I have always wanted to see the world with my own eyes. At first, I began my dreams imaginatively, by reading the stories of Jules Verne, the adventures of Alain de Prelle and reading the testimonies of the great explorers. With fortification from the stories told by these people, I bought my first backpack, a sleeping bag and a train ticket…..
One day, when I was only 15 or 16 years old, I came across “Le Manuel du Routard”, a kind of preamble to the travel guides of the same name published by Hachette. At the beginning of the book that would become my travel bible for many years, it is written that every self-respecting backpacker must have hitchhiked Paris-Istanbul at least once in his life.
First, I took a map and a couple of cups of coffee to get a better idea of the route. Then, I found a student job to save some money. As the money accumulated, I devoted part of it to the purchase of the necessary equipment and the other to the making of a small stocking of wool to “live on the road”. With my new commitment to minimalistic living, I felt ready to go.
I left home with only a sleeping bag, some food and change of clothes in my backpack. I hitchhiked from the Liege region to reach Paris and the Morning Market at Rungis to make the real start of my “Paris-Istanbul” under the conditions prescribed by the manual. An experience, which at times I felt I was unprepared, a little adventurous, during which I had to adapt to the circumstances, but which I never regretted.
Since then I have travelled many countries. I have travelled Finland from south to north, I have fallen in love with Ireland and Malta, I have travelled to Compostela by the maritime route called “Camino del Norte”. I have (really) travelled thousands of kilometres on foot, by hitchhiking, by bus, by train, by plane… and even by sailing boat.
Since then, my original edition of the “Manuel du Routard” has become obsolete and worn. I rely mainly on my personal experience to map my new urban dives or my nature baths. In all honesty, I admit I loved every moment of my travels, that I was wrong, often and angry, sometimes. My only regret is that I have not been able to chart the course of events more often.
I have always had fun because I like to meet people. I like to share the daily life of those who have a different way of life than I do, comparing points of view and learning to see things differently. Other ways of doing things often lead to similar results, sometimes by using much more rudimentary means than what we have at our disposal, by taking more economical actions, or simply by relying on basic common sense.
In my travels I have made mistakes and I want you to avoid the same pitfalls by sharing my tips, my errors, and updated information on how to travel lightly, eat what nature offers us at the roadside, set a GPS or plot a route on a map..
I have been disappointed about some people’s behaviour when they travel and at my own reactions to them. Following some simple rules enables us to share the in the richness of other cultures and customs abroad and provides a framework of acceptable conduct – helping all to live well together.
In 2016 I changed jobs, taking off my journalist’s hat with the firm intention of continuing to write, but in another form. In the process of learning my new role, I lost the habit of spending time writing on my keyboard. Presently, I miss this immensely. I feel that something is lacking. For this reason, I have decided to resurrect my pen to share, what I believe to be the best of my travels.
Translation : Alain Demaret (BEL) – Proofreading : Luella Tyler (AUS)