From Tours to Jerusalem on foot, Alexis Jeanson recounts “the journey of a lifetime”

From Tours to Jerusalem on foot, Alexis Jeanson recounts “the journey of a lifetime”

At 36, Alexis Jeanson has just undertaken what he calls the “pilgrimage of a lifetime”: 6,500 km from Tours to Jerusalem. We interviewed him after 4 months of travel, when he had just entered Slovenia.

When did you make the decision to leave and what was your motivation?

I made this promise to myself when I was 12 years old. This great pilgrimage of Christianity has always fascinated me! So, from the height of my young apples, I told myself that one day I too would go and tread the dust of these mysterious paths. Among my motivations, there was also the underlying question of my vocation and my place in this world.

What did you leave behind?

My life configuration allowed me to leave without asking myself too many questions: single, I have neither wife nor children. I returned the house I was renting in Noizay (Indre-et-Loire) and I got started! As for my profession, I have worked in several so far: educator, carpenter, brewer, beer teacher in brewing workshops, crocodile breeder in Australia, bartender… It is this last profession that I have left behind me.

Your website is calledAn average walker ». Why this name?

I needed a catchy name for social media. “Walker”, because for a year, this will be my main activity, which will bring me closer to my goal. “Lambda”, because I believe that what I do is within everyone’s reach: it’s a question of will. I want to show those who follow me that I am no different from them, that we are all capable of going beyond the horizons of our daily lives.

Had you made other pilgrimages?

I was raised in a Catholic family and did a lot of scouting. Pilgrimages have therefore always been part of my education and my environment.

I have made the Chartres pilgrimage several times, which takes place over three days at Pentecost. Several times, also, that of Vézelay, with the Rover Scouts of Europe, on All Saints' Day. Finally, I completed the Camino de Santiago twice, from Tours to Orthez (2008), then from Mont-de-Marsan to Santiago de Compostela (2022). It was during this last trip that my decision to go to Jerusalem was confirmed.

How did you prepare for this trip?

There were several components: physical, with a sports trainer; intellectual, by reading works on the subject; linguistic, by learning the basics of the languages ​​of the countries crossed; spiritual, by having my spiritual father accompany me and by going on a discernment retreat; equipment, while preparing my bag. To ensure the safety of this trip, I also did self-defense with a Krav Maga coach (1); and I registered on the Ariane website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Finally, on a financial level, I put 7,000 euros aside: my daily budget is on average 20 euros, the days where I spend nothing compensating for those where I spend more.

Which route are you following?

Before leaving, I inquired about the route that my predecessors had followed. I then traced mine. From Tours to Hungary, I follow the path of Saint Martin. Then, south of Hungary, I will pick up the Jerusalem Way to cross several countries: Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan (at least I hope so) and Israel. There are places that I look forward to, like the Monastery Route in Serbia or Mount Athos in Greece.

Can you share with us some great encounters?

I will give you two. In Italy, after mass in the cathedral of Lodi, a man, named Carlos, came to ask me if I was a pilgrim. He explained to me that when he saw me, he saw God! Then he took me out for coffee and shopping. I still can't believe it… On my second day in Slovenia, in the village of Lipa, a lady invited me to her home. And there was an avalanche of gifts: wine, sandwiches, a t-shirt! These encounters color my pilgrimage: I am touched by the beauty of these souls who give themselves entirely without asking for anything in return.

What difficulties do you encounter?

Despite their learning, the language of the countries crossed is one. Furthermore, wild animals sometimes have surprises in store for me. One night, while I was still in France, wild boars came prowling around my tent. Fortunately, a few screams and the beam of my flashlight were enough to keep them away. As for the wolves and bears I might encounter, I'm a little apprehensive about their encounters. But I'm also looking forward to them!

In these difficulties and in the event of a drop in morale, where do you find the strength to continue?

In these cases, I pass the responsibility on myself: it was me who wanted to leave while knowing full well that certain moments would be difficult! So, when morale is at half mast, I have several strings to my bow: I pray, I sing, I focus on the landscape, I talk to myself, I recite texts or fables. I made the choice of solitude: I can therefore only count on myself… and on God!

At what pace do you walk?

I average around thirty kilometers per day (sometimes 25, some days 40), at a rate of 5 to 6 kilometers per hour, depending on the elevation.

Where do you sleep?

At homestays, in presbyteries, under the stars, in hostels, and sometimes in Airbnbs, hotels or religious communities. I don't plan anything, I take what presents itself when I arrive at the evening stage.

Given the geopolitical situation in the Holy Land, what hypotheses do you formulate to achieve this?

Several possibilities are available to me but given the complex and changing situation, I will let you know when I am in Cyprus. Ideally, I would like to fly to Jordan and then plan the end of my pilgrimage. If this is impossible, two other options are available to me: the Egyptian route or the sea route to Israel. As a last resort, I will consider flying to Jerusalem. In any case, I hope to arrive in the holy city in December or January.

Once you get there, what do you plan to do?

In Jerusalem, I want to take the time to give thanks for this pilgrimage and to leave all the prayer intentions that were entrusted to me during my journey. Three things are close to my heart: making a pilgrimage to the different holy places, if possible within a group and with a priest; find a place to offer my services for a month; spend a night at the Holy Sepulchre.

Do you already have an idea of ​​theafter pilgrimage » ?

I am thinking about it, in fact, because a “decompression airlock” will be necessary to return from such an adventure. The means of transport to return to France will be part of this. Here too, several options are available to me: plane, cargo boat, sailboat. Once in France, I'm thinking of taking a road trip to go back and see all the people who welcomed me to this country and talk with them. I also want to write a book and give conferences. Then I will have to find a job! Then I can think about my next adventures. Including the longest path in the world… but I won’t tell you any more!

(1) A method of combat that emphasizes self-defense and counterattack techniques.

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