Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan image
Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan image

Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan

Cycling the world for 13 years, with two daughters born along the way

Céline and Xavier have been living a nomad lifestyle since 2010, having covered 88’000km by bicycle with two daughters joining their family along the way. They have now embarked on a new adventure through Japan, as official ambassadors of the Japan Eco Track. They will share their experience of Japan with us over their 6-month tour through a series of interviews published below ! Enjoy !

Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan image

The Pasche family arrived in Osaka on May 23, 2023 for a 6-month adventure. They plan to cycle 6,000 km through Honshu and Hokkaido Islands while meeting local governments and residents to speak about their way of life and the importance of spending time in nature. Having been appointed official ambassadors of Japan Eco Track, they will cycle 15 Japan Eco Tracks and attend multiple conferences and events to foster sustainable mobility. We are very happy to welcome them as guests of the Vitality.Swiss program. Follow along as they cycle from Osaka to Hokkaido before coming back through Tokyo.

Check out the five interviews below

5 - The Secret of Packing Life under 200 kg: Exploring Light Living

Céline and Xavier Pasche have been riding around the world for 13 years now. In the previous four interviews, we delved into the profound impact their journey has had on them, from facing fear to becoming more open to new encounters and people. From country to country, their travel has impacted how they look at the world around them, and how they connect with nature, time, cultures, etc. It has given them new perspectives. Yet traveling by bicycles only can also be limiting, for example in terms of material belongings. In this fifth installment, we look at what it means to be a nomad, and get a first-hand account of traveling light in Japan!

Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan image
You travel by bicycle, which means you can only bring along what you can carry on your bike. Packing must be difficult, isn’t it?
Pasche Family
We carry our home on our bicycles. This is all we own and it weighs only 200kg. This weight includes four bikes and one trailer. The rest of the equipment is what we need to be autonomous in wilderness with temperatures that can go down to minus 10°C at night. There is our bedroom, with a self-inflating mattress and the tent. There is also our living room, with a tarp and a hammock, and our kitchen, with a fuel stove, a pressure cooker, a water filter, a reusable coffee filter, and foldable chopsticks. In these 200kg, we also have all the necessities for Nayla and Fibie, including their studying books, pencils and painting, and a tutu because they love dancing. Also included is our professional photography and video equipment and, of course, our computer. In addition, we also have products related to personal care and an emergency kit.  Everything has a purpose, and a specific place in our luggage. We really had to reduce and make sure all these things are in balance as it is our life and not just for a few weeks or months’ journey. For us, less is more.

To all this we still have to add the weight of food and water supplies. In the wilderness of Alaska, we usually had to carry between six and ten days of food. In Turkmenistan, we were drinking up to 8 liters of water per person per day as we were cycling across the desert by 46°C. In Australia, we carried 60 liters of water for 3 days, which added 60kg to our bicycles.

We teach our children to choose what is essential for them. We receive so many stuffed animals and teddy bears, but only eight can travel with us. So, Nayla and Fibie have learned to make choices, to share, to give to other children what they have received or what they don’t need anymore, like a gift they pass along. As for toys, we carry a few of them, especially for the rainy days, but most of the time Nayla and Fibie use branches and stones to create amazing games. Nature offers them so much to play with!
You’ve mentioned previously that you had to lighten up materially and take only the essentials when your daughters were born. What are those essentials? Specifically with regards to Japan? What did you absolutely need to take with you? Did you forget anything before coming?
Pasche Family
When Nayla, and then Fibie, were 5 months old, we hit the road again. We really had to make choices and take only the essential for our daughters that were babies at the time. We for example decided to follow the Elimination Communication method, so our children were almost diaper free. We only had four washable diapers that would dry behind the trailer. I also chose to breastfeed for three years each. We never used a nursing bottle nor a pacifier. But we did carry a pressure cooker. This was how we manage to make daily fresh fruit and vegetable puree.

