Sabina and Jerome told for Libertatea the incredible experience of crossing the world map on foot, so far in Europe, Asia and Africa, the Romanian from Harghita and her French husband revealing why they carried two small bags of soil with them, while they walked daily, while they took cost the whole adventure.
A Romanian woman, Sabina, 43 years old, and a French man, Jerome, 48 years old, husband and wife, are the authors of an original project entitled “La Terre en Marche”, “Terra en mers”, a long road that, until now , totaled 8,300 kilometers traversed at pace through Europe, Asia and Africa. Yes, the couple kicked the world far and wide!
“We have made life choices with a constant common denominator, the burning call to the human family, the thirst for the big world, with its beauties, with its wounds, an intense search for the meaning of our presence here, of our existence,” the two noted in the elaborate presentation on their travel site laterreenmarche.com.
The story of Sabina and Jerome, who in the last expedition of such proportions, in Africa, were also accompanied by their daughter, Enora Ileana, carried by her parents in a “carrier” for children, has a multitude of extraordinary episodes. The two revealed their beliefs and happenings during a telephone conversation held for Libertatea readers, directly from Avignon, in France, from their own home.
From Toplița, to the world
Sabina is from Toplița, Harghita county, by profession a translator and teacher of French and English. In 2002 he finished college, two years later he met Jerome. The man was in Romania “following Emil Cioran” to write a book. Through a mutual acquaintance they met, fell in love, started a great journey together, close by common passions, and since 2007 they have been married.
They lived in various cities in the Hexagon, Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Brest, now in Avignon. They traveled a lot abroad, long stays, first “classics”, by plane, bus or ship, with the stated goal of writing books about what they saw in the big world. Since 2014, they started the “Terra en mers” project, in which “we cross the world on foot”, as the two pointed out from the start.
Two little bags of soil from the six continents
From the start, the first expedition was more than audacious. To follow in the footsteps of the famous Marco Polo on the “Silk Road”! Approximately 6,000 kilometers, during two years of travel, crossing numerous landforms and climatic zones. A number of 11 countries crossed, starting from Venice, Italy, like the famous Marco Polo in 1271, and up to the border with China. The point of arrival was the city of Kashgar, the gateway to the Taklamakan desert.
“We wanted to bring back to light the human aspect of human relations. I covered the itinerary between 2014 and 2016, with two boats, in which I had two handfuls of land from six continents. We got land either from Canada or Australia, through family or friends, or wherever we’ve been before. The idea was to leave with that hand of dirt and meet children, people, in various schools and exchange soil. We gave them the powder collected in vials or bags, they kept it, symbolically, they offered us land from their country in exchange. We organized meetings in schools, we had discussions about culture, about courage, about adventure, not to be afraid of the unknown, to protect the planet after you know it. I traveled 6,000 kilometers on foot, without any means of transport, between June 20, 2014 and June 3, 2016,” Sabina began her story.
Attacked by dogs
Jerome also intervened in the discussion, especially since he speaks Romanian admirably. “They wanted to help us with cars, but we refused. We collect information about cultures, about people’s lives. It was fine with them, people didn’t steal from us, they didn’t attack us. So there is hope that the world can understand each other. Instead, for example, in Turkey it was difficult with the dogs, some downright wild, they frequently attacked us. Very aggressive, big, shepherd dogs, near the houses”, the man pointed out.
From Italy to Tajikistan, through Albania, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Sabina and Jerome have collected a lifetime of memories. “We have pleasant memories. Jerome held a conference in Tehran, Iran, in the capital’s former prison, now a conference hall. People everywhere tried to help us, with accommodation, with food. The only problems, let’s say, we had in various villages in Turkey, where we went through them with the police, with the military. There were two or three villages, and the mayor didn’t want foreigners there. The biggest problem I had was in Uzbekistan, where I had an emergency operation. My stomach, back, everything hurt,” the woman recalled.
