You’re maybe wondering how I found myself, at 27, with the opportunity of having travelled through over sixty countries around the world.
I could simply tell you that the calling of the road has always been stronger than the rest, for my nomadic soul in constant quest for freedom and discovery. And this is true, in part. However, to really understand how I came to wander our beautiful planet over the years, I need to give you some context.
Let me thus try to summarise my story for you.
I grew up in Switzerland, in a loving family. I was born into a privileged cocoon and in theory, I got to live a beautiful life, growing up. In practice, however, things haven’t always been as easy as they looked like. I always struggled to fit in and assert myself, as someone who felt everything so intensively in a world where strong emotions were perceived as a weakness. As a result, by the time I entered my teens, I had interiorised a deep hatred for myself, because I wasn’t good enough, not popular enough, no strong enough, not cool enough. I didn’t understand yet that life had much more to offer than the limits imposed by the opinions of others.
When I was 16 years old, I went to live in Spain for 9 months in order to learn the language and open up my horizons. Unsurprisingly, by the time I returned, I had changed a lot. I had managed to assert myself a little more, but I had also been confronted with an unhealthy world of the night, where my body was constantly sexualised, where appearances reigned supreme. The new traumas I brought back with me nonetheless did not prevent me from finishing high school, and once I graduated, undecided about my future and curious to discover what could be beyond my mountains after the insight I had been given, I decided to fulfill a dream: to travel around the world.
Therefore, at the age of 20, I left and threw myself into whole new realities; I volunteered in very rural areas in West Africa, I found myself alone in Southeast Asia, and I slept in strangers’ homes in Australia, to name but a few. I lived a completely different life for a few months, and for the first time I felt really happy, I felt like I belonged.
Then I came back. I saw my friends and family again. At first, everyone wanted to hear my stories, telling me how brave I had been. The first few weeks were very intense. However, this enthusiasm soon faded, and people started to get tired of hearing about my adventures all the time. Even I got bored of telling them. And there was this distance, between me and the others. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t really there, I was just lying to myself; I had seen and done things that most people couldn’t identify with. It wasn’t my fault or their fault. But I didn’t recognise myself anymore in the life I was supposed to get back to as if nothing had happened, as if those five months that had changed everything didn’t exist.
I still had to keep moving forward, so I prepared to move to a new city to begin my studies. A guidance counsellor at the time had advised me to get into social work, and my volunteering experiences helped convince me to choose that course, even though I knew it wasn’t really my dream either. My real passion was writing. I have always loved telling stories, but after hearing so many times that I could never make a career out of it, I had stopped believing in it a long time ago. I thus became a student in social work and social politics at the University of Fribourg. I was surrounded by a lot of friends, I had good grades, a comfortable apartment. I was on the path that was all prepared for me for years, and I supposedly had everything to be happy.
But I wasn’t. I had left the path for a while. I now knew that there was something else, that somewhere out there, people were living differently. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that I had to put those memories in the corner of my head until I finished school, I couldn’t turn off that little voice inside me that wouldn’t forget. So the process began… and it was unstoppable.
I started realising how much the individualistic society in which we live seems to distance us from certain fundamental values, such as compassion, patience and humility. I observed how many are disconnected from others and from themselves, often too busy fleeing a dull and oppressive existence to question their reality. I became aware of how we’re manipulated to think in a certain way, prioritising material success and social status over everything else, which in turn leads us to desire futile things. I felt like a pawn in an infernal system that oppresses the most vulnerable while distracting the more affluent so that they don’t look beyond their screens. I realised that I was there because that’s what had always been expected of me, and that I had never been encouraged to think differently, to imagine another life than the one that would only perpetuate the same system that is the cause of so many of our social, economic and environmental problems. We are so hypnotised that even the urgency of our imminent destruction cannot bring us out of our torpor to change things.
Above all, I didn’t recognise myself in the ‘study-career-marriage-family’ model that we are supposed to dream about. What thrilled me was the call for adventure and discovery, the exploration of different cultures and ways of living. I wanted to try to see if it was possible to live in a world where our comfort would not be built on the exploitation and disrespect of the rights of those who are not as fortunate as we are. But few people were ready to hear such reflections, so I felt extremely lonely in my inner storm. However, I still didn’t want to remain silent.
