Our trip has morphed
Hello! We are Leanne, Guy, Max, Ben and Guillaume de Bassompierre. We set up this website to allow people to follow our slow travels through South Africa, Brazil, India, China and Russia, i.e. the so-called 'BRICS', during a planned 12-month sabbatical.
2 months and 1/2 into the trip, with only the South African chapter completed, a career opportunity materialized sooner than expected. We chose to interrupt the journey but the decision came with very mixed feelings. We felt really sad to be parking aside a project we had invested in so much time and emotion. At the same time, the job offer was too good to turn down and we were excited by the new adventure that came with it: a move to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
In order to compromise with this new twist, we made a promise to ourselves that we would not abandon the project entirely but rather dedicate our future holidays to visiting the remaining 4 countries, even if it takes several years. It will no longer be the condensed, prolonged and dedicated immersion we had planned but we will nonetheless keep the same objective: i.e. to gain a better perspective on the essence of the BRICS countries by meeting their people, tasting their foods, sampling their culture and traveling their lands.
Below is a short portrait of our family and a 'mission statement' that explained our motivations and hopes prior to our departure. The manner in which we will now explore the BRICS will be very different but we still encourage you to read our blog, where we will document our travel experiences as before.
We aimed to interact with BRICS schools along the way when the trip was planned as a long-haul journey. Our kids would have been out of school and we thought that visiting classrooms along the way would also be a great way to connect with BRICS kids across geography and culture. Our future visits are mostly planned during school holidays and with less time. We may still find a way to fulfill that aspiration but, to be honest, we have not yet devised it... Stay tuned!
Leanne is an energetic perfectionist who juggles being a mother of three hyperactive boys, a journalism career and a passion for long-distance running with deft skill. Between school runs and keeping abreast of the news around the clock, she still finds time for marathons and triathlons. She met Guillaume in Istanbul, they worked together in Thailand, fell in love in Pakistan, completed further projects as a team in India, Poland and Canada, founded a family in Cape Town, relocated to Mexico and back to South Africa, whence they planned the travel through BRICS project together.
Leanne is Cape Town born and bred and has Indian heritage. She is excited to explore the BRICS in depth - it was her idea! True to herself, of course, she has set herself a few challenges and already signed up to run the Great Wall marathon while in China.
Guillaume is a multilingual citizen of the world. Born into a family of several generations of Belgian diplomats, he grew up in (then Zaire) DRC, Spain and the United States. He's since lived and worked in 27 other countries as diverse as Haiti, India, Mauritania and Brazil and traveled to scores more. With a masters degree in Intercultural Management, he's a natural networker and has for the past 16 years created business and social networks across all five continents. The boys, Leanne and everyone who crosses his path have the utmost admiration for his ability to store knowledge. When Guillaume is not traveling for work or pleasure his weekly routine includes anything and everything football.
When we planned the BRICS trip, Guy was 6 years old. He didn't yet know what he would devote his time to when he grows up but options have included detective, paleontologist, superhero and hairdresser to date. Curious, adventurous and fearless, this academic overachiever is also a sensitive soul blessed with an intuition that belies his young age. He is also a precocious and avid traveler, he took his first plane ride when he was 2 months old!
Max is the comedian of the family, never in short supply of a cunning joke or a cheeky comment. Spontaneous and affectionate, he distributes hugs and kisses without counting and knows exactly how and when to turn on the charm to obtain what his heart desires. His complicity with Guy is heartwarming but do not be fooled into thinking that his doe-eyed admiration represents submission in any way: he may be young but he has a strong will of his own.
Ben was not with us yet when we embarked on the BRICS road in 2016. He joined the family as a late addition, after we moved to Côte d'Ivoire, in 2019. Immediately, he became the magnet for his older siblings' permanent attention. They may be 9 and 7 years older respectively, they love to dote on him, entertain him, teach him new tricks and tell him stories. In may way, this 'late lammetjie' makes our family whole.
With most of our BRICS itinerary still ahead of us, he will take part in this adventure too in spite of being born way after it was conceived and initiated.
Why travel through BRICS as a family?
Do BRICs countries have a voice in today’s globalised world? Is that voice “united”? Should it be? What does that voice say? Can their common (or unique) experience(s) usher in a different approach for the international economy, for global security, for social change? Are the BRICs merely trying to join the ranks of the rich, capitalist, “first world” economies? Would that objective require the acquisition of a stronger diplomatic and, perhaps, military voice as well? Or are they, perhaps, proposing a radically different development path to forge their own futures, away from the one set by the G7 grouping of industrialised nations? These concerns have been analysed, written about and concluded on at length by experts of all types. The questions are by no means irrelevant and, therefore, neither is the search for answers.
More important to us, however, as we set to criscross South Africa, Brazil, India, China and Russia for the next few years, are the following set of questions: What do the kids in these countries aspire to be? What is their imaginary made of? What eyes do they cast on the world? What place in it do they seek? How do they relate to it? Is “the West” an important ideological, social, political and cultural model for kids growing up in the BRICS? What is their awareness and perception of other members of BRICS? Do they provide alternative models?
Guy and Max are merely opening their eyes to the vast world around them but they are, by birth, already “global”. At the tender ages of 7 and 5, they have lived in 3 countries and visited 13. Their parents not only hold different passports. We also leaped across languages and opposed cultural and social backgrounds. We don’t even have the same skin colour. Through us, Guy and Max intuitively felt their way through social privilege and lack thereof, racial exclusion and racial exception.
With this journey, by allowing them to discover first-hand what BRICS countries look like, smell like, sound like and taste like and to perceive what their people say, dream, debate and aspire to, we want to offer Guy and Max (and ourselves) the chance to interpret our world better and to perhaps, one day, inspire them to find the tools that will also make it better for everyone. We want them to see and feel, first-hand, our common humanity and realise that most of our divisions are paper-thin, merely different modes of transport in the much bigger journey that constitutes life.