13:45 — 25mn into my flight between Nice and Stockholm. In the air to reach the Swedish capital, before a connecting flight to the first destination of my trip, in Dubai.
As I’m writing this, I’ve just finished a book entitled “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. Knight is the founder of Nike, and the book is a memoir, tracing the early history of the company, from its inception in the mid sixties, to its IPO in the early eighties.
The book was on my wishlist for a couple of months, and my friend Alex gifted it to me about ten days before my departure. A really kind and generous gesture. Alex has often gifted me things even without reason, or without expecting anything in return. He assumed I’d take it with me on the trip, reading it in planes, airports, and as I crossed borders of the most eastern countries I’d get to visit in the coming months. But I had other plans.
Even though it had been a long time reading a book, even more so a physical hard copy, I decided to put in the effort and discipline to read it in just over a week. Three hundred and eighty-six pages. At an average of fifty pages per day, I should be able to do it in eight. Add one or two bonus days in case I miss it, and I should still have ample room to get it all done before leaving.
Except I’ve been pretty tired the past three days, and didn’t manage to find the time or discipline to finish it. So I sneakily downloaded a digital version that I loaded on the iPad, the same machine I’m typing these lines on, and finished the last twenty or twenty-five pages during the first minutes of the flight.
The book was a great story of entrepreneurship, passion, risk taking, and how one man and his misfits band of brothers managed to navigate through numerous hardships to create one of the most recognisable and valuable company in the world. It was obviously my type of read, highly inspirational, filled with personal details. But beyond that, I could see many parallels with my current endeavour.
I strongly believe that if you look hard enough, one can easily identify with the arts and media you consume. In this case, the first couple of chapters start with Mr Knight, then a young twenty-four year old man from Oregon, planning a trip around the world. Considering I’m typing this on a plane taking me around the world for nine months, it’s impossible not to identify.
The risk-taking and efforts needed to take this type of trip, back in the early sixties, with the political situation, and less-developed technology, forces my respect. But if you read through the book, until the end, you realise the number of fights and coincidences that occurred, some of it too good to be true, being saved at the last minute, and the number of times when the company could have failed —should have failed— but didn’t.
It is not only hugely inspiring, but also brings to mind a similar situation in which I’ve met someone very special —S.—someone who seems to have changed my view of the world, and my own perspective on how I see my world. There again, there are a number of factors and coincidences that are simply too uncanny not to notice.
I mentioned that I’m on a plane. Flight DY4322, from Nice to Stockholm, on the sixth day of April. It’s been a long time coming. After laying out my original plan last summer, putting more details into it in October, and booking my very first tickets in December, I can now say that It’s Happening!.
To this very day, it hasn’t hit me yet. S. jokingly tells me that I will start noticing it in three weeks or something. I told myself and my friends that maybe seeing the desert of the United Arab Emirates will be a strong enough shock factor to bring that to my eyes and mind.
But I just don’t know. I didn’t feel sad saying goodbye to my family, I guess I’ve always been quiet and distant in that way. But it certainly feel strange to think that the next time I’ll be seeing them will be in December, coming back home and celebrating Christmas as if nothing had happened or changed.
I’ll be in touch with them of of course, our modern technology allows that. And of course, I’m much more akin to overcharge my experiences then most of my friends or relatives. This blog, this very article is the perfect example of that.
Before landing the plane, in Terminal 1 at my local airport of Nice, I took the time to grab a quick lunch. Sitting at my table, my best friend Elodie messaged me, sharing a Youtube link and asking me to open it, preferably before departing. Before leaving the country, leaving home and my friends & family behind.
I ordered my food, put the iPad in landscape mode above its keyboard, and opened it. At first, I thought she had launched a new project she wanted to talk about. But no, it was something else. Something much more meaningful, something I didn’t expect in a million years.
The video started playing. The title: “For you, my Tibz” My Tibz, that’s how she calls me when we’re texting, chatting, or talking on the phone. The video started playing, and with such a title, I thought she’d be talking, alone in front of her screen. Possibly sharing pictures or something along those lines. No, it was much better, and again, I didn’t expect any of that.
Over a seven-minutes-short video, some of my closest friends shared messages of excitement, support, and love. My parents and brother were in on this too, and left me a message. Elodie had taken the time to contact them all, across continents, from Canada (Alice) to the U.K. (Frit), to France (herself, my family, Ines, Alex, Jerome), to Georgia (S), and all the way “down under” to Australia (Eliott).
