Sitting in the family car, I watch the landscapes of France go by at full speed. While observing these colorful distortions, I wonder how to better know these landscapes and the inhabitants who populate them.
That day, I decided to learn to take time to discover countries close to home and about which I almost know nothing. To learn to immerse myself in the beauty of a landscape that I would discover at my own pace, to let myself be surprised by honest, rich, and surprising encounters.
I see in the discovery and encounter of the unknown a breeding ground for listening, tolerance and peace. I believe that discovering other realities makes us aware of the needs of others. This awakens in me the desire to get involved in social initiatives and to support issues related to gender inequality. For this reason, I decided to leave for 3 months, alone, to pedal through Europe, carrying along this travel a solidarity project.
Sensitive to women’s condition around the world, I wanted this project to be an opportunity not only to discuss, but also to support women’s education through an organization that I care about: the Bayon School. This Cambodian NGO, whose mission is to provide quality education to children from disadvantaged areas in the north of the country, has always inspired me. In 2014, it opened a pastry school dedicated to young girls. This program gives them the opportunity to emancipate themselves through a job, and the keys needed to build their future. Education being for me the first step towards a fairer world, I decided to pedal for them, and to raise enough funds to finance a year of study at the pastry and bakery school, which is 2500 €.
5 a.m. Alone on the train platform. The adventure begins, with my bike and my four bags. That day, I repeat to myself the proverb “let those who think it is impossible do it, let those who want to try.” With this first pedal stroke, I am already getting closer to the “impossible” that I am looking for: freedom, human contact, exchange and simplicity.
This trip has shaken me up, upset me, and transformed me, for several reasons:
1. Traveling alone
Freedom is often something we take, rather than something we are given. Being free to choose what is good for us is also learning to listen to ourselves. Traveling alone was also for me synonymous with being surrounded, everywhere I went. Each day took on the color of the many encounters I had along the way. I learned a lot from this diversity of personalities: artists, athletes, students, or travelers. Each of these encounters enriched me and expanded my universe a little more.
2.Traveling by bike
Not knowing anything about what is called “cyclotourism” or even the basic functioning of a bicycle (I learned how to close my bags correctly after a month and a half), I learned everything “in the field,” gathering information along my adventures. But most of all, I learned that for every problem there is a solution, and if I can’t find it by myself, I will always find a kind help on my way. Traveling by bike is also rediscovering distances by counting the kilometers, keeping patience during an endless climb and savoring every little victory or reward.
3. Being a woman while traveling
During the trip, I often felt that I had to fight twice as hard because of my gender: against prejudices, against additional vulnerability, against my own fears and worries.
On the other hand, being a woman made it easier to make contacts and to be trusted.
I was thus confronted in all its power with the condition of being a woman, in Europe, while supporting the independence of a Cambodian woman thousands of kilometers away from me.
Throughout this trip I asked around me what everyone thought was most essential to improving gender equality. The biggest majority answered education, thus echoing the mission of the Bayon School, the reason for my trip and my commitment. I had the feeling that I was supporting a constructive debate and that a consensus was emerging: that education is the key to social progress, but also that it is important to realize that this key is not yet universal. That it is important to carry these projects to give them a voice.
December 20th 2021. The end of a beautiful trip
In front of me, the acropolis of Athens. Behind me, the 5000 km that I have just covered. Besides the satisfaction of having succeeded in crossing six countries with diverse cultures, the surprise of having reached 200% of our objective, and thus 5000€, filled me with joy. Being able to finance the entirety of the studies of 2 young girls proved to me that by daring the impossible, we can contribute to making the dreams of equality closer to reality.