Without purpose there is no meaning. Objectives we set for ourselves are guiding our minds towards something, they are the fuel that allow our hearts to keep pumping. But if we have none, then what’s left in our thoughts are revolving questions about the meaning of our own existence. So the goals we set to ourselves are a necessary condition to our own survival.
THE NEED FOR STORYTELLING
We all crave for stories. When we were children bed time stories were building up our dreams. As adults, we see stories as diverting, inspiring. Even if we grew up, stories have always been there, accompanying us through movies, books, comics and video games. Stories allows us to put ourselves in a different world. They infuse moments within us. Moments we would never experience ourselves otherwise. Such a long travel is inevitably creating a countless batch of small stories. Of course, they are less exiting than an episode of game of thrones (not talking about the final episode), but these stories are real and they are our own. They are not only a moment of our existence, but a whole part of our true self.
For most of those stories, they will never be anything more than fragments of our memory. They won’t be said out loud, nor experienced by anyone else. Those stories will vanish when we do. But isn’t that comforting somehow ? To know that we don’t need to reach for greatness, because what we experience is in the end for our eyes and our eyes only ?
For seven months, I tried to tell a part of my own story through photography. This exercise coupled with a little bit of writing, revealed inside me a thirst for creation I’ve never experienced before. From this moment forward, I knew that each time I put words together, take a photo or draw something, I instantly feel better. It is really hard to put words on it, but going out there, creating things, no matter what the outcome might be, is the only way I feel truly whole. Leaving a trace, even though futile or unseen, makes me feel alive. Every creation is the very proof of our own existence through palpable medias. At least, that’s the way I see it.
SEVEN MONTHS IN NUMBERS
Time really has a relative dimension. I feel like I saw, learned and experienced much more in the last seven months than in the last 10 years. All in all, it kind of makes sense when you wake up each day to go out and actually do stuff, it is crazy how much you can accomplish in so little time. Even though, I reckon it can feel a bit overwhelming when you enter a huge megapolis such as Tokyo, where you have have so little time and so many things to see. In the long run, you eventually learn how to focus on a framed set of activities. After all, there’s only so little hours in a day. All things considered, if you start with a very high pace, you won’t make it til the end.
It’s always interesting to have a throwback in numbers, although sometimes numbers are so big they don’t really mean anything. For instance, If I tell you that the earth is 4.543.000.000 years old, what would you do with that ? Yeah, nothing. I thought as much. Why ? Because these numbers are so far off from what an human life can experience that we can’t phisically relate to them. What is 4.5 Billion years when you can roughly live 80 ? So let’s try to generate some numbers relative to a human existence.
- 7 Months and 4 days total (from May to December 2022)
- 16 countries visited (Luxembourg, Germany, Czechia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan)
- 13.000€ total money spent
- 5 books read (L’utopie sauvage, Catch-22, Everybody writes, The old man and the sea, Sapiens)
- 15679 photos taken (from which I published around 600 on my blog and instagram)
- 671 video taken
- 125 drawing made (At least one in every city)
- 28 articles written on the blog (1 per week)
- 16.772 steps each day
- 9,5 km walked each day
- 8 planes taken, including transits (Finland > Singapore, Vietnam > South Korea, South Korea > Jeju, South Korea > Japan, Japan > France)
- Countless people met : (Shoutout to the specials, in order of appearance : Valeria, Dayeon, Mohan, Simone, Vicky, Flo & Dori, Kim (the best Korean guide ever), Gavin, and all the one time only friends who I shared a drink or an evening with.
This is the core issue anyone moving that long will have to face. Should I take this cap just in case it becomes cold ? Or these pills in case I get bitten by a mongoose ? This helmet in case I flight in a jumbo-jet and crash in the middle of nowhere ? Preparing yourself to face a solo trip without packing useless stuff is key to a comfortable journey. The general idea when packing my stuff was to take as much polyvalent hardware as possible, without taking things too specific. Like that helmet we talked about. It is common sense, sure, but it doesn’t mean it is easy to choose wisely. Usually, I’d always ask myself the same question twice : “what do I really need this for ?”
