End of the Trip Interview, Part 2 : “Wanderlust”…

ITW 2

You were traveling on your own, was it scary sometimes ?

When I arrived in my Bishkek hostel (Kirghizstan), I was really wondering what I was doing there. There was no other traveller in the dorm and I got a bit anxious. Though, I had no choice but moving my ass. So I got over my fears, started to explore the place, and I had a wonderful time.
You know, sometimes, when you read guide books or embassies advices, you get the feeling that police officers will screw you, that food is gonna be rotten, and that Muslims will stone you, etc. etc. And of course nothing happens.

Quand je suis arrivée dans mon hôtel de Bishkek, au Kirghizistan, je me suis vraiment demandé ce que je faisais là. J’étais seule dans mon auberge, prête à repartir. Mais bon, je n’avais vraiment le choix, je me suis un peu poussée au train, alors j’ai commencé à explorer la ville et j’ai passé un moment extraordinaire.
Vous savez, parfois, quand on lit les guides de voyage et les conseils des ambassades, on a l’impressions que le monde n’est fait que de policiers corrompus, de nourriture pourrie, de musulmans intégristes, etc. Et bien sûr rien de tout cela n’arrive dans la vraie vie.

So you didn’t face any real danger?

Flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu, I suddenly realized I was flying Malaysian Airlines, just after the MH370 had vanished. I couldn’t help it but think about it, so I was glad when we finally landed.
On the other hand, after flying Uzbekistan Airlines on my way back from the Aral Sea, I found out that this company was having a record rate of fatal accidents. This is, finally, the only dangerous situation I really got into, without even knowing it.
Overall, I was very cautious in every decision I made because I didn’t want my trip to end prematurely, for a broken knee or whatever.

Lorsque je volais entre Kuala Lumpur et Kota Bharu, j’ai soudain réalisé que je volais sur Malaysian Airlines, juste après la disparition du MH370. Je n’ai pas pu m’empêcher d’y penser et j’étais bien contente qu’on arrive.
Par contre, à mon retour de la Mer d’Aral sur un vol Uzbekistan Airlines, j’ai découvert que cette compagnie enregistrait un nombre impressionnant d’accidents mortels. C’est finalement la seule situation dangereuse à laquelle j’ai réellement dû faire face, sans même le savoir.

Any tip to be able to face all the different situations you’ve experienced ?

1. Observation. When you don’t speak a language, watch what others do and be flexible.
2. Be savvy, resourceful. An example? I used to dry my underwear with my external hard drive which was always getting too hot 🙂

1. Il faut avoir le sens de l’observation, surtout quand on ne parle pas la langue. Regarder comment les autres font et s’adapter.
2. Etre malin, savoir se débrouiller. Un exemple ? Je séchais mes sous vêtements avec mon disque dur externe qui chauffait trop; haha.

Did you learn something about yourself ?

Frankly, not really. I knew, more or less, what I would face, what it would take.
Though, two traits of mind surprised me.
First. I haven’t be able to forget my ‘’real’’ life and always kept in mind that I’d need to come back.
Secondly. On the other hand I’ve been able to give up on planning. Actually, I didn’t feel the need to plan the day or the week to come. The only thing I needed to think ahead was the length on y stay in a country because you need a return ticket when you enter a country.

Pas vraiment. Je savais plus ou moins à quoi j’allais devoir faire face et j’étais prête.
Deux choses m’ont pourtant surprise, sur ma façon de réagir.
D’abord, je n’ai pas vraiment réussi à déconnecter, j’ai toujours garder à l’esprit ce que j’allais faire à mon retour.
A l’inverse, j’ai été contente de voir que j’avais été capable d’abandonner mon habitude de tout planifier. Je pouvais changer de programme d’une minute à l’autre, pour le reste de la journée, du lendemain, en fonction des circonstances, des rencontres… C’est très libérateur.

What have you learnt?

That everything is possible. The world is an open playground, and I feel capable of doing basically anything. Sky is the limit.
I’ve been able to find my way in Russia where nobody speaks English or where there is nobody at all (Perm), to ride a Royal Enfield in Rajasthan, to get our of mud tracks with a damned scooter in South Java, to deal with unfriendly airport officers in Bangladesh, to explore Central Asia on my own in places where nobody goes…
I feel that I can try everything, go everywhere.

Que tout est possible. Le monde est un immense terrain de jeu et je me sens capable de tout y faire.
J’ai été capable de trouver mon chemin à travers la Russie alors que personne ou presque n’y parle anglais, ou de me retrouver au milieu de nulle part (Perm), de rouler en moto en Inde, de sortir de routes boueuses en scooter à Java, de gérer un situation difficile avec des douaniers Bangladais, d’explorer l’Asie Centrale alors que personne n’y mets les pieds…
J’ai l’impression que je peux tout essayer, et aller partout.

How does that change who you are?

I fell like nothing can stop me. So, when I’m back to my reality, I hope that my wonderwoman mindset is going to help me overcome the hurdles – And especially people’s lack of enthusiasm, in general. 

