Dirk Jan Roeleven en Hester van der Vliet

De laatste reis van de boswachter

Van Amsterdam naar Tokyo, zonder kinderen maar met elkaar

An adventure-packed travel memoir about love, happiness and raw grief

It is an absolutely insane project: a couple, both in their late fifties, together for decades, decides to take their old banger, a third-hand Japanese Subaru, back to the place where it was manufactured. Spontaneously, because they don’t feel like dumping the car at the scrapyard after so many years of loyal service. And what’s more: ‘The lack of a reason is a good impetus to do something, I think. Futility as meaning.’ Friends respond with admiration, envy and disbelief: ‘Everyone dreams of doing something like this, but you go and do it.’ And off they go – driving their 17-year-old Subaru Forester back to the factory in Tokyo.

With 500,000 kilometres on the clock and music blaring, they drive through rivers, cross mud flats and sand dunes, on Russian asphalt, Kazakh steppe highways and Mongolian desert roads, all the way to Vladivostok, where they take the ferry to Japan. The distance totals over 23,000 kilometres, without air conditioning or any real knowledge of car maintenance. The hero of the story is, of course, the Forester, who drags them through deserts, even if there is no road at all, who sometimes splutters during heavy downpours, but otherwise takes all of it on without any problems. Sometimes everything comes together and fortune favours them, as it does upon arrival in the city of Khabarovsk. ‘The weather is mild and sunny, the road is approaching perfection, the rolling countryside is covered in birch forests and there is hardly any traffic. Life smiles at us.’

But there is more at stake. If two people find themselves side by side in the car for days upon end, it provides the opportunity to address long unspoken grievances. In this case, their involuntary childlessness. Dirk Jan’s sorrow has been gnawing away in the background. They did want children, but not at any cost, and gave up after three failed attempts at IVF. They moved on and enjoyed a good life, with travel and interesting jobs. Their circle of friends split, the people with children dropped out, the friends without children remained. On this road trip, they can finally have a long-delayed conversation and address latent regret. The journey not only provides new vistas, but also closure: by bringing home and saying goodbye to their Subaru in Japan, they also bury the trauma of their childlessness.

A very honest and moving book – and an exciting one!

Radio 1, Kunststof

So many life lessons to learn from these experiences and encounters. The most important being: dream, dare, do.

Algemeen Dagblad

Dirk Jan Roeleven

Dirk Jan Roeleven (b. 1961) works as a filmmaker, creating items for a variety of Dutch TV programmes. His writing debut The New Bicycle, which sold over 15,000 copies, takes the reader on a journey from Italy to the Netherlands and shares Roeleven’s thoughts about his father’s early passing.…

lees meer

Hester van der Vliet

Hester van der Vliet (b. 1961) is a film producer with a focus on documentary film. Since 2000, she has been working as a senior producer for the Dutch broadcaster BNNVARA.

lees meer


De laatste reis van de boswachter. Van Amsterdam naar Tokyo, zonder kinderen maar met elkaar (2020). Non-fictie, 296 pagina's.

Thema's: reizen


English (PDF document)



Spinhuissteeg 3C
1012 CJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 6 82 98 15 53

[email protected]

lees meer

Literair agent


Kerkstraat 361
1017 HW Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 - 528 99 11
[email protected]

lees meer