[00:00:08] BS: Hello and welcome to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that helps you get what you want out of life by pursuing your greatest passion. I’m Britt Skrabanek, and today’s guest is Julie Klene, an adventure traveler and photographer. In this episode, Julie talks about many of her meditations and realizations during quarantine, which includes how she is coming to terms with adapting to slow and minimalist travel experiences. A zero-waste lifestyle advocate, sign language interpreter, solo adventure traveler, scuba diver, paraglider, backpacker, and skydiver. Julie has lived an adventurous life so far, and now she is rechanneling her bravery into living consciously. Hope you get tons of takeaways from this conversation. Here’s Julie.
[00:00:58] BS: Julie, welcome to the show.
[00:01:00] JK: Hello, Britt. How are you doing?
[00:01:02] BS: I am doing so good in this quarantine of ours. How are you doing over there in Paris?
[00:01:09] JK: Pretty good. The sun is shining back today, so it feels much better than the week under the rain. But it’s okay now.
[00:01:18] BS: Good. Well, I have really enjoyed watching/reading. I like to say watch because you have such beautiful photography in your travel blog. You have a really cool series that you’ve been doing throughout the quarantine. And I believe you’re on day 48 now. So can you talk a little bit about your project confinement series you’ve been sharing with us?
[00:01:40] JK: Project confinement is actually the French translation for the isolation project. It’s a photo project that was launched by my friend, Jeff Simon. He’s someone I met, just like you, a few years ago through our respective blogs. He’s a photographer based in New Hampshire. And last time I went to New Hampshire, we actually met in person, which was really cool. And the first day of his self-isolation in New Hampshire, he had the idea of taking a picture a day as long as the quarantine was on and sharing it on his blog. And he invited all who wish to participate as well from wherever they lived, be it in a very small apartment with no garden and no balcony, or in a house in the middle of nowhere like he is. And I was like, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” That could be a cool project because I was on day 12 of quarantine already in Paris when he started the project. And I was kind of afraid of how I could handle the whole quarantine thing. And I was like, “Hmm, maybe working on a photo project and looking at things in a little different way, different perspective, would be easier on me,” especially because I am in a temporary shared apartment in a small room with no balcony downtown Paris with no park open next door to me. So it was an opportunity to see things differently.
So I tried to play with lights and shadows in the apartment, to play with reflection. And then we’ve been allowed to go out one hour a day every day since the beginning of the quarantine, which is really nice. It doesn’t happen for everyone everywhere. So I used also that time outside the apartment to try and take pictures of the sun, the trees, spring, the flowers blooming, and stuff like that. So it’s been going really well and it helped. It really helped seeing things differently, especially also because Jeff also shared other people’s pictures. And so it was really nice to have that kind of project to keep my mind off other things.
[00:04:15] BS: Well, and all of us that follow your blog, like myself, have been following your blog for many years. And I’ve known you for many years. It’s been really nice to see. It’s been really nice that you’ve shared this with all of us because these are just unbeatable photos of Paris from a completely different perspective. And then I can see how your perspective has changed as well where you’re really focusing. And I know nothing about photography. I am not a photographer, but I’ve just enjoyed seeing all of the little details that you’re picking up and some of these really unique lens that is so different for you where it almost seems like you’re really diving into the small beautiful things in life, and you always do. But I’m so used to seeing you capture things on a bigger scale because I’ve been following your blog forever and it’s a travel adventure blog. And so usually it’s these beautiful landscapes. I mean I’ve seen you hiking in South America and I’ve seen you skydiving and all this crazy stuff. So it’s really cool to just see you simplify and become more introspective and then also to share that with people.
[00:05:29] JK: Yeah. It’s very different, and I’ve always had a very critical eye on my pictures. Like everybody tells me they’re really good and I’m like, “No, they’re not. They’re not original and they’re not cool.” And so I’m also trying to change my own perspective on my work if I can call that work.
When I take pictures, I’ve always thought on a bigger scale. Like you said, taking landscapes, taking the whole picture instead of focusing on details. And focusing on details is what I like in other people’s pictures. So there’s maybe a few years ago. I don’t remember when exactly. I bought another lens for my camera, which is a particular lens to take details. And so I’ve been trying to use it, but I have very much trouble changing my way of looking at things from general to details. So this was a very good exercise, yes. And yeah, my landscape photography is very reduced right now from my bedroom window. So I will do that again as soon as we’re out. So don’t worry. You’ll see more of that in the end.