20-25 kilometers per day
The details are minimal, the journey was epic. “I was making food at a mini-restaurant, serving something on the run. But we were received in homes, in villages, in Muslim countries, people who treated us decently. We stayed, we also slept in churches, mosques, in tents, in wild places, but not far from the world. Physically, it was very hard. Every day, I traveled on average between 20 and 25 kilometers, sometimes I went up to 40 kilometers. I went up to 10 days in a row depending on the weather we had. We organize the program per week, with the maps and GPS provided. On the “Silk Road” I used four pairs of hiking shoes. We went for quality, not fashion, we purchased them from France, Turkey, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan”, revealed Sabina.
Jerome presented the financial balance of the expedition: “A very, very, very small budget, 6 euros, per person, per day. I spent about 15,000 euros. I had the money on the card, the largest amount, but I also had some liquidity. I was able to withdraw money to all countries without problems except Iran. There, we ran into an embargo, all foreigners were required to have cash. I also had problems with the visa for Iran, I stayed in Georgia for a month, waiting for it”.
For four months the two were blocked by snow, so they could take it from Kyrgyzstan to China, reaching Kashgar, a few hundred kilometers away from the border with the Great Wall Country. “The border was closed, because of the conflict between the Chinese and the Muslims, we couldn’t enter China,” Jerome said.
Author of books
The man is the author of eight travel books: “I write books about the world. I also have two collections of poems, I also wrote a play. But Sabina is a symbol of courage, determination, for Romania, for the world. He is an ambassador of Romania on the world map”.
It wasn’t just the journey from Asia to France that was strange, after two years of traveling by foot. “Back to what people call the civilized, everyday world, you have to get back into your rhythm. Money is spent, so you have to make a living. I walked half of the world on foot for two years, and on the way back I flew for 8 hours. It seemed strange to me, hard to explain”, admitted Sabina. She and her husband didn’t stay long.
With the couple’s little girl in the “backpack”, to escape the fear of Africa
In 2019, for a year, they took Africa in stride! Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, 2,300 kilometers covered, together with their one and a half year old daughter, Enora Ileana, at the time of departure. Carried either in the stroller or in a “backpack” for children. “It was a crazy expedition to Africa, yes! Why did I choose this? We were afraid of Africa, of diseases, of animals, of inter-ethnic war, of everything. But the idea, o-la-la, the idea of the project was to continue on all continents. Our little girl could still be carried in the “backpack”, Sabina said.
The parents worried more than the little girl. “She was very, very well. We were going about 5 kilometers an hour, then we stopped. He played with other children in the villages. For her it was a holiday, for us it was extremely difficult, physically and psychologically. The little one was surprised by everything, but it was only play. I was sleeping in the tent. Apart from some small skin irritations, the little girl did not suffer anything,” the mother testified.
Depression during the pandemic
After a year crossing the African continent on foot, making other lifelong friendships, Sabina, Jerome and Enora returned to France, to Avignon. The coronavirus pandemic followed. “And depression! We wanted to work, earn money, continue our projects. Let’s get out of the house. For some people who are used to walking so much, to be stopped at home, it’s terrible. We felt imprisoned,” said Sabina.
The two continue to hold conferences in schools, factories or nursing homes. “This is our job. We also have course workshops, in France, especially, but also in Romania, online. We gathered 26 schools on the “Silk Road” and 10 in Africa, where we held courses and interacted with various people. We are independent, we are having discussions with a group of explorers who present themselves in schools, in cinemas, we want to maintain contact with schools and various town halls”, revealed the woman.
Next destination: 5,000 kilometers in the Andes
Jerome has already set the coordinates of the next daring expedition: 5,000 kilometers in the Andes! In 2024, about a year and a half, leaving Quito for Santiago de Chile, through the Andes mountains, the longest mountain range in the world. “We have to find a middle ground, it’s very difficult to organize. In addition, Enora is growing up, and Sabina wants a house and a meal, it’s a challenge for the family. Everything must be established according to the interests of the wife and the child,” the husband pointed out.
“We’ll see what we do. Maybe only Jerome will go, and on smaller portions I will also accompany him. We want to keep this connection. If we’re going to leave together, Enora should be homeschooled,” the wife continued. One thing is certain: Sabina and Jerome want to continue walking hand-in-hand with their now 5-year-old daughter through the wide world.
photo: personal archive
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