- 1 Get to know Itchy Boots
- 2 From a geologist to a full-time traveler
- 2.1 The Birth of Itchy Boots
- 2.2 First adventure: From India to The Netherlands
- 2.3 An exchange deal with her new bike, and reaching 100,000 subscribers
- 2.4 Second adventure: her first attempt to go to Alaska from Patagonia
- 2.5 Went to Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden
- 2.6 A South African adventure
- 2.7 Surviving South America
- 2.8 Finally…Alaska
Noraly Schoenmaker, popularly known as Itchy Boots, is a motorcycle rider and traveler who captivated audiences worldwide with her amazing journeys, and made her YouTube channel one of the trending channels online since 2019. She’s found immense joy in sharing her inspiring adventures with her fans as a full-time traveler and content creator. As a result of her relatable storytelling skills, she’s attracted endorsements and partnerships, which significantly increased her net worth and made it possible for her to fulfill her dreams. Throughout her journey, reports of injuries and accidents would often surface online, and worried her huge following, but she’s dedicated herself to pursuing her goal of traveling the world on her motorcycle, which she’s done it for seven seasons and counting.
Time to cover that 190 kilometers of sand with Savannah, get out of diamond territory, and make my way to Springbok so I…
Get to know Itchy Boots
When people first heard of Itchy Boots or watched her adventures on YouTube, most couldn’t imagine that she previously had a regular job of a more serious nature. Her charming and carefree personality didn’t complement the kind of career she’d had before.
Early years and family
Noraly Rebecca Schoenmaker was born on 30 June 1987, in Nieuwerkerk, Netherlands. There was little information about her family, but she featured her parents in one of her videos detailing a tragic past concerning her father’s side of the family, from a town called Hoeksche Waard in the Zeeland province. On 1 February 1953, so many people died in parts of the Netherlands because of a storm in neighboring Scotland, which brought in rain that lasted for 12 hours straight. It became dangerous as it happened at high tide and 1/3 of the country was below sea level. The dikes were breached, and three meters of water came rushing into the residences, killing close to 2,000 people. In just one night, Noraly’s father lost his grandmother and uncles. At that time, her great-grandfather was a police officer in Rotterdam and only learned about it the next day when he reached their hometown. Back then, there were no social media apps because Internet technology wasn’t invented yet.
Education and her discovery of her true passion
Noraly’s love for exploring places emerged at a young age. As a teen, she embarked on solo journeys using unconventional means of transportation such as roller skates and bicycles in covering remarkable distances. Her insatiable wanderlust led her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biogeology, then at the age of 23, Noraly achieved a master’s degree in Geochemistry. Following her graduation from Utrecht University, she was off to Australia to gather rock samples for her upcoming Ph.D. research, intending to return to her home country to commence her studies. However, life had something else in store for her. Upon completing the sample collection, Noraly felt an overwhelming desire to explore further. She traveled around Australia, continued her journey to New Zealand, and eventually found herself in India, during which time Noraly came to a profound realization—her true passion lay in traveling and exploration rather than pursuing a scientific career. Consequently, she made the courageous decision to cancel her Ph.D. research, and forge ahead on her travels.
Her immense joy for backpack traveling
With a mere 100 euros remaining in her bank account, Noraly made her way to Perth, Australia, in search of work to replenish her funds. There, she secured a position as an exploration geologist in the mining industry, a role she held for six months. Having saved enough money, Noraly embarked on a solo backpacking adventure through Southeast Asia, then Central and South America, and East Africa. Two years later, her Australian earnings had been entirely depleted, leaving her completely penniless, unemployed, and without a home. She eventually returned to the Netherlands where fortune smiled upon her, and she swiftly found employment with an international dredging company. Over the next five years, she engaged in various dredging projects spanning the globe, and resided in diverse locations including the Bahamas, Brazil, Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Morocco, to name a few.
From a geologist to a full-time traveler
Noraly continued to nurture her love of travel during her spare time, by exploring Greenland, taking the Trans-Siberian Express through Russia and Mongolia, and visiting numerous destinations across Europe. However, it wasn’t enough for her, so she decided once again to be a full-time traveler. Hence in July 2018, Noraly made a life-altering decision – she sold her house, bid farewell to her job, and secured a one-way ticket to India. At that time, she opened a YouTube channel called Itchy Boots filming and sharing the most interesting parts of her adventure.
