Text: Céline Pasche
50’000km by bike including 15’000km with a baby. Step by step, we took our daughter in this nomadic life. Diving in the unknown when she was 5 months old, we finally crossed altitude passes in China and the Nullabor desert in Australia. From the Swiss Alps to the Southern Alps, we reached our destination 5 years later with our daughter Nayla.
For 3 years, we have been living a very simple life, a nomadic life by bike. This long journey took us in some of the most remote areas in Mongolia, Tajikistan and China and in the human movement of countries like Bangladesh and Syria. From an adventure to discover diverse cultures, it became a way of living, being nomads on bikes. We breathed at the pace of life, having a powerful feeling of freedom. This is when we decided, we could start a family. But already a month later, our daughter whispered her presence. Celine was pregnant. At that time we were facing Mount Everest at more than 5’000 m elevation. Even if it was a conscious choice, we didn’t expect it to be a reality so soon.
Despite all the doubts, we knew we wanted to live this nomadic lifestyle as a family, at least try. But we had no idea how.
2,6 kg of Love
As Celine arrived in Malaysia. She was 7 months pregnant and still cycle touring. We had no fear about the pregnancy. We fully trusted the ability of Celine’s body to nurture our baby. Every time Celine cycled, the baby would be in a position were she looked hardly pregnant. But on our resiting days, her belly doubled. The more difficult wasn’t cycling, it was the intensity of the country we crossed. The population in Bangladesh illustrates an unmatched human density, alike an anthill. All day long, we were escorted, accosted, surrounded, stared. Our living space was fully dismissed. Moreover, being pregnant, there, is a taboo. Cycling in India was also a challenge for us. The contrast between the love and tenderness we wanted to offer to our child and the outside world was tremendous.
Looking for a place where we could have a natural and water birth, everything converged towards Penang in Malaysia. And this is were our daughter Nayla was born.
On the road again
Once again we entered a nomadic life. Nayla is 5 months. We were diving in the unknown. We needed more than courage, first we had to untie the link to our little nest. Then we had to trust life, to surrender to the path and to let go on the “how?” We had no idea how we would manage to live this nomadic life by bike, pulling our baby in a trailer.
• What have we done! Nayla has a 40°C fever. It is 2 am in the morning, we are sleeping in a tent in the middle of Eastern Thailand. Is it Dengue? Malaria?
That night, we didn’t sleep. In the morning, the fever went down to 38°C. Released, we cycled to a Buddhist temple, and discovered her first teeth.
Giving birth and becoming parents is a path in itself. We had to learn to dance with our strengths and fears. The fears that emerged with a child, the ones we carried with us and sometimes the ones that were assigned on us, like fear of dogs or strangers.
So we had to learn to travel at a different pace with a 5 months old baby, to find a balance between her naps, breastfeeding, her need to move, her desire to learn, and the necessity that the road imposes, the meteorologic changes and the need to find a place for the night.
But we learnt one thing throughout this journey and it is to trust life. So we just tried, and we did it. Step by step, we found a balance, step by step life pushed us to camp on the side of the road, in full autonomy. Slowly we learned to be in harmony. 15’000 kilometres and two years later, we finally reached New Zealand, the ultimate destination of our journey.
• How will you keep her safe? Keep her safe from exotic diseases? Keep her safe from food or water poisoning? Inquired a family.
The reality is that the only time we had to see a doctor was when she was 2 months old for a check-up. Measuring and weighting her, telling us she was in perfect health. Breastfed until now, it ensured her a strong immune system. Celine would breastfeed her on the side of the road, sitting at a foot of a giant cypress tree or watching the powerful night sky.
We went swimming in tropical waters in Thailand, admired the Angkor Temples in Cambodia, met the hill tribes in Lao, followed the Ancient Tea horse Road in China, cycled to the sacred Yushan mountains in Taiwan, crossed the Nullarbor Desert in Australia and finally reached the Southern Alps.
