Dimitri, Jinja

Your story in 10 lines

Uh never been really good at describing myself… After graduating from a bachelor in History that I enjoyed but don’t remember much of right now, I’m now at the age of 25 a Masters student in FLE (French as a foreign language, basically to become a French teacher for foreigners), a great way of combining great travelling opportunities and… well, work. But let’s see what the future holds! I’m currently into the very final years of my studies, getting courses and assignments online while teaching French to Ugandan officers in Uganda, East Africa, through the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Otherwise, a movie buff, very much into outdoor activities (diving, climbing, hiking), classic literature from all walks of life, avid for what our beautiful world has to offer, its endless diversity of places, culture and above all, fascinating people.


You as traveller: which ways, which places and which needs?

Any ways, any places and a few physical needs? The city I’m currently living in, Jinja, Uganda, is my 4th “home away from home”, after a year studying in Oslo, Norway, 10 months in Moscow and 6 months in Goa, India, teaching French in both places. Apart from these long stays I took the opportunities that life offered to me (friends living abroad, connections, interesting events) or simply used every moments of freedom I got to explore our beautiful planet. Financing these many trips, which led me to more than 45 countries, was made relatively easy by the “alternative” travelling ways that exist. Hitchhiking from a place to another, from a country to many more, using hospitality networks such as Couchsurfing, BeWelcome or Trustroots, volunteering in local projects in exchange for food and accommodation with WorkAway or HelpX, using the many programs abroad that you are eligible for and you might not know about (Erasmus student exchange, European Voluntary Service, Working holiday Visa and many more depending on your country of origin…). These are not only cheap ways of travelling but to me the very best ones; luxurious hotels? Business class flights? I’d not trade the fabulous hosts I met and the great drivers and random situations I encountered for the world. Some people might argue that we take advantage of our hosts and our drivers, taking their help without giving anything in exchange; there is nothing less true. For whatever reasons these people decided to stop their car, offered you to stay in their house (curiosity, boredom on the road, remembrance of their past adventures) they will always be doing it genuinely, most of the time fascinated by this lifestyle so different from their own.


Together with your friend Loïc Phil, you undertook a travel from Toulouse to Istanbul three years ago, crossing the Balkans only by hitch-hiking.

Today maybe things have changed a lot and the first question is: will you make it again? The second question is: what about your role with the movie?

I did it again, and will soon enough! After my very first hitchhiking trip from my hometown Toulouse (France) to Oslo, Norway in January 2012, I hitched every summer a bit further; the same year this great trip to Istanbul, the summer after to Moscow through Norway’s North Cape, and in 2014 from Toulouse to Tokyo, a beautiful 10 weeks trip across Europe and the whole length of Russia, from the Ukrainian border to the Pacific Ocean. Last year I continued on the same path that Loic and I had already taken, starting off in Istanbul towards the remote mountains of Georgia and the beauty of Armenia. After more than 40.000 kms hitchhiked overall and about 500 drivers, with hundreds of stories to remember and countless memories, I have no reasons to stop, and might even be slightly addicted…
In 2017 I’ll embark into a big trip that has been at the back of my mind for a bit now, starting off in Patagonia and heading north, all the way to Alaska, probably over a year.

My contribution to the movie has been minor to say the least; apart from struggling with acting normal while being filmed and keeping patient when Loïc was shooting, he made the whole thing on his own!

What is about happiness, as for your personal experience?

Without sounding too cheesy I’d say that to me happiness is all about moments; these cherished instants when you’re smiling for no reason, when you feel an overall sense of belonging right where you are at that moment, and that you’d rather not be anywhere else.


Which encounters do you normally have in your daily work routine?

My daily work routine this year is pretty original, as I’m in charge of 15 Ugandan officers in a Ugandan army base, where I am the only white person among hundreds of African soldiers. Apart from all of them saluting me every time they see me, the most valuable discussions I have are obviously with my students, that I see 20 hours a week for a period of 9 months. They’re supposed to learn French with me, but I’m also learning something new every week, regarding their culture, the perception (or the complete ignorance) they have of mine, their language and the way they apprehend and get confused by the French language… This is fascinating.


Which is the most important achievement after so many years, in your work sphere?

Teaching is all about progression… There are few things more rewarding for a teacher than to see a student improving his skills, being able to have a proper conversation in his new language, to feel that this learner is himself content of his improvements; this feeling is even stronger here in Uganda, where I started teaching from scratch these soldiers who never learned French before, and that, after 4 months in the process, I can see getting better and better…

Describe a fantastic happening you, as person, have had in recent time?

This time in Uganda is also my very first time in sub-Saharan Africa; though the excitement of the first weeks has vanished a bit, every day here brings its share of surprising or beautiful moments: a motorbike ride at sunset in the savannah, the smiles of dozens of curious children on the side of the road, the majestic rumblings of the river Nile… The opportunity that I got to live here, in this little-known but beautiful country, is fantastic enough.


What your city is giving to you and vice versa?

I spent the 7 first years of my life in Casablanca, Morocco, but spent most of my life in the beautiful city of Toulouse, in the south-west of France; that’s where my parents, my brother and many friends still live today. This city is giving me a place that I can call home, a familiar town where I’ll always feel welcome and that I’ll always be happy to return to.


Can you share your favourite cooking passion?

I couldn’t pick one favourite meal; living in Goa obviously made me fall in love with mouth-watering Indian food, but I can’t help but always coming back to French cuisine, the land of wine and cheese…


Which is your favourite wine or drink?

Depending on the context, I deeply appreciate a strong Belgian beer (Triple Carmélite, Chimey Bleue, Chouffe) for a drink with friends, or during a good meal a great red wine from Bourgogne combined with delicious red meat is pure heaven.


Which is your music or the book(s) – you are reading – with you now? And where they lay down exactly?

I’m currently reading Nabokov’s “Ada or the Ardor”, a thick novel from the author of the masterpiece Lolita, written in English and translated into French. Made extremely dense by its countless references to multiple art pieces, its puns in the three languages the trilingual author spoke perfectly (French, English and Russian) and the abundance of confusing digressions, its reading happens to be slightly challenging! But one cannot remain insensitive to this marvellous writing, these fabulous metaphors and the translation work (supervised by the author himself), for a book so full of references and a language so playful you can hardly imagine it being the result of a translation…


In which way do you try to live “slowly”, if you like to do so, in a city as yours?

Well, we could say that living abroad in the same place for more than 6 months is one definition of travelling slowly? But let’s face it; the world is big and a lifelong stay in your own country would probably not let you grasp all of its specificities; let alone the 200+ others! I would anyway not define my lifestyle as a “slow” one; while travelling, I live for the moment; when I settle down a bit somewhere, I know it will not last, and I project a lot for the future, planning each year one after the other, constantly organizing my next trips and reflecting upon the decisions I have to make. My future is uncertain; but I’ll end up settling down somewhere someday, and my lifestyle will probably be different. That time has not come yet, wait and see!


Which is a talent you have and the one you miss? 

Travelling-wise, the so-called adventurous mind of my beginnings, which now takes less importance in my decisions: experience showed me many times that (without being completely inconsiderate or crazy) things or places judged sketchy or dangerous by fearmongering medias (hello hitchhiking/central Asia) were way less than people think.

I wish I had more interest/skills in photography or filming, as I feel a bit selfish when friends or family genuinely interested in my travels want to picture my adventures better, and that I have only my words and my memories to present to them. Maybe one day!


What have you learnt from life until now?

It moves fast!


To follow Dimitri: https://web.facebook.com/dimitrive

Leave a Reply