If you ever want to gauge an individual’s love for something or someone, just look for all the crazy and seemingly unconventional things they do, or are doing, to achieve what they want. Acts and traits that few can imagine and emulate are the things that distinguish such passionate people. And that’s exactly what crossed our minds when we came across the incredible and unbelievable journey of Margaux and Julien — the French couple who quit their well-paid jobs to travel the world together.
The distinction, however, was their idea of alternative travel and eco-friendly tour of the world, which was travelling the world without ever using an airplane! Wondering how they’re doing it? Well, we too were intrigued, so much so that we decided to know it all from Margaux and Julien themselves and let them answer, for who better than them!
So, here's the exclusive interview with the couple travelling the world without flights that you need to read and share with your friends right now!
Q. Margaux and Julien, you have taken the idea of travel to a whole new level and we're more than excited to have you talking to us. First things first; who out of you two came up with the unique idea of travelling the world without ever boarding an airplane? Because not many can think of holidaying without flights, let alone do a world tour.
A: Hi! Actually that’s difficult to say. We both had in mind to travel the world one day, but we were caught up in our routine and busy lives. Then something happened (we will talk about it later), and the next day we were without jobs, scheduled timetables, and regular incomes. We had less money but plenty of time, and we both wanted to travel the world, but we also knew that airplanes cause a lot of carbon emission which usually goes unnoticed.
It struck us and we decided to still travel the world, but without taking flights. So, we started with an alternative journey of hitchhiking and meeting people – an eco-conscious decision that fit our convictions. After all, charity begins at home, does't it!
Q. And did it need a lot of persuasion? What were your initial reactions?
A: Actually it didn’t! Julien asked me, “Do you want me to quit my job and travel the world?” And I said yes within a second! For me, it was like a beautiful proposal, except that he didn’t get down on one knee. (grins brightly)
Q. Both of you worked full-time before you set out on this incredibly inspiring journey. What was that ‘click’ that made you take the plunge?
A: So, I was 27, hard at work for about three years now after my Masters and eager to move up. But it came at a price. I got overworked, stressed, not heard by my boss and had almost no personal life. It was too much, especially because at 27 you shouldn’t be feeling this old! The only solution I saw was to quit this company, which I eventually did. For Julien, this was the ‘click’! He said to me, “You are free, we have no credits and no kids. If you want, I can quit too, so we can travel the world with no return date!”
Q. Margaux, we understand that you loved travelling places in France back when you were working for a pharma company. Were there any apprehensions about the viability of this idea? Any fears and uncertainties?
A: Travelling in your own country is very different from travelling abroad. In France, I could speak the language that almost everyone understood. But when you enter a different country with different culture, where people don’t speak the same language as you, communication becomes a problem. They might also have different body language and different ways of thinking. So, of course, it was a bit scary initially! But we held our nerves and things started to fall in place slowly.
Q. What you are doing is a tell-all and the players in the travel industry love to get associated with inspiring stories of people quitting their jobs and travelling the world. We are tempted to ask whether your trips and your equipment are sponsored or you’ve been managing it all on your own?
A: What we are really proud of is the fact that we don’t have a sponsor, and neither do we want one. Of course, when you gain some visibility on the internet, Instagram in particular, you get some deals. It’s easy and very tempting. But in the end, we feel that if we agree to such deals, we might have less freedom and that we wouldn't be trusted by the travellers who look at alternative travel as a real possibility.
We also use our blog to explain that we were not looking for sponsors and how it goes against our ethics. We also rarely accept partnerships, but if we do, it’s because we share the same values with the company. We are free to write/share what we think about it and stay fully transparent with our readers.
Q. Well, then this could be the question every travel-loving soul that wishes to emulate you, would want to ask – how have you funded yourself since you decided to travel the world after quitting your jobs together? What’s the secret mantra to travel the world after quitting the job? Passion is one thing, but a world tour is costly, isn’t it?
A: Before travelling we had some savings; just in case we would want to buy a house some day. So until now, we are relying on those savings to travel, but we don’t think they are everlasting! If we are still able to live as we please, it’s mostly because we spend very little money on the road (only for food, visa, and visits sometimes).
Also, we favour volunteering experiences – working half a day in exchange for three meals and accommodation. We can do all kinds of work – farming, babysitting, housework, hostel reception, management, and the list can go on. Also, Julien teaches French and English online. Thanks to this way of life and travel, we spend an average $1,000 per year per person, which is roughly $3 a day. And that's how we have been managing it all. That's doable, isn't it?
Q. Definitely, especially if someone loves to travel. But then not taking flights means more time spent in getting to places, which you could use to explore if you travel by air? Ever made, or thought of making an exception, especially if the destination is far across thousands of miles?
A: To answer your first question; it’s something true on paper, but all wrong in reality! Why? Because travelling by air only takes you from one big city to another where airports are built. However, doing overland/sea journeys, whether you are hitchhiking or not, takes you to unseen places and off the beaten tracks. This helps you explore much more than you otherwise would.
Now to the second question: we never considered making an exception during our trip. It’s always possible to travel anywhere without taking a flight if you organise your trip and check border conditions properly. The only exceptions we make are for emergency family meetings.