[00:06:48] BS: Yeah, that’ll be interesting. Are you planning on – I believe you’re on day 48 now of your project confinement series. And so how long are you planning on doing this?
[00:07:00] JK: Jeff, when he launched the project, proposed that we do it as long as quarantine lasts. So I will try to be disciplined and do that until the last day of quarantine here in France. It should be on May 11th. So my last picture will be that day or the following day, and I’ll stop then, because we’ll have plenty of other opportunities to play with after that date. So I’ll change subjects after that.
[00:07:34] BS: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing that transition from going from this really, really small detailed perspective. And then I’m sure that will slowly grow bigger and bigger over time. But I imagine that you’ll be taking this perspective with you forever.
[00:07:51] JK: Oh, hopefully. I’ll try to do that more often, because it’s really something that I enjoy in other people’s pictures. So I really want to try and work more on that side of the picture taking. I’ll see how I do. But as soon as I’m in a bigger place with such a great angle, I have a harder time focusing on details. And I really like the general picture.
I know sometimes I compare it to my job as a sign language interpreter, where in sign language, when you talk about something, you always start with the bigger picture and then you go from bigger to smaller, smaller, smaller and then you focus on the detail you want to talk about. But that’s the way sign languages work. And sometimes I believe because sign language is visual language and photography is a visual language, the two of them are linked. And that’s why I look at both the same way or I have the same way of looking in both activities. I don’t know.
[00:09:02] BS: That’s so cool. I never thought about it that way before, but I do often find a correlation between someone’s creative passion and either something they do for work or something they did as a child or some other hobby. So it is cool to hear you explain that.
[00:09:21] JK: It’s something I’ve realized. I don’t know how, but I think they might be linked. I don’t really know if it is. But in my mind, that’s how I think about them. Yeah.
[00:09:32] BS: Yeah. All those things they have in common is you. So that is the relation and that’s what’s interesting. It’s like all these different things come together, but it’s all coming out of you.
Well, I know that we could talk about photography for a long time because that is your creative enthusiasm, but we are going to talk about living consciously, which is what you are enthusiastic about in life. So, Julie, why is living consciously so important to you?
[00:10:01] JK: It’s a very big subject. I call it living consciously because a few years ago I discovered a new way of life, which is what some people call the zero waste lifestyle. I’ve discovered it randomly reading an article and I just realized that I was doing the things that I’ve always done regarding taking care of my environment. Meaning separate trash, recycle, no littering, no wasting food, stuff like that. I was raised like that and it was something very usual and normal for me. But that’s all I did. And pick up trash when I went hiking, stuff like that, small things.
And then I stumbled upon that article and I realized it was an article about Lauren Singer, who is the CEO of Package Free Shop in Brooklyn, and she writes a blog called Trash is for Tossers. And she was very adamant about doing the little things, but they’re maybe not enough. And she recommended another book and blah-blah-blah. So I read all those things and I was like, “Hey, those things I do are cool, but it’s that little spark before you actually lit up a whole thing. That means that you’re thinking about every action and their consequences and everything – And you see things on a very different light. Meaning when I buy something, I actually understand better where they come from, who made them, how much they were paid, where they are working? Do they have the right working conditions? Are women’s rights given to the woman or all those kind of things that I didn’t realize before, but that everything are linked. And then I was like, “Okay. So if I don’t buy this, it means that maybe I can change something.”
I don’t know if I’m very clear, but it all made sense to me that if I was more careful about the things I was buying and the things that I was putting into my life, I was giving myself an opportunity to be more conscious about everything else. So that’s how I got into it and it’s become very, very important for me. So I changed a lot of my values, a lot of my habits, and now I can’t picture myself going back to the way I lived before.
[00:12:42] BS: I think it’s cool, because to live consciously was actually an intention of mine one year a few years ago. I don’t know if you remember or not. I shared a little bit about this on the blog, but I don’t set a new year’s resolution every year. I set a sankalpa, which is basically more about your purpose. So instead of it being new year’s resolutions tend to be more negative; lose weight, don’t drink, etc., whereas the sankalpa tends to me more positive. So I usually set one every year to do this to this. So in 2016, to live consciously was my sankalpa that year. So I totally get it, and it’s mindfulness. It’s being more choosy about what you bring into your life and also what you give out into the world.
