Why do we love traveling?
– Because the world is beautiful. It is not a big world, if you think about it. The Sun, which is not bigger than a shiny pancake in the sky, is about a million times bigger than our planet Earth, which makes our planet Earth as small as a pancake crumb! But, still, it’s a beautiful planet. So many amazing places to explore…
But that’s not all. We love traveling also because of the other people who love traveling. One of the best thing happening everywhere we go is meeting incredible folks and making new friends. We become magnets for people with similar interests, values, and worldviews. We form a tribe based on common dreams.
The very first day we arrived in Rio Dulce we met Daeli, Joni, Noial, Elan, Lovam, and Spirit, presently living and traveling aboard a 39-feet catamaran Solaris Sunstream named FriendShip. We became inseparable.
Their extraordinary story captivated us. It begins like this:
At the foot of a volcano a tall French guy met an American girl who was reading his favorite book: Papillon by Henri Charriere. They climbed the volcano together and kept going; never stopped.
We were in a town slowly getting swallowed by the Sahara desert. Today probably it doesn’t exist anymore, covered by sand, the last town before the desert. The last time it rained there was ten years ago. It’s one of the driest places in the world. That’s why they keep metal there, mountains of iron, it never corrodes. The people in this town are really tall. They wear white jilabas and blue turbans, completely covered from the head down. There was this doctor who let us sleep on top of his roof for three nights. He told us, ‘I think she is pregnant’. He was speaking good french. The morning we found out Joni was pregnant we smoked our last cigarettes and started down the road hitch-hiking. A car saw us and pulled over. There was a goat near the road but the driver didn’t see it and hit it. The goat was badly injured. „Don’t look the goat in the eye, Daeli said, an exchange of evil spirits might occur!“ Noial was born in 2003, the Year of the Goat, in Reunion Island, after we have been traveling for months around Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius.
Most of the time we would hitch-hike and camp out. But sometimes we would take the train. The trains in West Africa are tricky. People from the surrounding areas start arriving at the station days before the train and camp out for up to a week next to the railroad tracks waiting for the train to arrive. The whole thing turns into a huge party. Finally the train shows up, one of those iron trains: carts loaded with iron. That’s the heaviest train in the world. The passengers hop on top of the iron chunks and that’s how we traveled, on top of the iron. They even serve tea up there, pass it around to the people. After Noial was born we spent two years traveling around Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Comoros Islands, Kenya , and Ethiopia. Back in France we bought two bikes. The plan was to go around the world on bikes. We traveled for eight months around Europe as far north as Tromso in Norway (even to Svalbard). Then we went south to Tunisia. There we found out Joni was pregnant again. We couldn’t do a bike trip around the world with two babies and so we decided to get a sailboat instead.
We started looking for a sailboat while biking. We biked around Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St Maarten where we finally found a boat. A 31-feet aluminum Brise-de-Mer named Josee. We knew nothing about sailing, we didn’t even know how to move the boom but we were so happy.
We enjoyed our boat and life at anchor, swimming and splashing around even though the anchorage was so dirty and polluted by the nearby boatyard. No one else was going in the water. Maybe that’s where I got the infection, I’m not sure. Elan was born in 2006 in St lucia with hypotonic cerebral palsy. In the beginning we were so worried. What is he gonna be like? Is he gonna walk? But then we realized there is no point worrying about those things and accepted his condition as part of our life.
We kept going. We sailed to Venezuela, Aruba Bonaire, Curacao, Colombia, and Panama and did land trips there. We travelled inland in Colombia and Venezuela for 4 months. Two years later, in 2008, Lovam was born in Guadeloupe.
We now had three small kids, one with PVL, but we never stopped traveling. I think it’s genetic. There is this theory about the nomadic gene. You either have it or you don’t. If you are born with it you start to get depressed if you stay in one place for too long, you can even get physical illnesses. I think both Daeli and me have the nomadic gene.
In 2011 we bought FriendShip, a 39- feet catamaran, as we needed more space.
In the beginning of their travels, in Africa, Europe and Latin America, Daeli and Joni didn’t record their journey as they didn’t have a photo camera. They were traveling mainly on foot, hitch-hiking and biking trying to keep it really light, getting their backpacks down to 7 kilograms each. They slept by the Alley of the Baobabs in Madagascar, and on top of Piton de la Fournaise volcano in Reunion, they camped at the edge of the Limestone Forest and Isalo Park with white lemurs in the trees around them. They sailed with the Vezo, semi-nomadic people on the west coast of Madagascar, on a small hand-carved pirogue. That is when they first got the taste for sailing. They were welcomed to pitch a tent in a Masai village in Kenya. They met the turkana people of lake Turkana, and visited the medieval town of Gondar in Ethiopia. They went on bike trips around France,Denmark, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany, and Sweden and later around USA with the three babies, four months camping out, never slept in a hotel. They biked the Olympic Peninsula and the coast of Oregon. They lived in Slab City for a while. Then they got an old 1986 van and did van trips in Canada, and from Canada down to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
I kept going to the United States in between trips to do therapies with Ilan. We tried everything: all the traditional physical, speech and occupational therapies; we tried alternative ones: Craneosacral therapy, Conductive Education, the Feldenkrais Method. They were all really good but very expensive. My hope is that one day they will be covered by insurance.
People ask us how we finance our lifestyle. We work from time to time, but most importantly, we live really cheaply. We have no bills. We make handmade jewelry and sell it. When we work, we save up to buy the big things, like the boats and the van. Our most precious possessions are our experiences and memories.
The following pictures are from their later travels with the kids, when they got a camera.