Our vital equipment changes depending on the region we cycle to. In Alaska, we had to carry two tents because we crossed bear country for months. We had one to eat in, to be protected from the snow storms, rain, and sometimes even the mosquitoes. We used the other tent, which did not smell of food, to sleep. In Japan, we mainly have a tarp that protects the tent from the heavy rain and provides us a shelter.

Nayla’s and Fibie’s games also change as they grow up. Toys started with wooden blocks, now we carry puzzles. Of course, as we have been cycling during Tsuyu, the rainy season, we have waterproof jackets, pants, and shoes. And we also made sure to have light shirts that dry quickly because of the summer heat. Since we will be riding in fall, we brought some warm clothes and down jackets. We have our swimming suits in order to jump in the rivers, lakes, and ocean. We have some specific equipment for the talk events we run along the way, including our computer and adapters, a speaker, and an audio recorder.
Could each member of the family describe one personal item you really care about? Something you have to take with you.
Pasche Family
“My camera! It is my passion as well as my work,” was Xavier’s answer. Nayla talked about her little library, the name she gave to one of her panniers full of books. “Flocon, my polar bear, and my other teddy bear friends,” said Fibie. She loves playing with them, making up stories and adventures. “And for me, Céline, I think it is the essential oils. I use them as a natural healing method, but also in order to keep an emotional balance.” 
How do you manage food? Do you buy it locally? How do you cook it?
Pasche Family
We buy our food at local markets, directly from the farmer when we can, or at the supermarket. We have a fuel stove in order to cook. We can go to the gas station to refill it. It is really useful, first because we can find fuel everywhere, even in remote villages in Mongolia or Tajikistan. Secondly, we can use it at high altitudes and under minus temperatures without any problem, which is not the case with gas. The pressure cooker allows us to cook potatoes or carrots in 10 minutes in very little water. We can also use it as a rice cooker.

We usually eat as if we were at home, preparing good and healthy meals along the way. It is important for us because our bodies make intense efforts every day. Our latest meal was rice, miso, natto, pickled plums, fried vegetables, and a salad. We also change our eating habits depending on the country we cross, trying the local food and preparing our meals according to the local cuisine.
You’ve previously mentioned solar panels to charge your batteries, can you explain how that works? Is there enough sun in Japan? Does the heat impact your machines?
Pasche Family
We simply expose our solar panel to the sunlight and it recharges our batteries. There is of course enough sun in Japan. It is true that humidity and heat can make solar panels a little less effective, but for our use the impact is limited. As we cannot use solar energy in case of rain, we also have a dynamo that recharges our electronic devices starting from 6 km/h. Since we cycle anyway, it helps us generate electricity during the day.
What do you miss most about living in a house?
Pasche Family
We miss a garden! So, we decided to grow sprouts on our bicycles! And it works very well! We have home-grown fresh vegetables! Sometimes, we wish to have a private and safe place. Recently in Hokkaido, as we were reaching a campground in Yamabe, we had to turn around and keep cycling another 10 kilometers as the place was closed because of a bear! It took a lot of energy to keep going that night. The unknown is around every corner!

We are also together 24/7. This is precious to us, in particular the quality of presence we can offer to our children. But it is also the most difficult! Whenever tensions arise, it would be great to have a safe place where to isolate oneself, not in the pouring rain, nor in the suffocating heat, nor surrounded by people asking us questions. 
How do you take care of your health?  Is a medical kit probably a must-have?
Pasche Family
Of course, bringing a medical kit is crucial. First, we are trained for medical emergencies and we took time to create a personal medical kit in collaboration with a doctor. We also have direct access to emergency doctors in Switzerland if we need, especially when we are in wilderness, away from any medical help. In fact, however, we have only been using alternative and natural healing methods, namely essential oils and homeopathy, energy healing, lithotherapy, and acupressure.
Already 13 years on the road; can you mention any setbacks or difficulties you have encountered from traveling by bicycle?
Pasche Family
We have many stories. We got escorted out of the Forbidden City in China, we had a chain break at - 30°C in the Siberian wilderness, Xavier felt on a road where the asphalt was not yet dry, a drunk man came to see us in the middle of the night in Mongolia. But these shocking experiences are such a tiny percentage of our encounters. We were welcomed by so many people, got helped in every country we have been to.

