My winter paddle trip

This winter, just after Christmas, I received my new paddleboard from Jobe Sup paddle board, and to be honest I couldn’t resist very long before to go try it. There is a small lake, L’étang du Cora, close to where I live near Paris and it was the perfect spot to go try it out!

L'étang du Cora near where I grew up in Saint Germain en Laye. Photo by Marion.
18 PSI pressure is tough to reach... but it makes the board very rigid!

What’s my SUP?

I’ve chosen to go with the Jobe Duna, an inflatable paddle made for touring so the shape is long, 11”6 and narrower than an all-rounder board. The board is equipped with bungee cords on the front and on the back to carry dry bags.

It should be perfect for multi days trips. I can’t wait to try it next summer.

First paddle strokes with my new toy! Photo by Marion.

It has been an amazing board so far, fast and pretty easy to steer even though its decent size. I’m still getting used to the balance on it as it’s a little less stable than the boards I used to use before.

Next summer I’m planning on doing rivers and lakes trips and this board will be perfect for putting the tent and camping equipment on.

Road trip with a SUP in the boot

In January I had a photo exhibition organised in the French Alps and my plan after it was to keep driving. First to Switzerland, then to the south of France until reaching the côte d’azur. From there I drove to Marseille where I tried the SUP in the waves.

I’ve put the bag of the SUP under my bed in the van, I wasn’t sure it would fit but it did well. I had in my van at the same time, my bicycle, snowboard and shoes, hiking gear, climbing gear, camping gear and SUP. My van was definitely loaded up for adventure.

On the french riviera on my private beach for a night.

First step, the photographic exhibition. It is about ice, snow and photography. I made my series about the time I spent in New Zealand. Then I drove to Morges to meet my friend and yoga teacher Sophie. We always went on paddle trips last summer as she got two boards but this time I wanted to try mine on a bigger distance. Once we were all set up, we headed to lac Leman which is just at the end of her garden and to a huge ship that appears to be abandoned. The plan was to go much further but the wind was quite strong and it started to be a bit difficult to handle the boards. We had a tea on the boards while being protected by the big abandoned ship then we paddled back home.

Sophie on Leman Lake, in Morges.
Myself paddling nearby the pier. Photo by Sophie.

The day after we went to another lake and this time a huge part of the lake was frozen. It was amazing to be able to be on the SUP over the ice. I took some shots with my drone and the pics are really graphic!

On the way to the frozen lake in Switzerland. Photo by Sophie.
On the edge of the frozen lake in Switzerland try to find a way in. Photo by Sophie.
Ready to hit the frozen lake without the fin.
Clélia and Sophie practicing yoga on the frozen lake.

After a couple of days in Switzerland, I decided to drive towards the south of France and I found the perfect spot to park the van right in front of the beach. As it is low season everything is closed and during all my stay I haven’t crossed path with any other living beings. This means I had a private beach all to myself. I pumped up the board and hit the water. Even if it was Winter the water was very blue and crystal clear. First time ever paddling on salt water. It was amazing to be able to roam along the coast and reach places you can only go by boat or SUP.

an old gate just at the bottom of a cliff. The house up there must be huge.
Using my Outex gear to take some underwater photos.

I spent easily 3 hours on the water then went back in front of « my private beach » and sat on the board to meditate for a few minutes. It was amazing to be here alone floating on the water. I think SUP is a very meditative tool. You just sit, close your eyes, focus on your breath to calm the mind and feel the rhythm of the calm water under the board. Such a blissful experience.

Look where was parked my van and I all the beach for myself. Best spot ever.

Finally, I went to Marseilles where I met with a childhood friend. We haven’t seen each other for over 5 years due to the fact that I was living abroad during that time. He had a board as well so we decided to go try the boards on waves. Well… due to the storm which happened during the precedent days the waves were sometimes up to two meters high. Needless to say, it was a mission! After two hours fighting with the waves I was done, exhausted but I realised that my board was handling waves very well!! It was really easy to reach the peak even with the huge amount of white water to cross. Just putting my weight on the back and the rocker was high enough to go over it.

I love this board, It’s easy to pack, very rigid when inflated to 20 psi and pretty lightweight. The bag to carry it is a great idea but it is maybe a bit too big according to the size of the board. Even though it might be a great idea for travelling in planes with it so you could stack in some clothes.

from high up in the sky the frozen lake is really nice. Photo by Sophie.

Stay tuned for more adventures to come and don’t hesitate, a SUP is just the best choice when it comes to explore on water especially because by standing up you get a pretty amazing view on what is underneath you and on what is far away too.

Enjoy the water!


The big ride

Get out of the daily grind

A few years ago I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Australia. In France, I felt lost and wanting to find out who I was. The best solution, I thought, was to travel on my own. I needed to get out of my daily routine in order to gain perspective about what I was supposed to be doing with my life. At this time, I didn’t have any idea of what that was and, to be honest, I didn’t have time to think about it. I had this feeling that something bigger was waiting for me than sitting at my desk and getting a nice paycheck each month. I became inspired by all the stories I was reading and seeing of others achieving these great goals or going on these big adventures. I wanted that to be me.

I was afraid to quit my job and not have a steady income. An adventurer’s life, as seen in magazines, looks like a dream. How did they reach this point? How was it possible to leave the daily grind and jump into a life full of adventure? Well, let me tell you, I never thought I would be able to one day write for a magazine about the epic adventure I decided to take.

The most difficult part was deciding to quit my job and saying goodbye to my monthly salary. I think that it might be like trying to stop a drug. Once I did it though, I felt relieved and started to get excited about the unknown future. Ready to discover a brave new world!

I was anxious about how I was going to fund my adventure, buy food and all the necessities I would need along the way. Thankfully, I had some skills in web design and photography that have become a great source of income. Thanks to this, I’ve been able to travel while taking photos and making websites on the side. This allows me to travel and have enough time to enjoy the places around me!

2 years on the road

It has now been 2 years since I’ve been travelling around Australia and New Zealand. During this time, I have discovered a lot about myself and how much I enjoy inspiring people to get out and explore the outdoors and discover who they really are. It was in New Zealand where this self-discovery took place. I remember waking up on the top of Mt Ngaruhoe, it was still early and I was totally alone. I got out of my tent, sat there and cried. I was totally fullfilled. The beauty of the place, the feelings of leaving everything behind and the freedom to be whoever I wanted to be. That’s when I knew who I was and what I wanted to accomplish in life. A few weeks later, I met a group of professional photographers in Wanaka. They were having an Instameet (a worldwide gathering of Instagramers). I’d recommend attending if there is one in your city! I didn’t know what it was all about but I discovered that this was going to be my avenue to get some visibility out there. Combining my outdoor photography with stories. It seemed to work since a few months later I became Wanaka Social Influencer!

I was finally able to make it happen! Finding a passion of mine that would support me to continue exploring. This had led me to my big adventure. Since touching Australian soil I began entertaining the idea of cycling from Australia back to France. Travelling by plane would be much more boring. However, since being in New Zealand I felt like this was home and where I had grown the most so I decided Wanaka would be my starting point.

The Dream

I love traveling but I wanted to create something more than just flying to a tropical island, having beers in an infinity pool and getting another passport stamp. Something bigger and more challenging than anything I had ever done before. I have just one life and I want to live it fully and make a difference in the world rather than sit at a desk back in France. This adventure was my way to change myself and hopefully part of the world while I’m at it. In France, I had so many ideas of businesses I wanted to start and creative projects I wanted to do, but never really achieved any of them. I want this big adventure to be different. My goal is to bike from the beginning to the end to prove to myself that I can accomplish a project.  Afterwards I hope to write a book on my journey to inspire others to achieve their goals and give tips that I learned along the way.

The Essentials

Cycling and sailing from New Zealand to France. Avoiding the use of engines as much as possible on my way from Wanaka to Paris. First essential item was a strong bike. After looking for the best quality touring bike online, I realised I would need a steel frame bicycle. That’s when I found the German brand, Tout Terrain. They make incredibly robust bicycles and I’m feeling very confident that this bike will get all my gear half way around the world. Next item was panniers. I found another European company called Mainstream MSX. Waterproof, minimal in design and built to last I knew these were going to keep my gear dry and protected from all the elements.

The South Island

I started the trip in Wanaka on the 11th of March 2016. My first pass was Lindis pass and man it was a tough climb (probably because my legs were still building muscle for the months ahead!) And what a relief to be on the top where I could cycle down 30km in less than one hour all the way to Omarama. New Zealand is one of the most famous countries for bike touring so it was no surprise that I passed and met a few along the way, even at the end of the season. From lake Pukaki, I cycled on the Alps to Ocean bike trail which was a nice change in pace from all the noisy traffic.