The Birth of Itchy Boots
In 2018, Noraly officially launched her blog, Itchy Boots, as a means to sustain her nomadic lifestyle. With her GoPro camera in hand, Noraly began documenting her adventures and uploading them. Her videos quickly gained traction, amassing over 1.5 million subscribers. Her engaging content showcased her travels to more than 50 countries, covering over 200,000 kilometers on her trusted Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle.
First adventure: From India to The Netherlands
It took Itchy Boots over 100 episodes to share her journey starting from New Delhi in India to her home in The Netherlands. She chose India to prepare all her papers along with her motorcycle so she wouldn’t have any problem going from one country to the next. There were times she was lost in the jungle and rode the worst road ever, but she persevered. She enjoyed the moment when she met elephants on the road in Thailand even if she had the misfortune to drop her bike, and needed to remove the extra baggage on it. She also had a punctured tire somewhere in Malaysia and accepted the challenge of going off-road biking in Oman. When she reached Iran, not only did she experience the hottest place on Earth, but she was also invited to be interviewed by a TV crew. Before she moved to another country, several police officers stopped her, and when they realized she was a woman, they were worried that she was traveling alone on the desert roads so they accompanied her for as long as they could.
Itchy Boots also had a wonderful yet challenging time on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, going to the Afghan border, and the tough remote roads in Tajikistan as well as experiencing the different weathers on the endless roads in Kazakhstan. One interesting moment was when she was stopped by the police when in Russia, the first time her documents were checked, but they were friendly. She had a great time in Turkey, exploring Capadoccia, and escaped a storm to reach Istanbul. Then, she went off-roading again in Albania and felt like she was Indiana Jones in Bosnia, where she was amazed at how she managed to look for trails in bushy places, as she preferred to ride into the backroads. Her motorcycle needed maintenance and some new parts when she arrived in Croatia. By the 125th episode, Noraly had returned to The Netherlands, and was met by her parents and her niece. She said it was exhilarating but quite exhausting, so she would take a break before going on another adventure.
An exchange deal with her new bike, and reaching 100,000 subscribers
In August 2019, two weeks after Itchy Boots arrived home, she received news that she needed to register her motorcycle, as it wasn’t under her name since she’d bought it in India as a tourist. Several tests had to be done, and she contacted the Royal Enfield Himalayan distributor in her city to ask if they could help her fix her bike, so it would pass all the emission testing requirements. They said they could, but she realized that even if it passed, she wouldn’t get past the other requirements, since the motorcycle that she bought was suited for the Indian market.
Who had tried charcoal ice-Cream before?? Delhi’s got it all! pic.twitter.com/8sLlK2XtpO
— Itchy Boots | ADV Rider | Youtuber (@ItchyBootsTrav) November 19, 2018
The motorcycle dealer then made a deal with her so that she could continue with her travel plans. They would take her motorcycle in exchange for a new one, as they wanted to put it on display, it having become such a popular icon due to its extensive journey. Initially she was hesitant about it, but soon realized that she didn’t want to pay for an expensive new bike. She also received a pleasant surprise from YouTube – her silver play button, which meant that her channel had generated over 100,000 subscribers. At that time, she found it far-fetched and ridiculous that she would ever receive a gold play button, because it would take an additional 900,000 subscribers to achieve that.
Second adventure: her first attempt to go to Alaska from Patagonia
With a new fully-customized motorbike, Itchy Boots embarked on a new adventure, but first she went to the UK because it was cheaper to ship the bike from Heathrow to Argentina. After that, she went back to The Netherlands and waited for her bike to arrive at its destination before she sailed to Argentina to reunite with her bike, and start her journey to Alaska. She had a crazy motorcycle adventure in Argentina, as she punctured a tire while her off-road biking was a failure. She passed by a ghost town, but saw amazing wildlife and had a Jurassic moment when she saw ruins and preserved trees that existed since the time dinosaurs were roaming the planet.
