A Girl, a Scooter & the World. Finding a Better Way of Life| Vendula Kosíková
Scooters seem to attract rebels - people who think out of the box, who scorn convention. Following on from the Kick Italy team, the nomadic Blandine, a slender French girl, has come to question our tired old ideas about the Good Life.
A path towards personal happiness and the common good
What you can find at La Trottineuse besides beautiful photos
“Ethics isn´t an exact science, it doesn´t deal with abstract constructions - it is concerned with real life, our relationships with other people, animals, objects and the environment. On these pages I share the conclusions I have drawn from my own observations and experience of the real world. They relate to how we earn our livings and the other great problems of our time, such as growth and consumption, our relationships with technology and work, the need to respect and preserve the diversity of life and the environment, alternative socio-economic models and the discovery of other ways of life.”
Blandine has become an ambassador for slow, responsible travel on her own journey to personal happiness. She moves under her own power, with all her belongings fitting on a scooter carrier. She strives to ascertain first-hand if the world is what the media says it is, to find out what we really need to be content and what does no more than just prop up our consumer society.
Blandine´s nomadic life is a form of activism that seeks modes of existence other than ever-accelerating consumption, or the nihilism that comes of exposure to fake social values.
Her days on the road unfold in a natural rhythm of simplicity: two wheels, a frame, a body, movement, meeting, surprise, shelter, fire, sky, sunset and sunrise. "One doesn´t need much to see a lot. Lose grams to add miles," says Blandine on her blog.
A brave step - or how it all started
Astronomy, philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics ...
“As a young girl I had had a lot of books on stars, galaxies and the universe. Then I plunged into philosophy and dealt with big questions, concepts, and the development of human thought. I also became fascinated by psychoanalysis, the story of the human psyche, and why people behaved the way they did. Linguistics revealed to me the tales and means of human communication and the symbolic understanding of the world. At some point, I thought I was going to be a writer who´d blend it all in a creative process." In fact, that's what Blandine did in the end, and on her site you can find thoughts on ethics and the other big questions from her modern nomad’s point of view.
When Blandine was young, she dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Later she acquired an interest in philosophy and science, trying to understand the world around her. Never having been indifferent to the consequences of human behavior, she soon gave up meat and her car, and then, one by one, other trinkets of the modern world.
With a glimpse of somewhere, in November 2015 at the age of 32 she quit working as a freelance graphic designer, left her rented apartment, bought a scooter and with a tent, a sleeping bag, a stove and € 2,000 in her pocket she hit the road solo to seek a happier way of life.
With a minimum budget and with no other income she has traveled through 27 European countries. While she was sleeping in a tent, her travel was raking in money for the needy.
In a year of travel she put 22,000 kilometers on the tachometer. Before reaching the northernmost point of the European mainland, Nordkapp, about three quarters into her European trek, she decided Europe would be only the first chapter in a journey around the world - a journey towards a better life and possibly a better world.
Greetings from Kyrgyzstan
After a year of world wandering - she left Normandy for a second time on February 6, 2017 - we caught up with Blandine in Kyrgyzstan, in the town of Osh, where she was awaiting her Chinese visa. She had already ridden 34,872 km, having traversed the Turkish steppes, the hot Iranian deserts, the M41 – the snowy Pamir Highway, which is the second-highest international highway in the world - and she is yet to travel the feared Taklamakan desert, called the "Place of No Return" in recognition of the countless animals and pilgrims lost forever in its shifting dunes.
“Although it is customary to travel through the desert along the northern or southern boundary, I intend to cross the middle and in the depths of winter," said Blandine, frightening her Facebook fans.
Going to meet the desert on a Yedoo Dragstr scooter
Why a Czech Yedoo scooter?
Several months ago, when crossing the Czech Republic, Blandine was accompanied by some twenty-five enthusiastic scooter-riders. That experience taught her that Bohemia was a country with a great scooter tradition.
Blandine has clear head when it comes to scooters: to be able to move on the old-fashioned trails of the Orient more swiftly, she decided to change the original 26 "/ 20" Kickbike Cruise Max for a lighter Yedoo Dragstr scooter with 20 "/ 20" wheels.
With a smaller scooter, Blandine hopes to get more adroit during her travel, carry a lower load and achieve even greater minimalism. "The Dragstr has pleasantly surprised me. I wasn´t used to such a long and narrow footstep and I like the range of postures it offers.