Then it was Lake Tekapo to Christchurch. During this section I did 150km in the rain, my longest and most challenging day yet. When I arrived to my friends (thanks to my sponsor Further Faster NZ!) I was totally soaked and frozen. I remember wanting food and a shower at the same time so that I could get to bed faster. I decided to take a few days after the hard riding before getting on the road again.

I cycled from Christchurch all the way to Picton where I had to rest for a week while finding a sail boat to the North Island. Unfortunately it was looking like no sailing boats were heading to the North Island this time of the year. I finally decided it was best to take the ferry for 90kms rather than to wait here and miss a sail boat from North Island to Australia (which is a 2500kms crossing). I obviously gave back the carbon footprint to 1% for the planet for this crossing.

The North Island

From Wellington, I cycled up to Wanganui where I stayed with Ann and John. They gave me the advice of following the Wanganui river all the way to Pipiriki. I decided to take their advice and it’s been one of the toughest parts of my trip so far! Going up and down and up and down… but after this part of the hilly Northland, I would be by the ocean in Raglan for a few days. The smell of fish n’ chips kept me going.

Raglan is known for the longest lefthand surf in the world and I had to make sure to do it. After a relaxing 5 days break, I got back on my bike to cycle up to Auckland then on to Whangarei. That’s where I was going to find a sailing boat to Australia. After a few days in Whangarei, everyone was telling me to head to Opua for the boats. So I went and found a boat the first day going to Fiji but they wanted way too much money for a spot on the boat.

I decided to push my luck instead and keep looking. Thankfully, back in Whangarei I found a boat going to New Caledonia then over to Australia. Unfortunately the boat wasn’t leaving for 4 weeks. I decided this would be a good chance to hop on board and learn all that I could about the boat and sailing. I even fixed the pipes, mounted the sails and learned my knots. Our crossing of the South Pacific Ocean was to depart on the 25th of May.

Sailing the South Pacific Ocean

I’ve only had a few experiences sailing so all this was pretty new to me. And did I get thrown in the deep end! The crossing was rough. Really rough. From day one to day eleven, with only 2 days off from the storm. I spent many nights stearing the boat in the dark and was getting smashed by waves that I couldn’t even see coming at me. One morning after a night awake stearing, the rain started turning into hail and was so strong that I couldn’t even keep my eyes open to see where I was going. I ended up putting ski goggles on to navigate the rest of the way in 20 meter waves!

During this crossing, I learned a lot about sailing a boat. It was definitely challenging but a great experience. Knots, navigating by the stars and managing the sails depending on the wind you encounter. I think I’ll be ready for the next crossing.

When we arrived in New Caledonia, the boat needed some work done before we could keep going. The storms had taken its toll. Engine needed fixing, 3 sails ripped, leaks…

My time frame was short as I needed to be in the Australian desert during the winter. It was my only chance to cross it without dying of heat stroke. So I decided to look for another boat from New Caledonia to Australia. Thankfully luck was on my side again and I found one heading to Newcastle. We were to leave in a few days. That crossing was much nicer than the first one and we even ended up in Brisbane due to the winds.

Australia and its desert

I made it to Oz! One country down and many more to go. Since I’m in Australia, my roundabout wouldn’t be complete without heading to Ayers Rock. To reach this however, I will need to cross the Simpson Desert. The world’s biggest sand dune desert, where the climate is equivalent to the Sahara Desert. As you’re reading this I’m probably right in the middle of it trying to find water and a place to set up my tarp…

Follow the adventure

Keep following my adventure on Instagram @agphotofr or on my website www.pixnbike.com. Hope to see you out there!


Hiking Gunung Rinjani

Cycling a land of Volcanos

Indonesia is a country made from volcanos. It’s a bit like New Zealand, but you have the tropical weather on top of it which makes it way harder. I’ve been cycling from Ende on Flores island to Jakarta on Java island. Each island has its very unique culture and climate.

On big islands, like Flores, you have a very humid climate due to the jungle that keeps the humidty. On small islands like Lombok, it’s dryer and a bit fresher thanks to the sea breeze that can easily travel through the entire island. This makes the landscape and climate very different from an island to another and I have to say, Flores was by far the most challenging one. As it is a big island, The road is going through the middle of the island, the air is very warm and humid and the road can climb up to 15%. I was sweating so much that I often drunk more than 6 liters of water per day. Everyday.

While I was able to cycle an average of 120km/day in Australia, here I’m limited to 60km/day maximum and it takes me all day.

When I arrived on Lombok island, I decided to go and hike up Mt Rinjani. It’s a famous volcano that you can usually climb in 3 days. The summit is high up to 3726meters. I like to mix activities between cycling and hiking and surfing and sailing. It makes the travel way more enjoyable.

Sembalun village
Tiu Kelep waterfall located at the base of the hike

Time limit

I’ve been granted a 60 days visa in Indonesia. You usually can only have 30 days if you get it at your arrival but if you apply at the embassy or online before you enter the country then you can ask for 60 days.

60 days is still short because this country is huge! luckily, the connection between the islands is working well, 24/7 which makes it easy to hop from an island to another. I arrived on Lombok island in the morning at 7am which gave me all day to cycle. In opposition to Flores, this island is mainly flat, except for Mt Rinjani, and small. It’s possible to cycle all around it in 3 to 4 days.

Lombok Island

Cycling still takes a lot of time and I have to be in Jakarta in a month from when I was on Lombok. I will have to go to Bali then Java. Java only is more than 1200km of cycling from the east to the west via Jogjakarta. So for this hike I allow myself just one night / two days instead of the 3 days hike to reach the summit. I won’t go all the way up to the summit but stay on the rim of the crater.

Two reasons for this : My time is too short to make it all the way to the summit. The summit and crater are still officially closed due to a recent erruption which usually don’t really stop me but this time, it’s way too short to be able to make it.

Recent eruption

We are on the 16th of October and the last eruption happened on the 29th of September. I contacted the National park office to know about the situation and they said that the crater rim is ok but everywhere else it is still closed until further notice.

In any way, it looks like the local guides don’t really care about it and still bring tourists up there all the way across. Let’s speak about guides because here it’s crazy!

Guide or no guide ?

So when you arrive either at Senaru which is the official end of the hike or Sembalun, the official start, it is crowded with guides. Everyone will jump on you trying to hook you up to a guide company. It is what happened to me. I told them that I don’t need a guide. They said it is very dangerous without a guide and I can get lost. Well, I’m not sure about this with the load of tourists hiking up here every day, the way must be easily recognizable.

I ended up in a guide’s office and the only solution to get rid out of them was to say that I am a guide because they would haven’t let me go without paying for a guide. This shifted their behavior totally. They started to not see me as a client anymore but one of their peer. They finally finished the conversation by giving me all the details about the hike and finish by « any way you can’t get lost there is just one track and a lot of signs along the way. Enjoy! »

If you don’t feel comfortable or are not use to hike then it might be good to take a guide and maybe porters as well.

But if you go alone there is absolutely no fees to pay to go in the National Park. Some agencies will try to get some money from you this way.

The hike up

I decided to start from Senaru because the view point of the crater is better from this side of the rim. There is a 6 hours hike to reach the rim from Senaru village. I started to hike early, 7AM. It’s maybe because I haven’t hiked for ages and i’m excited to see the view from ridge that I’m hiking very fast. The end is a bit challenging but very doable. There is load of tourists on the road that I’m overtaking. Going with a guide means you stop a lot of times for eating etc… Well after 4hours I’m on top and it’s cloudy.

I’m now thinking that I could even try to keep going to go on top or Mt Rinjani, not just on the rim. So I started to hike towards and met 3 other hikers from Jakarta. We hiked down to the crater lake together for a while then I came back on my way to set up the camp on top of the rim before the sunset.

The view was mindblowing !

Waste management

In Indonesia, there is not waste management and it is very sad to see so many plastics and all sorts of trash on top of the rim. It is everywhere, there is piles of it. Pretty disgusting. It’s a shame to see that on such a beautiful place.

Luckily as I walk out of the crowded camping spot, I found my way out of the garbages areas. I walk opposite of where the official track is going, had an encounter with a wild dog and her puppies. They all barked at me but were too scared to come closer so I haven’t been concerned about them.

After I passed the dogs, it was wastes free! Finally.

