26 letters for 26 places, atmospheres and travelling anecdotes: this is the challenge I set to myself with this article! I published it first in January 2020; two and a half years later, it was time to give it a new lease of life and write a second version, including a few changes compared to the original. From Australia to Yosemite and Zion, via Iceland, hostel life and a meal of okonomiyaki, here is my traveller’s alphabet: 26 letters for a journey around the world!
This is the first part, from the letter A to the letter L. For the second part, follow the link below.
A as in… Australia
Probably the most obvious letter of this list! My life changed on the day I set foot in Australia, at the very end of June 2016. I went back there twice after that first trip, drove almost around the entire country in a van and I still have unforgettable memories of the few months I spent in Melbourne. Before going back again, maybe soon?
B as in… Backpack
What other word could I possibly choose for this letter? The backpack I carried on my shoulders during all these months of travelling is so important to me that it even inspired me for the name and the logo of this website! My parents gave it to me before I left for the first time in 2016, and I still haven’t changed it today.
C as in… Carbon footprint
Australia and the Amazon rainforest are burning. The ice pack and glaciers are melting. Extreme climate events are more and more common, and more and more violent. A dangerous drought even hit France last summer. Climate change is threatening the entire planet, and I’m well aware that campaining for the protection of the environment while being a travel addict might seem a little schizophrenic: every time I take the plane, I slightly contribute to make the situation worse, and unfortunately the “carbon offsetting” solutions still seem quite nebulous to me.
So how can I reduce as much as possible my carbon footprint? In my everyday life, among many other things, I barely use my car; I eat local and seasonal products as often as I can; I didn’t wait for the current energy crisis to reduce the heating during winter and wear thicker clothes; I take part to trash pickup events and I even organised two of them when I worked at the Tourism Office of Saint-Nazaire. While travelling, I don’t buy souvenirs made in China; I take public transports; I avoid stupid polluting activities such as jet skiing; I respect the natural places that I visit and I run away from mass tourism. I know that it’s probably not enough, but I still hope that it contributes to make things at least a little bit better.
What about you? How do you reconcile travelling and environment protection? What are your good habits, in your everyday life as well as during your holidays? I’d be really interested to read your ideas, and maybe discuss them with you!
D as in… Distance
Geographically, the place I went to that was the furthest away from my hometown of Saint-Nazaire in France was the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand: 19,430km away from home!
Emotionally, the distance with my family and friends was sometimes hard to live; I felt lonely at some occasions and I had my ups and downs… but that will be the subject of future articles.
E as in… Eastbourne Street
Eastbourne Street is the name of the street where I lived in Melbourne during four months, between November 2016 and February 2017. I lived in a sharehouse for the first time of my life, with eleven other people from all over the world: when I arrived, there were not less than eight nationalities represented among us! The few weeks I stayed in that house, although it was slightly dilapidated and badly lacking in maintenance, remain among the most beautiful of my entire life. I spent a lot of time with my roommates. Our house was directly next to Chapel Street, a street filled with bars, restaurants and night clubs, and we were going out and partying together every weekend. I also took advantage of my days off to explore Melbourne, a city that I eventually fell deeply in love with. I might never experience such crazy moments in my life ever again, but one sure thing: the memories of this period will remain engraved in my head forever.
F as in… Family and Friends
No, it’s not always easy to be on the other side of the world, far away from your family and friends, even if you’re surrounded with extraordinary landscapes. I celebrated Christmas in Australia twice, but always with a little heartache because of missing my parents. Luckily, meeting new people and making friends while travelling is extremely easy. Sometimes, it goes even further than just friendship: some of the people I’ve met during my trips are almost like a second family to me.
