Our story in comics, about why and how we decided to leave and meet the world .
Thanks to Antigone XXI., who proposed to us to share our story in her famous french vegan blog !
Life went on after that, as it usually does.
We were living in the mountains around Chambéry, in our small (450 inhabitants) village, with our oh so badly! insulated 400 years old tiny house sitting on top. We were carefree, had no fridge (don’t yell, yes, it is possible), no TV, no microwave oven.
During the summer, we grew tomatoes and spices in our mini-garden, and enjoyed Nirvan’s cooking talents. (He loves to cook, I enjoy eating even more, a good combo if you ask me!)
During winter, the wood stove used to spread a soothing warmth in our kitchenette and simmer our comforting soups.
When I first met Nirvan, back in 2010, I was your "typical" omnivorous, my great grandfather was even a butcher. I enjoyed the french terroir cuisine along with the fine wines my father used to open for our meals.
But we both thought a lot about vegetarianism, and Nirvan had this recuring sentence "I don’t want to learn how to stop eating meat, but rather I want to -like- not eating it."
After that, I read "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Sofran Foer, and this book completly turned my world upside down.
The summer after, I experienced my last straw, my "meat overdose" if you will: a fat juicy hamburger during a hot sunny afternoon. I think the best way to say it is that I felt it "under my skin", if that makes any sense to you.
After that episode, I just couldn’t eat meat anymore. That afternoon proves to be my final step.
Peer pressure hits me hard , mostly coming from my family. For some reason, everyone has become an expert on food overnight, and wants to decide what I can and can’t eat. The word "deficiency" is thrown all around...
Nirvan keeps eating meat, until Fall of the same year, when he also decides to stop eating any kind of fish and meat.
Together, we grow stronger against the guests misinformation during dinners, together, we are happier in our vegetarianism.
When asked about potential deficiencies, Nirvan answers with a quick recalling of the various and very real fat, salt and sugar excesses people experience in their "normal" diets on a daily basis. Funny thing, it doesn’t seem to have them bothered as much.
At the time, Nirvan exercises a lot, so he can talk in depth about our diet affects(or not depending on the point of view) his physical state.
Myself, I do feel a faster recovery after my pilates lessons.
Working in the motorcycling business - a testosterone filled world - Nirvan has to face harsh judgement from his colleagues, but that does not prevent us from becoming vegans at home, although we remain vegetarian outside, for convenience purposes.
This new way of living fits our beliefs perfectly.
Even Scampi, our feline friend, and the only remaining omnivorous of the house, is fed with quality food now (tuna, patés), mostly from our leftovers or from old present from friends, and also, as a last resort, with organic kibbles. But hunting is still is favorite way of feeding (and he just loooves leaving his beheaded mice trophies on the front porch- Charming!)
August 2012 (or should I say Nirvan?) hits me with a -nearly!- unexpected mariage proposal!
The year 2013 starts with the usual tedious wedding preparations, but in May, an event occurs that makes our plans and our world shatter. Indira, Nirvan’s mother, has pancreatic cancer. Doctors give her, at best, 5 months to live.
With no second thoughts, we cancel the whole thing. Nirvan leaves for a month to take care of his parents. We decide to celebrate our wedding in Mauritius, according to hindu tradition, in honor of Nirvan’s mother. For a hindu mother, marrying her son "in this life" is quite the accomplishement!
We manage to organize a spiritual and more importantly a very emotional wedding. My parents, my brothers and a few friends join us for the ceremony. Indira is positively radiant up to the wedding.
After that, her decline starts again, faster than ever. She passes away exactly one month after our vows. I am back to France by then, missing her passing by 2 days. The school year has already started, I need to get back to work.
I’m alone again, for 3 weeks this time. Nirvan goes through difficult times and heavy funerals. After coming back, he cannot delay his dream any further: he has to become a baker.
Months fly by, Nirvan leaves for his organic baker training, so our alone moments are few and far between. That is when the attractive idea of traveling across the world nudges us in the ribs again, slipping its way back in our conversations.