Some of the difficulties come from extreme conditions, weather for instance. Traveling by bicycle is not fast enough to escape seasonal hardships: we have to go through the rainy season, the cold of winter, the heat of summer! In terms of landscapes, cycling in remote places is a real challenge, but being surrounded by people can be difficult, too. When we were in Bangladesh, we had 70 people around us at any given time. Every time we stopped, a crowd would gather, coming very close to us, less than one meter. It was suffocating. We never had a single minute alone. 

A few weeks ago, we had a problem with the tire of our trailer. It is a 12-inch model and almost impossible to find in Japan without ordering it. We had to tape it. Then the tube inside burst. And all our spare had been used already. Xavier finally took a 20-inch tube and doubled it inside the tire. That worked until we received the new ones. Sometimes we need to be very creative.
Would you ever consider settling down somewhere in the future?
Pasche Family
At the moment, we are happy in this life and in balance. If one day one of us needs something else, we will create a new life. There is no limit to the life we can imagine and create as a family. Our daughters are learning through experimentation. They don’t learn by reading in a book, but by experiencing. For example, they do not read about religions, they live them. They entered a mosque to pray, a church, a Taoist temple, and now in Japan, they pray in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Swiss Adventurer Family touring Japan image

4 - Pedaling Across Cultures: a Journey of Connection

In our previous interview with Céline and Xavier Pasche, we discovered how their nomadic life changed their notion of Time. In this fourth interview, we will focus on how they relate to the communities they cross. We will also address how they live this constant change of cultures and interact with people and friends.

Read the interview below

In 2010, as you left Switzerland on your bicycles, how did you imagine the connection with communities along the way? How did you feel about meeting new people and immersing yourself in different cultures?

Meeting people has always been one of the centers of our nomadic lifestyle. When we left in 2010, we decided to trust in people and humanity. It was really important for us. This is also why we chose never to lock our bicycles in any of the countries we have been to. We leave them in front of a stall, on the street, in the parking lot of a big supermarket, in absolute trust of humanity. We have never had anything stolen. Actually, we once lost a small package in the crowded streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Someone picked it up and managed to give it back to us, despite the hustle and bustle of the traffic, simply with a smile.
Traveling by bicycles also gives us a fabulous reason to be in some places and interact with local people. One day in Iran, we approached a small village. It looked austere, and all the faces turned towards us on our arrival, interrogating, suspicious. Without our bikes, we would never have stopped here, because the place didn’t lend itself to it. Yet we needed water. “Some water? I’ll show you the well,” replied a woman. Immediately the faces changed, we had a reason to be here. The 10 minutes needed to pump the water were enough to open a door, to create a connection. Those minutes opened up a space for sharing with women in chadors and men coming from the fields. And as the gap was bridged, they invited us to drink tea. Sometimes we have the feeling that we left to discover cultures of the world and in fact we met incredible human beings, teachers, and friends.

You speak of trust in humanity, but can you tell us how you manage to communicate with those you encounter?

I am an anthropologist. So, I love to learn about cultures and how people created different ways of living together as a society. For me, a culture is like a light that illuminates the reality. When encountering a new culture, we switch on another light; we discover a new perspective, we see a new way to address the same reality. In 2010, we decided to discover cultures, which is why we always try to learn the local language. In Turkey, it was easy to learn. Everyone invited us for tea. “Chai! Chai!” They shouted. Sometimes, we stopped up to 10 times a day to drink this precious tea. We got to practice the Turkish we learned for almost a year all over Central Asia. In the past, the Ottoman Empire reached Siberia, so the languages have the same root. People could understand us. We could even communicate with minorities in western China. An Uighur man had tears in his eyes when we started to speak in his dialect. For him, it meant so much.
We believe that language is never a problem. There is always a way to communicate. Especially for children, they take each other by the hand and go play. Nayla and Fibie experienced this many times with Japanese children. It seems to be really easy to get in touch with children in Japan. Now our daughters are learning Japanese. They learn with the people they meet. They also try to write Hiragana and Katakana. They are already fluent in French and English and know a few words of Chinese, German, Russian, and Polish.