The camp

I found a flat spot to spend the night and the view from the tent was awesome. Everyone says it’s cold at night and it was but still, it is an Indonesian cold, which means you maybe don’t need to carry a sleeping bag if you got a merino base layer a mid layer and a jacket.

If you plan to go there and want to sleep at the same spot, when you arrive to the rim where the official campsite is based, then go hike on the left side for 1 kilometer. You should find a sweet spot with an amazing view on the volcano.

The way down

The way down was really hard. It is steep and all the gravels makes it very slippery. After a few hundred meters I saw a man walking very slow. I asked him if he was ok and he explained me that he broke his ankle. I think he was a porter. So he is going down, without any water or anything. I gave him all my water and kept hiking down. At the end I was so thirsty and my muscles were very sore. It took me 2 days before to walk again without pain on each steps.


A Night On Mt Alpha, Wanaka, New Zealand

This is the time of the year when the mountains are getting their white blanket and the temperatures are dropping. The views from Wanaka are even better than usual with those white peaks as a background. There is a ridge you can’t miss when you are in Wanaka, as it is right by the lake, and wherever you are in town, you can see it. It’s the Skyline. Starting on Cardrona Valley road, the Skyline goes through Mt Alpha and ends at Roys peak. I remember sitting on my couch one day with the view on Mt Alpha and thinking, there must be a cool hike going along this ridge… A few days later, after some quick research online I realised that there was a route going all over that ridge.

I started to plan an adventure and gathered some friends, Bridger and Geraint, to join me. (This track is not recommended during the winter as there are a few dangerous cliffs and slippery ice areas). With our normal hiking gear, some water bottles and plenty of sunscreen we were ready to go. A few people told us that we needed snowshoes but since it was the end of winter, we decided to go without.

Equipment

We planned to spend the night on the summit of Mt Alpha where it’s getting very cold. To keep warm and adjust my temperature during the hike, it is best to use multilayers. That way you can add or remove clothes quickly depending on your activity and the weather condition. To hike, I wear a base layer of merino wool at all times. I always have a second one in my backpack in case the first one is wet when arriving at camp! If it’s windy, I use a windproof mid layer on top to keep the extra warmth. In very cold conditions, I will add a puffer jacket and if it’s snowing or raining, I use my rain jacket, which is waterproof and windproof as well.

With those 4 layers, I’m confident going anywhere that I will be warm or cool enough while hiking.

They are easily packable and lightweight which still leaves enough space in the backpack for the other gear, mainly food and camping supplies. To camp, I use a 3 season tent, an insulated sleeping pad, and a really warm sleeping bag rated -42°C. With those 3 things, I’ve felt comfortable in every weather condition I’ve come across in New Zealand. To cook, I use a lightweight camping stove with a gas canister. It’s not as efficient since gas doesn’t do very well in cold temperatures but a stove is definitely your best friend in cold conditions to keep you warm with hot tea and food. Once everything is packed, and the weather forecast looks good, it’s time to go and explore the area.

Let’s Hike it!!

It feels like summer: Even though we started the hike early, the temperature was already really warm. Hard to believe that in a few hours we will be walking on snow… The track starts 10km from Wanaka, there is a car park and on Cardrona Valley Road and the track is well marked. You can’t really get lost from the beginning to the end. Down the valley we crossed Timber creek a few times. The really cold water from the glaciers was a refreshing feeling in this heat. In a couple of turns, we finally started to see a white peak. The hard sun on the snow creates some beautiful reflections and the smooth clouds as the backdrop were like being in a photo studio. Our motivation to reach the ridge increased as we continued to hike up the mountain. The view over Wanaka is stunning! And the wind here can get really strong! We start to hike the ridge, and the snow is hard and getting deeper. A few times I fell into deep holes. By walking slowly and carefully we made it through. We even enjoyed to penguin slide on the slopes. Maybe a week before we would have needed snowshoes. We keep hiking up to Mt Alpha where we decide to spend the night. The wind is getting stronger and some clouds are covering the stars… I’m afraid we won’t be able to see any stars tonight.. but no matter what it will be a beautiful sight.

Setting up the camp

Both tents are set up, Bridger and Geraint chose a sheltered spot from the wind, and I’ve chosen a spot where I can hopefully get some great nighttime photographs. After we set up, we started melting some snow for the tea but with the cold temperature, the gas stove doesn’t work very well. It’s taking ages and wasting a lot of gas. Alas, the night has finally come and it’s time to take some photographs. Luckily, the sky cleared up and I was able to get some great shots! In the morning I woke up after a cold and windy night.

My tent never stopped shaking all night and the stakes didn’t stay in the snow very well.

When I arrived in Australia, I didn’t know yet what I wanted to do with my new freedom but I had enough money to sustain 3 to 4 months and figure it all out. Thanks to the help of my friends Stephane and Ali I had a comfortable first step out of my comfort zone.

Bridger and Geraint also had a cold night and they almost didn’t sleep. They even cooked more tea during the night to keep warm. I discovered in the morning that I had put my tent just over the Mt Alpha summit sign which was under a good layer of snow. The sunrise was beautiful and it’s crazy to see from up there the town waking up. After an hour of watching the sunrise and getting warmer, it’s time to pack and head towards Roys Peak.

We could have done it in a day

But camping on top was priceless! This is definitely the best part of the hike! Wanaka Lake in the background is beautiful with Mou Waho and Mou Tapu islands floating in the midst of it. The view from here is 360°. You can see all the mountain ranges, the lake below and Wanaka in the distance.

It’s a delight for photography especially since no one hiked up here before us and the snow goes almost all the way to Roys Peak, still clear of any footprints.

The photographs are only a small portion of the beauty of this place. There are a few areas though where the track is above very steep cliffs and the snow here is very slippery as it is constantly in the shade of big rocks. Once we’ve gotten through this hard part, the shape of the hills was amazing! Layers going up and areas covered with untouched snow created amazing stark and minimalistic pictures. We finally climbed the last part to reach Roys Peak where we had a much-deserved lunch and hot tea. A lot of hikers were starting to join us at Roys Peak as it is internationally famous for its view. We took a few more pictures on the ridge then headed down to the car park where we would hitchhike back to town.

About the Skyline track: It is a gorgeous couple of days hiking, even in the cold. If you are in Wanaka and want a great adventure, this is the one you should do. Be aware that during the winter the snow is deep and you might need to use snowshoes and a shovel to dig a hole so your tent has a flat surface. If you are extra adventurous you could take a snowboard or skis with you as there are some parts you could get some really cool aerial jumps. If I had to do it again I would take one! As well, if you are lucky, you might enjoy a great spectacle of southern lights over the mountains ranges. The track is 23km long. During the summer you can hike it up in a day, during the winter it will take a bit longer due to slippery areas and thigh deep snow. It’s an all year round paradise for photographers. Be aware that Roys Peak is closed for lambing from the 1st of October to 10th of November.

Bonus: The Topo!

I hope you enjoy this area as much as I did and be a good kiwi by only leaving footprints behind. Check out NZ Topo website for all your hikes!!


You Only Live Once, But If You Do It Right, Once Is Enough

On the 8th of February 2018 it will have been 4 years that I left France, quit my corporate job and flew to Australia not knowing what I was going to do, how I was going to earn money, how I will handle being on my own for the first time… I didn’t even speak English at that time. So many questions and doubts were holding me for this 2 years long decision to quit everything and start a meeting with myself, with my life.

Today, I reflect on those past 4 years as I’m about to head back to Europe and I realize there are no paved paths, there are no right or wrong rules, there are not even rules, you are the creator of your life in every second of it. Don’t be scared of making mistakes it never is mistakes in the end but lessons to be learned. This is what I learned in this adventure, I hope it can help you.

One who makes no mistakes, makes nothing at all.

Giacomo Casanova

It all started with one decision.

And it was a hard one. After a master 2 and a few years working in a corporate job, I was doing ok but never felt very passionate about it. Luckily, I was a photographer on the side and my colleagues were great so it kept me on going being ok. After the company I was working for merged with another one, things shifted and I started feeling anxious, pressured, not recognized anymore, not so good. It lasted for a few months and a depression started to build up. It became so bad during a period of 6 months that my body started being covered in eczema. I didn’t feel making photographs anymore and was feeling kind of dead inside. No willpower anymore, this led me to drink too hard and too often, just maybe to feel something again. I decided to ask for a gap year. A decision that took me nearly two years and a strong depression to take. I was so scared of leaving my comfortable addictive income and jump into the unknown. Today, I’m grateful for this difficult period because I would maybe still be working in my cubicle and just be doing ok if none of those things would have happened.