[00:13:32] JK: Yes, exactly. And it reminds me also that – I’ve been doing yoga on and off for a few years. The philosophy of the yoga sometimes is hard to comprehend or to actually put into practice in your everyday life. But lately, because I’ve chosen to live more consciously and to actually see things, not take them for granted all the time, but just realize, “Hey, this is my life, but this is the life that I choose.” So I choose to be happy. I choose to be in this place rather than in another place. I choose to be with these people because they also bring me what I need to be happy instead of being with these people that with whom I’m not that happy. I choose to only see the glass half full instead of seeing the glass half empty. I only choose to think about the solutions instead of focusing on the problems. And I’ve realized a long time ago that the more positively I think, the more positive things actually happen into my life.
So I think all of these things also encompass living consciously. Meditate. It’s very hard right now to meditate. My eyes are going like havoc in all kinds of directions. It’s really hard. But in the morning I’m like, “Ooh! The sun is shining.” And it’s that first thought you’re like, “Wow! The sun. The sun is here. I’m fine. I’ll be fine all day just because there’s sun.” And it just brings a smile to my face right away. I’m like, “Hey, this is it. I woke up. The sun is here.” I smile. Yay!
[00:15:33] BS: Well, I’ve noticed that my morning meditations are so much quieter than they used to be. I have lived in cities for the last – Oh gosh! 15 years or so. And morning meditation can be very distracting depending on how early you get up. But let’s say I’m meditating on my mat at 6:30. The city’s already waking up by that point. So there’s usually a bunch of traffic and construction and all that will start easily by 7 a.m. But lately, I mean obviously during quarantine and the lockdown, it’s been so quiet. And so many people, yourself included, have remarked on being able to hear the birds like never before, which is just amazing.
[00:16:20] JK: Definitely. Like hearing that kind of sounds in Paris is like, “Oh my God! I can hear the birds.” Usually you hear traffic. There are so many different birds in the two or three trees that are in the courtyard. I’m like, “Wow! Impressive.” But it impresses me a lot here in Paris. I was born and raised in Southern France with very much luck in a house with a garden. Not downtown. So I used to hear the crickets and the cicadas during the summer. So I’m used to nature’s sounds a little bit more than I’m used to city sounds. So it’s something, yeah, that really struck me very intensely at the beginning of the quarantine when I actually realized that I could hear the birds more than the cars now. So it was really nice. It is still very nice.
[00:17:21] BS: It is. It definitely helps just like the sunshine you mentioned earlier. Once you get the sunshine and the birds going, you definitely begin to feel hopeful again. And staying with the bird subject a little longer, I have a funny story, which is I of course moved across the country during the quarantine from Portland, Oregon to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And I lived in Portland for six years. I lived in Milwaukee for five years before that. So haven’t been here in a while. Moved during the quarantine, basically traded one box for another. So I got to change up boxes during the lockdown, which was really exciting.
But the crazy thing is, is just there’s a lot of gulls here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because we have lake Michigan just about a block away from where I live. And so there are a lot of seabirds. And I remember them being here, of course, when I lived here before. But I don’t remember them like this. I don’t remember hearing them so much. I hear them at night, even in the middle of the night and it makes me – Especially when I first moved back here, I felt like I was on some sort of sea vacation or something. It was so cool. And I was like, “Why? I don’t remember hearing the birds like this before. I know they were here, but I just did not hear them in the same way because there are so many other distractions.” Pretty cool.
[00:18:46] JK: Yeah. And the sounds from anything coming from the sea is just awesome. The sea or the water or the lakes.
[00:18:54] BS: So relaxing. I know. I feel spoiled.
[00:18:59] JK: You’re not spoiled. You just enjoy the good things.
[00:19:03] BS: Exactly, which is very important, especially right now. We are reminded of that more than ever. So, Julie, sticking with a living consciously topic a little bit longer, I’d love for you to talk about how living consciously applies to travel.
[00:19:20] JK: Well, first, I believe travel can be a privilege or can be seen as a privilege. So you to realize that when you have the opportunity to travel, it’s something that you have to consciously appreciate. I talk about privilege when I want to say that it’s something that you can actually make happen in your life. Other people can have more difficulties to make that happen. So I want to be conscious of my privilege, but I also want to be conscious of the fact that when I go travel, I made it happen. Meaning I made the sacrifices beforehand to have the opportunity to go traveling, if that makes sense.
So then living consciously while traveling is enjoying it, every day knowing that you’re actually living something special, that you’re going to meet special people, that you’re going to be in different places that will bring awesome things to you. That you will learn things from everywhere and every people you meet. That’s what I learned myself when I went traveling on a longer basis, because I used to travel everybody, like three or four weeks a year before I left in 2010 for my world trip solo backpacking. And that’s when I realized, “Oh my God! This is everything I am able to do, because I made that happen.” And it’s so important that I have to enjoy it to its fullest. So that’s what I do when I travel.