Q. What you are doing for ecology is exemplary, but did you, by any chance, ever feel like this could be a very, very slow work-in-progress? Didn’t it ever occur to you that more and more airplanes would still be taking to the skies, nearly nullifying your superhuman effort?
A: What you're saying might be true, but fortunately a lot of people are becoming aware of environmental damages and are now trying to reduce their carbon footprint. We are not feeling alone anymore – ecology strikes, Stay on the Ground, and the Flygskam movement are doing so well!
And as they say, “Give a fish to feed a poor man and he will eat for one day. Show him how to fish and he will be able to feed himself forever.” We are not giving any moral lessons to people, we are showing them that alternative ways of travel exists.
Q. That's simply wonderful. And as we happen to know, you’ve both been to a number of places in the past three years, hitchhiked around 60,000 km, completed over 4,500 km nautical miles (nm) of sea journey in sail boats, and stayed with more than 230 locals across different locations. There’s a high chance of you being in situations that might have made you feel like, “Oh! I shouldn’t have gotten into this”. Can you share a couple of such experiences?
A: Of course, we were in such situations, but not more often than one would be stuck in a regular life. Sometimes, we got on a vehicle only to start feeling unsafe, but we gently asked to stop and found another vehicle. Or the last sailing boat we joined was quite scary, but something scary can happen even when you’re crossing the road! Travelling is just the way of life for us, and risks are just inevitable.
Q. Many people are inspired by such stories. In fact, many are already looking up to you two. What are the three most striking learnings from your travels you would like to share so as to promote alternative travel and encourage eco-friendly travellers?
A: 1. Listen to yourself, ask yourself the right questions and do what really matters to you.
Most people who haven't experienced it, especially your relatives, will scare you and try to dissuade you. But once on the road, you’ll quickly realise that most people in the world are good. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you’re travelling for you at first, to satisfy your own curiosity.
There are so many tourists V-logging, taking selfies, and ticking off all the boxes from a 'bucket list'. They often miss out on the essentials - all the details that make the place unique, its history, the local life and so on. Stay true to your beliefs. The likes on Instagram are ephemeral, but the incredible memories you make are the things that matter most.
2. Be ready to unlearn
Always question and challenge yourself about the things you’ve learnt while growing up – at home, at school, about history, society, cultures, and clichés. Be open to see the truth from another perspective.
3. Find out about travel alternatives
Travel local for short time holidays. Use alternative transportation (train instead of flight, for example) or fly for a longer time period if it’s long distance. Avoid flights if you can. You will enjoy the journey more, meet more people, and cause lower impact on the environment.
Q. Well, we hope travellers are making a note of it. Julien, we have read that you love photography and the pictures you click prove the same. They are awesome! Margaux says that you never leave your camera behind. Does the safety of your equipment get to you, especially when you are travelling long distances with all your luggage? Any special hacks you want to share with other travel photographers?
A: Our camera is the most expensive material thing we have on us. So yes, I’m always careful! I choose a handy model (hybrid) that allows me to always keep it around my neck and in my small backpack in its special case. The trick is that we have two backpacks each. The big one which we can put in the trunk of cars when we hitchhike, or leave at our hosts. It usually packs clothes and basic stuff.
The small bag we have contains our documents, money (not a lot as you understood now!), laptop, and camera. We always keep it with us, especially while hitchhiking, shopping, exploring or whatever. It's more organised that way.
Q. There are millions of people who work full-time but dream of travelling the world some day, bound by financial limits, time, family, and whatnot. What’s the one thing you would want to say out of your own experiences to such people who wish to break free, just like you two?
A: We have only one life! We'd say, live it to the fullest. And if travelling is your dream, make sure it does come true. Every problem has a solution and nothing is impossible, if you make it your priority! Our trip is a proof that money is not a limitation. It’s very much possible to travel with almost nothing as long as you are in good health.
And yes, the passport is more valuable than money. We consider ourselves lucky, for we have fairly powerful passports which not only allow us to travel to a lot of countries without any visa, or a visa fees that doesn't cost us a fortune, but also help us bypass a lot of immigration formalities. So, put your passports to better use and you'll notice how it turns into something much more than a document to travel to foreign countries!
Q. Lastly, when are you planning to travel to India?
A. (Both grin) Good question! We never know where the wind will bring us next, but as soon as we know that we will stop in India, we will let you know!
The crispy ones:
The last airlines you flew with?
Margaux: Oh wait…maybe Aeroflot but not sure!
Which camera do you often use?
Julien: Second hand Sony Alpha 6500 with different lenses
Your favourite place in France?
Your favourite sports team?
Julien: I don’t have one.
The day you officially set out for world tour with Julien?
Margaux: June 3rd, 2016. We left then on October 17th, 2016
Name of your first host?
Julien: Greta, Hemal, Giorgio and Chiara in Torino, Italy
The next country you’re travelling to?
If future technology comes up with electric flying machines, would you still travel like you’ve been doing all this while?
Julien: Probably yes.
Well, that was all about Julien and Margaux's unique style of travel and left us inspired and impressed. Are you also fascinated by their idea of travelling the world without flights? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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