It seems that you entered so many homes and were welcomed by incredible hospitality along the way. What is your experience in Japan?

Japan is very welcoming. In Niigata prefecture, we held a talk at the World Cafe in Nagaoka. There we met Haga-san, who crossed many deserts on camels, including the Taklamakan desert in China! We were excited to compare our experiences and discuss cultural differences. Thanks to Haga-san, we were able to make many new connections. His friend Iguchi-san welcomed us in his home, where we enjoyed a festive evening with his family, eating fried noodles and playing with fireworks. We were then put in contact with his friends about 50 km away so that we could meet new families and spend the night in the warmth of a house instead of camping in the pouring rain. We were so grateful for this generosity and kindness, which enabled us to dive deeper into Japanese culture and meet new people.
We also received a touching message from Haga-san about our visit.

“The members of Teradomari have grown a lot through their interaction with you. Their values seem to have changed for the better. I am very glad for their growth.” - Haga-san

We think that people who happen to be along our way are there for a reason, for them and for us. They can sometimes inspire us, help us in a way they would never have imagined, and even change our destiny. Recently, we were at the top of Mount Gassan, the spiritual mountain of rebirth, for our second MontBell Sea to Summit, and we felt part of one big family, kayaking, cycling and hiking together to the top. We were also invited to share the great summer festival in Tohoku, which we heard is very passionate. The Matsuri in Japan are always a joyful time. We remember Nayla at 3 years old, trying to catch noodles sliding down a bamboo waterfall with chopsticks. She just loved it.

You are nomads, which means you never stay in one place for very long. Does this lifestyle still allow you to forge friendships, ties to other people?

Somehow, our life of adventure is an invitation for people to share their life, but also their dreams and their fears. From a conversation about daily life and work, it quickly switches to some deep concern, to what matters the most for people, to some very emotional part of their life. Somehow a deeper connection takes place. Maybe because we are not part of the community they belong to. We don’t know. Anyhow, this leads to amazing friendships. Today we really have the feeling that we are world citizens. We hold strong connections with friends in many places and countries. And we really have the feeling that our roots are now part of us. They don’t need to be anchored in a place nor a culture. Nayla and Fibie always laugh when they say: “We have a Swiss passport, we were born in Malaysia, we sometimes feel Canadians and we love Japan!” They really hold a special connection to many places for different reasons.

How has your lifestyle impacted how your daughters open up to new people? Do you think it has made them more open-minded and curious?

Nayla and Fibie don’t assume that a friend is someone of the same age, on the contrary, they have friends who are babies but also 83 years old, like Maria in Poland! They have learned so much from meeting so many people, from interacting with them, from their passion, their religion, their culture, and their kindness. And they still keep in touch by email, letters, voice messages or sometimes they call them. It is really important for our daughters to maintain these friendships, and for us as well. We even had friends we encountered along the way that we met again in different parts of the world! We feel that Nayla and Fibie are very open to new ideas, new ways of being. They really meet people for who they are, not for their title, their age, or their job. They see the identity of a person not through their place in society, or on how they look, they are really curious to meet the person as he/she is. They really build bridges and friendships that are stronger than cultural differences. Maybe this is how we, as humanity, can bring a connection to the world, building bridges not walls.

3 - Our relation to Time and living a Slow Life

In the previous interview with Céline and Xavier Pasche, we discussed slow mobility and what it means concretely for them to travel by bicycle. In this third interview, we focus on how their nomad lifestyle and slow method of travel has impacted how they relate to the notion of Time.

Read the interview below

In 2010, you gave up your traditional 9-5 jobs and left on your adventure. Has this nomadic lifestyle given you more freedom and control over how you spend your time?