But, also, I’ve realized while traveling, that being conscious over there means also to meet the locals. Understand how they leave. Understand why they do what they do. Share their way of life. Share their meals. And lately I’ve also tried to change a little bit my perspective on travels and think about what I really want to do when I travel. Focusing on visiting places where I’ll have a positive impact on people’s livelihood also. Knowing that if I go there, because of a little bit of money that it will bring, it will help that community or this place to develop something. I don’t want to be just a person ticking boxes on the list of things to do and see. I also want to be a person who understands what traveling does to the places I go to.
So now I want to make sure that when I do an activity somewhere, it’s an activity that won’t be harmful to people, won’t be harmful to the environment, won’t be harmful to the animals. That if I buy something, I want it to be local, made by the locals. That the money goes to them. Not to a big enterprise taking advantage of them. I want to eat local. I love eating at the marketplaces, because there’s these special atmosphere where people all talk together and the fruits and vegetables that people eat over there – I love marketplaces. They’re really fun. That’s how I also apply like living consciously while traveling. And my most recent challenge on the subject is one I have had on my mind for some time now, but I haven’t spoken about yet on the blog. It’s on a draft, because it’s still very hard for me to reconcile with the way I travel and the way I still want to travel. I want to try and find a way to stop traveling by plane.
So it’s easy. You’ll tell me just stop getting on a plane. But it’s still hard for me. While I know that traveling by plane is counterproductive to all the efforts I may make every day to take care of my environment and pollute less, I also know that if I don’t take a plane, I can’t see people who live far away from me. Like you, for example, I can’t go and visit you in Milwaukee if I don’t take a plane. I can’t go and visit my host family in Missoula, Montana if I don’t take a plane. I can’t go back to Patagonia in Chile where I have the most wonderful friends and where I learned trekking and where I would love going back. So these are the places and lots of other people I want to go back to and visit, I need to take a plane. But I also want to travel more consciously without using a plane. So this is something where I need to find the right balance between living consciously, doing my best in everything I do. But giving me some slack also sometimes and telling myself, “You’ve been doing really good. You’ve been taking care of yourself. You’ve been taking care of other people and you’ve been taking care of your environment, and now you want to take a plane to go and visit them? Well, just take one.” One long haul round trip to get a year and I’ll be fine. I want to focus on road tripping in a van. I’ve never done it.
[00:25:22] BS: That’s because you’re not an American.
[00:25:25] JK: I know. Maybe, but I read awesome stories of people going to Iceland. I need a plane to go to Iceland. Road tripping in Iceland. I read about people building their own vans and cruising the roads of Europe and Central Europe with their vans. I read about people hitchhiking. And I’m like, “Oh my God! I need to do this.” I’ve never done that before. I need to do this. It will make me learn slow travel. It will make me go to places closer to France, maybe, but you don’t need to go far to go on exotic travels. And, yeah, it will be like one more step, one more milestone in my living consciously.
But as I was telling you, it’s a balance and it’s a challenge I have to make with myself. Because as you mentioned earlier, I also started doing skydiving, and skydiving can only be made from a plane. So kind of hard sometimes to reconcile like everything you like and love and everything you want to do, all the volumes that you have and that you want to stick with. But as long as I try to do it doing my best, I hope I will do okay.
[00:26:55] BS: Wow! It’s really cool and also surprising to hear you say all of this, because you have traveled all over the world. And do how many countries you’ve been to just to share that with the listeners so they get a better idea of how many places you’ve been?
[00:27:16] JK: 39 countries.
[00:27:17] BS: Yeah, 39 countries. You’ve lived in four countries?
[00:27:23] JK: Uh, one, two, three, four. Yeah. France, United States, Chile and Mexico.
[00:27:29] BS: Yeah. So this is big, everyone, that’s listening.
[00:27:35] JK: I took a lot of planes.
[00:27:36] BS: You have. You have taken a lot of planes. But I do think it’s really beautiful to hear you wanting to slow things down and slow travel and just being more selective about the types of trips that you’re taking, staying a little closer to home. I think this is very relevant to everyone after COVID. Of course, I think it’s really going to change the way that we travel, the way that we think about travel. So living consciously, applying those principles to travel. This is definitely the time to do it, because we still want to explore. We still want to go see places. But there are many beautiful places within reach as well.