She coordinated this and put it all together, saving S.’s message until the end for the “very last surprise”.
Elodie, if you’re reading this. FUCK! You’ve killed it, this was so unexpected, and made me so happy! I’m going to try and find a way to download this video and keep it with me! I can’t believe you’ve put all this time and effort for me, to allow me to have a piece of all of you with me during the trip!
Over the past couple of weeks, as I slowly pulled the curtain over the reveal of this trip, I couldn’t have expected a more supportive response from my friends. Between sharing some tips, asking questions, or sincerely wishing the best, everyone all across the world has been incredibly supportive.
And that’s without even mentioning the ones I’ll get to meet and catch-up with during the course of this journey. Starting with Nimit, my kind friend and host in Dubai — I can’t wait to share more about this, about him, and about our upcoming adventures.
No matter what happens, if any of you are reading this, know that I can’t wait to share all of it with you, and if you don’t hear from me, or miss out on some stuff, please hold me accountable — I’ll always be available to catch up on Facebook, via private messages, or on Skype or whatever cool video-conference service the cool kids are using these days.
I’m incredibly grateful to my family too. From Day One, and the inception of this trip, they’ve been supportive, full of advices and travel tips, and above all, here for me when I needed some time to think or plan ahead.
I know the past few months have been straight out weird, what with both my brother and myself moving back home — me to save some money for a couple of months ahead of the trip, and him having finished his studies and waiting to start a career in the military. Not to mention the weekends being the four of us back home again, like we used to when we were kids, growing up.
The same as before — we’re all just taking more space now. I’m glad I got to reconnect with them a lot, even though I rarely make them feel that way, give them a hard time, or don’t show it often enough. But they know. And I think they’re happy and proud too. It feels good that they didn’t try to hold me back, but rather, pushed me to go. My parents even told me they wish they had this opportunity, something I can only try to share with them once I land in those distant lands.
They probably won’t read this, but I will be sending a separate message to them directly anyways.
I’ve mentioned S. a couple of times throughout this post, and over on this blog before. Her importance in my life over the past couple of months simply cannot be overstated. It’s always strange and awkward to try and explain it to friends, especially to those who have only heard about this story recently.
But she makes me feel like no one has before. And the mutual respect, connection and yes, blossoming love that we both feel towards one another, is unlike anything I knew was possible. This is a story you hear about in a soapy Hollywood rom-com. And yet it happened, despite the number of factors that needed to come together for us to meet, and make it work, and be able to meet around the world like we have been doing and will continue to do over the coming months. She makes me believe, in fate, in love, in myself, and in us.
I consider myself a pragamatic, a dreamer, a realist, but nothing in a million years could have prepared me for that. And during the good times and the bad, I’m ready to face it all, to meet with her halfway around the world.
Before wrapping up this post, I’d like to talk about something I’ve had on my mind and wanted to express.
A couple of friends have mentioned some things that I wanted to address:
If you're in a situation where you work and rely solely on an internet connection, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in your way. Save up for a few months, and GO!
If you're in a different working situation, with a corporate position, or a job that doesn't allow you that type of flexibility, try and see the world on your own terms. Take a break or a sabbatical for a couple of weeks or months. Or if you're transitioning between your studies or between two jobs save up a bit and GO! You don't have to do it all at once, but I implore you to leave, go see the world, get out of your bubble and comfort zone. The world has never been smaller, and travelling has never been so affordable. Want to know my dirty little secret? None of my flights have cost me more than 350 Euros so far. If you keep an eye on regular promotions, leave outside of Big Vacation Time, and use a site like Kayak, Hipmunk, or Skyscanner, it's much easier, faster, and cheaper than you'd expect.
To those who said "You're courageous to go there on your own..."
That's one way of seeing it. The other way, the one I choose to see, is the flexibility that traveling alone allows me. Traveling with others means making choices together, picking places to see and missing out on others to stand together. Traveling alone, I can choose to do whatever I want, on my own agenda. And besides, between technology to keep up with the friends back home and around the world, local recommendations of things to do, and friends or friends-of-friends to meet around the world, it won't be all that lonely, in the end.
And finally, for the ones that I simply can't relate to, the ones who are scared of being away from their family or their friends.
Going back full circle, I just want to share this quote from "Shoe Dog", that I mentioned at the beginning of this post:
“The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”