Since 2010, time is no longer the same for us. I can even say that time has extended. When people say: “time goes so fast,” I answer: “Not for me”.First, we don’t set an alarm clock but we wake up with the first sun rays. We then follow the cycle of the sun and of the seasons. These last few weeks in Japan, we have been waking up at 4.30 am. With the heat of summer, we try to start at 7 o’clock and ride about 10 km before breakfast. Then have a lunch break of two hours which enables us to cook. We try to set up camp by 5 pm. In winter, for example, we sleep longer as it is dark and cold.We usually cycle about 50 km per day. It allows us to have time to prepare good meals, to meet people and to visit or discover some places, monuments, or natural wonders along the way. But, of course, it is not set, as our shortest day was once just 3 km. It was in Canada, because we found a great place by a lake and our daughters decided it was too beautiful to leave.

Does it mean you always have plenty of time?

No, not at all. We always have time limits, for example linked to our visa. In Turkmenistan, we only receive a 5-day transit visa to cross 500 km of desert by 42 °C. I can still remember how my head was pounding at the limit of heatstroke. We were drinking 8 liters of water a day per person. In China, we received a 3-month visa to cross the country from Shanghai to Kazakhstan.Here, we have 6 months. So, we have time to slowly get immersed in Japan’s nature and culture. We are mostly nomads, which means we move nearly every day. With the 30 talks planned in Japan, we actually have set destinations, so it gives us a pace, of the kilometers we have to cycle in a day, and the time we can spend resting and discovering towns or cities. Cycling from Tottori to Ishikawa prefectures, we had intense cycling days and would easily spend 5 to 6 hours on our bicycles, because of all the passes we had to climb.We usually try to stay 1 or 2 days in the cities we are invited in, also because we need days of rest for our bodies and Nayla and Fibie need time to study. We usually found out that our most beautiful memories are made along the way, when we suddenly discover a hidden gem. Also, some of our most precious moments are the time spent with people. Yesterday night, some local people from the Nagai Town, Yamagata prefecture, came to greet us at the campground. They brought us some delicacy like horsemeat sashimi, glutinous rice, and vegetables from their garden. We all sat on a mat on the ground and shared the meal together. They were hardly speaking English, but we could understand each other, laughing, trying to learn Japanese, and connecting with them. This is also when we really learn from the local people about the region and their culture. For example, we learned to say thank you in their local dialect: “O sho o shi na”.

You often mention “Slow Life without limit” in order to describe your life, what does it mean?

For us, living a Slow Life doesn’t mean it is slow, on the contrary, our way of life can be very intense. It means that we choose to put back at the center what is important for us and have gratitude for it.We choose for example to enter Slow parenting, taking time to be with our children. We are a real team in the family working towards the same goal and being aware of the important input of everyone. This is why Nayla and Fibie take part in decisions.

How has your experience influenced your understanding of the notion of Time?

We were quite surprised to realize that most societies have gained momentum and speed, which was made very clear to us as we came back to different countries. People are busier and busier. It seems necessary to do more, faster, better. And it starts at a very early age. Nowadays children need to be able to read younger and younger. Even school starts at a younger age. In some countries, it is now compulsory at the age of 3.
Technology has also become the center of our society, linked to a belief that it can help us save time.But really do we have more time? Even a very high technology country like Japan is known for its long working hours and a work-life balance that is mostly turned towards the job. It seems that the more technology is present in our lives, the more we add into it and the less time we have. Time has become the master of our lives, without us even realizing it.

What is the impact of this race for time?

Today, more and more studies are showing the effect of stress on our bodies. It is the stress of time which puts pressure on our lives and our health. It is not only linked to the work-life balance and our perception of time, but also to our worries about the future.
When we feel we don’t have time, we don’t have the space to take a breath and open place for new ideas, opportunities, and solutions to come. Life needs time and space to breathe, to feel and to connect.
In Japan, we had heard that some young couples are hesitating to have children because of the pressure of their work and the standard of living they would love to offer to their children. Yet, this time we have met some people in their thirties who have chosen to live differently. For example, they have chosen to move to the countryside or to smaller towns, to renovate an old house, to grow vegetables, to create a new business, or to live from their art. They decided they wanted a change, being out of the stressful life of big cities. 

