Defining what it means to be a great modern traveler
It’s quite hard to define a great traveler in today’s world. What makes them so special compared to others? Duration, a cause, the route, perhaps even the marketing behind the person?
I certainly have my criteria surrounding The Great Modern Travelers Award. However once in while you come across a person that defies the odds. Someone no one could ever doubt as being anything but a great traveler.
Today I have the honor and privilege of presenting to you André Brugiroux, the latest person to be given the Great Modern Travelers Award.
I strongly encourage you to read my interview with André below, his words alone will tell you he has a great travelers sense of the world!
Who is André Brugiroux?
André Brugiroux was born in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, France in 1937. At the tender age of 17 he left home to spend the next 18 years (1955 to 1973) traveling to over 135 countries spanning every continent; by way of hitchhiking alone!
André has hitchhiked on cars, trains, boats and even on planes. Such years of adventure brought him close encounters with headhunters in Borneo to machine gun pointing Venezuelans. He survived illnesses that would rock many a man to his knees and he captured his own essence of the world.
Along his journey André found the Bahá’í way of life that taught him “The Earth is but one country.”
Based once again in France, André spent the next 30+ years traveling to every country in the world with these principles in hand.
I can do no more justice to André Brugiroux’ remarkable story, only to hand it over to the man himself for this revealing and fascinating interview I had with him.
Interview with André Brugiroux
Your first journey took over 18 years (1955 to 1973) to complete. Did you set out to travel this long, or did you set out to find something with the intent in never coming back until you found it?
In 1955 nobody was travelling like to-day. In France we were still rebuilding the country from the war. No phone and no television in the houses. No Lonely Planet guides, no Internet, no couchsurfing business! Only rich people would fly. It is hard to imagine all this to-day.
I had the dream to see the world but I never thought I could do it: I had no money and no information!
Nobody in my family was travelling. And nobody can see 18 years ahead of time. I had spent 3 years in a hotel school. I just told my father I wanted to learn English properly. European Union did not exist either. It was complicated to work abroad in Europe. Fortunately enough the Paris Hotel school inaugurated that year an exchange with Scotland for the first time. That is how I started.
I worked as a waiter in Turnberry Hotel (near Girvan). Then I decided to learn Spanish, German and Italian. I dropped myself in those countries like a paratrooper without knowing the language and without a job, friends and papers… Then things developed until I could save money in Canada and use it to hitch-hike round the world. To tell the truth when I left Canada I had not planned all this hitch-hiking. I was too scared but destiny took me along! Everything came along in spite of me!
In a word, nothing was planned.
At the age of 17, you don’t think, you just go. Of course, you then have to be motivated to keep on going.
Curiosity was my motor and pleasure of discovering and meeting people. I wanted to see and understand the world for myself. In the long run I realized I was on a spiritual quest. I was born before the war in France and unconsciously I wanted to find out if peace is possible by meeting people from all countries. But at the start I had no clue of all this.
You must have met a lot of people on your travels. Is there one unsung hero that helped you on your way that you still remember today, and how did they help you?
There are beautiful people all over and some unforgettable souls gave me a hand regularly at the right time. There are too many of them to recall here. See my book in English: One People, One Planet or my DVD-film over my 400.000 km hitch-hike.
The thing that helped me most to travel properly was the discovery of the baha’i writings which gave me a more brotherly vision of mankind and a clear vision of world history. As you know, travelling is pending on the attitude of the traveller.
What was the darkest / worst time in your travels?
56 years on the go! How can I find the worst time? I have written altogether 7 books in French to tell about the story. See André’s website for more details.
My style of travelling is rather tough for most people. Three things are forbidden to me on the road: hotels, restaurants and taxis.
Among others, the dysentery I caught in Pakistan was terrible. I became so thin that I could circle my hips with my fingers and I was squatting every hour. When I had six machine guns in my ribs in Venezuela I thought it was the end of me.
I read books of travellers but I have never seen anybody else who has gathered so many problems, risks and narrow calls. It is a miracle if I am still alive to-day!
What was the brightest / best time in your travels?
Like the precedent question, this is a newspaper man question.
How can I find my best time in 56 years? I have had plenty of beautiful times. Beautiful people and wonderful sceneries were so numerous. There are too many of them to pick one outstanding here.
Lady Luck has been my best companion, that is for sure.
You’re famously quoted from your book as believing “The Earth is but one country” Can you enlighten us a little with what you discovered, and what you mean?
This idea is the conclusion of my travelling but it is not from me. I found it out in the baha’i writings. It means mainly two things. To-day there are no more distances and for the first time mankind has come together and is living in the same village or travelling on the same boat. This is done technically but not in the heads. We have no choice but to adapt to this new situation, that we are all interdependent.
The challenge for mankind to-day is to unite, if we want to find a solution to our problems.
The other meaning is that we are all brothers. We know it intellectually. My world tour has shown me this is the truth. There is only one human species. Maybe deeply down I wanted to check that. The problem now is to act accordingly and stop our “cow-boy” competition Yankee style of to-day!
Is there any great travel tip you would like to share with the readers here that’s helped you on your own travels?
Be happy and love people is the best tip for having a wonderful experience in travelling. Show a pleasant face to your neighbour. Voilà.
And when you are ready to go, empty half of what you have in your packsack: It is of no use. And double the money you are taking along if you can to be sure to make it!
Thank you André
Personal thanks to André for taking time from his current busy schedule to join us for this interview. And, for dealing with my attempts at French which resulted in his far better English answers!
Breaking News: This week André arrives in South Sudan!
Yes, you read that correctly. This week the world’s newest country of South Sudan will have André Brugiroux traveling to it. And, it will mean that once again, Andre will have visited every country in the world!
Congratulations! / Félicitations! André on your great achievements in travel, life and as one of the world’s Great Modern Travelers!