Poppies - Provence - France - © Claire Blumenfeld

Coming back to Provence and preparing my trip in the Alps

Back in Provence in my parents house to prepare what’s next. Why the Alps after three years of wandering abroad. Where comes the fact that hiking interests me more and more and what it reveals of my personality.

On a beautiful late April day, my parents came to pick me up in Chamonix. Me and my stuff. Which with age tends greatly to diminish, fortunately. Only a few crates, a mini-fridge and my ski equipment. We stuffed it all in the back of the Kangoo and we left leaving behind the Mont Blanc and the Alps.

I had a heartache leaving the region so beautiful but the idea of coming back in two months soothed me. My work at the Alpina is over and I decided to take advantage of the next five months to go on a trip. But before that I have to go back to Provence. In Beaucaire, where my parents live on the edge of the Rhone. The month of May to rest, work and sort my stuff (much more important in Beaucaire), prepare my trips and get in shape. That’s the plan.

The kilometers pass and the landscape gets warmer. The mountains shrink and the houses covered with salmon-colored tiles. Beaucaire and his little castle appear and I always as I come back here have a strange feeling on the heart. The area is superb I know, but I never really liked it. Too hot, too populous, too loud. And then the memories of a difficult adolescence resurface and I feel like I’m still trapped in painful memories and an image of myself that I do not like.

The days pass by and I’m a little overwhelmed by the number of things to do. Or rather that I decided to do. Cleaning of my stuff, sorting, purchase of equipment for travel, planning, huge backup, medical appointments, physical fitness, writing articles, photography, reading … I have trouble doing everything. The change of environment (return to the parental home, disappearance of intimacy, noisy neighbors and flat landscape instead of mountains) makes me a little depressed.  At almost thirty years old, I find it hard to bear the infantilizing attitude of my parents. I know that physically I don’t look like my age. And I often have the behaviour in the presence of my parents to rest too much on them and this has more and more the tendency to turn against me. A whole lot of complex feelings, old habits and resentment reappeared in the first days. I look at my parents who are starting to grow old and that makes me deeply sad. Despite the passing years, we still do not understand each other. A gap widened in adolescence, unable to be closed.

Even the landscape looks bland. Provence is beautiful but it’s nothing near the Alps. My father is ecstatic about the beauty of the small hills with vegetation patterned by the wind. I dare not tell him that it seems to me a pale comparison with the Mont-Blanc range. I’m looking hard but do not find much to photograph. I am also ashamed of not being able to appreciate the simple beauty of the landscape, right there, the present moment.

My room is crumbling under the number of my belongings. Tons of books, trinkets, clothes, stuffed animals. And yet I have already sorted and thrown a third since I came back three weeks ago. I feel a little muffled. My things for the trip are ready and it fits in four crates. Good. I do not need more. The rest is superfluous and unnecessary attachment. I prefer to travel light now. When I look at my room, I tell myself that I could sell half of what I have. The only thing that makes me sad are my books. I love reading. And I have always bought a lot of books. But when I was twenty years old and studying cinema, I was seized with a frenzy and bought dozens of very beautiful books, very expensive about cinema and audiovisual. As if owning these books anchored me in the path I had chosen (at the time in complete disagreement with what my parents wanted). I have never read them. They are there on shelves to take dust constantly reminding me of my failures. And then there is the comics and mangas that I have not had time to finish reading the integrals. I did not have the money to buy the suite and after three years abroad the interest has weakened. Only a few still interest me but I do not have enough time to get started. So for now I sleep in the room of my brother (being in Montpellier) containing fewer things. I feel like I can breathe better.

So I try to detach myself from all this, as best I can (which is not often a success, I must admit) and I focus on my projects and especially the preparation of my next trips. In June and for 6 weeks I go on a road trip through the Alps. It’s a destination that I have been thinking about for quite some time. During my trip to Japan, then to New Zealand and Australia, I missed the Alps, fantasy memory of what the great, the real hiking seemed to be for me. That’s also why I chose to come to work in Chamonix when I returned to France. In the valley there are tons of hiking and especially the famous Mont Blanc tour. A dozen days of trekking around the Mont Blanc massif. I told myself that I would have liked to do it. And then I had in mind the region of the Dolomites. One of the most famous regions of Italy. In any case in my Instagram feed. I see a picture of these mountains almost every day. It’s almost too much. But the beauty of the place has dug its hole in my desires and I told myself why not combine the two? And even better, why not take a road trip through the Alps in different countries? This is where the idea came to leave for 6 weeks across the Alps in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France.

I would have love to do everything on foot but it would have taken me a lot longer. And since I planned to go to Iceland after that, I decided to take a car to drive to the destinations. It is therefore a road trip with many day trips hikes and several longer treks.

Going on a road trip again reminds me of my life in Australia, left only a few months ago. When I’m arranging the Kangoo that my parents have agreed to lend me, I think back to my little Toyota Hilux, faithful companion for a year. Her image tinged with a feeling of missing her often comes back to my mind. I made the plans to transform the back of the Kangoo into a very simple mini-camper. The materials are bought, it remains only to put everything in shape. Yesterday I put curtains in the windows with velcro and I had the impression to find myself in my Toyota fixing the curtain rod with hooks. I feel half happy, half sad, mix of the excitement of preparing for the journey and remembering a life that I maybe did not want to leave.

Younger I hated hiking. Or rather the obligation of the weekly Sunday hike imposed by my father. But today it’s the opposite. The physical effort, the idea of crossing landscapes with the strength of my legs attracts me more and more. When I hike (or when I ride a bike) I feel like I’m living. To be me, active and liberated. The rest of the time, at home or at work, the hours, the days pass in a sort of depressive immobilism, in a continual lethargy. Getting up from my chair requires a considerable effort. And yet I am able to climb 1000 meters high or accomplish 60km of bike without special problems. Why, apart from physical effort, is there no more interest? Probably because my vision of life, effort and nature has changed? Walking, cycling, running, alone, is like for me a kind of meditation, reconnection with myself and nature. It is also a space where I can express my creativity (photography, writing ideas). And then it’s a space of confrontation. Seeking change, returning to simplicity and essentials. And finally, it allows me to see the world. To really see it and try to understand it. And maybe trying to save it before everything changes.

That’s why I decided to go for a road trip through the Alps. And go around Iceland by bike. Because I need these trips, these spaces to understand me, change me and open my eyes to the world.

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