We nurture the idea od spreading Indira’s ashes in the Ganges river, in India. The more we talk about it, the more decided we become. If we start this trip, we have to give it our 100%!
We spend 8 months carefuly picking our destinations, deciding which way is the best to travel, which countries we’ll visit, what insurances we’ll pick... We put all our savings on the line, we will not settle for less.
In June 2014, Nirvan quits his job, we sell everything, leave our cozy little home behind, hit the fleas markets and finally sell the unnecessary things accumulated over the years.
At last, here we are! We are to leave on the 2nd of september of that year.
Whilst browsing various websites and backpackers’ blogs, I come to realize that packing lightly isn’t quite the norm. That has become one of my goal though, minimalist traveling.
We create a website to share our experiences. It’s decided, we’ll make it about bread, for Nirvan wants to explore traditional ways of baking, but also about art, my drawing and artistic discoveries bringing life to the words. See, I’m a freelance illustrator (my website).
Thanks to the webdesign company Zapilou, our website, TATUP, is born. TATUP stands for "Terre autour du Pain" ( a world of bread, if you will) or "Traversée autour d’un pinceau" (voyage across a paintbrush). The trip will of course be 100% veg!
When we decide to travel very lightly, a lot of questions come up:
-What to bring for a 1 year trip?
What if I’m cold? What if we have to dress up for a dinner out?
What if I become tired of wearing pink? (Preposterous!)
Do I bring my favorite sweater?
Am I going to wear the same (pink!) sneakers for a whole year?
Strong points: The year before, I went "no-poo", thanks to Antigone XXI’s blog. No more shampoo, no more problems! Our hair are free! Just a rincing now and then.
I’m also not very fond of making, prefering going natural, so that was an easy fix.
On the menstruation side, I’ll bring a mooncup, have been using those for the last 10 years, plus2 extra washable super absorbent pads!
Oh and another life saving tip for us girls: a washable "pisse-debout" (pee-standing).
But wait, how do we use those you ask? Fear not, for I gave you all the answers on the links !
For her :
2 trousers, 2 t-shirts, 2 merinos sweat shirts, 3 panties, 1 sweater, 1 custom made waterproof recycled coton TATUP padded jacket, a pair of sandals, a pair of sneakers (pink! wait I already said that...), a bathing suit, a pair of tiny silk gloves, a waterproof bag protection against the rain, a light linen sleeping bag, and a cloth handkerchief.
For him :
2 trousers, 2 merinos t-shirt, 2 merinos sweaters, a padded jacket, a running rainjacket, a pair a Vibram fivefingers shoes, a pair of waterproof sneakers (stolen during a visit of a temple in India, and no, Nirvan wasn’t wearing them when they got stolen!),
1 rechargeable mini-trimmer, and a light sleeping bag.
2 tablets/computers, 2 cameras (1 reflex and a semi pro compact, a lens and a tripod), 2 external HDD, cables, 2 chargers, 1 e-reader, 2 sketchpads, 1 small pencil case, 1 light tent (900g), our TATUP business cards, small paint bucket ( a present from my painting professor from Jodhpur in India), a headlight with a USB charger, ropes, 1 compass, 1 small chain, a small knife we buy on site each time and discard before leaving.
Aaaand the results are in!
I have a 24l bag, weighing 8kg most of the time.
Nirvan has a 30l bag weighing 12kg max (he’s carrying both tablets/laptops and his reflex camera)
With that, and only that, we actually manage to live really well.
Even during flights, we have all our bags right next to us, that -is- what I wanted. And well, it’s still a tad heavier than I’d like because of the electronic devices, but we can’t really escape from the realities of having a website to run and illustrations to send.
Yes, there are actually things we do not use that often: the (in)famous 20/80 rule:
We use 20% of the things 80% of the time and 80% of the rest only 20% of the time.
From september to january, we decid to visit our close ones, not yet traveling minimalist, still carrying a suitcase each. We first travel to Mauritius, to check up on Nirvan’s dad, who had become as close as a vegetarian as can be, and whom Nirvan is helping with his compost production.
