One day we receive a message from Cécile and Quentin, a traveling couple who had just bought the name “destination tour du monde” for their blog, without knowing that it was also the name of our book 😉 . Anyway, after realizing it, they contacted us immediately to know if we didn’t mind that they chose this name, that they didn’t want to create confusion, all that… which is very nice from them because they didn’t have to!
This message had the merit of starting the discussion between us and we realized that Cecile and Quentin had just returned from a trip around the world… cut short by this damn COVID19. Fabienne and I wondered several times how we would have reacted if we had found ourselves in this situation. What would we have done if we had been in South America, in the middle of the trip of a lifetime and found ourselves confronted with such a problem, with contradictory information and decisions to be taken quickly?
So we thought it would be interesting to ask them a few questions and we invited them to be the 3rd participants in our Backpackers Experiences rubric.
Backpachers experiences with Cécile and Quentin
Hi Cécile an Quentin,
Could you quickly introduce yourself and tell us what you did for a living before your trip around the world? Did you travel a lot before you left?
Quentin: I’m Quentin, 30 years old (I still have a hard time realizing it haha). Before our round the world trip, I was a salesman for a very big American company. In my childhood, I don’t have a lot of travel memories. For me, it really started with Cecile. We started traveling slowly with Madrid and then a very large part of France and then Europe until the day we decided to take some time for ourselves and go discover the world.
Cécile: My name is Cécile, I’m almost 30 years old. Since my early childhood, I have travelled a lot with my parents (France, Europe, USA, South Africa, Mauritius and Dominican Republic). Despite my love for traveling, I decided to work in a totally different industry. After business school (where I met Quentin), I started working in the marketing department of a large multinational consumer goods company. This allowed us to save money to travel several times a year (mainly France and Europe) and for our round the world trip. And in October 2018, after 5 years of patience, we finally did it; we started our round the world trip. At the beginning, we had planned 12 months and in the end, we wanted more and we extended to 20 months, until the Coronavirus shortened the trip to 18 months (which is already very good 🙂 ). Today, we are using our free time to write on our travel blog DestinationTourDuMonde.com
To make it easier for our readers to get an idea, could you quickly share with us the itinerary of your trip (country, duration) and the budget you had before you left?
Cécile and Quentin:
We hadn’t really planned an itinerary in advance. We just thought we’d start with Thailand, an “easy” country for tourists. Then, we built the itinerary as we met people and read about it.
Departure on a round the world trip to Asia on October 4, 2018:
- Thailand 1 month
- Myanmar 3 weeks
- Cambodia 3 weeks
- Laos 1 month
- Vietnam 1 month
- Singapore 4 days
Departure for Oceania on 9 February 2019 :
- Australia 5 weeks
- New Zealand 6 weeks
- French Polynesia 3 weeks
Departure for the USA on May 17, 2019:
- USA (western parks) 3 weeks
Departure for South America on June 11, 2019 :
- Peru 2 months
- Bolivia 5 weeks
- Brazil 3 months
Arrival in Argentina on December 5, 2019 : We alternated between Argentina, Chile and Uruguay :
- Uruguay 2 weeks
- Chile 1 month and a half
- Argentina 2 months
At the start, we thought we would travel around the world for a year and we had planned 15 000€ per person, hoping to stay within the 10 000€ and having 20 000€ in case we would spend more money.
Finally, after one year, we had spent 13 886€ per person (all included with the trip preparations).
What were your motivations/expectations for going on a round-the-world trip? Was there a trigger that pushed you to embark on this adventure?
Quentin: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so since high school I’ve wanted to do what I want to do. I think the origin of this world tour really started with this need for independence. Not doing something because it’s a path that’s been set.
In 2012, I read a book called “The 4-hours work week” which revived my existential questions about the direction I should give to my life. Beyond the hype of the title, this book made me think about what I would do if I didn’t have time and money constraints. I had just opened Pandora’s box, which was not going to close anytime soon. A few years later, I submitted the idea of a round-the-world trip to Cécile but she was stuck in her career. It wasn’t the right time. The problem is that it’s never the right time. Then the idea took off and 2 years later we agreed to go on this adventure.
So the motivation for this round-the-world tour was to take time for ourselves, to stop running behind a goal, professional most of the time, and once we’d reached it, to start running behind a new goal again. It was the first time in our lives that we really did what we wanted without external constraints.