No Mud, No Lotus

Thich Nhat Hanh

The day I received the letter saying the gap year was accepted, my life started again. I felt free, started being excited about photography again and crazy thing, the eczema disappeared a couple of days later. I never came back at the end of the gap year. Until now, that hard decision appears to be the best decision I ever took. It allowed me to experience life, to fail, to try again, to fail again, to understand, to improve, to succeed at some points and to discovering new things to fail at and finally to grow.

I bought a ticket to Australia and left on the 8th of February 2014.

Buy the ticket, take the ride

Hunter S. Thompson

When I arrived in Australia, I didn’t know yet what I wanted to do with my new freedom but I had enough money to sustain 3 to 4 months and figure it all out. Thanks to the help of my friends Stephane and Ali I had a comfortable first step out of my comfort zone.

Step 1 – Stepping out of your comfort zone.

When I arrived in Australia, I realized that I didn’t know how to speak English, at all. Which made the first three months even a bit more challenging. The simple things such as getting a sim card, buying a car, finding a job, making contacts… were very difficult when you don’t speak the language. I got a few jobs while in Sydney, got scammed during a job interview which makes me lost quite a lot of money according to my budget, and sometimes never got paid for my work… That’s how to learn life I guess.

It was hard to leave Sydney, as I tried to recreate the comfortable life I had in France, looking for a job and a flat to rent. Luckily it didn’t work out so I decided to go on a road trip, sleeping in my car and heading north to Byron Bay where a contact of mine who became a friend told me I could have a chance to work for someone taking photographs for a ballet. I never took photos of ballet but I liked the idea even though I wasn’t sure of anything. 800km later, I was there. The first step out of my comfort zone. I was on my own but never alone as I shared the ride with a French guy found on couch surfing then met my contact. This time it worked out. I started to work for them straight away. It was a helper’s position meaning that I was working in exchange for food and accommodation. Those 3 months were awesome. Surfing and Photography every day. When my money started to run low, I decided to go pick some bananas up north near Cairns, 1900km away. This job is well paid because of the hot weather and the snakes staying in the bananas crops.

My car decided for me that I won’t reach any banana farm and broke down in Airlie beach. A little town, known as the gate to the Whitsunday islands. I found myself alone with a car wreck and very little money. Not enough for anything else than a few days of food. That night, was the very first night that I spent alone as I was always sharing rides or houses before. I didn’t know anyone here. I remember the feelings I had that night. Mixed between being scared and excited at the same time. For the first time in my life, I had no money anymore and I needed to find a solution. I was suddenly feeling full of hope. A strange feeling in this kind of situation.

That night I learned that when you have nothing to lose anymore, then everything becomes possible.

Seriously, I was still alive and got the energy to find a solution. Which is what I started to do. Finding a solution.

Since four years, I’ve been so many times out of my comfort zone, I can make a long list from the smallest things at the beginning such as sleeping in my car to sailing in one of the strongest storms since the last 30 years between New Zealand and New Caledonia or cycling through the Australian desert on my own or sleeping on top of an active volcano…

What I realized, is that every growth happens only when you step out of your comfort zone. after taking a difficult decision. The more often you step out of it, the bigger it becomes and the easier the decisions are taken. Today, I’ve experienced so many things that I’m feeling comfortable almost everywhere and in many situations. Every challenge makes you grow with it. Especially if it scares you, do it, but always with care! It doesn’t matter how big are your steps, always start small and expand.

Do one thing every day that scares you

Eleanor Roosevelt

Step 2 – Find solutions

So I was alone laying down in the trunk of my broken car, with mixed feelings when I decided to get out and laid down on the roof to watch the stars. Maybe, a solution would arise. I started feeling one with the universe, it’s one of the greatest feelings ever as everything is alright right here right now. Nothing else matters. Even though everything was going wrong it didn’t matter, that night I learned to trust the universe. This feeling gave me the strength to take actions right away. I got on my phone and started looking for a job. Found an ad for making websites, sent an email and got an answer in the next 30 minutes at 10 pm. I was going to have an appointment in a couple of days. Things are working out!!

Actions expresses priorities

Gandhi

It is crazy because this job has been the most well-paid job of my entire life so far. I went from broken to earning around $2000/week! But even more interesting is that it made me realize the market was huge and after those 3 months, I started making websites for a living during the next 3 years. It became my main source of income with taking photographs.

I had to find solutions many times during those 4 years and sometimes, being poor or having limited resources pushed me to be creative like that time when I was in the middle of the Australian desert almost exactly 400km from both towns on each end of the sandy track when my tire literally exploded. I had spare tubes but no spare tires. The solution I found was to use a plastic bottle to make a patch in between the tube and the tire. One more time, when this happened, I felt so excited having to find a solution with only what I had right here, right now.

For every problem in life, there is at least one solution. Be attentive and you will find it. Most of the time it comes from inside of you. I believe that we have it all already inside of us, we just need to listen. Trust me, it’s hard to listen, we’ve been growing in a hectic society and it tamed all our senses because of too much noise.

Step 3 – Be true to yourself.

How to be true to yourself? It starts by spending time alone. I skipped it a lot during my year in Australia but New Zealand was the place for that. It all started when, one afternoon, I decided to hike the Tongariro crossing, a 20km hike, starting at 6 pm, a couple hours before sunset.

This usually crowded national park was now all mine. When mixing physical efforts and time alone, it enfolds such a magical world. Like a meditative state. I started speaking to myself aloud, cracking jokes, laughing, it was such a relaxing time. I discovered that I could be friend with myself. No need of anyone else to be happy. That was very new to me.

I arrived at a point when I needed to make a choice. I could either keep on the official track or climb a volcano, Mt Ngaruhoe, as well, known as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Ring. It was stated as a 3 hours hike return to the summit on loose volcanic stones. The night was already here and I decided to start climbing it. When strong winds arose and rain started to pour, I pitched my tent on the side of the volcano and stay inside until it suddenly stopped. I stepped out and that feeling of being alone in the middle of the elements was just amazing.
I cooked and stayed here watching the moon appearing and disappearing in between the clouds moving fast.

A bit later, everything just stopped. No wind anymore, no vegetation, no wildlife, no city nearby, nothing. Just me in the total silence of the night. I’ll remember that night all my life because it was the first time that I had trouble sleeping because of hearing my body working. That morning when I opened my tent and finally saw the view, I sat down by my tent and I cried. The 24th of February 2015 is the day I found myself.

From that day, I spent a lot of time on my own, hiking peaks. I started analyzing myself, my emotions, my beliefs, my reactions to many things, my resistances, the boundaries of my comfort zone. I realized that I started to be calmer in front of stressful situations. My relations with others improved a lot. Being more confident, you don’t take things too personally anymore.

Knowing who you are and what you stand for is such a great step ahead. It takes a lot of time and It is a life-long process but the more you spend time on your own, the more you will learn to know and to love yourself.

The more you are able to know and love yourself, the more you are able to love others.

Knowing yourself will lead you to be more balanced and to respect who you are. For example, when I was younger, I hated and I still do hate going to clubs, but all my friends were going and so I was going with them. I was always feeling anxious about it but I never knew why. Well, now, I know. I just didn’t like it but I was not able to interpret the messages delivered by my body.

We have it all inside us, we just need to learn how to listen. For this, we need to get out of the noise. Meditation is a great way of doing so.

Do not over think, just feel.

We think with the brain but we feel with the heart and the guts. Try to be aware of your feelings and what it tells you. When you think about something, how does your body feel about it? You’ll often find the answer right away.

Step 4 – Take money out of the equation

Money is part of our daily life, it runs the world but don’t let it run your life choices. It is very hard at first to take this apparently very important information out of the equation when making decisions but it is the key to find what you really want to do.

Since the last 4 years, I’ve been broken twice. The first time just lasted for one night, it was an easy experience. The second time, in New Zealand, lasted for a bit longer. The day that I found myself with only 5 dollars left in my hand and no back up of any sort, I realized that I was still breathing, and actually I was still able to enjoy happy moments with friends. Hiking is free, nature is free, rivers are free and luckily you can find some food for free in nature, either it is fruits or fishes.

That experience made me realize that I thought money was equal to life. Without money, I could not be alive anymore. But the funny thing is the less money I had, the more alive I was feeling.

Outside is free

The money might actually be, without you noticing it, a big influence on your everyday life decisions. But if you want to know what you really want in life ask yourself what you really want to do every day if money was not a problem?

