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This can be summarized in only one thing: get back to nomadic life for a while and lead a hobo life.
This won’t be the first time. In 2003 I hopped on my motorcycle for a 16 months journey around Africa
Let’s try to see what it is to be nomad exactly.
Everyone has his own definition of it. Mine is to respect the following 10 commandments:
- Avoid forecasting anything
« The plan is to have no plan at all » My friend Luc says this, you can follow him at this link.
No plan, or just a little, only one direction: heading East, to Mongolia, crossing all “stan” countries then towards South East Asia and finally maybe Australia.
This initial direction can be changed accordingly to changing moods, people I meet, smiles, seasons and of course global situation of each country, which unfortunately cannot be predicted.
- Get along with fatalism
Consequently of the first point, this second one is just as important. Inch’Allah say Muslims, that is the point.
In 2004 I was about to leave Dar Es Salam, Tanzania when a Danish guy called Henrick invited me to join him for a drink. We spent an hour talking about motorcycles and Africa.
He had been living there for years and was married to a Tanzanian woman. He insisted a lot to make me stay at his place for a couple of days, which I kindly refused.
Few hours later I was on the road when my bike unexpectedly broke down. I had no other choice than getting to Hendrick’s place, waiting for the bike to be repaired. I stayed with his adorable wife and him for three weeks. What was supposed to be a simple quick meeting became a real lasting friendship. Thanks to a broken spare part of my bike…Inch’Allah!
- Take your time and go ahead slowly
The journey is slowness. Traveling by plane or by car is cheating, it is too easy, too rapid. So yes the real journey must be done by foot, on a bicycle or on a horse. This allows taking your time to admire and appreciate the long distances and the diversity of the world, take your time to cross glances and smiles. Slowness pledges intense meetings.
Due to an accident my physical conditions don’t allow me to walk a lot or to pedal a bicycle on long distances. I have thought about a horse and a mule to carry things and a dog as companion but I may be forced to get back to France now and then during the journey, not a good idea with my animal companions.
So it will be on my motorcycle, my loyal African as I call it. It is not very young so not very fast and this enforces the wear of a helmet which can be easily taken off to chat around with people on my path.
- Alone you will ride
It’s a rule: when alone meeting others is easier. Loneliness goes together with slowness, which is the best guarantee you can have for a journey full of great moments. This can seem contradictory but it is very true. If you are with someone else you become a band which prevents you from meeting others.
- Ride with very few things
Before you leave, unless you have already done it, you are very far from imagining the real conditions of the roads you will have to ride on. In many places a bicycle may be easier than a bike. And in this case the weight is very important and can be a real danger. My BMW R100 GS is much too heavy. A lighter bike would be enough. The lighter you ride the better it is for gasoline and tires which is not to be neglected. Minimum luggage is my motto for the next months of preparation and training.
- You will sleep anywhere you can
In a ditch, under a tree, in a hut, a poor hotel bedroom or a five star royal suit, what is important is to have a good mattress and to be safe of cold and humidity so you can sleep well
You also need to have a light solid tent but above all water proof. It is compulsory for a long journey
Very often, in faraway villages, mainly in Muslim countries, hospitality is sacred. People will kindly offer you something to eat and a place to spend the night. If I accept eating what they offer I politely refuse to sleep at their place. The reason is simple, their home is too small that they let you sleep inside letting their own bedroom for your comfort. That is why I prefer my tent, not to offense them but to avoid disturbing.
This reminds me an amusing story when I was travelling Cameroon with 3 friends.
It was during rain season and the laterite roads were quite impracticable. We had been biking all day long and were exhausted, sleeping in a tent was not very tempting. At dawn we asked a villager to give us shelter. He offered his hut which we refused but accepted his house which was under construction but not totally done. That seemed perfect to us, we would be safe from torrential rains. We got in there and after a while someone knocked at the door, we were surprised to see him back with his family carrying furniture and beds so we can be more comfortable. That was so generous of him, those who have nothing give everything.
- Refrain from judging
Montaigne who loved travelling across France on his horse said there is no use to take yourself with you.
So when you leave it is not only a farewell to friends, family and relatives but also to yourself, to the person you used to be, leave behind all you think is good or bad, fair or unfair, just get back to what you were as a child.
You are about to become someone you don’t know yet, you will meet some new people on your way, the one who will let you in and offer you shelter if needed, whether he is a prince or a beggar, he will open wide the door of his house and takes you to another world, another way of thinking and other values. If he is a stranger to you at first he will become a very close friend, even a brother whom you will share bread and laughter with.
This is a real authentic trip, traveling is like a birth or a delivery, it is a like a chrysalis to become a beautiful butterfly. It is intense, long and sensual, sometimes painful also. But you have to farewell to the one you was. Your former character has already disappeared to give birth to a new one.
- You will be respectful and humble
Respect appears to be more and more forgotten and complex because it is not a universal concept, it is up to where you are and people you are with.
« In Africa looking someone straight in the eyes is considered as rude and regardless while it is a sign of respect and confidence for a European” Amadou Hampâté Bâ correctly pointed this.
What is respectful here is not necessarily in another country
So how to react and behave?
You have to be patient and listen and observe. Talk less and listen a lot. And when you talk avoid lecturing. It is highly annoying and unpleasant to have someone who lectures, here or somewhere else.
Accept to share the bread, listen and understand the food, the way of feeding may be different, respect it as a universal value.
Behave accordingly to where you are and avoid ostentatious outfits.
You might be wrong if imitating those wearing local clothes, unless if offered to you, in this case you have to wear it, right Eli?
Have faith in your precious allies, I mean the kids. They only can easily teach you how to behave and point out your bad manners or if you oddly behave. As simple as that!
- Always smile
Smile is the traveler’s gem. Your smile is your most valuable ally, it will help you have something to eat, a shelter for the night or get authorized visa you are eagerly waiting for. It will take off anger from moody policemen or soften official overzealous guy. But above all it will open all the doors that lead to friendship and share, this is the most important, it is a universal language and does not require translation. Your smile is your weapon, your asset and your best ally!
- Always maintain curiosity
Would we travel without curiosity?
Here is my project, nothing more nor less. No purpose, no specific targets, just one direction to follow. No agenda, just the seasons. No fears, just a way of living, a philosophy of life.
This blog will permit you to follow me if you wish.
Departure is scheduled for spring 2017, in the meantime, every week I will put an abstract of my long African road trip.