Cécile: I wanted backpack around the world because, after 5 years of working for a company, I wanted freedom and not to be bound by the constraints of everyday life. I had the feeling that I no longer had control over my life and especially over my time. Not to mention burn out of course, I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. There are probably other options than to travel around the world but for me it was THE solution. In addition to having enough timet for myself, I would be amazed by the cultures, the landscapes,…
I didn’t have a “click” because since we are together (2010), we love to travel together and we were growing in our head this once in a lifetime project.
Reactions to the announcement of such a project are often quite mixed… How did your family and friends react when you told them that you wanted to go on a backpack around the world?
Quentin: Part of my family had already experienced some relatives going on a round-the-world trip. So for them, the reaction was very enthusiastic because they knew. For the other part of the family, it was more of a misunderstanding. Why put our lives on hold to travel? Travel should be the reward for work. Our situation was new to them. Some people also learned the news with apprehension: Isn’t it dangerous to travel to such foreign countries?
Cécile: As we had kept this project to ourselves until it was real, it’s true that it surprised a lot of people.
Even though they knew of our love of travel, my parents didn’t like it very much. I think they were worried about us leaving everything behind to “spend our money and go into the unknown”. In my family, having a good job and planning everything well is very important, so I guess they were worried that I would become a “kind of hippie”. I explained them that 1) It’s not permanent 2) I don’t quit my job, I put it on hold 3) I don’t go to particularly dangerous countries 4) It’s like holidays but just longer.
Our friends had a completely different reaction. They were very happy for us but sad not to see us for a long time.
Before departure, did you have any fears about any aspects of the trip (preparation, the trip itself and the return)?
Quentin: Frankly no :), I was very enthusiastic about the idea of going and of living our dream for months. I spent a lot of time on a lot of sites including Novo-Monde to get informed and to prepare this world tour. I think I read so much information and testimonials that I had no particular fears. All in all, it never really goes as planned but I was serene before the start.
Cécile: We had well prepared our trip from an organizational point of view. That is to say that we had identified what could be a problem and what had to be planned in advance. On the other hand, we didn’t plan everything that would happen during the round-the-world trip by country.
We knew that the coming back is very difficult for most people returning from a round-the-world tour. So we had prepared for it mentally and weren’t afraid.
Before the round-the-world trip, my fear was:
How are we going to organize everything along the trip?
Besides, I’m a very organized person who likes to plan ahead and doesn’t like the unknown. In the beginning, it was very hard for both of us, because Quentin wanted to do things day by day and I wanted to at least be sure not to be out on the street to sleep. Eventually, my fear was no longer a fear, and I learned that the worst thing that could happen to me is to sleep in an average or too expensive hotel, and it’s not the end of the world. And now I embrace that freedom.
Another stress was about the money, although we had a comfortable budget, it made me sick to see the variations in the price of flight tickets and I was on the lookout for the slightest deal. We had decided not to take a round-the-world ticket and to buy flights ourselves as we went along. We recommend it, it gave us great flexibility and it cost us less money. My nightmare: paying more for a plane ticket than I should have paid for it and therefore lose money that could have been used for something else.
I see that you started your journey in Thailand… Any reason why? How did it feel to find yourself backpacking in a country so different from France?
Quentin: This choice is not the result of chance indeed. We think it’s important to start your trip around the world in a place where you are almost certain to be comfortable in an environment that is not completely unfamiliar. The idea is to start the world tour quietly as if it was a holiday.
There are two reasons for this: Firstly, the end of preparations are tiring between moving in and out, making sure you’ve finished what you wanted to do. So starting the trip around the world smoothly with a vacation means you don’t get burned out right away. A round-the-world trip is a marathon, not a sprint. Second, a big cultural shock could have “disgusted” us of traveling. We didn’t want to get too much outside of our comfort zone at the beginning of the trip and go gradually.
Thailand was a perfect match for both objectives. We started the trip with 2 weeks at the pool and beach in Koh Tao and then Koh Phangan. Certainly, it was exotic but with a western standard so it was perfect. Then, we entered the adventurous part of the trip.
Cécile: Haha, it’s true that the choice of Thailand surprises many people. We started with Thailand because we wanted to start off gently, in a “touristic” country, where we wouldn’t be too lost. Although we had already travelled, we had never been away for so long. Some people do the opposite and start with more “difficult” countries like India for example. I don’t think there is a right or wrong decision, everyone has to do as they feel.
