Sometimes we receive messages from readers that warm our hearts, the kind of message that drives us and gives real meaning to what we do on this blog. Often it is messages from backpackers who thank us for our advice after their round the world trip, sometimes it is future travelers who are fully involved in the preparations for the trip… This kind of feedback always puts a big smile on our faces when we read them and obviously touch us a lot!
But recently we received a thank you email from Fabien who gave us an idea. In his message, Fabien thanked us for the advice and inspiration they had found on our travel blog with his girlfriend Julia. He also shared with us a wonderful video of their trip that filled us with a lot of emotions and brought back many good memories. It was after watching this video and having a little chat with Fabien that we thought it might be cool to share with you the experiences of other backpackers and travelers.
Since the beginning of Novo-monde, we have shared with you our experience of a round the world trip… But there are many other profiles of travelers (solo, family, with friends, by bike, in a van…) and we wanted to share with you the experiences of other people who don’t necessarily travel exactly like us… just hoping that it will give you some ideas and inspire you a little.
All this to tell you that we have opened a new category on the blog called Backpackers Experience and that we are sharing with you an inspiring interview with Julia and Fabien who traveled around the world between 2017 and 2018. We wish you a good time reading and don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of this format 😉
Remark: Fabien and Julia work in the audiovisual industry and are super talented… if you ever wonder why the images are so beautiful 😉 (all the pictures in this article are their own)
Interview with Julia and Fabien
Could you introduce yourself quickly and tell us what you were doing in life before your round the world trip? Had you already traveled a lot before leaving?
We are both passionate about cinema and travel, and we both worked as intermittents in the audiovisual industry. We had already traveled quite a bit before leaving, usually a one-month trip and a few long weekends a year. We had mainly traveled to Europe before and a little bit to the United States and Canada. I had been to Japan for the first time in 2012, but we didn’t know the rest of Asia at all.
What were your motivations / expectations for going on a trip around the world? Was there a trigger that acted as a “click” to get you started in this adventure?
Fabien: The lack of interest proposed by the professional projects of that time and the weariness of living in Paris were for me the 2 combined triggers to embark on the adventure. I had thought a few years earlier about starting a one-year WHV in Japan, the desire to leave long enough had been present in me for many years.
Julia: Being at ease at that time in my work, that’s not what made me leave. For me, the sentence “going on a round the world trip” is such a promising phrase that it made me dream since I was a teenager and this desire has never diminished, I just had to find the right person to go with. When Fabien asked me, I found it obvious.
Before departure, did you have any fears about any aspects of this trip (its preparation, the trip itself but also the return)?
Fabien: The only apprehension I had was precisely about the return, because I suspected that I would no longer be adapted to life in Paris, indeed, the return confirmed this and we ended up moving again after a year to live elsewhere.
The preparation of the trip was a phase of excitement and fantasies, it is the moment when everything is still possible, when the choices are infinite, it is an exhilarating moment!
During the trip itself, the few months in South America were a little more stressful because I had done a lot of research beforehand on potential problems (a little too much in fact), and finally everything went very well. I think it’s important to find out beforehand for those who need to reassure themselves, but without overdoing it either. At some point, you have to know how to get started, common sense is there to avoid most of the trouble during the trip.
The only time I got ripped off was ironically when I left Kathmandu airport on the first day of my trip. I lost $10 in the case, really anecdotal.
Julia: The only apprehension I had was to leave with the right equipment. We left with what we thought was the minimum, but we dropped some things along the way. We passed our PSC1 before the start, just to know the basic emergency procedures, it is very reassuring.
Often the reactions to the announcement of such a project are quite mixed… How did your family and friends react when you told them that you wanted to travel around the world?
Our friends were happy for us, not really surprised given our known attraction for traveling. Some of them said very quickly that they would join us, and they did so at different times. Our parents, especially our mothers, were less eager not to see us for a year, the announcement was more emotional… Our parents no longer fly, hence the fact that they knew they would not see us again for another year. But with the internet these days, all this is relative, and in the end they followed our trip very closely with our messages and Skype.
