Meet Sylvester, director of Con Amore, an educational institute for healthcare professionals that unites two distinct paradigms in healthcare: the conventional medical approach and alternative medicine. Con Amore’s office has been located on the third floor of Bouncespace Overtoom since 2021. Prior to fully embracing his role at Con Amore, Sylvester founded two hospitality businesses. However, as he found himself trapped in habits like excessive partying and alcohol consumption, he realized there was more to life. Today, he lives in a beautiful village in Portugal, wholeheartedly embracing a holistic lifestyle, driven by his quest for purpose and well-being. Join us as we explore his remarkable transformation.
You’ve taken over the torch from your father. Can you tell us more about Con Amore?My father, an anthroposophic general practitioner, noticed a significant gap between various healthcare disciplines in the Netherlands. General practitioners and alternative healthcare practitioners, such as acupuncturists, coaches, and massage therapist, often seemed isolated in their own “bubbles”, leading to a lack of trust and collaboration. A lot of valuable knowledge was lost.We aim to change this by offering therapists courses on basic Medical and Psychosocial knowledge. This enables them to learn the language of mainstream healthcare and refer accurately when necessary. On the flip side, this builds trust among mainstream healthcare professionals in alternative therapists. In this way, they can work together more effectively. Our goal is for healthcare providers to not only treat symptoms but also have an understanding of the underlying causes of health problems.
Sounds like you're critical of the conventional healthcare system?No, not at all. We are trying to establish a better connection between mainstream and alternative medicine because both approaches can complement each other. Mainstream healthcare excels in acute situations but often falls short in addressing long-term and causal approaches to health problems, simply because there is usually not enough time. Often, medication is prescribed just to treat the symptoms. A therapist can take more time to investigate underlying causes, such as persistent headaches, or pay more attention to patients with chronic pain, fatigue, or autoimmune diseases. These conditions are complex and could require a holistic approach to address the underlying issues. That's why alternative approaches and collaboration between mainstream and alternative healthcare are essential.
How does Con Amore’s mission fit into your own life?Well, I had zero background in healthcare. Neither was I truly aware of what alternative medicine could do. I just wanted to help my father out. At that time I also managed two hospitality businesses: Duke of Tokyo, a karaoke bar in Amsterdam, and a hostel in Colombia. Both projects were a lot of fun and are still successful. However, slowly but surely, I realized that I wanted more. I was also in the process of reducing my alcohol consumption. When you have a hospitality business, your main goal is to encourage people to drink more to increase your revenue. Of course, the aim is also for them to have a good time, but your business goal is essentially revenue. I was seeking more meaning. So, I exited both projects and fully focused on Con Amore. I found that it brought much more fulfillment.
Was there ever a moment when you asked yourself, "I'm deeply involved in healthcare, but I am also promoting something harmful for people at the same time, just for financial gain”?Hmm, perhaps unconsciously. But it was more that it coincided with my personal journey.
“ I was stuck in certain patterns, like partying, drug use, and alcohol. I realized that I had become dependent on these things to have fun. Step by step, I began to break these habits. “
What was your journey then?At a certain point, in 2017, I realized that I was stuck in certain patterns, like partying, drug use, and alcohol. I realized that I had become dependent on these things to have fun. Step by step, I began to break these habits. When I stopped drinking alcohol for a period, my mind became clearer than ever before. I started to view life in a different way. I realized that I was addicted to the hustle and bustle in the hospitality industry. Although I loved the hospitality sector and still consider it important as a place where people come together, relax, and enjoy, I realized that it was all I knew. When I started experiencing panic feelings and developed a mild anxiety disorder, I understood that I needed to make a drastic change.
By then, you were already director of Con Amore for three years. Did that contribute to your decision?Yes, initially, I was just managing a business that happened to be in the healthcare sector. But as I met more therapists and delved into a different lifestyle, I consciously started changing my life. Mindful meditation helped me overcome my anxiety disorder. In recent years, I have explored various alternative healing methods. After an Ayahuasca session [South American plant medicine], I realized that I had achieved all the goals that I had set for myself at the age of eighteen: a house, three businesses, and marriage. But then I began to wonder, what do I really want? I had never thought about what I wanted for myself, nor who I truly was. So, here my journey of self-discovery started which eventually led me to new love and a small village in Portugal.
“I realized that I was addicted to the hustle and bustle in the hospitality industry; I needed to get out.”