Riding one day after the other, we would cycle around 60 km a day. We usually rode for 1 to 2 hours. Most of the time, Nayla would be sleeping in her hammock or reading a book. And than we would stop for at least 2 hours in order for her to play. But it was a moving balance that changed along the way. The most important thing for us, was to follow Nayla’s rhythm and needs.
A typhoon will hit Taiwan tonight.
• You have to find a shelter! shouted a local.
We were just reaching the top of a pass, tired and full of sweat. We had to hurry. Arriving in the first village, we were welcomed by the population who offered us to stay in the school. The hospitality of the people was always fantastic. We slept in Buddhist temples, in schools, in police stations. If we needed help, we always found someone. We have been impressed by the generosity of the population in every country we have been.
Cycling in these countries was the opportunity to meet people and their culture, and exchange ways of raising a child. In Thailand, children take bath at the hottest time of the day. So we were invited to bath Nayla in a bucket in the middle of the market. In Lao, children always walk with a hand full of sticky rice. And our daughter also walked in the middle of rice fields with sticky rice in her hand. In China, children are diapers free and wear pants with a hole.
− How do you deal with hygiene and diapers? wondered our friends back home.
We wash with a home made showers. We use organic coconut oil for our skin and choose washable diapers that dry on the back of the trailer as we rode. We also focus on the elimination communication, when she is playing outside.
Spending our time in amazing landscapes, we mostly sleep in a tent, listening to the sound of nature. Nayla loved to go swimming in crystal clear lake or emerald rivers in New Zealand, or watching kangaroos jumping in front of our camp in Australia. She lived intensely all the changes of our nomadic life. Everyday, she opened her eyes in front of contrasting landscapes, at time in scents of exotic forests, at time in the middle of a city of more than 4 millions inhabitants. She heard so many languages. She watched carefully the insects and after was surrounded by a crowed staring at her. She played with children of all social environment. She tasted all the different savours of traditional food. She danced on the world music.
− Wait until she is walking!
− Wait until she is 2 years old! Said people along the way
But, it only got better as we move through life as a nomadic family. Nayla simply taught us to live here and now and reminded us of the power of mindfulness.
Homeschooling on the road
Now we are back in Penang, in Malaysia, for a few months. Settled, we realised we were sometimes better at following Nayla’s rhythm when we were nomads, because we had to focus all our attention on her needs. Nayla is sparking of life and joy. She is waving to all the people on the street, a big smile on her face. At 10 months, she was walking. At 2 years, she is out of diapers, can already swim and speak french and english, as well as a few word of Chinese.
Nayla dived cheerfully in a world that was always changing, while one by one she went through her rite of passage with a powerful life force. As a small cocoon, our family bubble moved through the world, following our inspirations, in the wonder of discoveries and sharing. Trusting the magic of life.
• Where will you settle down for the school years? Asked our friends
Now we are planning a new route. We want to continue to live this nomadic life, at least as long as we feel in balance, as long as it nurtures our soul. At the moment, we are thinking about homeschooling on the road, but we still have time and a lot of things can change.
Now, we are happy in this life choice, as we can be together all the time and this is a precious gift for us.
Céline, Xavier and Nayla Pasche
Text: Céline Pasche
Photographs: Xavier Pasche
Celine (1982) is anthropologist, mountain leader and writer. Xavier (1980) is photographer and architect. Since 2015, they are cycling the world. In 2013, Nayla, their daughter, was born in Malaysia. Now they are living a nomadic life as a family.
In 2016, we will cycle in the “Great Northern Horizons”, this is the link to this project:http://ylia.ch/Ylia_3/north.html
We create some brochures about the children of the world, a way to tell the stories of children to other kids. And to discover new cultures. This is the link: http://ylia.ch/Ylia_3/kids.html
Website : www.ylia.ch
Notre livre : Nomades au coeur des éléments, un voyage initiatique à vélo (2015) : http://ylia.ch/Ylia_2/livre.html
Conférences en Suisse en 2016 : http://ylia.ch/Ylia_2/conf.html