From Headhunter to America’s Next Supermodel : How Modernization Changes Cultures

I really didn’t know what to expect as I made my way into Hongphoi, a small village of notorious headhunters in North-East India. The adrenaline was surging in my blood as I got closer to the bamboo houses. Some villagers greeted me from afar with enthusiasm, raising their straight sickles in the air. In those remote mountains of Nagaland close to the Indian border with Myanmar, I noticed the change in people’s ethnicity and the thinning of people’s eyes.

As I walked into the village, I found the village’s Morung, a large war-ceremony building on top of a hill with a carved monolith. Two young men soon came towards me and offered to show me around. I was relieved to have found a point of entry to that yet unknown and mysterious tribe. They immediately called the village elders to come and greet me. That’s when I saw them: two of the few remaining legendary headhunters. … Read More

Sacrifice is the Shadow in the Calling

The possibility of traveling from France to China wasn’t served to me on a plate. I had to make sacrifices – I had to give up stability, proximity with my friends and family, my job, and the relationship with the woman I loved. None of this was easy and in a way, those sacrifices still affect me today. That’s not to belittle the privileges that have allowed me to even start, such as being born in the western world. My point is that if we want to follow our inner calling, we have to expect resistance. The problem is, like Nietzsche said, “‘we fear our higher self, because when it speaks, it speaks demandingly”.

In this bicycle trip I often feel like an explorer clearing my way with a machete through a thick uncharted jungle. There’s always a snake lurking somewhere – be it a thief, a storm while sleeping outside, or unknown cultural taboos. But the hardest is to be far away from any kind of home base or support network.

Yet despite all this, I am having the best time of my life. I feel that behind the passing clouds, the stars ars aligned. Because I know that … Read More

The Difference Between India and Pakistan

It has been more than two months since I crossed the Wagah border from Pakistan into the Land of spices. The border crossing hosts a dramatic daily flag exchange ceremony, where both countries display their rivalry in a parade. Yet apart from religion, much less differs between these countries than their antagonism seems to suggest. In fact, much of the … Read More

Inside Balochistan, Pakistan (Part 1)

“Stay here”, ordered the border officer, pointing with his machine gun to a chair next to me. The large blue panel above read “Welcome to Pakistan”. I had just entered the country from Iran in the south-western border of Taftan. The military officer made it clear that I wasn’t free to move on my own. From now on, I will … Read More

Giving an Ear to Others

  Nader and his mother Nader, from Iran, studies french litterature and is well versed in the writings of Camus and Sartres. I met him when I was resting in an iranian tea house. He spoke to me in perfect french, although he had never been in France before. “Come to my house”, said Nader in french, “You can sleep … Read More

Why Are Iranians So Kind ?

A morning climb The rising sun was just beginning to heat the air as I biked into the valley of Hanjan, some hundred kilometers south of Kashan. I was determined to climb the mountains and reach the small village of Abyaneh by noon. I drew in heavy breaths to lift my home up the windy slopes of the ochre brown … Read More

The Balkans : hardship is next door

The first real change in my trip happened when I crossed from Croatia to Bosnia. It was the first Muslim country since I left Paris. The minarets and the chanting prayer of the muezzin made me realize that I’ve entered a place whose religion and culture I don’t understand. The next abrupt change came as I passed the border from … Read More