G as in… Great Barrier Reef
When I began my Australian adventure in 2016, I wanted to push myself out of my confort zone, to see what I was capable of. And so I took part in a snorkelling tour (with a diving mask and a tuba) on the Great Barrier Reef, a real challenge for me as I’m not at ease at all in the water…
This was an exceptional moment: I was amazed by the countless forms and colours of the corals, I swam next to a turtle, I observed dozens of species of multicoloured fishes an I even caught sight of a shark! But I also noticed large areas where corals had completely lost their colour: the Great Barrier Reef is dying, and it breaks my heart to think about it…
H as in… Hostel
The first time I ever stayed in a hostel was in Cairns, at the beginning of my Australian trip in 2016. I hadn’t slept in a dorm since the few holiday camps I went to as a child, and I slightly feared the lack of privacy and the inevitable proximity with other travellers. But I actually got quickly used to this new environment, and I especially enjoyed the overall atmosphere and how easy it was to create bonds between complete strangers. Since then, I only swear by hostels when I travel, and I keep amazing memories of some of them and of the people I met: United Backpackers in Melbourne, this tiny hostel in Verona, the Black Swan Hostel in Sevilla… I’m not nearly close to forget about these trips!
I as in… Iceland
Is the land of Ice and Fire the most beautiful country in the world? One sure thing, it’s close to the top… I only spent two weeks in Iceland in 2018 but it still remains one of my favourite trips: the icebergs of Jökulsarlon, the black sand of Diamond Beach or Reynisfjara, the colourful houses of Seydisfjördur, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the volcanic activity around Lake Myvatn; everything was so gorgeous! It’s also during this trip that one of my dreams came true: seeing the northern lights…
J as in… Japan
If Iceland might be the most beautiful country I ever visited, Japan is by far the one where I experienced the biggest cultural shock of my existence. From the food to the cleanness of the streets, from architecture to the extraordinary kindness (and the sometimes exagerated politeness) of the people, not to mention the high technology toilets, nothing could have prepared me to such a contrast!
Among the many memories I keep from this trip, I especially remember the unique and peaceful atmosphere of Kyoto with its dozens of temples, the emotion that stroke me when I visited Hiroshima, the day I spent on the gorgeous island of Miyajima and the cherry trees blooming in Tokyo… My only regret: not having seen Mount Fuji… but it gives me a good reason to come back one day!
K as in… Kangaroos et Koalas
Impossible for me to choose between these two adorable Australian icons, so I rely on you to decide: are you team koala or team kangaroo? Here are a few pictures to help you make up your mind!
L as in… Ladurée
Why is this French luxury brand famous for its macarons part of this list? The answer is in one of the most striking anecdotes of my first trip in Australia. Back then, my only professional experience was as a chemical engineer. I never had a casual job in a bar nor worked as a waiter in a restaurant, but that was one of the challenges I set to myself: find a job in the hospitality industry.
When I arrived in Melbourne in October 2016, I quickly realised that it wouldn’t be as easy as I hoped. I randomly handed out dozens of resumes, but no one called me back. I started to worry a little, but then I suddenly had a bright idea. Melbournians are crazy with coffee: they drink it all day long, with countless different types of preparations, long, short, with more or less milk or steam… I took part in a one-day training session to find out about the secrets of “Australian coffee”, and with this new skill added to my resume, I now targetted barista job ads… and it worked! By mere coincidence, Ladurée was opening a new shop in a giant mall south of Melbourne, and they were looking for staff: I applied and got hired (although I have to admit that the fact that I was French probably also helped…).
I particularly enjoyed this first experience in the hospitality industry (I’ll never forget the great atmosphere within the team, or the constant happiness of my manager Rob), and two more followed: I worked as a waiter in a french restaurant (once again) in Auckland, then later as a barista/waiter/bar tender in a bar of Melbourne. As for the Ladurée shop, it sadly definitely closed its doors in 2019.
Little clarification: before arriving in Melbourne, I didn’t drink coffee at all, too bitter for me. I never thought that I would work as a barista one day! But by preparing long blacks and cappuccinos every day for customers, I eventually got used to it and even started to like the taste. My favourite coffee now is the flat white: a shot of espresso with hot milk and a thin layer of foam on top!
My traveller’s alphabet (2)
Have a look at the second part of my traveller’s alphabet, from the letter M to the letter Z.
French amateur writer and travel enthusiast: find out who’s hiding behind Inside my Backpack