I’m very pleased to be speaking today with my good Twitter friend and travel aficionado Francoise. She’s behind the popular travel website Cult of Travel. You’ll find her (@cultoftravel) and I (@andrewghayes) blethering away on Twitter many days.
So here’s to more good conversation….
Why don’t you introduce yourself?
Hi there, my name is Francoise Methot and I have to admit that I’m a travaholic. I caught the travel bug as a side effect of leaving a job that required extensive travel. It didn’t take me long to realize that my favorite part of the job had been the traveling! After stints consulting, and working as an analyst, I decided to escape the cubicle farm for good and try my luck at writing and web development with a large dose of travel thrown in. Thus Cult of Travel was born.
At the moment, I’m in Athens on the tail end of a 5 month journey that’s taken me through Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Georgia, Egypt and now Greece. I’ll soon be back in Canada for what I hope will only be a short break before my next adventure.
What were the reasons that were behind your leap into the world of (almost) full time travel?
It was during my late 30’s when I had a classic “now or never” moment. I had had a very successful career in my 20’s and early 30’s, though I came out of that world feeling like I had been running around chasing someone else’s dream. It took a few more years dabbling in nine-to-five jobs before I had the courage to cut the corporate umbilical cord and jump into the world of long-term travel.
Ishak Pasa Palace, Eatern Turkey
How long have you been on the road? If you could go back in time and tell yourself a few lessons learned before you left, what would they be?
I’ve been on the road for 5 absolutely amazing months at this point. I rarely have regrets, and, no matter how much or how long one travels, there’s always something new to learn and new challenges to overcome.
Though, given the opportunity, there are two things I would do differently on this trip. First, I would not count on easily finding reliable, stable internet access, even in big, modern cities. The second, would be to be more diligent in keeping a journal to compensate for the above.
For the first time, I decided to become a digital nomad and bring my laptop computer and had all the best intentions to work on my web site. Internet access, though never difficult to find, was extremely slow or unreliable in many places. Many evenings I was limited to just checking email and updating my Twitter account. Looking back, using Twitter to record my thoughts and impressions as I wandered was an interesting experiment. There’s now a live record of my adventures, all in short, 140 character, installments!
Tell us more about the Cult of Travel. Is cult your version of a Seth Godin ‘tribe’?
I never thought of that; however, Cult of Travel’s vision has much in common with Seth Godin’s definition of a tribe. Especially if we take his view that a tribe offers something others want. Who doesn’t want to travel? The idea for Cult of Travel came to me when I was feeling a bit alone in my travel obsession. After spending many hours-days-years feeding my wanderlust surfing travel web sites, I figured why not start one of my own?
The “cult” in Cult of Travel reflects the obsession and enthusiasm that travelers share. Travelers, especially independent and long-term travelers are an incredibly passionate group who have a strong belief that the world is an amazing place worth exploring and sharing with other.
Cult of Travel is still in it’s infancy, but there are plans to start including new features and guest posts from fellow Cult of Travelers.
Dura Europos, Syria…
Given your hardcore road warrior status, what’s been your most inspirational travel experience?
I tend to remember the little things while traveling. The spontaneous, kind gesture from a total stranger and those travel days when serendipity is by your side and everything just flows. Also, the journey is 99% of the experience for me. I love to move and find that nothing is more exhilarating than packing up and moving to a new place, new people and new experiences.
On this last trip, my time in Eastern Syria, visiting Dura Europos, Mari and the frontier town of Abu Kamal left a profound impression on me. Exploring the remains of long dead, and rarely visited Roman & Sumerian cities in the middle of the desert, a blinding sandstorm, the intense June heat, and the dramatic cliffside views along the Euphrates river, all created an magical atmosphere that left me at loss for words. Abu Kamal had an amazing Wild West feel to it, but with a Middle Eastern twist. Travel is heavily restricted and monitored that close to the Iraqi border but it’s completely safe and well worth the extra effort it takes to get there.
Spending over a month in Cairo during Ramadan was another amazing experience as it was the first time in my travels that I actually settled into a place for more than a week. Daily, and especially nightly life, is dramatically changed and all things revolve around the sunrise to sunset fast. Daytime activities slow down and the evenings come to life and the entire city seems to spill onto the streets in what I can only describe as a party atmosphere. It’s almost like life is lived in reverse for a month, day becomes night and night becomes day. Living in a city such as Cairo during this special time forced me to slow down, and re-examine my own habits and routine in a very different way.
Ramadan in Cairo
What are you looking forward to the most on your upcoming travel schedule?
My current plan is to return to Canada for a bit, visit with family, and find contract work to replenish my travel fund. India is high on my list of next destinations, though traveling overland through Central Asia (the ’stans) to China has been a life long dream of mine. In the meantime, I have some new guidebooks and a pile of travel literature waiting for me back home which should keep my wanderlust stoked until I hit the road again.
Thanks Francoise! So good to hear from you again and thanks for sharing a little info behind what’s going on at the Cult of Travel.