Sonia et Alexandre Poussin
13 September 2021
"We are marching to try to slow down time"
Sonia, Alexandre, you are extraordinary adventurers… Tell us about your journey.
Alex: I was born in Belgium as the stork passed by there, then I grew up in Quebec. It was there that I developed a love for the great outdoors and nature. I remember the fishing camps, the endless winters with 2m of snow, and the fact that anything was possible! Back in France, it was Passy Buzenval, a boarding school where I was quite agitated. I discovered gymnastics which was a very strong component in my career: it opened the door to all the extreme sports that I practiced thereafter. Scouting has also meant a lot by providing me with the united, responsible, and charitable bond necessary for life in society. It is one of the best schools in life, and again a springboard for maturity and adventure.
Sonia: I am a little flower of the pavement, as I was born in Paris, but with roots in Dordogne, where my father comes from, and in Slovakia, where my mother fled the Prague Spring because she was part of the anti communist resistance with the Voice of America. When I was eight I crossed the Iron Curtain by three days on the train by myself to spend my summer vacation with my Slovak grandmother in Banska Bistrica! Crazy stuff when you think about it. It wasn't until 1993 that my mother was able to go back there. I did not join the scouting but the Legion of Honor, where I did all my schooling. It also taught me friendship, solidarity, team spirit, respect for the rules but the desire to transgress or free yourself from them, so that it develops tremendous creativity and a thirst for freedom. ! I dreamed of trips to Asia. Meeting Alex was a detonator!
How did you meet each other?
Alex: In the street! A classmate had arranged to meet us both at the same place, without warning us, and he arrived late ... Luckily he needed a driver, me, to go to a youth weekend in a beautiful house in the country. And that's how we met.
Sonia: and it was love at first sight! I was coming from the sidewalk in front, and when I crossed over to go over to this handsome boy, I saw that he was turning red like a peony, and that made me lose all my means. I also became very red. And we both stood there babbling for an endless amount of time… Our friend then arrived, and, of course, he was one of our wedding witnesses.
From the first date, did you think about crossing the world together?
Alex: It came later because at that time I was at Sciences-Po and I was doing odd jobs to finance the round-the-world bicycle tour that we had planned with Sylvain Tesson and who launched us into the world of writing and adventure.
Sonia: except that I came to join them unexpectedly at the foot of the Andes, in Argentina, to go with them to Valparaiso! I had never ridden a bicycle! I also joined them to tour the Manaslu when they crossed the Himalayas on foot. Then I myself lived my own adventures, but more in solidarity: I took care of an orphanage for little street girls in Kathmandu for six months, I did an educational mission in Saigon, I did some trips in India all alone, I had to get in tune with this guy. ! That's how we got married and went to walk 14,000 kilometers in Africa for three years! A great honeymoon, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel! by Foot !
At Minds, we like to take the time, get to know our talents and our clients, in particular by making several appointments while walking… What are the virtues of walking?
Alex: Hahaha! I wrote a book on the subject! Forward ! But I will try to summarize in a few words: walking is a mobile retreat that allows you to know yourself, and from there, to take an interest in others. It’s triple therapy. It heals the body, the relationship with others, and the mind. I love Stevenson's terse word when he says, "Get well outside!" "As we walk we reconnect with the real world, real time, and real space. It is anti-virtual therapy. It's democratic, anyone can do it, and it reconnects with nature and with our deep nature. The title of my first chapter is "ambulo ergo sum": I walk therefore I am!
Sonia: As for me, I had hardly ever walked before embarking on these great adventures. There I discovered incredible freedom, availability, the full time of real life, whereas before, I thought it was a waste of time.
From there to deciding to cross an entire continent by walking ... How did you come up with the idea of Africa Trek?
Alex: We left on January 1, 2001, the first day of the third millennium, to celebrate our two thousand years of History. And for that we have chosen the cradle of humanity where the human adventure began at least 3.6 million years ago. We thus wanted to redo the first path of the first men by going up the whole of the Great African Rift in one stride!
Sonia: But it just happened day after day. All you had to do was take the time not to be in a rush, to ignore the comfort, to accept a number of sacrifices, to take risks and to hold on to your idea. And we have met people along the way who have plenty of time: paleoanthropologists who look back on our distant past. They were all asked the same question: "What is man? Is the piece of bone you found human or not? Why ? »And With them we tried to progress in the definition of our humanity.
Alex: and on a daily basis, of course, we were able to discover all these people along the way, this incredible African human diversity, with also a lot of points in common, in particular hospitality.
14000km later and 1200 African families met, how has that changed your life and your vision of the world?
Alex: Precisely after the hominization process that made us homo sapiens starting from Australopithecus through Erectus and Habilis, we still have a long way to go I think!
Sonia: yes we are far from being Sapiens Sapiens if we are to believe the bad news that reaches us from all corners of the planet. After the hominization process, the humanization process is still going on.
Alex: What we have seen and experienced is that Men are rather caring, hospitable and generous in nature. Everyone wants peace and to be able to offer a future for their children. The elites, on the other hand, the men of power are not necessarily so well-intentioned!
Sonia: So we are still great philanthropists, but let us warn about the abuses and tensions that we have seen emerging for a long time at the international level.
You give lectures in French and English all over the world. What are the messages you are passing on?
Alex: We believe more in the effectiveness of the concert of nations than that of the global village in the grip of competition from the large market. The erasure of borders is a beautiful utopia but fraught with consequences. We are not naive. I prefer the image of nesting dolls, sets and subsidiarity. Faced with the major challenges of the world, I believe that we will have to favor the local, short circuits, more cultural and intangible consumption than gadgets from the end of the world and fight against the disembodied virtual society.
Sonia: the important thing is to recreate social ties, local activity, which globalism has emptied of its substance. It may seem paradoxical on the part of people who have lived and traveled on the other side of the world, but life is made to answer this question: "what can I do for my neighbor once I have settled the problem of my survival? If you haven't answered the first question, you're unlikely to be interested in the second. I believe that the drama of covid and environmental issues are setting a lot of pendulum in the air.
If you had the chance, what would you do to change the world?
Alex: I would support the change in energy, I would do everything to save the last primary forests, I would reforest everywhere, everywhere, to sequester carbon, I will try to save as many animal species as possible. I would drastically reduce deep-sea fishing which is a real Paleolithic carnage! We must fight against this sixth current extinction at the risk of disappearing with it!
Sonia: I would campaign more for the control of fertility and strengthened family planning in countries where the demography is uncontrolled. I would regulate the market by taxing financial transactions. The work is too taxed. I would revalue it!
"Life is made to answer this question: 'what can I do for my neighbor after I have solved the problem of my survival?'"
If you could time travel, what advice would you give to the child that you were
Alex: I would have told him: Try to hang on with Maths! The fact that I never understood the value of math at the right time closed my path to science. I would have liked to become a surgeon or an oceanographer! I became a travel writer to talk about the world! And it might be better this way. I'm happy, I don't regret much in my life.
Sonia: I would have said to myself: "turn off your TV and cultivate your talents!" "How much time I wasted in stupid series! And this time never catches up. I would have done more sports, more music, more activities! So since then, we have been walking to try to slow down time and to enjoy each day that is given to us, each meeting, because there is the real treasure! To share with the greatest number of course! We have become apostles of happy sobriety. We can do a lot more with less.