J’ai l’impression que rien ne peut m’arrêter. J’espère que ce sentiment d’être Wonderwoman va me permettre de surmonter les obstacles, et en particulier le manque d’enthousiasme des gens, en général.

Does that mean it’s been easy, overall ?

I wouldn’t say that. Finding the energy to move forward when my traveling companions were leaving was always a challenge. The only challenge actually. And, in that respect, receiving all kind of messages from my friends, through the blog and beyond the blog, has been decisive. I will never thank you enough guys !
I’ve been extremely surprised by the interactions triggered by my blog. All my friends, and beyond, have exchanged with me through this platform. Even though I’ve been away for a year, I’m closer to my folks now than I was before.

Je ne dirais pas tout à fait ça. trouver l’énergie de se remobiliser après le départ de mes compagnons de voyage a toujours été un défi, par exemple. Le seul même. De ce point de vue, les messages réguliers que j’ai reçus de mes amis, sur le blog et au-delà du blog, ont été décisifs. Je ne vous en remercierai jamais assez !!!
Dans l’ensemble, j’ai été extrêmement surprise par les interactions suscitées par le blog. Tous mes amis, et même des inconnus, ont échangé avec moi sur cette plateforme. Même si j’ai été absente pendant un an, je me sens plus proche de mes amis maintenant que je ne l’ai jamais été.

Did you miss your life?

Not really. I didn’t miss my daily routine, my job or my apartment. I didn’t miss Paris, its traffic jam, pollution and aggressiveness… I only missed my folks, very much ! And my grandparents, I would have liked to share this experience with them, make them thrill one last time. Anyway. So, no, I didn’t miss Paris much, but I’m definitely very happy to be with my parents, friends and colleagues again.

Pas vraiment. Ni ma routine, mon job ou mon appartement. Ni Paris, sa pollution, sa circulation et son agressivité. Seuls mes proches m’ont manqué, et beaucoup ! Et mes grands-parents, j’aurais aimé partagé cette expérience avec eux, ils en auraient fait une jaunisse de peur mais en même temps ça les aurait fait vibrer encore une fois. Bref. Donc non, Paris ne m’a pas manqué. Mais aujourd’hui je suis contente d’avoir retrouvé ma famille, mes amis, mes collègues.

Your next challenges ?

Ah ah !
I’d like to take the Rallye des Gazelles Race- An orientation race in the morocco desert.
I’d like to take a boat license to be able to drive a barge across the European channels.
I’d like to ride a motorbike through the Pan-American road, from Ushuaia to Canada…I’d like to cruise in Polynesia like Cook or London, from Papua-Guinea to Chile…
I’d like to take my family to the moon…
There are so many of them that finally, the main challenge is gonna be to meet them all before I’m on a wheel chair… Though, I even think I will, then, organize wheel chairs competitions, that would make the end of our lives less depressing, don’t you think?

Ah ah !
Je voudrais faire le rallye des gazelles, passer mon permis péniche et traverser l’Europe par ses rivières, rouler en moto le long de la pan-américaine entre Ushuaia et le Canada, naviguer en Océanie de la Papouasie Nouvelle Guinée au Chili comme Cook ou Jack London à bord du Snark, emmener mes parents sur la lune…
Le plus dur, ça va être d’avoir le temps de tout faire avant de me retrouver sur un fauteuil roulant. Encore que, il serait alors temps de commencer à organiser des courses de fauteuils pour le troisième âge, je suis sûre qu’il y a un marché !

Is this the end for My Scenic Railway?

I don’t think so.
First of all, over the summer period, I will publish several portfolios, featuring my best pictures around different themes.
And then we will see… I have a couple of ideas, stay tuned!

Je ne pense pas.
D’abord, cet été, je vais enchaîner avec une série de portfolios sur différents thèmes, avec mes meilleurs photos. Ensuite nous verrons, mais j’ai déjà des idées, restez connectés !!!

Are you going to write a book?

Well, many people have been asking me that question, and this is quite encouraging. I have a project in mind, we will see…

Beaucoup de personnes me posent cet question, c’est déjà encourageant. J’ai un projet en tête, on verra…

What is your current state of mind ?

Looking forward tackling new challenges.
And happy… Because I did it, didn’t I ?!

J’attends les prochains défits.
Et je suis très heureuse, je jubile même. Parce que, au final, je l’ai fait hein ?!

Steph All

My Scenic Railway ? My Wanderlust

Capture d’écran 2014-06-30 à 13.23.43On the right side of the picture : My first suitcase

Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. The term originates from the German words wandern (to hike) and Lust (desire)…

km par transport

I’ve travelled a lot by train over the last ten months. Almost 15 000 kilometers…
The distance I’ve done through planes seems impressive, but this is mainly because none of my flight form one country to another was a direct flight. For budget reasons, I was often taking two or three planes to reach a new destination…

km total

Russia. China. South Korea. Taiwan. India. Bali. Java. The Philippines. SIngapore. Australia. New Zealand. Malaysia. Kirghizistan. Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan. Istanbul. Israel…

trois fois le tour de la terre

 

How do I feel about it ? You will know tomorrow, by reading my self-interview…

I need you : Vote For my Travel Pictures !!!