Julia’s adventurous father was the only person in our families who exploded with joy!
We are often told that we are lucky or brave to go on a trip for a year, but I don’t find it lucky because it’s a choice or brave because it’s exciting.
You started your trip in Nepal (a country we don’t know yet but which we would certainly like very much)… How did it feel to find yourself with your backpacks in a country so different from France to start your trip?
More than any other country in our round the world trip, it has been the country of frontal culture shock. The only country in Asia I had been to before was Japan, and this country is the opposite of Nepal! The arrival in Kathmandu was quite brutal and it took us several days to get a grip of this new environment which looked like nothing we had experienced so far. We remember very well the taxi ride that took us from the airport to the hotel, the light was sublime but the streets were dirty, mostly under construction and filled with potholes, the rivers in a state unimaginable for France, full of rubbish, the driving was chaotic and the soundtrack mainly composed of horns and various music that escaped from the windows of vehicles or shops.
It was an organized chaos whose codes we didn’t have!
The lack of sidewalks in the streets of Thamel (the city’s tourist district with lots of accommodation) was really disturbing at first. We felt like we were going to be crushed every moment. In fact, it’s normal there and after 2-3 days we didn’t pay any attention to it anymore.
Fabien told me that he felt an absolute tear when he left Japan after 3 months in this country… What did you experience there that made leaving this country so difficult?
Not all the countries visited, however exciting they may be in their culture, had the same emotional impact on us. Japan is clearly the country we didn’t want to leave. Let’s explain the context a little, we arrived in Japan after one month in Nepal, and even if this first month was absolutely brilliant to live, Nepal is far from being a restful journey and a permanent comfort. Public transport is among the most dangerous in the world, whether it is buses, cars or planes, every trip is a bet on the highest chance of survival. And suddenly we went from that to Japan, which is the safest and most comfortable country to visit. Everything is simple and well thought out there when you are a tourist. We met in Japan a Japanese friend who makes annual round trips to France, she welcomed us royally for 2 weeks at her home. We stayed 2 and a half months in the country, we had more or less planned this duration from the beginning of the round the world trip, I insisted with Julia and promised her that it would be an absolute favorite for her, and it was confirmed. We took advantage of these many weeks in the country to do a Workaway in a kind of Japanese Center Parcs in the middle of rice fields and mountains in a corner completely abandoned by tourists (in the center of Shikoku). This experience was great!
without this long time spent in the country, we would not necessarily have made the decision to stop several weeks in the same place to enter a simpler and more repetitive routine.
The day-to-day life during a long-distance trip is very different from the daily life of an employee (or even during a more “classic” holiday), what did you like most about this way of travelling? On the contrary, were there any things that you didn’t like?
The luxury of having time was the most incredible. It was never the race, we could stay in a Japanese onsen all day if we wanted, do things at our own pace, get up very early to visit sites at sunrise without anyone. In short, we had a feeling of freedom as we had never known it before. I realize that this is the ultimate luxury.
The excitement was constant, when you buy the plane tickets during the trip like us, you know that anything is still possible until you get back, and this feeling is unique and was not at all present in the trips you used to make, with a return ticket. We could modulate our initial ideas according to our desires of the moment. For example, we thought we would visit Laos but we started to want to have a radical change of culture and environment after 7 months in Asia. Finally we left Asia a little earlier than expected and we took the opportunity to go to Vanuatu later, a country that was not even on our 2 wish lists we had shared at the very beginning to know where to go! In fact, this desire was born from a documentary seen during a trip, we saw crazy volcanoes there and I immediately understood that going there had become an obsession for me.
Another pleasant element is that when we were tired of several weeks of non-stop discoveries and sometimes crappy accommodation, we could decide to stay as long as we wanted when we found a place we loved very much.
