of my life.  But also the most rewarding when I think of accomplishments under pressure.

Travel Experience and Belize

Black Howler Monkey
Black Howler Monkey

I can't say that I have extensive world travel experience but this is because of having a home in Belize, Central America.  It is difficult for one to travel when one needs to make it back home as often as possible.

I did my first trip outside of North America in 1997 to Belize and absolutely fell in love the moment I got off the plane.  I spent two weeks hand picking rice in the jungle and was hooked on life in the jungle.  Right before my 20th birthday I bought a house in Canada.  I sold that house that I might buy a house in the middle of the jungle in the village of Scotland Halfmoon of the Community Baboon Sanctuary.  The Community Baboon Sanctuary would have one of the largest concentrations of Black Howler Monkeys in the world.  Since 1997 I have spent a combined two and half years down in Belize over the years. 

House - Still Under Construction
House - Still Under Construction

Where we live and on our road into the jungle has an amazing concentration and variety of wildlife.  We have bird species too numerous to count and we seem to have a very high concentration of large cats (jaguars and pumas) in the area.  I have been fortunate to see a mountain lion on our road in 2009.  The others on the farm see jaguars fairly regularly but fresh tracks are noticed all the time. I have spotted and collected many species of reptiles and amphibians over the years.  A recent update from the farm mentioned a mother Tapir and calf around the farm.

Wilderness First Responder course in Belize 2010
Wilderness First Responder
Course in Belize 2010

Some other mentionable experiences include acquiring the status of a farm manager on a work permit. And taking a wilderness first responder and swift water course in the jungles that involved 75 hours of volunteer service at the Belmopan Western Regional Hospital.

House - A mostly completed rear view
A mostly completed rear view.

My home in Belize is currently being rebuilt due to a massively fast growing Tubroos Tree growing behind it.  The existing house has been dismantled and being rebuilt; raised about 5 1/2 feet off the ground to allow the tree roots to continue to grow through and around the existing foundation.

In September I hope to start a tree farm raising a few select tree species for reforestation of rainforest and jungle.  I have about an acre of land that needs to be cleaned and leveled to prep the land for this project.  I am very excited about starting this project.  I have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up.

Spiny Tail Iguana in a tree
Spiny Tail Iguana in a tree

Travelling to Belize as provided me a chance to travel to Guatemala (Tikal) and many many trips to Mexico.  In 2004 I did a 40 day road trip to Alaska and their arctic highway called the Dalton Highway.  And in 2014 I did a two week mission trip to Burkina Faso, Africa.

Concluding Thoughts

I've done my best to keep this little bio a short as possible.  When I reflect back over my life I am really not sure how I got here.  I am guessing my parents had a lot to do with who I am as a person and my thought processes, but there is still a lot of things unexplained. I live a very non-conformist, unorthodox lifestyle.  I live simply and self-sacrificially to accomplish my desired goals.  It has not always worked out and I do very much miss out on normal everyday experiences that most people take for granted.  But I have concluded that it is very much about the experience of adventure and for me boredom and a life of predictability are my biggest nemesis.  And I will endeavor to do my best to keep them at bay and that my bio may have many more chapters ahead of it.