The secret is that if you take money off the equation of your life decisions, you will start making choices that really matter to your happiness. We often associate success with money. Are you not successful if you find a way to be happy having a simple life?

I think real success is finding happiness. And happiness is more often found by sharing moments with others rather than buying the best car or last phone which might make you happy at first but will disappear with time. Happiness is as simple as cooking a dish with someone else and it doesn’t cost much.

To find real happiness, you don’t need money, you need time. And time is the only thing that you won’t be able to get back in your life. Every second is gone forever.

You always can lose the money you won but will never lose the experiences you acquired

I’m not saying that you should quit your job and start what you really want to do in life straight away, it will take time to transition if you are not ready, but this will help you find your true motivations.

The real precious thing in life finally is time, not the money or the things you own. So focusing on making your time worth is maybe the best thing to do.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, It’s the life in your years

Abraham Lincoln

Step 5 – people are goldmine

We are more than 7 billion people on earth. In each one of us, there is a goldmine made of knowledge, values, culture, skills, experiences, beliefs… I learned a lot about myself during those 4 years on the road and most of this knowledge comes from others. Amazing people who have shared their stories, their way of thinking, their beliefs, their doubts, their joy, their sadness, their knowledge sometime coming from many generations.

Meeting people from other cultures, other religions are so enriching, with the medias we learned to be fearful of strangers. We learned that we live at the right place and other places are dangerous. During my bicycle ride from New-Zealand to Vietnam, I met many people from many different cultures and religions living all along the way. I always felt welcomed because people are curious, kind and generous.

I remember that time in Indonesia, I was sick with 40 degrees fever, but needed to keep cycling for visa timing. As I was having a break at a shop to drink some water, a man, who didn’t speak a word of English, and his family, sat next to me. He asked me something that I didn’t understand. We were smiling amused at not understanding what we were saying to each other. We used our hands to communicate. At a moment, he left and came back with a box full of cakes. I was really surprised. Is it for me? He said yes take it, you need to eat because you are cycling. I explained to him that it was very nice, I was very grateful of his action but I could not eat it because I had stomach problems and fever. He understood, left again, and came back with a doctor and kept on going with his family. Our different religions didn’t matter, we were just humans and this man has been very kind.

I have loads of stories like this one and often the simplest people are the more humans.

I truly believe that our world is amazing and that we, humans, are very kind to one another.
Everyone can be your teacher whoever they or you are. Even a newborn can teach you something. You just need to be curious.

The next step

Those four years made me realize that we live in a beautiful world and what media is showing us are meant to scare and keep us in boxes. I’m full of hope for the future. Earlier this year, I decided to stop my bicycle trip here in Vietnam after 14 000km cycling and a few thousands by sailing. I learned so much and will never stop learning but I feel that I need to focus more on the next step of my life. Focusing more on my real passion, photography, keep traveling while being more grounded, focusing more on the community around me, which will lead to creating a solid base for a family.

The most important is to feel alive! Share experiences, value your time and dare to try! Everything is possible you just need to decide.


La Pierra Menta With Friends

After 3 years away from France, I decided to surprise my family and head back home for a month during Christmas. I kept it secret so no one knew about it and they had lost all hope about me coming back. When I found myself in front of the family house, ringing the bell, no one replied. The house was totally empty.  Luckily Christophe, a childhood friend which joined me in Australia for a few month was here and he hosted me until the next day. The day after, my family was back and so surprised and happy to see me again!

While in Singapore, from where I flew from, it is very hot, here in France, it is the middle of the winter, I haven’t experienced any white Christmas for the last 3 years and it looked like it won’t happen this year either. Everything is cold and grey in Paris. But still, the Christmas vibes are here. Christmas market, mulled wine and family dinners play a big part in it.

If the snow doesn’t come to me, I will have to go to the snow!

And that’s how I planned this adventure just before new year’s eve with two good friends, Richard aka Rico and Maxence to a hut in the French Alps.

The hut we have chosen is Refuge de Presset just at the base of La Pierra Menta. La Pierra Menta is Internationally famous for its shape and used as a background in many outdoor brands advertisement. There is as well a race each year which has the same name. La Pierra Menta. It is a ski/alpinism race. On 4 days, participants have to climb up to 15 summits evolving between 2000 meters to 2687 meters high. Altogether, it’s a total of 10 000 positive meters of climbing up. No need to say that you must be well trained to enroll it. Our adventure will be way easier.

During the winter, there is only one way to go up there and it’s by backcountry skiing. This year, as the snow is old and present only at the very top, we will only use snowshoes.

The first day, a long drive to the French Alps.

While in France, I’m staying at my parent’s house located near Paris, there is a 5 hours drive to reach the base of the French Alps. A long and boring drive which is made nice because I’m with one of my best friends and after 3 years away we have a lot to speak about.

We have been invited to spend the night in Annecy at Rico’s flat. Annecy is a nice city based on a lakeside wearing the same name. In Annecy, we are still in the bottom of the valley and we will have 2 hours drive to the base of the hike. Rico wasn’t sure to join us but he finally did and didn’t regret his decision!

We had a Croziflette for dinner, it’s a special dish coming from this area made with Crozets, they are tiny squared paste made with buckwheat flour. To those Crozets, we add Reblochon cheese, onions, bacon, crème fraiche… it’s very rich to keep you warm and full of energy during the cold winter! I love it and I definitely missed it for all those years. I’m just realising it now.

The second day, hiking up!

In the morning after a good night, we headed to Arêches-Beaufort. 2 hours driving on little windy roads up to the last village. Arêches-Beaufort, is famous for its Beaufort cheese, ski touring, and from where the Pierra Menta race begins and ends. We rented some snowshoes and started the last drive to go over Le col du pré. We parked the cars at the beginning of a track only accessible by 4WD as it is totally frozen.

After packing all the bags, we started to hike at around 2 PM, yes we have been very slow, it’s meant to be a 5 hours hike and as it is the winter the night will arrive at 4:30 PM. We will have to finish the hike at night which makes me happy. I love hiking and climbing under a sky full of stars and the best photos are often made at dusk so it’s better to still be outside at this time!

After the icy 4WD track, there is not much snow anywhere else and we hike with the snowshoes tied to our backpacks for 8km before to have to stop and put them on. We are alone, surrounded by mineral giants, not a single cloud in the sky, this is such a luxury on a more than 7 Billion humans populated planet and it’s free!

Since we put the snowshoes, the sun is setting and the colors are getting amazing! The slopes are getting steeper, the snow is sometimes hard sometimes soft and we all felt down in hips deep holes many times even with the snowshoes.

We reached the first pass and discovered a second one just behind. It’s now pitch dark and we are progressing with headlights on. There is no moon at all to light us up the way and the traverse between the two passes is a bit difficult to manage. It’s slippery and if one of us fall down, it’s going to be a long, long night as the cliff ends far away below us. Once we reached the last pass called Col de Bresson, we can see the hut thanks to its light! Is there someone inside or is it an automatic light on for lost hikers in the dark night like us? We will discover it soon.

On this side of the mountain, there is less snow and I decided to take off my snowshoes to be able to walk either on ice, snow and mud patches. This is the last straight line to the hut, on an inclined slope which makes the walk hard and slippery. The more we walk, the more we go down. We finally arrive at the base of the last cliff to climb up before to reach the hut. It’s icy and very slippery but after that, we will have arrived. I reached the hut first and I’m welcomed by a border collie puppy jumping on me. So cute! He came with a group of 5 people from Belgium. They arrived since a couple of days and plan on staying here until new year’s eve. It’s impressive how much food and wine they have brought with them. We spend a part of the night speaking about mountains and adventure and it is very nice to share such great moments with other outdoors lovers. Especially because here, there is no phone or other forms of connection with the outer world.

The hut is brand new and it’s so far the comfiest I’ve ever been to. After a good dinner and chat with our housemates for the night, we go out again to take some photographs from the frozen lake. Richard, one of my friends is a professional photographer as well and we spent 2 hours outside under the milky way taking different shots from different spots in the cold night.

We played with my headlight to light up some rocks and peaks to create an open photo studio. Such an amazing place! Living in the busy city makes me a bit anxious and right here, I’m feeling great and in peace again.

The second day, Sunrise then sliding down.

The night was great! As the sunset is early and sunrise late, we’ve been able to sleep a good 6 hours before to wake up at 4:45 AM to start hiking up to the top of the Col du Grand Fond to see the sunrise on the Mont Blanc.

The views up there were amazing, we’ve been climbing up 200 meters pretty quickly and this would not have been possible without our snowshoes. The slope is steep and many parts are icy and really slippery.

