The sedentary life is just something new on the scale of humanity and it makes us forget about seasons and many things which exist with or without us. We do have a lot of gears and electronics, but what we experience during a hike like this is very connected with nature: we always have both feet on the ground, we wake up with the sun, and we sleep with the first stars. It is something which makes us mentally stronger as a person, and makes us forget all our problems, everything we believed to be problematic in our life disappears all of a sudden. We no longer have time to think about the negative and the positive, the future and the past. We are right here, right now, we think of tonight, maybe tomorrow, but we don’t think any further ahead than that. We are rarely in the present, we are always doing things either because of the past or the future or for others. Always because of something which is not really existing right now. The connection to the real time, to the real personality and physical body, and to nature will make us understand a lot, we believe.
I was born and raised in Paris, but I spent most of my vacations in the countryside, and I believe these holidays with my grandparents gave me a taste for spending time in nature. I studied sociology and worked as a Human Resources Manager for an industrial company for 7 years. I got the feeling from the first day that even though the job was interesting and I met a lot of different people from all around the world, this was not for me. There were different phases, but in the end I decided to quit my job: I was almost 30 and I wanted to do what would really make me happy. Within a couple weeks, Nil and I decided to start the amazing project of Deux Pas Vers L’Autre.
I grew up in the suburbs of Paris, in a house with a big garden, where my brother and I were always playing outside, so it was a half city and half country kind of life. Neither of my parents was rich and we always focused on what really mattered, on small things. I was that kind of kid, changing my opinion on things really easily, learning from everyone and not afraid to change. I studied music at university, but I didn’t finish my degree, I started to work overseas in fashion photography which allowed me to discover the world. I realised life can take many different forms and the social person you believe you need to be in one country does not have to be the same in the next one. The most important thing is not your social goal but your inner happiness, your family, to enjoy the time you have here. During one of my trips to Hong Kong I experienced the tiredness of a long hike: after 10-12 hours of walking, when you’re feeling a tiredness which makes you the happiest man when you arrive. At the end of such a day you realise that, the meal you eat is the best meal you’ve ever had, whoever you’ve talked with is your new best friend. I believe this is true happiness and hiking is something which got me hooked: to feel this deep tiredness and how it makes everything else beautiful. You can see where you started your hike 30 kilometres away, the horizon that you see is not even there, it is beyond, it feels like you are a crazy walking end on the huge planet.
One day, after a guy attacked me I understood that everything can stop from one day to another and that I needed to stick to my plan, which was to find happiness and to really take possession of my life right now without waiting any longer. I decided to totally change my way of life, to stay in close contact with my relatives, to keep doing what makes me smile, and to live big things. And it was at the point that I met Marie, which was a key moment for both of us.
Actually we’d already met a few years before; we had several mutual friends, we crossed paths in a boulder gym many times, so we had seen each other from time to time. One and a half years ago we found ourselves spending a vacation together with our friends, where being together felt very natural and at that precise moment both of us had already started to feel a change in our own lives as well, so it was just perfect timing. We are a young couple, and starting a project like this is quite tough. But during this 1,5 years we have shown each other that we are good life partners but also a strong working team with very different wills, skills and approaches. It is a team which works very well, so there is nothing that makes us afraid about this trip at all.
Our greatest achievement so far is that we are here after all those months working behind our computers. What surprised us the most was how wide this project has become. On the morning of 4 February our day of departure, we couldn’t believe that we were actually here, we were holding each other’s hands, and we felt so happy that it actually made us anxious. Our first country on this adventure is Portugal, we start our 10.000 km journey on Rota Vicentina. The welcoming and sharing spirit of these people is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. Here you don’t experience the fear of others at all, these people are used to foreigners, Portuguese people have been historical travellers since the Iron Age. You can feel this from how approachable these people are, talkative and positive. We are truly pleasantly surprised, every day we’ve met someone special on Rota.
I am not even sure if Nil knows about this, but don’t worry Nil, it doesn’t weigh a lot…Just before our departure my best friend, who is like my sister, gave us a Joker card, and she said: I have my work and life here, so I won’t be able to join you every month in every country, but you have this card, it’s a Joker: anytime, either of you needs me, call me, and the day after I will be there.
When we left our jobs we didn’t want to go for a holiday, that wasn’t our plan at all. We wanted to go for a trip, which inspires people, to share what we have in our continent is the best. What we wanted to experience with Deux Pas Vers L’Autre is not so much about places and landscapes, but more what human beings can share now in our continent, what it means to be a European nowadays, what we have in common with our history and land. To share all of this with as many people as we can in two languages, in a very clear and understandable way, placing great importance on videography and photography, so as to show how rich we are morally. To inspire people to experience a different kind of tourism, one which is more responsible, down-to-earth, less expensive with less consumption and generally slower. To indicate that for most people it is possible to have an amazing adventure even for one week, even in their country, they just need to grab their backpack and sleeping bag, and they can live crazy and surprising moments.
Marie Couderc & Nil Hoppenot
The photos were taken on ‘S. Teotónio » Odeceixe’ Historical way of Rota Vicentina.