How can we re-think the concept of time?

We choose to live time differently, to give it another pace by being fully alive in the present moment. We decided to stop giving full power to time and to be wealthy of time by our choices. We want to be really present to the place where we are, to the people we meet, to the quality of presence we can offer to our children.We decided to connect with time in a new way.

2-Interacting with the land through active mobility

Céline and Xavier Pasche decided to use human-powered transportation to explore the world. Why did they choose the bicycle as a means of transportation? What does slow traveling offer them? What does it mean to be chosen as Japan Eco Track Ambassadors? Discover all that and more in our second interview with them.

Read the interview below

Why did you choose to explore the world by bicycle?

We choose the bicycle as a means of transportation, because it allows us to really experience the land. It allows us to stop anywhere, at any time. It was always so frustrating to be in a bus, looking through a window at all the amazing places we would love to stop and missing all the in-between. This is why, when we left on this big adventure, we chose the bicycle. What we didn’t know, what we didn’t realize, is that it would really take us into another dimension. Time has expanded. Time has lost its importance and its influence. Every one of our encounters, every event, every state of mind is linked to a place and its energy. All our experiences are rooted in the land, not only by the external elements that occur but also by the emotions we experience. Reaching a place by bicycle is much more than just discovering a new place, it is all that we can feel with our body, all the sensations, all the scents, all the feelings.

You have already covered 88’000km by bicycle. Was it not difficult?

When we look at the path that we have traveled, the distances seem insignificant, as if planet Earth has become our playground. Every new discovery feeds our sense of wonder and our motivation to keep on going. The barriers of fear have collapsed. Even huge distances are then transformed into a human scale, allowing us to cross the continents and create this itinerant life.

The first time we arrived in Japan was in 2012. To reach the country of the Rising Sun, we cycled all the way from Switzerland. We only had to load our bikes on a truck for 500km while we were crossing Mongolia in winter. It was -30°C. We were crossing endless, hostile and barren spaces. The day Céline felt the cornea of her eyes freezing, she knew it was time to stop and ask for help. Then, of course, we took a ferry, first to South Korea, then from Busan to Shimonoseki. This is how we got to Honshu. For us, looking at a world map, it was mind blowing to imagine that we had cycled all of this, that we had reached Japan by land. It was a path connecting the empty hostile spaces with the agitation of the crowd, a movement between solitude and human hustle, a path among cultures and wilderness.

We can still remember the family who gave us two Koi Nobori back in 2012, as a present. These carp streamers are flown in Japan from late April to early May, in honor of children for a good future and in the hope that they will grow up healthy and strong. It was May and they told us that the carp would give us courage to keep going. Since that day and in every country, we have a Koi Nobori floating behind our bikes, even on those of our two daughters Nayla and Fibie. Somehow a powerful connection was already made with Japan.

We talk of slow mobility but what does it mean concretely for you?

A slow journey is when you can feel and experience the land with your five senses. This journey to the rhythm of the bicycle allows us to appreciate the changes of atmosphere, vegetation, climates, altitudes, seasons and energies. This is how we really experience the land. One space after another, one atmosphere after another, one encounter after another, we live in a natural time. This time is born in every breath. We don’t have to go and see one monument after the other, we do not need to discover all the places to visit in a region. On the contrary, we usually cannot. First, because it would just be too much, but, moreover, because every place we discover is a story. A story of how we felt that day, what the weather was like, what the smell was around us, whom we met along the way, what we saw. These last weeks, cycling in Tottori prefecture, we remember the mountainous climbs along the coast. It was tough. But the view on the bays and the charming little fishing villages were stunning. At the top of the pass, the lush vegetation had the smell of Jasmine flowers. Remembering some of the places, I can recall the scent of these flowers. Of course, feeling the land also means going through all kinds of weather. When Mawar typhoon sent depression over Japan that led to various alert of heavy rains, landslides, surges, we were also outside. We then tested the waterproofness of the tent! Despite the fact it was floating on puddles, we were ok. But surely, we acclaimed the sun the next morning, not only to dry everything, but because the sky was so intensely blue. Nature was vibrant, and the green of the forest seemed even more radiant.