For me, the best light is before sunrise and this time again it was true. We’ve been walking around for an hour before the sunrise to find different angles and get the best shots possible.

We had such a great time up there! We hiked down back to the hut at around 9 AM and enjoyed some warm sunrays on the terrace of the hut which is exposed full south to get the best sunlight possible.

At around 11 AM, we started to walk down again. The snowy side, still in the shade at midday was very icy, cold and slippery. I didn’t put my snowshoes at first and realised quickly that it was a mistake after a 50 meters uncontrolled slide down on the steep face of the slope. Thanks to the walking sticks and by hitting with my bare hands in the snow, I’ve been able to stop the fall just 50cm before a huge rock which would have crushed me. Straight after that, I’ve put on the snowshoes.

As soon as we reached a less steep slope, we started to have fun and slid on purpose. 5 hours hike up, 3 hours hike down thanks to the slides.

Back to the car at around 3 PM, we drove back to Arêches-Beaufort where we had a beer and pizzas to close well this amazing adventure.

If you have the chance to visit France and especially the French Alps, the best website that I just discovered to plan your hikes is altituderando it’s such a gold mine for all your hikes/climbs/Mountaineering in the Alps. Unfortunately, it’s all in French like many French websites, sorry we aren’t too good in English, but you still can find the list of the different hikes near the city you are staying at thanks to their search engine that you can find under the tab “Topos Montagne”.

Now, It’s your turn to go out and enjoy the great outdoors that nature can offer!


Break Your Fears And Start Living Your Life

It was like a new beginning. The end of a painful chapter and the beginning of a new one, everything felt possible and everything was indeed possible. The first time I really stepped out of my comfort zone and got rewarded for it. It was the 1st of December 2013, I quit my job and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. This was the way out of a 6 months intense depression where I felt empty like if I was dead from inside, all motivation for anything was gone and I was getting drunk way too often and self-destructive just to feel something. That day, everything shifted. It’s crazy how one single decision, which takes a second to make, can change the rest of your life. This article is about overcoming your fears and how it might change your life for the better. It is based on my experiences but first of all a little disclaimer.

We all are unique and for some people, living a sedentary life and working 9 to 5 is what fulfill them and if it is your case that’s awesome, but this article is for the people feeling stuck like I did in a 9 to 5 job spending days working for a paycheck. I wasn’t fulfilled at all and was feeling stuck there. The decision to step out of this life was very hard to take but it was the best decision I ever took. I haven’t had any regret at any time since the 4 and counting years that I took it. I discovered another way to live and realized all the rules I thought were real, in the end, were just illusions created by society. The walls collapsed and I discovered a new world behind.

What is fear?

Fear is a very powerful feeling that is used by our body and mind to keep us safe. It can be what will save your life from a danger but as well what will keep you stuck in your comfort zone from doing what you really want to do but don’t dare to.

Usually, a good fear is the one acting on the now. There is a danger and it will help you get the right behavior to act towards this danger. The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible to deliver to the body a whole lot of hormones which will affect your perception and help you to take the decision to Fight or Flight. This fear is the one keeping you safe and alive from doing something stupid. It is the good fear.

On the other hand, the bad fear is the one created by your thoughts, acting on the belief system. It makes you worry about everything that could happen in the future. We all are subjects to this fear and for some people, it is more important than for others. This fear creates anxiety and will hold you from doing what you really want to do with your life. In this article, this is the fear we will focus on and overcome.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

But before to start, there is my favorite ever commercial.

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to let your fears control your life or do you want to live it fully, be confident and get what you want in life? If you choose the second option, you’ll realize at the end, when you’ll look back, that all your fears are, just like this wolf, some illusions created by your mind. You can be afraid of it and walk back, or you can run through it and break those fears. This video is so true to me, it gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

You always have the choice

The only place where fear exists is in your thoughts and it always is related to the future. Your thoughts are creating fear of events that are not real yet and will most likely never be. Now, that’s up to you to choose to believe those fears and stay where you are or to realize they are just made up by your mind and overcome them.

The ultimate goal of every human being is happiness. If you don’t feel happy right now then lock yourself in your bedroom for 30 minutes and think about what change in your life could drive you toward happiness.

You are where you are because of who you are and if you want to get somewhere else, then you’ll have to change something about who you are right now. You can’t expect different results with repeating the same actions over and over.

You have the choice to take action and if you wait until tomorrow, it will never come. Your only possibility to act on it is NOW. One single decision can change the entire course of your life. From hell to heaven. This is what happened to me in December 2013 and seriously that was the most frightening decision I ever took and the most liberating at the same time. It was the first time I felt bliss. I can say now that my life really started on that day.

That’s when I decided to stop giving fucks about what everyone else wanted me to do or to be and started being who I really wanted to be.

I want to be clear, for me, the choice I took was to quit my job because I couldn’t stand it anymore. It wasn’t bringing me joy. But for you, it can be something totally different. Analyse what is not bringing you joy right now and should, then act on it.

Anatomy of your comfort zone

First of all, let’s describe what is your comfort zone. It’s a place where everything is known and safe. The boundaries of your comfort zone are made of fears. Outside your comfort zone, there is the unknown. There is most likely what you want to reach but are too afraid to run through the wall of fear. So, you stay in your known and safe area and let go of what you really want in life. It’s like a kid looking at candies through the window of a shop. We were born with an unlimited comfort zone and as we grow, our fear boundaries are slowly getting created by our parents, siblings, friends, society, experiences… the goal now, is to go back toward that state of unlimited comfort zone.

I see the comfort zone as an area made of different parts. You can grow one area and not change another one depending on what you push yourself into. For example, if you are scared of skydiving, by doing it, you will expand this area and realize it is actually awesome, there was no need to be scared more than that.  But doing this won’t make you more confident in your relationships with others if you are shy. It will grow only the part of your comfort zone that is related to action sports, not the one related to relationships. You got me? So basically,

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try

Anatomy of your comfort zone – In this example, this person is very comfortable with heights, and public speaking but not at all with failure, love, and commitment. This person should push him/her self to challenges on those uncomfortable areas to expand his/her comfort zone on those points.

Your comfort zone is not something fixed. You can make it evolve all the time and the more often you push yourself out of it, the bigger and the faster it will grow. It can grow to a point where you don’t even have clear fear boundaries anymore. Everything can become easy and comfortable. It is when you realize that your fears are not real. You will realize this by trying again and again and succeeding at your tries. What if you fail? Well, I wish you to fail, because this is how you learn, my friend. Every success is the result of many failures.

The sooner you step away of your comfort zone, the sooner you will realize that it really wasn’t all that comfortable

– Eddie Harris JR.

Let me tell you two stories about fears and comfort zone:

To come back to the day I quit my job, my biggest fear was about not getting any paycheck anymore. What will I become without money? Paychecks are really an addictive drug keeping you where you are. Then, I went broke after only 4 months… yes, shit happens, in addition, my car broke down, I had nowhere to stay and not enough money to go back to France and I was in a really small town far from everything. I had a strange feeling at this time. Not the one I expected. Instead of being frightened, I felt excited. I realized, first, that I was still alive. I realize that money is not life at all and it doesn’t control your vital organs either your happiness. Every one of my organs was still working very well and I was actually feeling very happy and part of this whole world as I was watching the stars laying down on the roof of my broken car thinking of the possibilities. Then, I realized that when you don’t have anything to lose anymore, you only can win and that’s where the magic happened. I had nothing else to lose and everything was possible again. So, I started contacting people to find work opportunities. Believe it or not, this is when I found my best ever paid job. I was totally out of my comfort zone because at this time I was still really shy and didn’t speak English well enough yet but I realized that all the opportunities are out there, it was only up to me to get out and catch them.

Now, let’s go into the wild. One of the first times I slept alone in my tent in the wild was in the Gorges du Verdon in France. I was in this enclosed cocoon and the only one of my 5 senses connecting me to the outside world was my ears. Every little noise was subject to a crazy amount of stress and stories created in my mind. What could it be? Will I die tonight? I was too scared to open the tent to check out what it was… The next morning, I woke up, alive. With time, and on each night in a tent, I learned to let go of those fears and I was telling myself, you’ll see tomorrow you’ll wake up, alive, and you will laugh at it.
Now that I’ve been sleeping almost everywhere, in any conditions, from mountains top to caves, from boats in the middle of storms to the middle of the Australian outback with no one around for hundreds of kilometers and surrounded by dingos, snakes, etc… I’m still alive, and I realize how huge the gap between my first time and now is. I totally live in a different world! All because of those stories made up in my mind.

