Stories of Significance

Solenne H: Be curious

I first met Solenne when she visited my French class in college. I was immediately drawn to her zest for life. She pursues new perspectives, experiences, and opportunities in a way that few people do. In this Story of Significance, she tells us about her experiences hitchhiking, meeting Kurdish guerrilla fighters, and more. Read on for her full story.

Hello! My name is Solenne, I am French and 35. I am officially a teacher of French as a second language, but apart from that I spend about 90% of my free time traveling, hitchhiking, taking pictures and meeting new people and cultures.

I finished university about 12 years ago and since then I have not stopped traveling and living and working abroad. And when I move to teach in a new place and country, I never stay more than one year because there are so many places to explore in the world 🙂

I am a very active and energetic person. I don’t like sitting for long and doing nothing during my free time. I love to live life fully! When I am teaching, I used to tell my pupils: “Action Reaction”. That’s how I live my life daily 😉

Traveling a lot, to different places and meeting different people has taught me to be open-minded and tolerant towards everybody and everything. I have discovered places which are so different from the one I come from. I would never have expected to love them so much, and yet I do!

For example, two years ago I taught for one year in Kurdistan, Iraq. When I got the job offer, there was no war in Iraq, although it started two months later. Many of my acquaintances warned me to stay away, saying things like “Don’t go there, it’s dangerous,” “What are you gonna do in the Middle-East?” and “but they’re Muslim countries!” But I went anyway, and saw it through my own eyes rather than someone else’s. I made amazing friends and saw the most gorgeous places – both natural and manmade – ever. Ever since then, my interest in the Middle-East has increased a lot. I love this region and these people so much! They gave me so much!

While I was teaching there, I also went to Kurdistan on the Syrian side. Many people told me I was crazy to go there, because of the war. For me, it was like a mission: if I can go, I will do my best to go. I also wanted to go because I was living in Kurdistan and so I wanted to visit every part of Kurdistan, to understand Kurdistan as a whole. I managed to go because I insisted a lot. I am very stubborn and it helps me a lot when I am traveling 🙂

When I was living in Kurdistan, I even got to meet the Kurdish guerrilla fighters, especially female guerrilla fighters. These encounters were amazing for me. I met them in both Syria and Iraq. They are fascinating people who are fighting against oppression, for the future of their people, for their mountains and for freedom. The way in which they welcomed me was so simple and so nice. I will never forget it. And to think, I never would have met them if I had listened to the people who told me not to go!

When I travel, I always hitchhike. I am passionate about hitchhiking. I can’t imagine traveling any other way. When you hitchhike, you meet so many amazing people, experience such amazing situations. For example, right now I am living in Namibia. Yesterday I hitchhiked back from the coast. The last car that picked me up was driven by a fifty year-old Namibian woman. We started talking. I discovered that she can speak Spanish, because her husband is Cuban. He is a doctor and lives in Namibia. We talked so much… As a result, I made a new friend, got a good doctor in case I ever need one and will soon be invited for a “Cuban fiesta” in Namibia. These are the types of experiences you can only get from hitchhiking!

Traveling the world and meeting new people are so important. I’m passionate about them, and love the impact they’ve had on my life.

If you’d like to start traveling more, but are scared to do it, here are a few tips from my own experience:

  • Don’t think too much.
  • Don’t listen to people when they tell you “Don’t go here, don’t go there”. Follow your heart.
  • Be nice and respectful with EVERYBODY.
  • Be curious.
  • Enjoy life and put aside the stupid daily problems. Stop complaining about nothing.

It’s wonderful to see people who go above their limits to explore and understand this beautiful world!

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