We met JP (Jean-Philippe) in Colmar, Alsace, in a nice house which he shares with some of his friends. The place was very quiet and welcoming, with a positive energy and a nice atmosphere. JP welcomed us barefoot with a big smile on his face. We stayed for two nights at their place and we spent a few hours talking with him and his friends about traveling, places and nice people that we met on the road.
We want to share with our readers other’s travelers’ experiences and we think that you have an interesting travel story.
Hello JP, Thank you for accepting this interview.
Hi Ancuta and Cristian, I’m glad to accept this interview and I wish my story could be inspiring for anyone wishing to live an adventure.
A&C (Ancuta&Cristian): When did you start to travel and what was your inspiration to do it?
JP: My first travel was in 2005. I hitchhiked in Europe for 3 months. During that small journey, I discovered how I like to travel, slowly, without much planning and with an appetite for life that made me enjoy every moment. It was like being a kid again, taking the time to put a different look at everything that surrounds me.
While hitchhiking, you often wait for hours before someone gives you a ride, and it can happen many times a day. Waiting teaches you how to be patient, it teaches you to contemplate all amazing things happening around you. I had never realized before how fascinating it can be to simply look at ants or to be attentive at the wind in trees.
While I was waiting, it became obvious to me that our world is sick with speed. Everyone is in a hurry, for hundreds of reasons, but being in a hurry make us blind.
Sitting by the road, I was watching all the people driving, often looking annoyed in their cars, or driving dangerously fast, and I was thinking “How can we be surrounded by so much beauty and not even see it?”
This was probably the most important lesson from this travel: Slowing down is one of the keys to happiness.
Back from this 3 months trip in Europe, I had the plan to work for two years and then start an adventure around the world. I didn’t how or where in fact it didn’t matter. I just promised myself never to forget what I understood, deep in my heart. We all have a little voice inside which knows what’s good for us, we just have to trust it and listen to it.
I actually worked for 5 years, but I never forgot my promise. During these years I was reading a lot of books written by travelers. That was a nice source of inspiration. I kept a small notebook where I wrote some sentences I liked, until the day it became obvious to me I will travel the world by bicycle. Somehow, I knew I should do it.
A&C: What was your favorite mode of transport and why?
JP: Bicycle became quickly my favorite way of traveling.
In 2011, when I started my first long journey, I wanted to travel silent and slow, to feel the tiny changes of both terrain and cultures (architecture, food, people features, and behavior) so I knew I didn’t want any motorized transportation. I was dreaming of waking up in the nature surrounded by majestic mountains. I was like a kid inside, eager to be outside and explore the world, to sit in nature and interact with people… when you think of it, you only live once, so why are we spending most our days doing the same things and most of our nights in a room, between walls, floor, and ceiling while out there stars are shining! We think we have a home because we buy it but aren’t we set our own jails when staying inside? Nature is free and this is our roots, our home…
I wanted to follow my own way, not to rely on the goodwill of others to progress… Traveling by bicycle allows all this.
The envy to travel was like an intuition. I felt in me that it might be a long journey and a bicycle is also a good way to carry more items of luggage. For example, I could carry clothes for all seasons, kitchen pans and spices, a heavy camera and still have some space for books!
Yet, when I left, I didn’t know how much bicycle creates a magic when you arrive in faraway places, in a remote village surrounded by locals who look at you like the “foreigner who travels by bicycle”. Many people are curious, they smile and talk to you, invite you for a tea, for a meal or for the night. Most of the time, a bicycle is like a passport to the friendliness of locals.
Today, I wish to experiment other ways of traveling. I would love to try long distance walks. It’s probably harder than cycling but I am sure there is a treasure in it. Usually, the easiest way is never the best.
A&C: For how many years did you travel and which countries did you visit?
JP: I first traveled for 2 and half years, with some shorter and longer breaks. I’m not the “cycle everyday” type…. That was 28 countries because there are many small countries in Europe 😉
Later I did a second journey with Justine (my life partner), also by bicycle, and we cycled together 18 countries in 16 months.
A&C: What do you love more about traveling?
JP: During traveling, I love to be in connection with nature. Following nature’s cycles, waking up early, watching the sunrise, and falling naturally asleep at night. Cycling is like a meditation, moving slowly allows you to free your mind and therefore to be in conscience, centered in the present. Then every moment becomes amazing because you are more aware, your eyes can see the beauty that is around because your mind is free of useless thinking, of useless rushing. You find joy in simple things, in watching a butterfly by the road, in feeling the wind against your cheek, in the smell of the forest after the rain…
In our western societies, we tend to think that happiness is the result of our material condition but what I experienced is the opposite. It’s not when you will have everything you want that you will be happy, but it’s when you will be happy, that you will find harmony. It comes from inside, and from living the moment.
A&C: What was your typical daily budget whilst traveling?
JP: What makes your journey cheap is to sleep in nature and cook your own food.
In the latest journey, while I traveled by bicycle with Justine, we decided to spend no more than 8$ per person per day.
This is pretty easy to maintain even with time to time restaurants and coffee breaks. Sometimes we spent much less, sometimes a bit more.
Actually, once you are on the road you only need money for
- Food / Coffee
- Buying gift to the people who host you or help you
- Small expenses (entrance fees, clothes to renew, …)
- Any unexpected break (bike parts, camera,…) or if you get sick (doctor, renting a room to rest, …)
In all cases, even if you travel without spending much, it feels good to have a backup.
A&C: Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
JP: Everywhere… Traveling is understanding that what you imagined is wrong.
Today I don’t imagine much, I open my eyes, I live and let things happen.
A&C: What is your advice for people who plan to travel?
JP: As a general advice, don’t plan too much as planning is already setting walls in the network of possibilities.
Read, learn, get informed. It is important to know for example which border is open or what are the customs in that part of the world, but you don’t need to plan that you will be in that very place for that very day. If you want to live the moment, you should free your mind from the desire of control and just be. The less you control, the more you open the network of possibilities around you.
A&C: What has travel taught you?
JP: Life and love.
Though I still have so many things to learn, traveling opened my mind. It helped me understand we are all interconnected. There is no point in looking for happiness everywhere around because it is not outside, it is inside us, in our hearts.
Traveling helped me to find inner peace, to look at the world with compassion and love. There is no point in trying to change the world, we can only change ourselves and by changing ourselves we already change the world. The most beautiful thing on earth is love. Do we know how to love ourselves? How to love others? How to love the world?
A&C: What is one travel experience that you want to share with us?
JP: The fear to fail is always a wrong reason not to do something.
Thank you for your answers, you are a true inspiration to us.
Safe travels and hope to see you soon. You can read JP’s blog at bravelemming.com.