How fast are you cycling?

Of course, we are slow. Slow means that one hour by car is usually 1 to 2 days for us on our bikes. We are usually cycling around 50km a day. We have time to endure the uphill, to sweat in the scorching heat, to be wet with all rain. But we also discover all these small details along the way. Here in Japan, a snake slithered by, a monkey hid when we passed by. We saw many different Shinto shrines, some in amazing bamboo forests. Nayla admired a torii on a small island in the Japanese sea, Fibie liked to meditate in an old Buddhist temple at the top of a pass. We saw people taking care of the rice paddies. In Ono, we suddenly discovered a castle emerging through the mountains as we didn’t expect it. It was fabulous to see it. It was Fibie’s first Japanese castle, so she was so excited about it.

This is your fifth time in Japan. This time, you were chosen as Japan Eco Track Ambassadors. First of all, what are the Eco Track in Japan?

The Japan Eco Track were imagined as routes that would connect different regions in Japan, but also offer people the chance to experiment the natural wonders of a place. In fact, it is linked to the Swiss Mobility, endless hiking, cycling and kayaking trails that connect the whole country. In Japan, the idea was to develop paths that would enable people to go around the main Japanese island only by human powered-transportation. This thought came from Mr. Isamu Tatsuno, founder of MontBell. Now, local government come to together with some companies and partners to work towards this project. It is not possible now but in the future more and more trails should be built to connect all the different prefectures. It has also been created as a way to revitalize local communities with eco mobility and human-powered travel. These Japan Eco Track routes are a way to explore Japan and different regions on foot, by bike or canoe, and to discover not only its vibrant nature but also some places of interest, natural phenomenon, history and interact with local people.

What does it mean to be Japan Eco Track Ambassadors?

As ambassadors, we are cycling in 30 different Eco Track regions, looking at the highlights, the infrastructure, the quality, and the experience. Of course, we are also meeting local people along the way and interacting with them. We are sharing our adventures through articles, our website, social media, and talks so that people in Japan and overseas can be aware of the endless possibilities of experiencing Japan’s nature and culture through these Eco Track routes.

Cycling the Eco Track with our daughters Nayla and Fibie, who are 10 and 5 years old, is also a way to show the diverse possibilities of experimenting these trails. It is an invitation to take the children and spend time in the outdoors with them.

We will meet the local government as well as the inhabitants by offering events in 30 different towns, talking about our experiences along the Eco Tracks but also on our different way of living and parenting. Moreover, we will address the importance of spending time in nature, especially for children. Media are invited, which has an impact on the notoriety of these Eco Track. To reach all these events, we will only cycle. It represents about 6,000 km on Honshu and Hokkaido islands. It is, of course, a way to think about mobility differently.

Talking about mobility, what is your point of view on the creation of these Japan Eco Track?

These Eco Tracks were also created with the idea of active mobility and human-powered travel. For us this is really important. Today, more and more countries are talking about soft, eco or active mobility. It is the idea to use non-motorized ways of transportation. It can be to commute in a city, to go shopping or to discover a new place. It can be in daily life, but also on the week-end or in a journey. And this is why we were chosen as ambassadors, because we decided to experiment the world in a slow motion, using our bicycle as a means of transportation. We have already cycled over 88,000km in 50 different countries and on 4 continents. Our bike is how we venture out and experience the world.

Why do you promote human-powered journey?

On our journey, we invite people to experience the land, to experience it through the body. It doesn’t need to be in full intensity. Active mobility, human-powered transportation is really a way to come back to a more sustainable way of life. Not only because of the pollution, but also because when we experience a place on slow motion we see so much more. Reaching a place to take a picture in 3 minutes and go to see another place is not experimenting, it is consuming the attractions. In this world dictated by time, imposed on by schedules, in our world of instantaneous communication, is it not space that gives time its full realization?

