” I’m exhausted ! I have no more legs, I feel like I’m 60! » It’s 5 p.m. Maÿlis has just completed its stage of the day, in the heart of Ariège. At 30, this riding instructor with a strong character decided to drop everything to leave with her two horses on the roads of France. She left her native Touraine on May 25, 2021 after a year of preparation, which mainly consisted of buying the equipment (€2,000 in total) and training the horses.
“Finding a simple life”
In this month of April, she has just ended her four-month winter break, necessary for her traveling companions, who need to be fed hay during this period. The three accomplices were accommodated in a farm in Ariège in “wwoofing” (free accommodation against farm services). The recovery is tough. “The body needs to get going again”comments Maÿlis, with a smile on her face.
His project is to travel across France to meet equestrian personnel. ” The idea was to meet people in the business to learn from their experience and thus structure my future professional project. “Because after five years of club work, Maÿlis realized that she aspired to something else. ” I needed to cut myself off from everyday life to return to a simplicity of life that allows me to think without having the hubbub of the world around me. “, she explains.
After considering a trip in a caravan, she opts for horseback riding – more affordable given her budget built on the savings accumulated during her first five years of work.
Average speed: 5 km/h, a little faster than walking, because the horses carry the luggage. For housing, ” it’s day to day”, according to the meetings made on the way and, at worst, it will be the wild bivouac, under tent, but with the concern that the horses will take the key to the fields. ” Not knowing where I’m going to sleep the next day requires real letting go for me who likes to plan aheadconfides Maÿlis. It is an act of faith. But surrender leads to abundance! »
Christian, the young woman chose to direct the end of her wanderings on the roads of Santiago de Compostela. Direction Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by the “Pyrenean foothills route”. The spiritual breath of this thousand-year-old pilgrimage carries her… and the path is busier, which allows her to forge more ties.
Despite the difficulties – fatigue, a horse that falls ill, another that gets lost in a bramble… – the solitary rider finds her strength in these encounters. “providential”. “ One of the great lessons of this trip is that people are good, welcoming, kind, she confides. It jumped out at me from the first few days. For my part, it taught me to say yes (if people propose, they are ready to do so) and to ask for help. » Once she arrived in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, she hoped to return to Touraine by way of the Atlantic coast, still under the patronage of Saint Jacques.
“Understanding a fragment of Europe”
At the other end of the European continent, Arnaud and Marie have just reached their destination. This couple of engineers-architects with unfailing enthusiasm had given themselves a year to connect Dijon to Istanbul ” entirely on foot. “The objective was to cross and understand a fragment of Europe, while being in an ecological approach”says Arnaud, a Parisian from the Alpes-Maritimes, a climbing enthusiast.
It takes about €1,000 per month of budget, including food, materials and equipment. A sum saved during their first three years of work. For accommodation: 90% of the time in tents, in wild bivouacs and a few breaks at the hotel or with private individuals.
Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria… Arnaud and Marie’s journey is the anti-“Instagram trip”. No photos of sunsets in New York or Thailand. “ Beautiful places to walk, there are everywhere on earth, explains Marie, a lively little brunette with short hair. For us, it made sense to leave home and come back home, with the least carbon impact. » For the return, the couple planned to return to France by sailboat, thanks to a “conavigation” app, modeled on BlaBlaCar.
During these long months of walking, the two thirty-somethings have given themselves the mission of“analyzing architecture, landscape and culture” of the countries they cross. Everyone puts their talent to good use: the sketch for Arnaud, the photo for Marie. Their journey is punctuated by remarkable natural and cultural sites, but also by less attractive areas, such as the outskirts of Venice. “ Going there on foot is a delirium, Arnaud loses his temper. Ordinarily, tourists are placed directly in the historic core. But in the suburbs, where the Venetians live, there are miles of very poorly developed urban area. »
This exploration of the “hidden face” of the tourist city par excellence leads them to experience the absurdity of certain modes of tourism: “ You have to imagine the environmental balance sheets: the 10 km2 of the center, reserved for the richest only certain months of the year have a disastrous impact “, reasons the young man whose job – flood risk management – is directly linked to environmental issues.
“Like a spiritual and philosophical quest”
With its slow pace that leaves room for observation, walking then becomes a mode of knowledge of reality much more advanced than books. Arnaud describes her as a “ spiritual and philosophical quest, started on the roads to Compostela. “Walking allows you to compare your mental constructions with others, and to refine them”he says. “We have never talked so much about political subjects between us”, adds Mary. In contact with agricultural landscapes, but also borders, much more palpable on the borders of the Schengen area.
These discoveries do not make them forget the difficulties of the path. The main ? “ Winter ! », they answer in chorus. ” The cold – down to – 15°C –, the wind, the humidity, you can’t get rid of it, describes Arnaud. But we don’t regret it, it’s an experience of nature, complete, neither good nor bad. »
Lip piercing and sparkling eyes, Mélanie is not the type to regret an experience in the great outdoors either. Last year, she cycled across France from Nantes to Strasbourg in the space of three months, from May to June. ” Cycling is a good in-between between walking and driving.she explains. This allows you to go faster than walking, but not too much and without polluting. »
In the summer of 2022, the young woman, stationed at Nantes Métropole, plans to retrain as a bookseller and move. Marked for the long term by her experience of the Camino de Santiago four years earlier, she decided to leave “for a long time, all alone “. Two ideal conditions for take a step back from your life : “In two weeks of vacation, you rest physically but you don’t disconnect your brain. After a month, you are really in the present moment: basically, you are no longer thinking but you are entering into a deep meditative experience. »
Using her savings and thanks to the help of her parents to invest in a bicycle, Mélanie sets off on the road with a very specific goal: “Visiting a book actor every day so that he can explain his job to me in relation to the ecological question, which is a red thread in my life. The cyclist is a member of the Association for Book Ecology, a network of book professionals who campaign for more ecology in the sector.
“These long-distance journeys help to make the right choices”
On the Facebook page she created for the occasion, she plans to recount her adventures and offer readings related to the territory crossed. Along the way, she uses the Warmshower site, the equivalent of Couchsurfing for cyclists, on which cycling enthusiasts offer free accommodation or a place to pitch their tent in the garden. A good way to meet people, assures Mélanie, who confides to having suffered from loneliness, even if “ it’s an experience to do “.
On her return, it takes her several months to integrate what she has experienced and put it down on paper, “ to end this experience. “Returning to an urban setting is difficult when you have lived in nature for three monthssays the one who is now a bookseller in the 18the district of Paris. What has changed in me? I came to the conclusion that human beings are made to move and not to stay all day in front of a computer. You can’t be on the move all the time of course, because you have to eat well, have a job. It is also important to have a place where you are anchored, a community or a neighborhood to invest in. But for a generation that changes its life several times, by will or by constraint, these long-term journeys help to make the right choices when a turn takes shape. “Local anchoring, slowness and sobriety… The ingredients of a future that many hope to bring about.
Adventures to find on social networks
Equi globe trotteuse: facebook.com/EquiGlobeTrotteuse
Arnaud and Marie: facebook.com/4saisons4pattes or 4saisons4pattes.com
La Bicyclette à Bouquins: facebook.com/labicycletteabouquins
Call to readers
Do you also dream of leaving everything behind, of giving another meaning to your life? Tell us in a few lines what made you decide to leave… and what the trip has changed in you. Email: email@example.com