Tuning up for Blandine
Before we sent Yedoo Dragstr scooter to Kyrgyzstan via Express Post, we adapted it for extreme conditions. We strengthened the chassis so that it is able to carry high baggage load on the carrier that we put over the rear wheel. We added another bottle holder, a kickstand and mudguards. We equipped it with better quality brake pads that are more suited for riding in dust, sand, water and other challenging conditions. We replaced the standard brake cable with one made of Teflon-coated stainless steel and also replaced all the connections with stainless steel. The wheels got Schwalbe Crazy BOB tires, which have high inflation range of 4-7 bars, and therefore can be adapted to all types of surfaces. And just to be sure, we filled the tires with anti-puncture liquid.
Even though I know that the Dragstr weighs just two kilos less, I was surprised and impressed by how light it felt. It’s dextrous - I was riding through the crowded local bazaar so easily that I completely forgot I was standing on a scooter. The Dragstr is perfectly suited to the narrow local alleys and sharp turns."
And it’s going to blend in even better - Blandine is “sewing” a new coat for the Dragstr – in leather, sand and camel hair tones. She has captured the scenes from her travels in drawings on the frame and fender.
The hardest test - the snowy Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway:
The M41, better known as the Pamir Highway, runs through the Pamir Mountains, with its high-point at the Ak-Bajtal pass, 4,655 m above sea level. The road is mostly unpaved and severely damaged by earthquakes, erosion and landslides.
Blandine had a good opportunity to test her limits when traveling through Pamir. She had to hurry as the season when the Pamir Highway should still be passable on a scooter was quickly coming to an end. The road was already blanketed in snow, in places covered with ice with the temperature dropping to -30 ° C at night - and Blandine lacked suitable kit. "What I mostly missed was an extreme 4-season sleeping bag and good thermal bottles to keep the fluids from freezing - but I wanted to try it anyway and these challenges would show me more of what I was going to endure and how much I could adapt.
The closer I got to the Tajik plate, the colder I was. At nights I couldn´t sleep for the cold. I had to wait for the nights to pass, but I did what I could, shaking my legs regularly to generate some heat, waiting for the sun to show its face. I ate frozen bread, cheese and dates. I didn´t drink much, because heating water was burning through my fuel. Anyway, I was struggled to breathe at such altitude: even the slightest movement was hard ...
But I found myself in utterly surreal places – it was like landing on another planet. The landscape and the atmosphere were so unique that I'd do it all again, despite the extreme conditions.
I think I didn´t give up - although I kept thinking of it, over and over again! - just because when I was at the end of my physical or psychological strength, I always met someone, some human or animal, and I could get some rest at someone´s place, or someone offered me tea. It helped me to jump onto the footstep again. I'm just sorry that I accepted a ride on a truck at a moment when there was a 3-5-day wasteland in front of me. I was dehydrated and weary from fatigue. It's a shame I didn´t do it all on my own," writes Blandine.
Besides extreme conditions, Blandine has also had to cope with repeated sexual harassment. "A woman has to armor herself and adapt to deal with predatory male behaviour, which, as I have found, is universal," Blandine warned.
I enjoy my solitude
Still, Blandine likes to travel alone. "It's the most natural thing for me - I love it. I have always been solitary and enjoyed solitude. In the company of other people, I am more an observer.
Traveling alone is completely different from traveling in a group, especially in strange and unknown parts of the world, where one has to make some effort to make arrangements with the locals. I think a person who travels alone is more open to those encounters and experiences presented by the unknown.
And I don´t agree with other travelers on this issue, especially compatriots who, when I meet them, naturally assume that we will continue together and are very surprised to discover that I don´t share that intention.
I am not a fan of the mass tourism associated with global consumerism – just jumping on a plane, flying to a distant country, getting a dose of the exotic, then hurrying back to return to work that is probably based on the abuse of the people and resources of the land you have just visited.”
Why slow travel is worth it:
Financing the tour:
Blandine started her journey with € 2000 she had saved, enough to get her to Norway. Her journey from then on has continued only thanks to the contributions of people from around the world. "I live on little and in exchange for support I share my experiences and the lessons the path keeps giving me. I hope to contribute to a general awareness of how we live on this planet and where our civilization and mass production are leading. I think it is essential to know how money and goods circulate on a global scale. Donation funding is also an attempt to create new circuits which may help to break up entrenched capital flows. "
"The changes in the environment and the cultures I go through - I like to watch them at a natural pace. I take pleasure in the moments when I don´t have to worry about time, deal with visas or with potentially dangerous people.
Moments when I can live a simple life at one with nature - whether in a desert, deep in the forest, on deserted steppes, in arctic tundra or high mountains – these moments justify it all, these moments I love. These are moments of profound, tangible contentment. Some of these experiences sparkle in my soul as bright as small diamonds. "