On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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27 May 2019

Interval in Provence

After seven months in Chamonix, I returned to Provence to visit my parents and prepare my next travels.
DISPATCH

One fine day at the end of April, my parents came to pick me up in Chamonix. Me and my stuff. Which with age tends to decrease greatly, fortunately. Only a few boxes, a mini-fridge and my ski gear. We stuffed it all at the back of the Kangoo and left leaving behind the Mont-Blanc and the Alps.

I had a pinch in the heart while leaving the region so beautiful that I like very much. But the prospect of coming back in two months soothed me. My work at the Alpina is finished and I decided to take the next five months to go travel. But before that I must return to Provence. At Beaucaire, where my parents live on the banks of the Rhône. The month of May to rest there, put away and sort out my stiff (much more important in my room in Beaucaire), to prepare my trips and get back in shape. This is the plan.

The kilometers pass and the landscape becomes more Mediterranean. The mountains shrink and the houses are covered with salmon-colored tiles. Beaucaire and its little castle appear and I have, as always when I come back here, a strange feeling on my heart. The region is superb I know, but I never really liked the area. Too hot, too populous, too noisy. And then the memories of a difficult adolescence always resurface and I have the impression of finding myself as always trapped in painful memories and an image of myself that I do not really like.

The days are passing and I am a little overwhelmed by the number of things to do. Or rather, that I decided to do. Storage of my belongings, cleaning, sorting, purchase of travel equipment, trip planning, large backup of my photographs and data, medical appointments, physical fitness, writing articles, photography, reading … I have a hard time doing everything. The change of environment (return to the parental home, suppression of intimacy, noisy neighbors and disappearance of the mountains) brings my morale down. At almost thirty years old I find it hard to bear the sometimes infantilizing attitude of my parents. And I often have the bad habit in their presence of relying too much on them and this is backfiring on me increasingly. A whole bunch of complex feelings, old habits and resentments quickly reappear after the first few days together. I watch my parents who are starting to age and it makes me deeply sad. Despite the passing years, we still have so much trouble understanding each other. A gap has widened during adolescence which seems incapable of being closed.

Even the landscape seems very bland. Provence is beautiful but it is nothing next to the Alps. My father is in awe of the beauty of the small hills with vegetation shaped by the wind. I dare not tell him that it seems very pale compared to the Mont-Blanc chain. No matter how hard I look, I can’t find much to photograph. I am also a little ashamed of not being able to appreciate the simple beauty of the landscape, the simplicity, the tranquility. Right there, the present moment.

My room is crumbling under my stuff. Tons of books, trinkets, clothes, stuffed animals. And yet I have already sorted and thrown away a third since I came back three weeks ago. I feel a little stifled inside. My luggage for the travel is ready and it fits in four boxes. This is enough. I do not need more. The rest is just superfluous and unnecessary attachment. I now prefer to travel light, not take too much. When I look at my room, I tell myself that I would happily sell half of what I have. The only thing I find it hard to part with is my books. I love reading. And I always bought a lot of books. But around my twenties when I studied cinema, I was seized with a frenzy and I bought dozens of very beautiful, very expensive books about cinema and audiovisual. As if having 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 the shelves gathering dust constantly reminding me of my failures. And then there is the comics and mangas which I haven’t had time to finish the integrals yet. I did not have the money to buy the next books and after three years abroad interest has weakened. Only a few still interest me, but I don’t have enough time to get started again on the reading. So for now I sleep in my brother’s room (currently in Montpellier) much less loaded. I feel like I am breathing more freely there.

I try to detach myself from all this, disappointments, worries, resentments, as best as I can (which is not often a success, I must admit) in order to focus on my projects and especially the preparation of my next travel. In June and for six weeks I will go on a road trip through the Alps. It is a destination that I have had in mind for quite some time. During my trip to Japan, then to New Zealand and Australia, I missed the Alps very much, a slightly fantasized memory of what the long, real trekking journey seemed to be for me. This is also why I chose to come to work in Chamonix when I returned to France. In the valley there are endless possible hikes and in particular the famous tour of the Mont-Blanc. Ten days of trekking around the massif. I thought to myself that this was an opportunity to do it. And then I also had in mind the region of the Dolomites. One of the most famous regions of Italy. In my Instagram feed, I see a photo of these mountains almost every day. It is almost too much. But the beauty of the place made its hole in my desires and I thought why not combine the two? And even better, why not take a trip through the Alps by crossing different countries? This is where the idea for a six-week trip across the Alps through Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France came from.

I would have done it all on foot but it would have taken me a lot more time than the six weeks available. And as I planned to go to Iceland after that, I decided to make the trips linking the different hikes with a car. It is therefore a road trip by car dotted with day hikes and several great treks.

Going on a road trip again reminds me of my life in Australia, which I left only a few months ago. When I organise the Kangoo that my parents agreed to lend me, I think of my little Toyota Hilux, a faithful companion for a year. Its image tinged with a feeling of missing it often comes back to my mind. I made the plans of organising the back of the Kangoo into a very simple mini-camper. The materials are purchased, all that remains is to built everything. Yesterday I hung curtains on the windows with Velcro and I felt like I was in my Toyota fixing the curtain rod with hooks. I feel half happy, half sad, a mixture of the excitement of preparing for the trip and the memory of a life I might have wanted to continue.

When I was younger I hated hiking. Or rather the obligation of the weekly Sunday hike imposed by my father. But today it is 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 cycle) I feel like I am alive. Me, real and liberated. The rest of the time, at home or at work, the hours, the days go by in a sort of depressed immobility, in a continual lethargy. Getting up from my chair takes a lot of effort. And yet I am able to climb 1000 meters high or complete 60km of cycling without any particular problems. Why outside of the physical exertion do I find it so hard to take interest? Probably because my vision of life, effort and nature has changed? Walking, cycling, running, all alone, is for me a kind of meditation, a reconnection with myself and the nature. It is also a space where I can express my creativity (photography, writing ideas). And then it is a space of confrontation. Seeking change, back to simplicity and essentials. And finally it allows me to see the world. Really see it and try to understand it. And maybe immortalize it before everything changes.

This is why I decided to go walking across the Alps. And go around Iceland by bike. Because I need these trips, these spaces to understand myself, change myself, open my eyes to the world and find my way through. 

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Chapter IV. Home spleen home

The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix, France © Claire Blumenfeld

The Alps

The Alps are a very large mountain range with diversified relief spanning across Europe.

South Tyrol, Italy © Claire B. - Please do not use without authorization

Glimpses of the Italian Tyrol

At the beginning of June 2019 I embarked on the exploration of the Dolomites. But personal problems forced me to shorten my trip. Here are some photos from my week in Italy.

Interval in Provence

After seven months in Chamonix, I returned to Provence to visit my parents and prepare my next travels.

A breath of Spring

End of my stay in Chamonix. Spring is back, I find motivation again and I take the opportunity to do a few activities.

The black hole

The first months of 2019 are difficult. Winter is passing in Chamonix and I am facing depression.

In the arms of winter

The good weather has passed, the tourists are back in the streets of Chamonix and my morale is playing hide and seek.

Chamonix, France © Claire Blumenfeld

An autumn in Chamonix

The autumn season in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc valley is a festival of beautiful colors.

Lac Blanc, Aiguilles Rouges massif, Chamonix valley, France © Claire Blumenfeld

Enchanted hikes

The Chamonix valley is ideal for hiking and I take advantage of the perfect weather to explore it.

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