The Riviere-Guiho Journey

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Sea, sun and sand:  Stephanie and Mael push their bikes along the soft sandy Gili Trawangan beach in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

Wow!  Another family on the move around the world on their bicycles since last December!  Read their exciting journey below!  Go Riviere-Guiho family!

Article by Vyara Wurjanta, Contributor, Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Jakarta Post

Voyager, c’est donner du sens à sa vie. Voyager, c’est donner de la vie à ses sens (To travel is to give meaning to one’s life. To travel is to give life to one’s senses) – Alexandre Poussin.

It may have been this quote from French writer-traveler Alexandre Poussin in Africa Trek that inspired the Riviere-Guiho family to travel the world.

But they have certainly chosen a challenging way to do it. They travel the world by bikes. Yes, bicycles: not an easy form of transportation to choose. It requires a lot of discipline, without neglecting the joy of traveling itself.

The Riviere-Guiho family comprises Benoit, 40, Stephanie, 37, Maël, 7, and a super-cute baby, Camille, 11 months.

With three bicycles and a baby stroller tied to Benoit’s bike, they arrived on Gili Trawangan — a paradisal island off the northwest coast of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) — after spending a week or so in Bali.

Before arriving in Indonesia, they rode through several Southeast Asian countries: Thailand and Malaysia (four months), Laos (one month), Cambodia (two months), Vietnam (one month) and the Philippines (one month), after starting their trekking adventure in December last year.

Flags of the countries they have visited adorn two poles on the back of Stephanie’s bike.

“With bicycles, we can see things that people don’t see when they travel by car, plus we can stop whenever we want to and look at everything,” Benoit explained when I asked about the bicycles that they had transported all the way from France.

Slow down:: Maël and Benoit take a break on Gili Trawangan.

Slow down:  Maël and Benoit take a break on Gili Trawangan.

Their bicycles are just the same as any other — with just the slightest modifications here and there. Every 20 kilometers or so, or whenever Maël feels tired, they attach his bike to the back of Stephanie’s bike, and Maël joins his baby brother, Camille, in the stroller that is tied to Benoit’s bike.

The baby stroller is a twin-size one, which has tires on both sides the size of bicycle tires.

“Camille wasn’t even a month old when we brought him on this journey. He stays most of the time in the stroller, so it’s become a sort of home to him,” Benoit said smiling, as he placed Camille in the stroller.

Bike repair tools and equipment are a must. Flat tires or loose bolts are things that Benoit deals with almost every day. On the second day of their stay on Gili Trawangan, he changed a leaking tire with a new one.

The family’s pedal-power statistics are exceptional. So far, Stephanie has traveled the farthest distance with 14,000 km, while Benoit has clocked up 11,000 km and Maël, 5,000 km.

Of course, when you travel — especially the world — by push bike, you need to take a lot of gear. But instead of big fancy suitcases, the Riviere-Guiho family has just seven small waterproof cases on Benoit’s and Stephanie’s bikes.

Traveling with children is also an issue. Some might think that it is tricky but Stephanie and Benoit disagree.

“It’s not difficult at all. It is actually easier. I don’t need to buy baby clothes or shoes. It is simpler and more economical,” Stephanie said.

One afternoon, Stephanie was teaching Maël French grammar and math on the lodge’s front-office desk. Instead of home-schooling, she and Benoit have opted for travel-schooling for their first son.

“Maël only attended a year of school in France. Because we travel a lot and over a very long time, he could’t attend school. So, we need to provide him with an education,” she explained.

Maël obediently focuses on his lessons, though sometimes it was hard to get him out of the pool.

“These three days on Gili Trawangan is like a real holiday for Maël because here, he can enjoy the beach, swimming in the sea with the turtles and playing in the pool, instead of pedaling his bike all day,” Benoit said.

Stephanie, a French high-school sports teacher, said that during their trips, they discovered other countries’ cultures, religions and more.

“This journey offers benefits to our family. You see, our cheeks are flushed, our skin is tanned; we are alive and healthy,” she said.

“And traveling is good for the children,” chimed in Benoit, while making fruit soup for Camille in the lodge’s kitchen.

“They get to know the world; that there are many cultures, religions. Maël already knows the difference between Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists,” Stephanie explained.

The ability to adapt is an inevitable process that the family must cope with. Fortunately, they get along without any problem.

“We have never had stomach problems from unfamiliar exotic food. Look at Maël. He can eat Asian food without trouble. At other times though, he will search for sweet French cuisine, such as fritters or pancakes,” said Stephanie. “As for Camille, I didn’t even prepare him with preventive inoculations that most foreign babies need in an unfamiliar country.”

When traveling, feeling homesick is natural. “Oui, we sometimes miss our friends and family back home. And Maël misses his Mami a lot,” Stephanie said, referring to Maël’s grandmother. “He misses his Mami’s French cooking.”

To stay connected with friends and family, Stephanie writes about her family’s adventurous journey in a blog. Whenever she gets the chance and an Internet connection, she posts updates on her family’s travels on stephbenmaelbebe.uniterre.com.

When traveling overseas, let alone around the world, paying attention to the budget is vital.

“We have to be very careful with our budget, because we are not on a luxury vacation where we can spend money on anything we want to buy,” Stephanie said.

Tightening their belts regarding accommodation and food is the choice they have made. They avoid staying in luxury resorts and big expensive hotels or eating at fancy restaurants.

“We’re glad that in Indonesia, breakfast is usually included in the room price, not like in the previous countries we visited. The complimentary breakfasts help us save our food money,” Benoit explained.

They still have a very long way to go. After spending two months in Indonesia, during which they aim to explore Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores, the family plans to visit Australia for a month before flying to New Caledonia. Brazil or Argentina in South America is the final destination that the family will visit before heading back to France.

“Going back home to France will be difficult,” Stephanie admitted. “Obviously, this journey has brought the four of us together. But back in France, we don’t see each other that much because we’re busy working. Benoit — he works as a nurse — and myself, we go to work at 7 a.m. and return home at 7 p.m. almost every day. So, we hardly get to see each other.”

— Photos by Vyara Wurjanta

For more info, visit http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/10/30/the-riviere-guiho-journey.html