[00:28:15] JK: Yes, there are. And I’ve been thinking about it since I came back to France over a year and a half ago already having lived abroad the past nine years almost. When you come back to your home country – I have trouble saying home country, because I’ve never felt really home back in France. So it’s a new process that I have to go through. But when you come home, you tend to see things very differently and you realize, “Oh my God! There are so many awesome things here. Why did I ever need to go so far to see awesome things when so many were so close before?” But you need to do those things to learn and grow before you can see things differently anyway.
So I was already thinking about that before COVID started. I was like, “Oh, I know so little of my own country. And on French blogs, I’ve realized there were so many opportunities and so many beautiful things here in France that I haven’t been to yet that I’m like, “Oh yes! The playground, the French playground is travel playground, is awesome. It’s fabulous.” So I have many, many, many options here to play with.
I also want to make sure that when I look at things now through the COVID situation and I tell myself, “Well, yeah. We need to travel differently. We need to live differently,” and we need to realize that when we go to places where everybody goes, we’re destroying the very thing we came to see.
I already had this thought when I was living on Holbox Island where you came and visit me in Mexico. The first time I went there was a few years ago to swim with a whale shark, which is a typical activity over there, because the whale shark is a typical animal living over there. The thing is the whale shark used to be very much closer to the island than they are now. And people were less careful maybe, because when you have so many tourists coming in, you want to please the tourists, because if you please the tourists it gives you money. So it’s a vicious circle like this. I don’t know if it’s vicious, because it’s good at the beginning. It brings livelihood to the local people. So you’re like, “Okay, it’s fun. Let’s do that.” And then you do it. You have that awesome opportunity to live a very special moment with that beautiful animal, not touching it. And then you realize a few years later then the island is more and more turned on just tourists, touristic activities, that trash is becoming a very big problem, that people are not focusing on relationships anymore. They’re focusing on the money. And it changes the whole atmosphere, the whole gem that was the reason you came here in the first place.
So traveling consciously is also realizing what you’re doing when you’re going to those places where everybody goes. And I know we can’t stop doing that, because it means taking away the livelihood of the locals if we do that. But can we try and do it in a more responsible way? Like, for example, I remember the first time I went to Machu Picchu Peru, it was very open. You had to buy a ticket, but anybody could come in. There were no number limits.
The second time I went to Peru to Machu Picchu, there were a limited number of people who could come in per day, because they had realized that too many people at the same time were destroying the site. And although it’s a constraint that you have to deal with now, like I think you have to book two months ahead of time, at least, if you want to go and visit Machu Picchu today. But I believe it might be one of the good methods to take care of the places around the world. Like it makes me think about that beach in Thailand. You sure have heard of it too. There was that beach in Thailand where corals were dying and the government of Thailand decided to close the beach because the tourists were not careful enough. And after a few months with no tourists coming in, the corals started living again.
[00:33:07] BS: Yeah, I did hear about that, and it started to regenerate. The nature just came back, and it was really, really amazing to see and hear about.
[00:33:17] JK: Exactly. And that’s what’s happening right now. Like we’ve seen dolphins in Venice. The waters are bluer. The animals are coming out. We’ve seen that puma in Santiago de Chile. We’ve seen like incredible things happening. And I’m like, “Wow! This is important. I wish we could learn and try and do things better.” Try to be more conscious. Try to be more careful and change the way we travel. Yeah, I hope we can do that.
Doing it more consciously, doing it more carefully, doing it more responsibly without damaging people’s livelihood either. I think it’s a very fine balance that we need to work on and to find so that everybody, nature and human beings, can be in a better relationship.
[00:34:12] BS: Speaking of balance, I’m interested to hear about how you manage stress. And the reason why I’m so interested to hear your perspective is because you have two pretty different sides of you that I love, which is you have your adrenaline junkie self who jumps out of planes and goes backpacking through middle of nowhere by yourself. And then you also have the more creative introspective side where you practice yoga and you take beautiful photos. So what is the one thing you always turn to for stress management if you could only choose one that really works for you?
[00:34:54] JK: It depends on the stress you’re thinking about and how long this stress is supposed to last. I think I have one method. But when the stress is short term like, for example, when I’m about to go and interpret for any reason, like a press conference or something, live broadcasted, like it happened two weeks ago here in France, I can feel during the whole day like stage fright, threatening. And I’m like, “Ooh! Okay. So I’m going to do this. It’s going to be very important.” But then I take very big deep breaths and I tell myself, “I know how to do my job. So just go there. Be cool. Take a deep breath and you’ll be fine,” and that works.
When I go skydiving, and first there’s the adrenaline rush that takes everything away, and that’s why I actually do skydiving. It’s for the adrenaline rush and for the awesome time lapse that happens when I’m diving, when there’s no parachute yet.