The last 3 months were a little more difficult, we had the accumulated fatigue of the previous 10 months, but that’s when 2 friends joined us in different countries, and they were full of energy. Where, for example, in the evening we tended to collapse in bed at 9pm and be happy not to go out, they were ready to go on a bar tour. However, the endurance acquired during all these months was very visible until the end, which allowed me to climb to 6000m in Peru, which I would never have been able to do in normal times without intensive training. On the trek of the Salkantay which takes you to Machu Picchu in 5 days, we were so fit that we ran downhill at an altitude of 4600 m, for the pleasure of performance.
On the other hand, the most negative point was certainly the preparation in advance of the coming weeks. Apart from the first 3-4 months that we had quite well defined before leaving, the following months we had to spend a lot of time organizing the trip, so when we were in a country, we thought both about the days ahead and the visits to the next country to prepare. Some visits or hikes unfortunately require to book months in advance (I think of hikes in New Zealand in particular), and it’s complicated to manage when you don’t know exactly what you’ll do the following week. But when you have a budget that is not unlimited, it is important to be able to book planes and some rentals at least in advance, before prices are out of reach.
It was the first time we “jumped” from one country to another, from one culture to another, where we were used to returning to France after several weeks to resume our normal rhythm, where we found ourselves immersed in a whole new adventure, and that a dozen times in a row! It was very stimulating but you come out physically rather exhausted from a year like this.
Julia: There is also the fact that, when passing from one country to another, everything is always new, different, you have to reorganize and leave for the unknown each time, a one-year trip leaves us little time to assimilate the moments lived. For example, I made travel diaries all year round, and I found myself finishing the one from Nepal to Japan and the one from Japan to Indonesia… We met a couple of photographers who work by travelling for a month in a country, then return for a month in France, and so on. It’s more expensive of course, but in retrospect I think it’s a more solid pace.
How did you experience the trip as a couple and the fact that you were practically 24 hours a day together? Has it been a challenge sometimes where everything went smoothly?
It went very well. I think we’re both patients and we generally had a similar energy when it came to choosing hikes or other visits.
The last month, I was climbing a mountain at 6000 m while Julia was taking chocolate cooking classes, we followed our desires.
Travelling together does not necessarily mean doing everything together all the time.
At a time when the question of protecting the environment is on everyone’s lips, do you think that the benefits of such a trip offset its negative effects on the planet (obviously we are not in a good position to judge you but the question deserves to be asked and your opinion on the matter interests us 😉
That’s the tricky question we asked ourselves… Obviously, taking so many planes over such a short period of time for personal leisure seems difficult to justify and quite selfish. For the moment we cannot say that we have done the planet a favour by making this trip, but after this year, we have become much more aware of the reality of everyday life in many other countries. It is of course minimal on a global scale, but as a result of our rtw trip we eat less meat, buy more in bulk, and do other ecological actions that we didn’t do before. Certainly, this will not compensate for the flights taken. Moreover, I have the perhaps naive hope that the videos and photos I create may make people want to respect the planet more, otherwise all this will disappear, and I develop documentary projects to broaden the horizons of future viewers.
Below is Fabien’s magnificent video on their round the world trip (and a 2nd with his most beautiful drone shots)… you absolutely have to watch this!
The return of a round the world trip makes some people anxious before they leave already! How did you experience this moment? Were you prepared for this?
Fabien: I had a very bad time, I really enjoyed the trip until the last moment without thinking too much about the actual return. It’s anecdotal but it took me several months to stop leaving my phone in airplane mode, I wasn’t used to calling and especially to receiving calls at all. I spent the first few weeks at my parents’ house, time to rest and put things back in order for the future. Then we went back to live for a year in the Paris region, and this period was very unpleasant for me, especially since I hadn’t prepared mentally to go back to live there. Unconsciously I thought I had left that part of my life behind.
Julia: For me it was easier, Parisian by birth, I had a solid foundation there and I focused a lot on the friends and family I missed. But something had changed. It is no longer easy to simply follow your life out of habit after such an experience.