Note that if you’re not in the wild, you’ll always have the possibility to buy stuff on the go. So all in all, pack what is truly dear to you. I marked the stuff on the list with a (U) for things I barely or didn’t use at all. Except for the first aid kit, because obviously, the less you use it, the better.
- 5 pairs of socks / 5 underwear
- 7 t-shirts : 3 long sleeves, 4 short sleeves
- 1 Pullover
- 2 pants, 1 short
- 1 rain jacket (with polar-removable layer)
- Misc : 1 compact scarf, 1 light short (U) , 1 bathing suit
ELECTRONICS SORTER CASE
- 4 usb cables (lighting + usb C)
- 1 universal plug converter
- 1 iPad
- 1 set of earbuds
- 1 lock with a small chain
- 2 SD cards (64Go & 256Go)
- 1 Hard drive (2To)
- 1 Camera Sony A7RIII
- 1 Lens Tamron 24-70mm
- 1 small tripod
- 2 batteries
- 1 AirTag
- 1 Cleaning kit
FIRST AID KIT
- 1 heating blanket
- 2 bandages
- 5 Blister bandages
- 6 sterilisers
- 1 small scissors
- 1 mini sewing kit
- 1 soap
- 5 face masks
- 1 latex gloves
- 1 box of earplugs
- 1 box of painkillers
- 1 Solar screen cream 50° (U)
- 1 sample of perfume (90ml)
- 1 bottle of hair wax (90ml)
- 1 Toothbrush with toothpaste
- 1 bottle Liquid soap (90ml)
- 1 Nail cutter
- 1 Electrical razor
- 1 spare backpack
- 1 water flask
- 1 silk bag (U)
- 1 small umbrella (a gift I got in Korea) (U)
- 1 Swiss knife with a plastic fork
- 1 notebook
- 1 pencil case
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN INTERESTS
Some people travel to have fun, some do it to breathe and relax from their daily routine, others to experience new cultures.. everyone has preferences and it is important to listen to yours. Usually, such a long journey is motivated by a deep need for a change, but the how is for you to define. To me it was mostly about taking pictures, sketching and experiencing architecture. Although, I am not gonna lie, eating and drinking with freshly met people are also part of the leitmotiv.
People often asked me if it wasn’t hard to do travel alone. A question to which I answered, that it is easier to do things you really want, rather than compromise and feel frustrated. The only other way to travel without compromises, is to do it with people you have common interests with. It is not always easy to find such friends, but a handful of them is plenty enough. In the end, I was lucky to be joined by some of them along the path. Because even though it can be frustrating sometimes, sharing parts of the experience is the only way to make it genuinely valuable.
Now, as an architect, experiencing space and learning about the culture of building were also keys elements that lead my daily path. The great thing with architecture is that no matter where you go, you’ll eventually bump into places that actually moves you. Then, all you have to do is try and identify it. It can be anything really : dilatation in space, materiality, a view, a sequence… It’s not always easy to put a finger on it, but if it is relevant, it will evidently reveal itself while analyzing.