[00:36:14] BS: I was going to say plummeting, plummeting to the earth.
[00:36:18] JK: Yeah, like falling, freefalling.
[00:36:21] BS: Falling through the sky.
[00:36:22] JK: Free fall. That’s how it’s called. The free fall, the free fall. During the free fall, time stops. It’s awesome. Because the first time I did it on my own I was like, “Oh my God! This is going to go so fast.” And it kind of did. Free fall lasts 50 seconds, 50 to 55 seconds before you open the parachute. And you’re like, “55 seconds? It is so short.” And depending on where you are, 55 seconds can be really long. But now 55 seconds are really long in a very good way when I do skydiving. So there’s the adrenaline rush. And then there’s the, “Oh my God! I’m doing something crazy,” and I really need to breathe in and take it easy.
I believe this is my main methods for stress management. I breathe a lot. Right before you called me today, I had this little adrenaline rush too and it was like, “Okay, Julie, just breathe,” because if I don’t breathe, I can’t speak anyway. So it’s also something that I’ve learned in my job, because even if we call ourselves sign language interpreter, as any kind of interpreter, we work between two languages. So I work between French sign language and French, meaning that I translate from French sign language to French or from French to French sign language. And when I translate into French, I need to have my voice clear. I need to make pauses. I need to speak normally. And if I don’t breathe normally, I can’t do that.
So I believe everything is related to the way I breathe. And yoga has been very helpful. I’ve also taken a special voice and breathing class training with a fellow sign language interpreter to learn how to manage my voice and my breathing to feel more comfortable about it all. So I think this is my method for stress management.
[00:38:38] BS: Yeah, that is all very sound advice. Just breathe. And it’s amazing how you carry that with you whether you’re doing your sign language professional work. I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure there when you’re having to translate and there’s movement involved and you’re trying to convey messaging in front of several people or a room of people. I’m not even sure. And then there’s the other side of you where you’re jumping out of a plane. And you actually – Of course you need to breathe. And I mean that’s the last thing I would do. I would definitely forget to breathe. And you have actually trained to skydive on your own, correct?
[00:39:20] JK: Well, not on my own on. You take a class. I had done two previews tandem skydiving. So when you’re strapped to an instructor and he’s the one taking care of you and he’s the one opening the parachute. But last September, I decided to take the jump on my own. So I have a very good friend of mine who’s a parachute instructor and I learned with him, “We do all the techniques and technicality on the ground.” And then when we’re sure everything is okay, we just go on the plane. But you’re not strapped to the instructor anymore. He’s in front of you. And you jump with him in front of you, because he’s a very good friend of mine and I trust him 100%, 300%. He just looks at me with that big smile and he’s like, “Enjoy and breathe.” “Okay. If that’s all I have to do, it’s two easy things.” I breathe, I look around and I enjoy. And that’s what you do when you skydive.
[00:40:30] BS: Yeah, I wanted to clarify that for the listeners, that not only are you skydiving, but you have started being in charge of your own parachute. So that is a whole other level of skydiving.
[00:40:45] JK: Yes, but breathing is the most basic thing that we have to do to live. It’s very helpful in everything you do. I mean even when I go hiking – When you go hiking, you need to breathe in a certain way so that you don’t get tired or not too early. When you go hiking up in the mountains, it’s your breathing that takes you higher and higher. When I do scuba diving, it’s my breathing that helps me stay balanced and closer or further away from the things I want to see and not touch.
So right here, right now, while I’m talking to you, I realize that in every activity that I do, breathing is actually very important. And controlling my breathing is very important in everything, including in photography, because I don’t travel with a tripod. I do have one, but I haven’t learned how to use it right now and I don’t have it here in Paris, for example. So sometimes when I want to take a picture, I have a very slow shutter. I need to stop breathing, because otherwise I shake. But sometimes I shake because I stop breathing. So it’s another activity where I actually need to learn how to focus and manage my breathing so that I can actually take the picture without shaking.
[00:42:21] BS: Julie, what is something you learned through a travel experience that stayed with you forever?
[00:42:28] JK: Many things. I think, first, I learned how to trust people, because the first time I actually left on my own, I was like, “Okay, I’m on my own.” But I want to meet people and those people you don’t know I travel doing couchsurfing. That means being hosted by local people in their home. And if you don’t trust people, it’s really hard to do that. I hosted also people before I left. I love hosting people at home. It’s a very humbling experience to have people from all over the world staying at your house and sharing their experience and their way of life, their travel experiences and stuff.