Of course, Thailand is a change of scenery, but we love Thai food and we were very happy to eat real Thai food. Thailand is a country with many facets, we can discover it as a big partygoer or explore it by its historical, cultural side (and paradise beaches). We chose the second option and visited Thailand accordingly. It is in our opinion a very easy country to visit: many choices of accommodation, visits for all tastes, cheap, easy transportation…
How was the beginning of your trip? I remember on our side that we started the trip at 200 miles an hour to slow down over time…
Quentin: I think we’re all the same 🙂 . After our 2 quiet weeks, we wanted to make the most of our time on the road (what an unhealthy concept anyway ^^). So our travel paced increased until I reached saturation point. I needed to take my time. It should also be noted that if you want to travel fast: 1) It costs more, 2) You discover less the local culture, 3) You get tired and last but not least 4) You pollute the planet more. This type of visit is no longer compatible with our planet. You have to learn to visit differently and take more time. It’s easy to say but to spend 2 months in a place when everyone tells you that 1 month is enough, it’s not so easy.
Cécile: The way of visiting was a big subject of debate between Quentin and me. He wanted to take the time and enjoy days of doing nothing (he had already understood what was going to become our trip from Latin America on). Me, I’m the kind of person who does everything thoroughly and organizes everything to make sure we don’t miss anything. And yes, that’s one of the flaws when you start a world tour, you get exhausted doing that. In fact, what stressed me out was saying to myself “OK, I’ve got a year, I’ve got to make the most of it”. It’s true that visiting 2 countries in 2 months vs 1, you see more things but you end up being really tired and it’s less enjoyable. After Asia, we visited Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and the United States, so “expensive” countries. Given the daily budget, we had little time. These countries being far away and expensive, we told ourselves that we wouldn’t visit them again anytime soon. And guess what we did? And yes… we were back in our mad rush to see as many as we could. Once we got past those countries, we did what you did, we adapted, we learned to listen to our bodies and travel slower and slower. So it was in Peru, our first Latin American country, after only 9 months of travels, that we slowed down the pace for good.
Daily life on a round-the-world trip is very different from the daily life of an employee (or even on a more “classic” holiday), what did you like most about this way of travelling? On the contrary, were there things you didn’t like?
Quentin: You’re right to raise this point, backpacking around the world is very different from a vacation. It’s hard to explain this to our loved ones but we didn’t live on holiday for 18 months :). We can summarize the benefits of a long trip in 2 words: Freedom and Discovery. The level of freedom and discovery you feel during such a trip is simply unimaginable. The feeling of freedom is the one that marked me the most personally. You can really do whatever you want and this will certainly never happen again in your life because we all have constraints in our daily life: work, family, apartment. traveling like this, you don’t have any. You only have the constraints that you have fixed yourself in your brain.
Paradoxically, this freedom is also your best enemy in a long journey because you have to face decisions every day: where to sleep? where to eat? where to go? We no longer have a routine during a round-the-world trip, so our brain never pauses. It’s not easy to manage but you have to find a rhythm to avoid burning out.
Cécile: It’s true that most people who see us leaving say “come on, you’re going on a 1 year holiday”. Of course, we’re going to take advantage of our time to travel but we’re certainly not going to do it in the same way as on holiday because 1. We have more time 2. We have less money per day.
As for our jobs, we quickly forgot about it! Gone are the days of the Parisian subway-work-and-sleep, we can now discover the landscapes and the culture. The only thing we kept is the rhythm, getting up in the morning and not going to bed too late to be in shape (with some exceptions of course :)).
Positive points: we are free, master of our time and our actions, discovery, fulfillment…
Negative points: we spend all our time planning what to do next, fatigue, etc.
How did you experience the trip as a couple and being together practically 24 hours a day? Was it a challenge at times or on the contrary everything went smoothly?
Quentin: We’ve been living together for 10 years so we thought it would be easy to travel together for that long. Well, that’s easier said than done. I can’t believe some people say it went completely smoothly 🙂 . Everyone is different even within a couple. In a “normal daily life”, we always find a way to express our differences by choosing with which colleague we eat lunch, with whom I’m going to do sports, with whom I’m going to choose to do my daily commute. In our case, on this trip it went very well 99% of the time, but our small differences that we dealt with easily before are more difficult to manage because we are effectively together 24 hours a day.
Cécile: We had already been used to traveling and living together for 10 years but it’s true that in normal times, we are not 24 hours a day together. Overall, it went very well but it’s true that like many couples, when we’re tired, we get angry more easily.
