Aline Mainix is 29 years old. For the last 18 months, she has been travelling around the world with her partner Guillaume. She splits her time between volunteer opportunities and staying with friends and family. She is a nomad.
Aline speaks calmly when she talks about her new life. She discusses her voyages, the difficulties she has faced travelling, volunteer work that succeeds or turns sour. Her rhythm of speech accelerates when she talks about the burnout that lead her to make changes in her life. Today, she likes to take time to be present in the moment.
Aline needs to stay in touch with her family. As a result, she is highly connected. The couple has a blog, « Le monde à deux », as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, They find volunteer opportunities on the websites WorkAway and HelpX and communicate by WhatsApp and Skype.
Where do you live and, as a nomad, how does your living situation define you?
Where do I live? Everywhere (laughs). And nowhere at the same time. I live wherever I find myself in the here and now. I cannot attach myself to one place. I am truly at home when I am with my parents and my brother, who also travels a lot. The places I live, well, they change all of the time (laughs).
You have traveled to many different countries. What is your itinerary and how often do you travel?
We started with twelve days in Russia. Then we spent one and a half months in Mongolia, two months in China, two months in Japan, one and a half months in Taiwan; Vietnam for four months, six months in Malaysia, one month in Cambodia, and one month in Thailand.
We avoid making plans. We had intended to spend one year travelling around the world, quite classic, flying between each big destination. But we quickly abandoned that idea. Everything was moving too quickly for us. Today, we are taking a break. We are currently in Switzerland (note: interview location). Then I will go to Paris for my uncle and aunt’s birthday. We also travel around France since our family is pretty spread out. We have many ideas for the next stage: Europe, Australia, or South America. We have not chosen the location, but we know we will leave again.
What is your day-to-day life like?
We concentrate on two things. The first concerns volunteer opportunities that we usually find online. I do not earn money but I am almost always working. In exchange, we are housed and fed. Life with our hosts comes rather easily and naturally through our exchanges. The other lesser part involves finding a place to sleep. When we arrive, we decide whether or not we are going to wander around, how to plan our departure, etc… It is a lot of work to do research and continue travelling.
What kind of volunteer opportunities are available and how often?
We did not want to teach English, and in result many opportunities are in nature and on farms. Moreover, we realized that farm life fits us. Our experiences on farms are really learning opportunities for a potential future project. We have also worked in kitchens, in tourism related to pepper, or in bee awareness in Vietnam.
How do you travel between the different locations where you volunteer? What do you like about your travels?
I think I like everything about it really. We walk, ride bikes, use busses and trains, sometimes in horrible conditions. In China, we spent almost 18 hours in a train seated in the middle of everyone. We have taken planes too. Ideally, I would like to limit this form of transportation for ecological reasons. And, it moves too quickly. You are thrown from one place to another as if nothing happened in between.
When we are volunteering we also make everyday trips: shopping for example.
Travel has always been a part of my life. I followed my father who moved for work. We ended up in Bordeaux, where I began to work. I was in the caregiving industry, which I loved, but I had a huge burnout before 30 years old. It was clear. I needed to leave.
What were the events leading up to this burnout?
I was an occupational therapist. I worked with patients and felt like everything I did was destroyed by the caregiving world. I felt like I was wearing myself out working for nothing, that nobody was listening to me. It was a vicious cycle. The more exhausted I became, the more negative my attitude became. The more negative I became, the less I worked well and the less I got along with my colleagues. It got to a point where the best solution was to get out of the field. During my sick leave, I read the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I said to my boyfriend, “Alright, let’s go.” He said, « Ok, I’ll follow you. »
And what were his reasons?
He only travelled from time to time for vacation, but he is curious by nature and is interested in just about everything. He likes challenges. Basically, he says to himself “ok, that exists and I am going there,” as if the world was gigantic and we could go anywhere.
How much baggage do you take when you travel? Do you carry your home on your back?
Guillaume left with about sixty liters. I left with about fifty. Knowing that we have reduced it, and that the goal is for him to be at fifty and me forty. We are almost there. We learn to live simply. I can settle down anywhere. I have everything I need for winter or summer. In Bordeaux, we have a twelve m² studio. It seemed enormous to us.
How do you use the internet and telephone when you travel?
Internet is part of our daily life, simply because we usually use it to find a place to sleep, to look for volunteer opportunities, for GPS, maps, recommendations. WhatsApp and Skype help us to stay in contact with family. It is also why this lifestyle fits me currently. I use my telephone a little less often.
What is the difference between your day-to-day life and vacation?
Our daily life involves travelling from one place to another. It takes a lot of energy and time to organize all of that. On the contrary, vacations are restful moments when I do not have to think about what I am going to eat because I do not recognize any of the vegetables. Time in France is a vacation, family and places that I know. Vacation can also be a time when I am tired and spend a week doing nothing in a hostel, without pressuring myself to visit.
Do you ask yourself how long this lifestyle can last?
Indeterminately. I do not even know what I will be doing next week, so telling you what I will do ten years from now is impossible. Maybe I will be on a farm. It really is a project I am interested in, even if I know that I have a lot of ideas that never become a reality… The next two years are set financially. We spend about 4,000 euros a year. The idea is to find jobs that we can do from anywhere, why not telecommuting from time to time.
What do you like about this lifestyle specifically?
Freedom. That anything is possible, to break from the mold that society has given us: fixed working hours, doing what we are told to do. External constraints exist, but only I can decide what is possible or not.