Her next stop was Chile, where she celebrated Christmas, and had her bike checked at a Himalayan shop, and was caught in a hailstorm in the Andes. She took a break when she reached her 50th episode – it seemed that she had a hard time editing and fulfilling her commitment to upload videos on her YouTube channel, while being exhausted from riding at a high altitude. The next thing her fans saw was that she was riding in Bolivia, passing by the place where Che Guevara was executed. She went to Peru, but was stuck there due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Itchy Boots experienced the horrors of the pandemic restrictions as things turned out badly there – she left her motorcycle behind, and was repatriated from Peru to go back home and made a shout-out to the efficient Dutch embassy there.
Went to Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Itchy Boots’ plans went awry, and she had to rethink how to go on her next adventure. She went to Iceland, which she said was a geologist’s dream, but had to pass Denmark first via a huge ship. Unfortunately, she went down to seasickness as they encountered rough waves. From Iceland, she rode across Norway and then to Sweden where she had a fun time when invited for a Swedish Lapland Tour by helicopter. She was refused entry at the Finland border, so returned to Norway; it was challenging, but she had a great time exploring places she’d never been before.
A South African adventure
Itchy Boots bought a new motorcycle suited for her South African adventure, the start of her sixth season on her YouTube channel. She had her first ride on the incredible dirt roads, and was excited until she encountered a road closure and then heavy rain. Locals she met and stayed with warned her about the hippopotamus, which don’t normally attack humans and would stay away, but when they felt cornered, they would become aggressive. She was amazed when she passed by the Green Canyon and also went into the mines where two billion dollars-worth of gold were taken from. It took her about 5,000 kilometers of solo motorcycling journey before arriving in Cape Town. She’d entered the Diamond Territory where the locals shared fascinating stories and photos, which she couldn’t share with the public. She also crossed the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world, where she had a rare sighting of a Pangolin, mostly known as an anteater, crossing the road, which are considered endangered as they are the most trafficked mammal in 2018, as reported by National Geographic.
Surviving South America
After pandemic restrictions had been lifted and borders were opened again, Itchy Boots traveled to South America from Africa. She bought a new and lighter motorbike for this adventure, since she felt more at ease and comfortable riding it. The bike was shipped to Ecuador, and from there she ended her 2021 in the Amazon. In Chimborazo, she found out that she was at the place closest to outer space, and then visited the Inca Temple of the Sun. She also crossed the Amazon River, and then passed through the jungle of Columbia where she got stuck in the mud. Later on, she rode in the desert and had a scary time riding a small boat with her bike to avoid passing the Darien Gap. Her journey in other countries such as Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala was challenging in the sense that she kept riding on the backroads, which could be risky – at times, locals would help her pass through the tricky roads, and warn her off areas with bandits. The most dangerous part on her journey was in Mexico, where roads were sometimes blocked by men with firearms. However, she also had some amazing experiences – when she reached a Mexican border, a police officer recognized her and asked for a photo, which he said was for his father-in-law who watched all her videos.
Itchy Boots’ ultimate dream travel destination of going to Alaska from Patagonia was successful. After entering the US, she rode the Mojave Desert in California, but then injured herself when she rode through the Nevada desert. She called her friend, who rode over 400 miles, almost 700kms to rescue her. A rest was needed for her injured ankle but the moment she could ride her bike, she left for Colorado and then went to Wyoming. Most roads were suited for biking, and traveling was far easier in the US as compared to other places. She passed Yellowstone, and was excited to see a bison up close and personal; there were also black bears and some cubs along the way. She found herself lost in Idaho, and was helped by a man with a chainsaw when trees were blocking the road.
Itchy Boots was exhausted but excited that she was getting near her goal. To get into Alaska, she crossed into Canada and experienced its backroads first. She rode through Yukon Territory, and met men digging for gold. She had an amazing time motorcycling around the sea of ice as the weather dropped.
She started her solo journey on 1 October 2019, and after she rode 65,000 kilometers or about 40,000 miles through 18 countries, she finally arrived at Deadhorse, Alaska, on 11 August 2022. She took the Polar Bear Plunge Challenge and jumped into the Arctic Ocean.
Noraly dreamed of traveling to many parts of the world, and by being Itchy Boots, she started to fulfill it by riding a motorcycle to one place, one country, or one continent at a time. She said she had more dreams to fulfill, and after taking a break, she would make plans for a new adventure. The seventh season of the web series started in February 2023 when she arrived in the Kingdom of Morocco. That was her starting point as she planned to explore the wonders and backroads of West Africa.