Mathieu and Agathe (Odyssées d’Architectures)

Today's Explorers

Mathieu and Agathe (Odyssées d’Architectures)

May 6, 2024
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

France, Belgium

When did you start your interest in exploration?


What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

We are both architects. We met during our studies.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

None 🤣  beside we like to travel with paper maps, as we are architects we like physical plans.

Where have you explored so far?

Argentina, California, Japan, all West Africa, all Southern Africa,

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

In 2016 we did a university exchange in Argentina. We took the opportunity of this experience to buy a Volkswagen T2 from 1980 to travel all over the country. We traveled for 3 months and 11.000km. We sadly had to sell the car because we had to go back to Belgium and end our studies.

We decided then to buy a 4x4 and start overlanding as soon as we graduated. In the meantime, we took every opportunity to travel the world. Our travels were always the same : renting a car big enough to put an inflatable mattress on the back and road-tripping around the country. We love this way of discovering countries so much.

We graduated then but unfortunately Covid came so we postponed this idea and started working in Switzerland. We saved as much as we could to quit our jobs, bought a Land Rover Defender and started traveling Africa without a return date. We are now in South Africa.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

  1. Japan (with our Land Rover defender this time),
  2. Australia
  3. and South America

Where would you recommend others visit?

Argentina is the best country for overlanding

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

Land Rover Defender, 300 Tdi, from 1994 (like Mathieu birthday 😅). We set all the back interior to be like a little van with reused materials. We have a ARB rooftop tent and a very simple water system.

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

  1. Coffee setup
  2. Camera
  3. Surfboard
  4. Sketchbook
  5. Map of the region

What inspires you to explore more?

When you explore, you learn. You learn about others, about the culture, the places and about yourself.  

For us, architecture is something that inspires us a lot to explore more because it tells a lot about the place you are.

How do you engage with others?

We like meeting new people. Locals or travelers. Exchange with people is always the best way to get recent information. We try to keep in touch with every traveler we meet on the road. I have to say that It’s more difficult with locals because your life is so different but we try our best. In every country we visit we try to meet local architects.

What are your goals when you explore?

Architecture is the fuel of all our adventures.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

Security is the biggest challenge for us. We like to visit remote villages and some are far from everything. We experienced security issues twice when going to very remote places but we always try to communicate as friendly as possible, and if communication is not possible we don’t try to be heroes and we give something. We always have a bit of cash accessible to give and get out of bad situations. But so far so good. Nothing bad happened. It’s part of the journey so we just have to be aware and don’t be naïve (like we were before being attacked the first time).

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

We were in the Northeast of Sierra Leone. A region known for its diamonds. There are a lot of big mining companies but also informal mining. This creates a strange atmosphere between very rich international companies and locals that are illegally digging to try to find a precious stone. If they find one, they are “fine” for the rest of their life. But it’s still very rare to find one and it may never happen.

So we were driving in this region and couldn’t find a decent place to sleep. Either a hotel was very luxurious and pricey or it was prostitution hotel and no one accepted that we slept in their parking or property. We had to find a solution since it was getting dark. So we drove between illegal mines to try to hide somewhere in the bush and spend a short night. But again we couldn’t find a decent place to park and sleep so we kept driving around these illegal mines and found this very small village. It’s was only 15 houses.

We were so tired of searching that we asked if it was possible to park there and sleep inside our car. The chief of the village came and agreed.

The next morning, we realized we slept on the football field they built somehow. Curious villagers then came to see how we were able to sleep in our car. We showed them around and explained to them how we do. Then they also wanted to show us how they live but also how they build their house only with earth and wood sticks. It was an amazing exchange because we learned from them and they learned from us. All this without any money exchange and anything similar.

And this exchange, in such a place where everyone wants to be rich by finding a little stone, makes the situation even more beautiful. We spent all the day in this small village understanding how every men and women dig every day with the hope to find a gem

How has exploration changed you?

When you explore, you learn to be minimalist. Or at least to bring the important things. This is something that we try to transpose into our daily life. We always ask ourselves, “Do I really need this?”.

It helps us to know what is important and what is superfluous but it also helps us to save money to travel more!

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Being humble. Visiting remote and sometimes poor places makes us realize the chance we had to grow up in a rich, democratic and healthy country. We complain less to things we don’t have and we enjoy more things we have.

How do you explore locally?

We like to try different ways of exploring. By bike, walking, skiing, with random cars, public transport. The way you explore a place brings an extra dimension even if you explored the place already.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

ITravelers are part of one big family. Explmore gathers us.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

Don’t be afraid of change. You will alway get more by trying new things. And if you don’t like it, you can always do a U turn and say to yourself : at least I tried.

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