How it all began
Rederij Paping didn’t get started like other companies. It wasn’t about getting rich or even making a living. Nor did Marc Paping – or Paap to his friends – have some big dream or ambition. In truth, he doesn’t spend much time thinking about such things. Instead, three things matter to him above all: the people around him, the city he lives in and leaving them both a little better than when he found them.
And really, those three things together formed the seed from which the Rederij flowered.
In 2000, Ariane, somebody who has meant a great deal to Paap for many years, became ill. It cost her both her houseboat and her job. She was left with nowhere to go, nor – as the sickness has robbed her of her mobility – any way to get there.
As Paap explains in a short documentary (in Dutch, below) “It goes without saying that when somebody you care about needs your help, you simply have to help them. Sometimes it isn’t convenient, but then you still have to do it. And you have to do it out of love. Not like, ‘I can do this for you but this is the last time.’ You just have to do it.”
To give Ariane somewhere to stay, he built a second floor on his houseboat. But that wasn’t enough. “I thought, ‘you know, instead of stumbling around the city with her in a wheelchair, it would be better if I buy a small ship and boat her around on that’. In the beginning it was hard, as I had to lift her into the boat. But once she was onboard she was like a princess.”
That turned out to be the all-important step. Friends saw them on the boat and asked if they could get a ride. Then he realized plenty of strangers and tourists along the edge of the canal who didn’t know anybody in the city would also love to get out on the water.
“There is a code. When people have their legs dangling over the water, they always want to come along.” And so he started to ask these people if they too would like a canal tour.
From there it grew
Not like wildfire, but steadily enough. It turned from a hobby into a nice sideline and then a full-fledged business. It also went from a one-man show into a family affair when he married Carla and she became involved as well.
Admittedly, to begin with she was a bit intimidated. “She thinks I’m too famous,” He told a friend around that time in wide-eyed wonder. Until that moment, it clearly hadn’t occurred to him that he’d become a local personality. He was just trying to help others. It had never been about drawing attention to himself.
But they adjusted as she realised he hadn’t let it go to his head and he realised he could leverage this recognition into helping more people thrive.
For example they’ve teamed up with:
- Other captains to create Boat trips by Locals.
- The Fotogram school to create a Photo Tour.
- The Amsterdam Magic Show to create a Tour and Magic show combo.
- Local musicians to give the tours extra atmosphere.
Which brings us to today
The scope of the company might have changed. It’s no longer about one man building a second story on his houseboat and helping a single friend in need. At the same time, the underlying idea will always stay the same. It is still about those same three things – the people, the city and leaving them both better than they found them.
As for Ariane, she’s doing much better now. She has regained most of her mobility and her independence too. Of course, she still loves to go for boat rides, but just as often you can find her strolling through the streets of Amsterdam.
You’ll be glad to know, she still lives on the second floor of Paap’s houseboat. It’s hers as long as she wants it. Paap and Carla both hope that will be a long time indeed.
Of course, that does not mean the end of the Paping’s desire help. Quite the contrary. Recently, for example, they raised so much money for the Red Cross that they got singled out for a special mention on their website (in Dutch).
Do you want help the Papings in helping others? You can. All you have to do is book a tour. Come be a part of their story and see the world as they do – from the water and with an open heart.
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