Don’t wait for the stars to be aligned. Create your own constellation!

As you can see in both cases my fears were just the creation of my mind but I thought, at that time, it was my reality. Your thoughts create the reality you live in. The good thing is that you can modify your thoughts and so you can control any reality.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Dare

I understand it’s not so easy at first to get out of your comfort zone. It’s frightening but try it once and you will realize how addictive it can be. Start small if you need and grow your challenges one by one, day by day. Roma wasn’t built in a day. Be willing to set yourself uncomfortable and try something new every day. It’s like everything, practice is the key and it will make the uncomfortable comfortable.

What is the last time you did something crazy? Something that made your hands humid, your heart racing, your breath short…? Now, close your eyes and remember how you were feeling before doing this thing that was scaring you, and then, how were you feeling after you did it? Do you remember how good and satisfied you were feeling afterward! Even if the result was a fail, you felt relieved to have tried it. I think this is a great video where Will Smith is explaining this feeling and the fears that we are building around it very well:

God placed the best things in life on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, all the best things in life!

– Will Smith

You realize at the point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear

– Will Smith

What to learn about all of this? It’s that your life is waiting for you on the other side of this wall of fear but only you can run through it and reach what you really want to get in life.

And remember, you’ll always be able to get money back at any time but you will never ever be able to get your time back. That’s why you need to take action now.
You always can lose your money and material possessions but you will never lose your experiences. Once you get it, it’s for life. So take the leap and explore this outer and inner world. Create memories and experiences.

Don’t have regrets, live your life now!

One last thing, have you heard of that nurse, Bronnie Ware, who asked her dying patients what was their biggest regrets? There is the 5 most common regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

You can read more details about those regrets right here.

I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it

If you want to go further, you should watch the movie The Truman Show which shows very well how beliefs, fear and realizations works. As well, I created a playlist of very good motivational videos and I will keep adding videos to it. You can find it by clicking here I hope it will kick your ass for acting NOW!

Now tell me, what is your biggest fear and how do you plan to overcome it?


The Majestic Earnslaw Glacier, NZ

Since I arrived in Wanaka, I heard about Earnslaw burn. People were saying that you need serious skills to get there. That it’s lost in the wild, far away from everything, kind of a secret spot where people go more by helicopter rather than by walk. They were right! This 12 hours return walk is difficult especially when you add some pouring rain to the equation.

A real adventure starts when you get lost, or so the saying goes … I make sure that I’m lost from the first one hundred meters of almost any hikes… don’t laugh at me, it’s just like that. For most people who come with me, it can be annoying and they start to have serious doubts about the fact to trust me for the rest of the adventure. This time, was not an exception and when after 30 minutes of walking on a really slippery and a bit too dangerous track a meter by a hundred meters cliff following the river, I had to admit we were lost. Iva just laughed and accepted it saying that it was a good exercise to start again. We came back to the car and I double checked on my computer, to find the NZ Topo Map webpage still open and realized that the hike was starting on the other side of the river!

We have a river to cross! And what a river, we both almost slipped on rocks due to the strong current but everything went well and my photographic gear was still dry (for now). Then, we finally started to hike on the good track marked with orange triangles. You finally don’t need specific skills to find your way as soon as you start on the good track.

While we were walking, battered by the rain and the wind, I’ve had a lot of thoughts going through my mind during this 6 hours walk. After two hours, I’ve asked myself if I could find a dry part of my body. Negative answer. Impossible to notify a dry part on all of my body even with my “waterproof” jacket on. We were both totally soaked!

In this kind of situation, your mind can be really impressive and find the best way to disconnect from the bad feeling of the body. When the outside feelings are too uncomfortable, I learned to turn the focus inward and feel the warmth inside of my body rather than the cold and wet environment outside of it.

One of those thoughts was about Mike Horn’s adventure around the world on the equator, latitude 0. While he was crossing the Amazonian forest, for few weeks and was wet all the time. I felt instantly good as I knew that in our case it was going to be like that just for a couple of days.

Then, my mind jumped on his choice to allow the water to come in his shoes by creating holes in it, instead of trying to keep his feet dry. At least the water didn’t stay in his shoes when he was out of the water. It’s really nice to have dry feet when you hike but if your shoes are going to be wet you should prefer something that can release the water. The choice can be tricky.

A bit after that, I thought about my body and the feelings. I realized that our body is just a tool gave to us to emit and receive information. Nothing less, nothing more. What if you can disconnect the unpleasant information to just keep the pleasant ones? It’s maybe in what Tibetan monks excel at!

So, I tried to disconnect my mind from the feeling of my body. Not so easy. I guess the best way to do that is to focus on your breath. Thinking about the infinity of possibilities to accept the moment even if it’s not a pleasant one. After a few hours, we finally reached the alcove under a mountain where we set the camp for the night.

When you are in this kind of situation, totally wet, cold and in a remote area, you must set up the quickest possible the following points:

  • A shelter to be protected
  • A fire to stay warm

Iva started to build a stone wall to protect the fireplace from the wind while I set up the tent under the alcove. Luckily, there was some not too wet wood underneath the big alcove. Definitely not enough to stay warm all the night but enough to start a fire and dry some of our clothes especially Iva’s sleeping bag. To keep the fire going all night long we’ve been for a mission to find some wood, obviously wet, that we cut in small pieces to make it dry faster. We finally ended up with much more wood than we needed but it will be for the next ones who adventure here.

There is maybe a specific technique to make a fire under an alcove or in a cave to avoid the smoke. But we definitely didn’t know it and we had some bad time coughing with burning red eyes due to the smoke. The wind was turning quite often and it was difficult to define where to put the tent and where to put the fire.

The night was cold. Very cold. And Iva’s sleeping bag still wet after few hours of drying… We organized a bed to keep us warm with my dry sleeping bag and covered us with the wet one.

In the morning, I saw some orange glow coloring the roof of the tent and cannot believe it was the sun reflecting on the mountain. I opened the tent and it was the total opposite than the day before. Blue sky, not a single cloud. Hard to believe in Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud.

I jumped out of the tent, grabbed my wet camera bag, and start to walk barefoot to the end of the valley. It’s a long walk. The temperature was certainly below zero… I could tell because of some parts of the waterfalls and rivers were still frozen. It was really nice at the beginning to walk barefoot and feel the land. Ok, at some stages I didn’t feel some of my toes anymore but as soon as the sun touched them, they came back to life. What was impossible to see last night was finally here in front of me or it was maybe me in front of him. This majestic giant Earnslaw Glacier with all its waterfalls. Majestic is the perfect word to describe it. I was feeling so small. It’s in this kind of moments that you can feel the beauty and the strength of nature. So much stronger than each of us.

We must stay aware that we are a part of this nature, we are not over or under it. We are it and every of our action should be aligned in a way to respect it. It’s really difficult today to live in harmony with nature by consuming responsibly and locally but every effort as small as it is count. I’m trying to be more responsible every day and I realize how difficult it is.

Going to the end of valley barefoot was maybe not the best idea as the bush started to be really dense and full of thorns that were scratching my feet and legs. What a great challenge in the way to disconnect the brain from the body. But as soon as I wasn’t focused anymore on taking photographs and running in the bush it started to be very painful.

Unfortunately, a lot of my photographs were blurry due to the fog into my lenses created by the heavy rain and the humidity of my camera bag. Luckily the 70-200mm was not that foggy so I created few panoramic to recreate the wide effect of the 24-70mm to keep a souvenir of this majestic mountain.

Iva was supposed to meet me on the way to the end of the valley but I didn’t see her. I know she wasn’t going to stay at the camp and will join me but I guessed we might miss each other on the way. We finally realised back at the camp that we crossed each other by a 25 meters apart on the way without noticing it. The valley is really wide at some parts and from the alcove, there are no proper tracks anymore.

The way back to the carpark seemed infinitely longer than the first way. This is when I realized that the brain can sometimes shut up some unpleasant parts unconsciously.

If you want to do this hike you should:

  • download BackCountry Navigator App. It allows you to save some maps to access it offline with your gps. Of course, it’s always better to use a paper map as on this kind of temperatures, the battery of your smartphone will drop significantly.
  • Allow two days, three must be the best to enjoy fully the end of the valley.
  • Be ready to be wet and face some strong winds.
  • Don’t be afraid of crossing rivers, as you will need to.

If you go there, enjoy the hike it’s wonderful and worth it even if it can be tough on the body and the mind.


Outex Review, best waterproof housing for travellers!