When you were looking for work, how was your round the world trip perceived by your employer/colleagues/clients?
We are intermittent and freelancers, Julia has easily reestablished her contacts within her network, as for me I have made some rather radical choices with this round the world trip. I left because I was bored in my work, so I deliberately cut off almost all my previous employers, warning some before leaving, others only on the way back if they tried to contact me again. Being independent, I had no justification to give for my choices, I said that I was no longer interested in working for them and they didn’t call me back.
After discovering so much in such a short period of time, I find that you are revisiting your priorities in life in depth. When I returned, I only wanted to work on projects that spoke to me and seemed useful to society. I reviewed and sorted everything I had filmed during the trip, it took me several months to redo a demo tape and present what I was able to do. I have sent spontaneous applications that have not given me anything, but I have also been contacted directly by several people and companies, who have given me work. Since our return a year and a half ago, I have only worked almost exclusively with people I didn’t know before I left, so from my point of view, this round the world trip has clearly reconfigured my career path. It was exactly what I was looking for when I left, I had the hope of coming back with enough videos and audiovisual projects in mind to relaunch my “career” in a new, more exciting direction that suits me better.
If you had a lesson to learn from this trip, what would it be?
I don’t know if we’ve returned wiser, but I think we have more humility and a better understanding of others, whoever they are. We came back more patient too. When we have experienced 28-hour journeys in a row that combine uncomfortable buses and boats full of passengers to reach their destination, we put into perspective much better than before the 5-minute delay of the train or metro.
I am still surprised to see that I can make a round trip from Paris to Marseille during the day for work (about 1500 km) by working the whole day on site, whereas for the 28h trip mentioned above we had covered… 500 km (in Indonesia).
We have come back from this trip more peaceful, we approach daily life more serenely. We learned to sort out stuff and live more simply. No more “tsundoku” (the piles of books on the bedside table that we never read), now we have one at a time that we really read. The many moves we have had to deal with in recent years have prompted us to make an ever more drastic selection in our business. After living for a year with 2 backpacks each, even if Julia liked having her dressing room back, most of the objects seem really superfluous…
I have never been materialistic, but this experience has only accentuated this trait.
Some moments were really memorable, such as meeting a Chilean family who lived at the gates of the desert, where we washed ourselves with 1 or 2 litres of water so as not to waste this precious resource. This is just one example among many, but it is moments like these when we really become aware of the difference, sometimes the real gap, between the comfort of our daily lives that we take for granted and the luxury that they can represent for people who live elsewhere.
There is a real before and after this type of extraordinary journey. After having had so many experiences in such distant places, our mentality has changed. We know that no matter which country we can arrive in even without knowing anything in advance, we will not be afraid to be there. Paradoxically, after this trip the world seems both smaller (in only 24 hours you can be almost anywhere in the world, and just a small flight to Asia was enough to create the most total change of scenery from one culture to another), and larger because even having met so many people and contemplated so many fabulous places in one year, we only glimpse a small portion of what the planet has to offer us…
If you could go back in time and slip in a piece of advice right after you made the decision to leave on a round the world trip: what would it be?
“Take more hard drives because what you’re about to see is going to be beyond your expectations! “
More seriously: “Live the present moment, enjoy until the very end and even in the most difficult moments, because you will see that such a rich year passes terribly fast and that once you get back, all this will be nothing more than an ocean of memories, with vague and uncertain outlines but of infinite richness and in which you are constantly trying to immerse yourself…”
Anything else to add?
Thank you for your great blog and the many tips you share with everyone, you inspired us for our trip, keep it that way!
You want to see more?
You can follow Julia on her Instagram or enjoy more pictures of Fabien on Flickr here or here.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Julia and Fabien and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. It is our turn to thank them for taking the time to answer our questions with such sincerity and simplicity. We wish them only happiness for the continuation of their projects and we’ll share with you soon new backpackers experiences.
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