ENJOY EVERY BITS
When travelling half a year, time flies by at lightning speed. One moment you set a foot outside, the next you’re be back home, just like that. Trust me, even when you’ll get bored, you will remember your journey as a non-stop, non-linear event. Even with a very organised, boring routine, each day will inevitably feel extremely different from the last. Mostly because the stream of information your eyes are processing is shifting in every places, stimulated by the marvels each cultures has to offer. To summarise, this schedule was my daily routine :
- 9h : Getting up
- 10h : Leaving the hostel
- 10h30 : Getting a coffee while writing the blog
- 12h : Starting exploration
- 13h – 14h : taking a quick lunch break
- 14h30 to 20h00 : walking around, visiting, sightseeing, taking photos, drawing (depending on the daylight schedule of course)
- 20h : looking for a lunch
- 21h : Working on photos
- 22h : going to sleep
If you are going by yourself, know that even though you’ll be constantly amazed while discovering new cultures and incredible places, you will inevitably have lonely times too. But in the end, all we keep are good memories. Sometimes, with enough distance, even a bad experience turns out to be a good recollection. (See : Railay beach) Mostly because in a bad moment, we tend to be submerged by an overflow of emotion, usually implying lassitude frustration or boredom. It can even be all of them at the same time. But after a while, memories are smoothing out. When I was stuck on Riley beach for instance, I felt dumb not to have taken the last boat. But all I can clearly recall right now, is how intense were the colors on the beach that night. With a step back, the trade was worth it a million times.
DON’T YIELD TO DOUBTS
Sometimes an inside voice was whispering to me ”what are you even doing here?” but most of the time it was screaming “why did you wait so long to do it?!” I think we all have moments of doubts and a solo trip can feel lonely from time to time, especially if you dwell too much on your thoughts. So my advise is : don’t. Keep yourself busy and enjoy what you do. Always remember why you did this in the first place. We all have good reasons to leave everything for such a long journey. To me it was mainly because I wanted to experience reality and escape from a lifestyle I felt stuck in.
Don’t be blinded by what is expected of you, or you will inevitably miss out. There is earning money, making a name for yourself, buying a house ; a better car ; more stuff than you really need, raising a family, but is any of that really you ? Don’t relentlessly try to stuck your feet into shoes that didn’t fit in the first place. Trying to replicate other people’s life is a one way street leading to unhappiness. Find your own model. I don’t want to be the one giving life advices, or patronising people to the moon, because let’s be honest, I am mayhem’s best friend. But anxiety about tomorrow won’t vanish whilst fulfilling an arm-long list of life goals. Anxiety will always be here, especially if you content yourself with things that have been placed in front of you to consume without questioning.
On the other hand, taking advices from a random guy on the internet is even worse than following a generic model. But I reckon, if you are here reading these lines, it is for a reason. (Or maybe you’re just one of my good friends, reading the whole thing until the end, in which case I salute your effort). Anyhow, as you might have guessed, I have no generic answer. Explore, observe, read, learn, create, make your own world within this one, is all I can truly recommend to try to reach by the tips of your fingers, what we call happiness.
A DEEPER SENSE OF PURPOSE
When I got back home, I had the curious feeling that time had stopped there. As if everything stayed put the way it was on the 4th of May 2022, waiting for me to come back. Even though the world obviously kept running, in my mind the place I left was motionless. It was like, as a kid, finding back the seat of your classroom in September, after the summer vacation. What is seven months after all ? Not much in a daily life, but it can turn into so much depending on how you decide to spend them. Over the course of these seven months, this is one of the most important thing I came to realise.
Now, if you are looking for enlightenment during your travel, know that nothing inherently makes any sense. We can’t all be Gwen Stefani and find a meaning while coming back from India. Sense is something we craft for ourself to give a meaning to our daily lives. It does not exist by itself. To me it is important to truly acknowledge that, in order to move on. If you think things are done for a greater purpose, good for you. But if you do not, then don’t think travelling will bring you answers.
Finally, if there is one thing about myself I came to realise, is that there will never be anything in the world that will give me peace. I had the chance to see many things, meet many people, but the same questions about the meaning of it all remain stuck in my head. Along the way, I couldn’t find answers, but rather more questions. In the end, being constantly aroused by a world in motion is what makes your mind go AWOL, not the other way around. Peace has to come from the inside and it is for us to decide how.
I truly hope this voyage inspired you to get out there. Or at least aroused your curiosity. Now the journey has come to an end, a new chapter will open in my life. A new adventurous, yet less exiting story.
…How about you, what is your next move going to be ?…