What did you find most amazing during your trip? On the contrary, what shocked you the most?
Quentin: What amazed me the most was the generosity of the locals in general. It blew me away when you compare with our normal lives. Would we have been willing to help others in our old lives? I think we are too busy and too focused on ourselves in our western society. We cannot be open to others and be aware enough of the impact we might have on others. Having lived on the other side of the world makes you aware of that.
On the contrary, I was shocked by the negative impact of mass tourism. Impact on nature (see hundreds of people walking on corals in Thailand), impact on monuments (see hundreds of people touching the ruins of Machu Picchu), impact on locals (see closed premises, unpleasant to ask you for money for anything like a fake parking space). In short, it makes you think about how you should live tourism.
What amazed me as during our round-the-world trip was:
- Discovering different cultures
- See the wonders of our world
- To know myself and my husband better
What shocked me most about our world tour was:
- The rude attitude of some tourists (and often the French)…
- The misery in some of the places we visited…
- The development gaps in some countries (buses, poverty, slums, beggars)
Quentin: Can I also add “knowing my wife” in what amazed me please? 🙂
At a time when the question of environmental protection is on everyone’s lips, do you think that the benefits of such a trip outweigh its negative effects on the planet? (obviously we are not in a position to judge you but the question deserves to be asked and your opinion on the subject interests us 😉 )
Quentin: It’s a very sensitive and important subject for me. I became a vegetarian during this trip around the world for this environmental issue. I sincerely think that this world tour has increased my ecological sensitivity in a staggering way.
It doesn’t take anything away from the disastrous impact of our trip on the planet even though we made a lot of effort. For example, I can comfort myself by saying that we took 6 times buses longer than 20 hours when flying was much simpler and often cheaper.
But ecology doesn’t work like that. It’s not because we do one thing well that we have to do another badly. If you spend your time comparing yourself to others or making excuses, no one will move forward.
I think we have to make all our decisions on a daily basis with a clear environmental conscience and make efforts to go out of our comfort zone, each at our own level. We can’t stop ourselves from living because of ecology but we have to live with ecology. So for my part, I’m aware of the harm I did when I flew around the world but I did it in full consciousness. I knew it was wrong but I was doing it to achieve a personal goal.
I am personally trying to make ecological efforts that go outside my comfort zone to make my contribution but without stopping me from living my dreams. At the moment, I am a vegetarian and believe me it’s an effort 🙂 . When it will no longer be an effort, I will be able to take another step towards ecology: no more milk, zero waste… I’m not ready to stop flying 100% today but maybe one day it will come.
So no, I think that nothing can compensate for any negative impact on the environment. Unfortunately, we have to live with it, decide in full ecological awareness on a daily basis and make efforts that take us out of our comfort zone.
Cécile: We have a fairly developed ecological awareness and we are aware that a trip around the world is not a great help for our planet. We confess that we very selfishly didn’t want to give up our dream in spite of that. So we set ourselves the goal of reducing our footprint as much as possible during our round-the-world trip. For example, we gave priority to buses vs. airplanes and avoided buying plastic water bottles as much as possible.
You were still traveling when the Coronavirus crisis broke out… Where were you when the situation got complicated? How did you experience those special moments? I guess it wasn’t easy to make decisions with the situation moving so fast, conflicting information, panic…
Cécile and Quentin: The first time we heard about Coronavirus, in January, we were in Argentina. At that time, we thought that the crisis was going to focus on China, as it had been the case with other previous viruses. At the beginning of March, when we were on Easter Island, we started to talk about it naively, wondering about the risks for France. We were still not worried about the future of our round the world trip. Finally, when the WHO announced a global pandemic on March 11, we wondered whether it would be better not to return home. After some discussion, we thought it would be better to stay in Argentina because the crisis was much stronger in France. We said to ourselves “why throw ourselves into the lion’s den?”.
It had become THE topic of discussion for everyone. A very large part of the people we were talking to also thought that we should stay in Argentina. And when a few days later we heard from them, they had finally returned to Europe. After a while we thought we might miss the train.
Then Argentina started to close down tourist places, French people were forbidden to take a bus. The situation was very tense even though there were very few cases in Argentina (less than 10) at the time. The possibility of returning to France was again being seriously considered. We came to the conclusion that even if we were to be confined, we would prefer to be confined in a country where there are very few cases like Argentina, far from our family that we could infect during our return trip. It also gave us the option to continue our journey if the situation wouldn’t last.