After that, onwards to Madagascar, where unlike the movie sporting the same name, animals DO end up in a lot of plates, not just fishes. We meet with my family this time, and on to the Ivory Coast, where my brother dwells nowadays.
Finally, on January 28th, we start the real backpacking adventure. We start with India, after a small stop in Rome and 10 day stop in Sri Lanka.
We also got to spend 2 weeks in Nepal a few days before the earthquake.
Then it’s Bangkok for 10 days, where we get our visas for Myanmar for about 20 days. We should return on March 2016 after passing through Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Mexico, Ecuador, USA, Canada, Ireland, the UK...We’ll see on the way for Iceland!
Even if we do fly a lot, we generally use public transportations. And why not, someday, embrace our dream of sailing on a cute sailboat? We passed our sailing license before leaving, just in case!
The couch surfing option proves more complicated than we previously anticipated (some people try to make you pay for your stay).
In countries where the cost of living is low, we enjoy the comfort of guest houses or of some cozy little hotels (between 4 and 8€/night). It’s usually thanks to Nirvan, who happens to be a people’s person, that we meet so many nice locals, ready to open their door to us. The people are all really kind, curious and sometimes go to amazing lengths to help us.
One might think eating vegetarian is no simple task whilst traveling across the globe, moreover in countries where de do not speak the native language, and where the meat eating culture reigns supreme...but after a few countries, we have to admit; each and everyone of them was a treat!
Mauritius is easy: the restaurants all cook veg food by default, a heritage from the still very present hindu culture on the island.
But leaving for Madagascar is a whole different story. People tell us it would be really difficult to eat as vegetarians there. Well as it turns out...Yeah, you guessed. With all the fruits cakes and donuts, we are in heaven! My family even get to discover new flavors in our company, like , for example, the astonishing BBQed fruit and vegetabls skewers.
Even if we eat lots of potatoes, manioc, plantain bananas (alloco) in the Ivory Coast, we also feast ourselves on pineapples, papaya, mangos, avocados, bananas, and, last but not least, hibiscus juice!
In India, of course, everything is delicious...althout a little too spicy, for some reason!
I admit though, we sometimes come across hiccups along the road.
Like this one time in Thailand, where we ask the manageress of the guest house we are staying in, for a few simple words like "noodles" "tofu" "rice" or even "vegetables" in thai.
She pronouces each word when writing them, but stops us immediately when it’s our turn. As it happens, our thai accent is horrible!
Later, Nirvan still goes for it, and starts trying to speak thai to the seller of a small rice noodles soup shop. "Maikingasat ?"...
The seller hears the words, but returns only blank silence...We have to show our small notebook with thai word scribbled on it to see her face illuminate with the blessing of understanding.
Happy with our discovery, we head back to the guest house, loaded with small bags full of rice, vegetables and soup.
Nirvan starts with my bowl. YUM! I’m positively drooling at the sight and smell of the chinese mushroom and coriander soup!
He’s nearly done pouring when, what’s that? Splish, splish, splish, 3 weirdly round shapped things fall into the bowl...aaaand it’s porc.
Well it’s not going to happen again, I can tell you that!
From this moment on, we started showing our "Veg cards" (And yes, thank you, I drew them myself)
Far away from family and friends, we give ourselves completly to the trip, we immerse ourselves into the various cultures and most importantly, into the people’s life.
This adventure is an eye opener allowing us to reflect on ourselves, becoming more tolerant and getting out of our comfort zone more often than not. We test our limits in simplicity, and thrive to live the life we dreamt: Doing what we say, and live each day as if it was our first and our last. We also focus on our spirituality.
Of course, we also think about coming back, next year. After our travels, Nirvan wants to open his very own leaven bread (with also some gluten free breads!) bakery, and why not later become a vegan caterer? We put a lot of thoughts into our house, a crucial part of our life plan. To make things a bit clearer, our goal is to build our own house with natural materials in order to attain near perfect self-sufficiency within the next few years.
While I’m here, I would like to send a call to potential hosters. We would love nothing more than to trade Nirvan’s bread and chapatis for a few nights sleep if you can provide it. Also, if you want to meet with us during this wonderful adventure, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org !