So the first thing I learned was to trust people in spite of everything bad we can hear. Usually on the media, that’s all you hear. That something bad happened here. There’s something bad happened there. But then when you travel, you realize that 99% of the people are good. That they’ll do everything they can to help you when you need help. And that if you need a roof over your head, somebody will always be there for you. So that’s the first thing I learned. I learned that there are many places I can call home and many special people I can call family. It means the world to me to know that. And on a more personal level, I’ve learned that I’m tough and perseverant even though sometimes it’s hard to do things. When I really want to do something, I’ll do it even if it’s hard, even if it means making sacrifices, because the reward of doing or having tried is so great.
And I want to do an emphasis on having tried, because sometimes people are like, “I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to fail.” And I’d rather think I want to have tried to do things. Like I have tried to climb Mont Blanc three times, and I don’t want to say that I have failed to climb Mont Blanc three times. I really want to say that I have tried, but I never got to the top. But I learned a lot from not going to the top. So I’d rather try and do my best at trying even if I don’t go all the way. That’s one of the things I’ve learned also.
And something else that I learned while traveling is that I realized I loved hiking and trekking, which wasn’t that easy before I went traveling. I used to go hiking with my grandparents when I was a kid, and I didn’t find that very interesting. Like going around in circle, what for? Yeehow.
[00:45:48] BS: Those are my hiking memories as well when I was younger. It just wasn’t very exciting. And since then I’ve done a lot more exotic and adventurous hikes, especially when I lived in Portland in the Pacific Northwest where there are endless options. But nothing compared to what you have done over the years.
[00:46:06] JK: I don’t think we need to compare. We have the backyard that we have. So because I took that trip and I ended up with the people I ended up with, because I met the people I met, everything happens for a reason. And I ended up in Patagonia in Chile and in a small town near one of the most beautiful national parks on earth. And my friend said, “You need to go hike and to do some trekking over there.” I’m like, “I have never done that in my life before.” And they’re like, “Yeah. Well, you’ll learn. You’ll pack a tent and your food for five days and you just go there and you go hiking for five days with everything in your backpack on your back.” I’m like, “Okay.” And I did that and I was like, “Whoa! This is awesome. This is fabulous.” Those landscapes, those places, I would never have seen had I not gone trekking.
And for the first six months that I lived in Patagonia Chile, I did five days treks and I was completely hooked. I have to do that everywhere. And now it’s very hard to take that backpack off my back even here in Paris. That’s all I have, my backpack.
[00:47:33] BS: Julie, you’ve done so many things. And like you said, the failures that maybe somebody would consider a failure have come from trying. I mean you’ve tried so many different things, from skydiving, from backpacking, to solo travel. So I imagine that fear accompanies many of the things that you’ve tried. I don’t see how they could not. So what are some ways you have learned to manage fear?
[00:47:58] JK: I don’t know. I think there are lots of things that I’m attracted to that are scary and maybe I’m attracted to them because they’re scary and masochistic. But sometimes I’m like, “That scares me, but I’m going to jump in.”
I remember when I first thought about going solo travel, people were like, “No, you can’t do this.” I mean you can go on your own. And I’m like, “Yes, but I want to go because one of my very, very good friend just left on her own for her world trip backpacking around the world before her 30th birthday. And I was like, “She did it?” She showed me how. I’m scared. But I can do it.
The first time they told me to go backpacking, they told me it would be a fabulous adventure. Some of my friends went with me, taught me how. And I was like, “Okay, that scared me, but that was cool.” And for skydiving, bungee jumping or jumping from any place actually, I think I just love jumping from things. And there’s this fear and I’m like, “I won’t let fear win.” I don’t think I manage fear. I shush it. I put it in a corner and I just go. If I want to be honest with you, there’s only one thing I’m really, really afraid of and I’m not going to work on it. I’m afraid of spiders.
[00:49:34] BS: The truth comes out. Now we know.
[00:49:37] JK: Yeah.
[00:49:39] BS: There is something.
[00:49:41] JK: I will never ever, ever, ever touch a spider. This is the one fear I do not want to manage. I don’t want to do something about.
[00:49:53] BS: So what do you do? Do you just scream like a little girl whenever there’s a spider around?
[00:49:58] JK: I’ve become much better. I bet if you ask my cousin, she would still laugh. It depends on how big the spider is. I’m really good up until a certain size. And after a certain size, I have a nervous breakdown where I actually laugh at myself for being stupid and crying myself out, because I cannot do anything about it. But yeah, otherwise, it’s just the fear is adrenaline, expectation, butterflies in my stomach and a reason to give myself a kick in the butt and just do it.