On March 15, we learn that we must be confined in Argentina because we were in Chile less than 2 weeks ago. On March 16, Emmanuel Macron announces the confinement of France and announces that measures will be taken to help the French to return to France. That speech was our trigger. If the return can be organized easily, we will go back. In any case, for the moment we are confined in Salta, 1500 km from Buenos Aires, so we will wait. On March 17, Argentina is confined as well. We find ourselves blocked with other french in our hotel, the waiting starts to be long.
We realize that an easy return will not be possible to organize so we take the decision to return to France as soon as possible. We are going to stay 1 week in this hotel before finally being able to take the plane to Buenos Aires. The situation repeats itself here because we are blocked with about twenty other French and Belgians. We have to wait 1 week while checking very regularly the facebook page of the French embassy which has to inform us as soon as a flight is available. We manage to take a flight on March 29th. On March 30th we arrive in France and we can catch a plane to Toulouse to go to Cécile’s parents’ house.
We wanted to confine ourselves seriously in a room in Cecile’s parents’ house but the situation would have been complicated for everyone. So Cecile’s family doctor asked us if we wanted to be tested, there’s plenty of room in Toulouse because there aren’t many cases. We are embarrassed because we don’t want to take anyone’s place but she assures us that it’s no problem, so we say yes. The results come back the next day, we are negative. We can go through normal confinement with Cecile’s family.
Returning from such a trip is sometimes difficult to live with in normal times… So what does the return trip mean for you in times of confinement?
Quentin: I’m wondering if this context didn’t help us in our handling of the return. When we arrived in France after 2 complicated weeks of in Argentina, we finally arrived relieved. Relieved not to have to refresh the Facebook page of the French embassy in Argentina, relieved not to have to wait any longer, relieved to finally be home.
This confinement comes almost at the right time because I couldn’t find the time to work on my projects like the blog. It’s very difficult to get into a project like this when you’re traveling. And I imagine that when you come home with the reunion every day for a while, it can be complicated too. There, we have nothing else to do, so we are head in the saddle and we don’t have time to regret our trip.
I traveled around the world to stop running and take time for myself. The first thing I do when I set foot in France is to run and work on the blog. What an irony though!
To tell the truth, it’s almost sad to see how quickly we’ve moved on. The moment we found Cecile’s parents’ house, it’s almost as if we hadn’t left. It was a really strange feeling.
It should nevertheless be noted that we were on our 18th month of traveling, a tip that we had extended twice already. We still had two and a half months of travel left. We came back with a taste of an almost complete trip, which helps to put the situation into perspective.
Cécile: In Argentina, I had a strange feeling of being stuck, forced to stay against my will. And that lasted 2 weeks. When the plane ticket to France fell through, I have never been happier to spend 630€ (per person) !! The return, being wanted very badly for 2 weeks, was thus more like a liberation.
Personally, I live very well the confinement. It allows me to take the time to work on my blog posts, to do sports, to play with my family, to watch movies,… Of course, I would have preferred to go home with a bang and have drinks with the friends and family we were going to meet again, but that’s life. I think we should seize every event as an opportunity and not try to fight against what is happening.
If you had one lesson to learn from this trip, what would it be?
Quentin: Live in the present moment! Really enjoy the present, stop dwelling on the past and above all stop planning the future. It’s so easy to forget the past that you really have to try to live the present to the fullest.
Cécile: Live your dreams and YOUR own life, at your own pace and as you wish.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice right after you’ve decided to backpack around the world: what would it be like?
Quentin: Stop thinking now and enjoy it. You’re going to have a great time, enjoy it to the fullest.
Cécile: Take your time, don’t try to visit as much as possible in as little time as possible.
Anything to add?
Cécile: We’re often afraid to go on a trip like this and we often say to ourselves “it’s not for me”. You look for all the reasons in the world: money, time, work… If I had any advice, it would be “forget that you have no chance, go for it”. To be more serious, let’s stop looking for excuses not to go, it will never be the right time. A trip around the world is the experience of a lifetime, you will learn about yourself, about others, you will develop like never before and so many other things. JUST GO!
Quentin: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do this interview. It always feels good to take the time to talk about your experiences. It takes us back in our journey :).
That’ s it, we hope you enjoyed this third “backpackers experiences”. We warmly thank Cécile and Quentin for taking the time to share their travel experience with us. If you want to follow them, feel free to have a look at their blog or their instagram account. And if you have any other questions to ask them, just leave a comment below.
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