During summer 2012, I took a long trip from St Petersburg to Beijing. Taking that journey was on my mind for ten years while I took a one year trip at the end of my university studies. I was thinking at that time to come back from India to France through China, Mongolia and Russia but I never did it.
I realized it is never too late for a new experience and I flew to St Petersburg with my duffle bag and a return ticket from Beijing six weeks later. I spent a couple of days in St Petersburg visiting the Hermitage Museum, taking rest in parks or getting lost in the city. Then, I left for Moscow for 2 days before starting my real trip by taking a long four days ride to Irkutsh in Siberia. It was magic to be in that train for four full days and nights just watching what was going on in the wagon, reading books or staring at endless Russian steps. I was thinking about my life, what I was doing with it and what I will do after this trip. Coming back to France after eight years abroad was difficult and the culture shock was violent even if it was my own country. Indeed, I tried to work as a civil servant for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs then for IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement) in France but I gave up quickly. I was not able to be in a rigid hierarchy as the french system can build and sometime export to others francophone countries. No room for thinking out of the box, for compromise, for innovation, creativity or brainstormings… The French public system is so rigid and administrations want people executing orders. An exception can be done for people coming from elite public universities who have, most of the time, a common formatting mind to manage administrations and have finally, power on the French government.
When I arrived at Irkutsh, I took directly a bus for the lake Baikal. It was a five hours trip, just enough time to meet Olga in the coach and spend a week with her exploring the lake. Lake Baikal is the largest by volume freshwater lake in the world and the landscape is just amazing. We took a boat trip to visit inhabited islands where Buddhists set up a stupa and we took a nice mini-van trip in steps and forests.
After Baikal, I left to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. It was another nice train trip in the middle of green hill valleys and I had enough time to thing about what I wanted to do when I will be back to France. Searching for a nine to five job was not an option while I will not be able to take a boss or to work for someone else. I was trying to do consulting assignments for a couple of years such as an independent consultant, it was not an easy path but I was expecting to keep it going on.
I spent a couple of days in Ulan Bator which remembering me a bit of Kathmandu. This city was quite small, living mainly on tourism and surrounded by amazing mountains. I took a bus to go outside the city and I stopped at the last bus stop in the national park of Gorchi Tereldz. I walked to a family and a young girl who was talking english welcomed me. I asked for a place to stay in the neighborhood and I finally spend three nights with this family, life can be easy sometimes… I meet also with three polish fellows, Dorota, Marta and Adam who where hitchhiking since Poland. They were sleeping under a tent and were moving in the mountains for the night.
I came back to Ulan Bator for a couple of days and I had in mind to go to the Gobi desert. On my way to the bus stand, I meet again my polish fellows who were thinking to go also to the Gobi. We were not able to take the bus together and I left in a packed bus at the end of the afternoon. We reached Dalanzadgad in the morning, I found a place to stay and I found a driver to bring me in the desert. We spent a day exploring ravines and I came back to Dalanzadgad to take a bus for Ulan Bator. I met one more time my polish fellows in the bus and we went together to Ulan Bator. We were all thinking to go to China and we took a train to the border. I kept going alone to Beijing while my sporadic hitchhiker friends decide to wait at the border city to reach Beijing.
I arrived in Beijing a couple of hours after and I took a small room in an hostel with a nice roof top. It was a nice place to watch the city and to wonder about life in general. I was thinking to launch my own company, it was an idea that I had in mind for years and I though it could be the right time. I started looking for a name and I checked my music list in my phone. Soukeina was a song from Alpha Blondy and I liked the name. The soukeina.com, soukeina.net and soukeina.org were free and I decide to buy them. Then, I went visiting the old city of Beijing and I came back by the subway. In a packed wagon, I met again with my polish fellows and I left with them to their place. They were staying in an beautiful old house in the ancient city. We spent a week together in Beijing before I flew back to Paris and, on their side, they hitchhiked back to Poland.