Water is my key element. Whatever it is, ocean, lakes or river, I love to be in or near the water and as a photographer, I obviously wanted to bring my camera with me at some point. I often did without any protection, by being very carreful, or for canyoning, in a pelican case, but for shooting, the camera needed to be out and wasn’t protected. I always wanted a waterproof case but it is very expensive and too big to travel anywhere with it. That’s when came Outex. Let’s have a look about this very cool product! 

Quality and portability

First thing, I’ve been traveling the world for more than 4 years and I needed something compact and easy to carry. Outex is very compact, It can actually fit in a pocket. This is a really good point!

Then, I needed something of great quality. Because there is a lot of cheap options out there but I don’t want to put my DSLR into a something I couldn’t rely on. Outex is using great resistant and stretch silicone, with high-end Zeiss quality glass. It means that the case shouldn’t affect the quality of your photos and in addition, it is very resistant.

So far the product fit both of my main requirements, quality and portability.

Flexible and evolutive

The great thing with Outex covers is that you can use many different lenses with the same cover. You will just need an adaptor for the diameter of your different lenses. For the rest, the cover can fit either a wide lens or a zoom.

The good point with the model I use is that you can set it up on a tripod. It is very handy if you want to create long exposure shots while you are exposed to water.

If you want to use flashes or remote tethering etc… it is possible too. There is an option for pretty much everything you can think of.

An affordable price

Finally, the price was one of my other requirements. Most of the hard cases are over 2000$ and with Outex, you can start at 295$ for the entry kit and 425$ for the pro kit. Very Affordable in comparison to other solutions.

Pros and cons

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Flexible and evolutive
  • Access to buttons
  • High-quality components 
  • It is floatable

  • Time to set it up on the camera but with experience, it can be fast.

Some content created using Outex

Outex is waterproof and so is perfect for any kind of dirty and dusty environment. An event like the Holi Festival in India was a perfect playground to test it up!

Any Questions?

You can ask me in the comments below or head to Outex.com website for more info and details.


Breast hill – A mountaintop photo studio

As I am writing this article in the heat of South East Asia, I’m trying to remember the feeling of being in a cold environment. One vivid memory I have was the end of the winter on Breast Hill. This adventure was filled with excitement, to say the least. It started out breathtaking and ended with a dark night at the base of an icy wall. Let me take you back to the beginning…

At the beginning of the southern hemisphere’s spring, end of September 2015, my friend Leandro most known as Leo, was visiting me in Wanaka as he had to renew his Australian visa. Since there were some complications he ended up staying two extra months in New Zealand which meant he could join me on my adventures. Stoked! With us, there was also a couple, Matte Vonnée, Canadian and very talented portrait photographer and his French girlfriend Sonia. Matt and me, met at a potluck dinner at my house

 in Wannaka. He contacted me a few days ago and we planned on going to an adventure together. Our plan was to reach Breast Hill summit to shoot some amazing photographs with the beautiful views of Mount Aspiring, over Hawea Lake, as a background. Little did we know what that was going to take!

Before we could start our journey, it was important to find out the conditions and weather. Is it still snowy? Icy? What is the forecast for the next couple days? Google is a great way to find information but the guide companies and tourism centers usually have a better idea of conditions. However, no one knew exactly how it was up there since some said it’s snowy and we need ice axes and crampons, while others said it was fine to hike normally. We didn’t have the technical equipment and were on a low budget, so we decided to take the latter advice and go with our hiking shoes, gaiters, all the usual camping equipment and our photography gear. Which for Matte included a huge Rotalux Octagonal softbox and a Broncolor Move 1200 L battery for his flash unit.

Once we had everything packed, we met downtown Wanaka in the morning and followed each other to the east side of Hawea Lake. We parked the cars and despite the lack of sign to go up, we thought that we were roughly at the right place. It already got off to a bumpy start since that first place we arrived was not the correct spot. We had to hike back down to the cars and drive back until we saw the very small and discreet sign. Now we could start the hard climb up. The sun was strong and it felt warm in our t-shirts and shorts, even though it was the end of winter. During our hike up to Breast Hill, we met a mother with her kids who told us that if we were to keep going it might start to get icy in some parts.

We were determined so we continued on to the ridge. The view was breathtaking! The first patches of snow started to cover parts of the track. And a bit further along, the snow started turning to ice. This is when the technical gear would have been useful! The sunset was nearing so we stopped to get some photos at the golden hour. It was a little bit of a challenge to get the big flash set up in the wind. I was able to get some behind the scenes shots of Matte and Sonia during this process. After a quick session, we packed everything back up and kept going.

As night was beginning to fall, the snow got deeper and icier. It was important to put all our weight on each step to crush the ice for a good grip. The night became dark. Very dark as there was no moon to light the sky yet. We followed the trail poles that were rising above the snow but soon arrived at a point where we couldn’t find them anymore. They were either completely buried or too far away to be seen with our headlights. According to the map, the hut was supposed to be on our right. But all we could see was an icy cliff. If one of us would have slipped, it would be nearly impossible to rescue or find them. This realization caused some of us to panic. We had to be so close to the hut but just couldn’t see it! After a too long time trying to find our way on that wall, it was time to make a decision to either keep searching for the hut path or hike back to the car in the dark.

The fact that we were tired, cold and that our vision was limited to the gleam of our headlights made it harder to make a decision. After being stuck for at least 30 minutes on that slope, I decided to find a flat spot for everyone to rest while I climbed over a rock face to see if there was anything on the other side. The snow was deep, making it hard to make footprints. We were definitely the first to come here after the last snow. Upon reaching the top, I could see a fence in the distance! This was a good clue to help us find the track again. I came back to the others to motivate everyone to keep going before we could be getting comfortable in our sleeping bags.

The best motivation, when in very harsh conditions, is to trick your mind with imagination and visualisation. Picture yourself in a warm and comfortable environment. Especially if this is what you can get at the end of your current trip. Feeling comfortable inside your body, inside your mind even though the outside is still very cold, windy and wet.

We started hiking up the rock face and, as we reached the fence, we saw other poles indicating the track. It motivated all of us! But after walking on that track for 20 minutes we should have seen the hut but still couldn’t. Everyone was tired. Making wrong steps and sliding on the ice, some of us didn’t have enough strength to crush the ice anymore. We needed to stay positive and keep going. The mind is the key, if it starts to fade, everything else will too. A few minutes later we made it back to a crossing where we saw the mistake in our earlier footprints. We had followed the wrong poles and went to Breast Hill instead of to the hut. After 50 more meters downhill we finally saw the hut and everyone felt relieved. We began running and sliding on the ice all the way down to the hut which was hidden behind the edge of the icy wall.

The hut felt like paradise after our challenging hike in the dark. It felt good to organise ourselves, cook a nice warm dinner and soon after, everyone fell fast asleep. Except for me, I wasn’t done with the day just yet and wanted to see if I could get some photos of the aurora australis. There were some very weak green and purple lights but not enough for a memorable photo. However, the moon was beginning to rise which made for some great photographs with Leo who joined me outside of the hut. Too bad the moon wasn’t out earlier to help us find our way!

After our short night of rest, I got up early to hike the ridge for the sunrise. Leo wasn’t far behind. It was unbelievable! The view was astonishing and soon Matte and Sonia joined us in my excitement. It was the perfect location for Matte’s portraits! We spent half the morning up here taking photos. After a successful session on our mountaintop studio, we went back to Wanaka for a much-needed burger. The best meal after a hard hike! We all reminisced about our crazy adventure and we were all glad to make it safely back to town.

As a photographer, it’s rewarding to go on adventures with your peers. We can see how each other work and gain new insights and perspectives. It inspires us to keep taking photos, try new compositions, and explore different settings.

When going on hikes like this, where the temperatures can drastically change, I like to wear and pack multilayers clothes. Most important is the base layer. It’s good to have it be Merino wool. Primino is the best… it has all the advantages of Merino wool and it dries faster. Then a mid layer. This could be a fleece or a flannel shirt. Finally, a good jacket. Sometimes I will layer a windproof jacket under a rain jacket if it’s raining or really windy. Otherwise, a nice Gore-Tex will help keep you warm and dry from the elements while still be very breathable. I use Montane clothes thanks to my sponsor Further Fast NZ. They make very lightweight and packable gear. If I had to choose one, I would definitely recommend the Prism jacket, great for all conditions and it packs down to the size of a pillow.

If you want to know more about Matte Vonne, check out his work and bio here Fi.hn. Thank you to Amy Nieuwsma for proofing this article.