And then I remembered the smiles of people living so simply, in that other universe where I had once set foot…
That’s how I spent my first semester at university, feeling like an outsider in this world. One day I went on the internet and found cheap plane tickets to Morocco. My heart started pounding in my chest as I remembered the happiness I had felt during my first long trip. I didn’t think long before buying it. I found myself having to justify to those around me why I had decided on a whim to go to North Africa alone for three weeks, at a time when fears of the Muslim world were becoming more and more pervasive. Of course, everyone told me I was crazy.
I left anyway. What happened there is another story that I will tell you one day in more detail, but what is certain is that when I came back, I was not quite the same. A seed had been sown, a decisive sentence had been planted in my head…
The following months were a long battle between my mind and my heart. The logical choice would have been to stay and finish my studies, to get a good degree and then decide what I wanted. At least that is what most people around me were trying to convince me to do. However, even if the social sciences I was studying were exciting, and despite my excellent results, something deep inside me didn’t feel right. Everything was too theoretical, I couldn’t see any connection with reality. The idea of continuing along this path seemed so unbearable that I had gradually stopped going to classes, while plunging deeper and deeper into a dark depression. I was afraid, afraid to admit the truth: all this life I had built for myself was collapsing. I finally hit rock bottom.
I stayed there for a while, contemplating the words ‘BE REASONABLE’ written there. But the desire to get back to the surface overcame my doubts. The light that would bring me out of this tunnel was somewhere else, somewhere where no one around me had been before: no certainty was waiting for me there, unlike the dead-end street I was in, surrounded by all those people but so desperately alone.
I finally made my choice. I stopped letting my fear guide my destiny and decided to follow my heart. The day before I left, I engraved the words ‘Why not’ on my skin, packed my bag with some clothes, my camera, my flute and my notebooks, and left. It was June 11, 2015.
My first goal was to reach Mongolia by crossing Russia on board of the famous Trans-Siberian, but I have never really stopped since. That doesn’t mean that I gave up my education. Shortly after my departure, I started my university studies again. At a distance this time, which meant that I had to carry my books across the several dozens of countries I was lucky enough to discover. I also had the chance to try my hand at a few different jobs through volunteering experiences: from a farm in Lithuania to a Palestinian refugee camp, and other youth hostels and construction sites. All this required a lot of discipline, but I worked hard to pursue my dream, and here I am, five years later, with my bachelor’s degree in my pocket.
I have seen and done many things in the meantime. After an initial eight months of travelling, I decided to give more meaning to my project, and to travel to Palestine to volunteer and learn more about the politics of that part of the world. To see the reality beyond what the media presents us. I came back overwhelmed, and the euphoria of leaving had since been replaced by a deep pain in the face of all the injustices of the world. This trip also gave me the gift of a great love story with a young Palestinian man. Unfortunately, the news of his illness and then his passing a few months later only reinforced my despair, and I almost lost myself for good.
It was only when I returned to Switzerland after all of this that I could really understand the meaning of my privilege, and it allowed me to make peace with my country. The journey did not end there, however. I notably walked 900km on the ‘Camino de Santiago’ in 2018, which allowed me to grieve and to reconnect with the simple joys of life. Today, I may not be as animated by the same carefree enthusiasm of my early twenties, but I have learned many valuable lessons along the way. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have never regretted for one second that crazy decision I made one day, which changed everything.
This blog is therefore the witness of my atypical journey. I initially started it to give news to my loved ones, and to try to make sense of my story. Through it, I have always tried to retrace not only my external wanderings, but also and especially all the ways in which my adventures over the years have changed my view of the world and myself. My writings can thus sometimes be very personal, as you may have already noticed. My only pretension is to present you with authentic stories, without trying to show you an idealised version of the nomadic way of life. In fact, I have not always nurtured it with the same assiduity, as I have often been caught up in other projects or distractions. Among those was the publication of a book (in French, soon to be translated in English), which traces the story of my very first trip, long before the birth of Sowanders. And for some time now, I have been preparing the sequel, the one that will get to the heart of all the workings behind the story I have just presented to you, and which will be called…
This site allows you to easily switch from English to French, as it is fully translated in both languages.
If you want to be kept informed by email of my new posts, don’t hesitate to subscribe. I remain at your disposal for any remarks or questions you would like to share with me, either in the comments of my articles or by private messages. I am always happy to receive your feedback!
Welcome to my world!