I think forever, I have a bigger fear of missing out and a bigger fear of regretting to not have done rather than a fear of doing things. I don’t know if that makes sense, but you know that my father passed away when I was very young, when I was 15, and he was only 42 years old. Right after that, my uncle who was only 30, and I was only 18, passed away too. And it’s something when you have these moments happening to you, which happen to everyone. But it’s just something that tells you, “Well, you know what? These guys, they never had the opportunity to do all the things they wanted to do in their lives.” And I don’t want to have that. I don’t want to tell myself at any point in my life, “I wish I had done this or that.” This scares me more than doing things.
So I think that’s what pushes me to do things in spite of being afraid or in spite of the fear itself. And recently there is this little fear still somewhere. I was thinking about getting out of my comfort zone again, because I’m here back in Paris with a good job, a good salary, a roof over my head, everything I need. And I’m like, “Hmm, but the quality of life that I want is not here. I want to go back in Southern France. But over there, I don’t have a job right now. There’re not enough job opportunities over there.”
So I’ve been putting it off for a while, but I really want to go back. So I’m like, “Do I listen to the fear of I shouldn’t go there because I don’t have a job and I can’t go there if I don’t have a job?” And for some weeks, that was eating me a little bit from the inside. I’m like, “No, I’m not going to let that fear win.” So I’ve decided that at some point in the coming month I will go back where for the moment there’s not enough job opportunities, but I’ll see what happens. I’ll just go and see what happens over there even if I don’t have a job at the beginning. So I’ll jump in again.
[00:53:22] BS: Sometimes that’s what you have to do even if it doesn’t logically or financially makes sense. I’ve been there.
Julie, if you met someone who wanted to live more consciously but they didn’t have any idea where to start living that way, what would you say to them?
[00:53:43] JK: Maybe first I would recommend to take a look at how they do things today and what are their basic needs? What are the first and most simple things that make them happy and how to answer those needs first? Then maybe read blogs and articles on the subjects, books. Meet people who have already embraced that kind of way of life and how they’ve changed. What the alternatives are to everything you feel you’re not doing right today or you feel you could improve, because it’s not really that you’re not doing things right. It’s how you can improve things that are meaningful to you and then just start from there.
Think about what’s meaningful to you and how you can improve that and take one step at a time. When I think about first learning about zero waste, first I read books and then I changed a few things in my habits one at a time. And after I felt comfortable enough with one new habit, I passed to another one and another one and another one and it got bigger. And it’s just like when you do yoga and meditation and you tell yourself, “Well, first, it’s about me, and then it’s about you expand your consciousness on the room, the people around you, the place around everything, and you expand everything.”
So the picture I want to paint is that, one, it’s take care of yourself first. Do things better for yourself, and after you do things better in your house and then do things better when you choose your hobbies and activities and the way you want to travel. And then do things better for other people. Do things better for women’s right, for human working conditions, for animals. Do things better just one thing at a time I think.
[00:56:09] BS: Love it. Before we go, Julie, can you share a little bit of info about your blog? I’m not going to say it. You’re going to laugh at me. I’ll try it. Les Petits Pas de Juls?
[00:56:20] JK: Yeah!
[00:56:21] BS: Close enough, right? Talk about that. Where people can find you and your blog.
[00:56:26] JK: Yeah, my blog in French is Les Petits Pas de Juls, meaning Juls little steps. The title is in French, but everything is written in French, English and Spanish. So anyone speaking those three languages can read the whole blog. My Instagram and Facebook page have the same title, Les Petits Pas de Juls. And I’m there pretty much every day. A little bit less on Facebook these days. More on Instagram. And if you want to go on a hike, just give me a call and we’ll go hiking. That’s where I am. That’s where I’ll be as soon as we’re out.
[00:57:08] BS: Absolutely. Julie, thank you so much, as always. Such a pleasure getting to hang out with you.
[00:57:13] JK: Thank you very much for inviting me. It was very nice talking to you.
[00:57:18] BS: Thanks so much for listening to love your enthusiasm. Show links and resources are located on the individual episode pages on the website, which is loveyourenthusiasm.com. Hit subscribe if you haven’t already. And should you prefer an email when new episodes release, subscribe directly through the website. Ratings and reviews are incredibly important for little podcasts like this one. Be sure to share your enthusiasm for the show by rating on your preferred listening channel. Take care until we see each other.