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Dear friends, readers, followers,
I have submitted 12 pictures to the National Geographic Photo Contest of the year.
If you’ve liked my pictures, can you please vote for them, like them on Facebook, share their links on your wall, or retweet my tweets (my Tweeter account being @MyScenicRailway) ?

Here are the 12 links to the 12 pictures on the NG website :

October’ budget

Budget Shanghai

Difficult to get a real idea of traveling costs in Shanghai with these figures. The Burger icon doesn’t only include food by entrance tickets, stamps, postcards, that kind of things. Our food budget was quite big because we mainly ate at Starbucks Coffees to access wifi, which was critical for us to change our plans.

Budget South Korea

Unlike what we could expect, South Korea is not an expensive country, and, in that respect differs very much from Japan. Public transportation connecting cities is both numerous and cheap, which makes car rental unnecessary, unless you want to explore holes in a very limited time. Here as well, the Burger icon includes food, metro, presents.

Budget Taiwan

 

One week for 300 euros is really nothing for a country as developed as Taiwan. I slept in Taipei in a creepy hostel as I needed to offset a bit the big flights budget of October I hadn’t plan ahead. But anyway, street food is super safe and cheap, and public transportation doesn’t cost anything. For instance, my train ticket from Taipe to the West Coast cost 1.25 euros, the train ticket to the East coast was 2 euros.

1.2 billon Chinese on vacation

Before flying to Seoul, I thought we could, at least, go to Xian, so that Alex wouldn’t have come here for nothing. But we couldn’t. Chinese are on vacation. A potential of 1.2 billion people in buses, trains, planes. Every transportation mean was fully booked; we were stuck in Shanghai. Chinese get the same rights as we do, and we complain 😉

Image

Under Mao, factories were the pivot point of existences. From the 1966’ Cultural Revolution to 1995, Chinese were working 24/7. In 1995 indeed, after two decades of reforms triggered by Deng Xiaoping, the population was granted 2 rest days a week – Saturdays and Sundays. Then, after the 1997 Asiatic downturn, Beijing understood the need to develop domestic consumption to sustain growth. That’s why, all the sudden, 3 “gold weeks” of vacation were set.

For many, though, leisure is not yet a new paradigm, just an unreachable mirage. Public service and big companies employees invade malls and planes, while others set the conditions of their pleasure. Even worse: In some cases, to be allowed to take those bank holidays, they have to work on the weekends prior to those gold days!

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Freedom

FreedomShanghai. Citizens’ shadows…

Two years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Shanghai & Beijing.  I had, indeed, noticed that I couldn’t access my Gmail account. Hopefully, I could access the e-mails which where hosted on my French platform… named “Free” – How ironic is that?  I could also access Le Figaro newspaper online, but not Le Monde, for some reason. But I forgot about it.
Of course, I also know about the Chinese regime practices, muzzling opposition and where freedom of the press doesn’t even exist as a dictionary entry.
That far, my political consciousness prevented me from going to Burma or Cuba. For China… well… I was so interested in discovering the Silk Road that I put some of my principles aside. At least, I thought I was…

Let’s Rewind.

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A few days ago, I was looking through the window of the Trans-Siberian train, absorbed by the never-ending skyline of trees and dachas. I felt peaceful. I felt complete. I felt free.
I was realizing that I was here, twelve thousand kilometers from home, about to reach a city I had always dreamt about, on my own will.
From where I come, the 18th century freed human beings from slavery, the 19th century set liberty of expression, and the 20th century put women at work. In addition to that contextual freedom, I was realizing, in that train, a few hours from reaching Vladivostok, that I am where I am thanks to my own energy. I – me, myself, I – am responsible for the additional part of freedom making that one-year trip a reality, breaking for a moment the straitjacket of a daily life – for what it means.
To make a long introspective story short (shorter at least!), I’m less than ever willing to let the Chinese Communist Party telling me what I can say, where and when.
Let’s be clear here. I do not pretend to an activist. I am not. I am just a traveller who wants to keeps her liberty of action.

Capture d’écran 2013-10-02 à 03.59.11

“But weren’t you in Russia last month?”
It doesn’t compare, really. Of course, one more time, I am not a national citizen, or an opponent to the regime, just someone who crosses boarders. Ok, I guess that in Russia I couldn’t wear a tee shirt claiming “Fuck Putin”, and I couldn’t show my boobs in the street, and I would probably loose elections if I was competing against United Russia. But I can send e-mails, write stories on the Internet, ride a car (which is not the case in China by the way).
Unless what guidebooks say about Russia, you don’t really need to register in every city you pass-by. The police may ask you (should you be arrested, which is already quite unlikely) where and why you stay in Russia. Showing your train tickets, or hotel bookings, are good enough evidences for them.
On the Red square, I’ve even been able to make a guard hold my mascot for a stupid photo. I just wanted to see how tough those guys are supposed to be.

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So I’ve decided to leave China. I am flying to South Korea, another country we know nothing about and that I’m very excited to discover!!!