The Japanese culture of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) or o-hanami (admiring Sakura flowers) is already linked to the same idea. Filling our senses with the experience of the forest or contemplation of the Sakura flowers.

Being on the move in body and mind also increases our ability to function with more creativity and more productivity. Fifteen minutes a day of walking in the forest helps to boost our brain’s cognitive capacity and bring emotional balance. Active mobility is linked to a healthy life. It is taking care of our body and our mind. It is experiencing the world through our senses while preserving nature.

Of course, active mobility is also a way to nourish wonder. A young child knows how to wonder because he/she doesn’t consider the world as conquered or granted, they receive it as a gift. This is maybe the gift of these Eco Track, to experiment them with wonder. It can be as a sportive challenge, as a discovery, as a slow hiking day, it doesn’t matter. What matters is to nourish our wonder and to be present to our spontaneity.

1- Introductory Interview

Check out their incredible journey in this first interview and maybe get inspired to embark on your own sustainable adventure !

Read the interview below

Xavier and Céline, can you tell us more about your life of adventures?

We are a Swiss family of adventurers, living in a tent for the past 13 years and cycling through wilderness in remote corners of the planet. We left as a couple in 2010 and our two daughters were born along the way. Today, Nayla is 9 years old and Fibie is 5. We have never stopped exploring the Earth. We have cycled 88,000 km on 4 continents. The “Infinite” project has led us to ride two loops. One around the sacred Altai Mountains in Siberia, the other around the high peaks of the Himalayas. The “Great Northern Spaces” project took us to the remote corners of Siberia and Mongolia, then to North America, from Alaska to the Atlantic, as well as Eastern Europe. We experienced - 45 °C and + 53 °C, Arctic tundra, deserts, jungles, and also many diverse cultures.

Can you introduce each member of the family?

Xavier was born in 1980. He is an architectural draftsman, an editor, a photographer, and a solution-finder. He is the mechanic of the family.
Céline was born in 1982. She is an anthropologist, a speaker, a writer, and a mountain leader. She is also a life coach and the medic of the family.
Nayla was born in 2013. She has already been 50,000 km on the road of the world and cycled 10,000 km on her bike. She made her first step in the Angkor temples in Cambodia. She is the first and youngest child to have crossed the Nullarbor Desert in Australia.
Fibie was born in 2017. She has been in a chariot or a tandem system for 25,000 km and cycled 800 km on her own bike. She learnt to walk in a yurt in Mongolia, drinking fermented mare’s milk for her 1st birthday. She is the first and also the youngest child to have crossed the Gobi Desert through Mongolia and China. Our two daughters were raised in wilderness. Fibie likes to explain: “Our tent is our home and the world our playground.”

What is your project “Wonders of Nature Japan 2023”?

As Japan Eco Tracks Ambassadors, we will invite people and children to experience Japan’s rich and diverse nature through human-powered transportation. For 6 months, we will cycle 6’000 km in Honshu and Hokkaido. We will attend 3 MontBell “SEA TO SUMMIT”, be part of 3 environmental symposiums and give about 30 inspiring talks along the way. You can find more detail information about our way of life and the map of our itinerary here.  

We will also address the importance of being in nature. More than ever, children and nature need to spend time together and re-enchant this connection for the development of their senses, their bodies, their self-esteem, to cultivate their creativity and wonder and for the well-being of the planet. We are facing environmental challenges and children’s link to nature will be a key to helping them become the solution-finder of tomorrow. But it is also crucial for today, as more and more scientific studies show the effect of nature deficit disorders in children in nearly every society.

Wonders of Nature Japan 2023 is part of a bigger project, cycling in many different countries to invite and inspire parents to spend time with their children in nature, for our future.

We decided to start in Japan because in 2019, we won the MontBell Challenge Award and have a special connection to this country, one of Nayla’s favorites.

How did you come to choose this life and cycle beyond the horizon?

I can still see myself making that first pedal stroke in 2010. The one that took me to a complete transformation of my life.

This transition happened in the blink of an eye. In 2009, I was on my way to a small music festival in the Swiss Alps. When I met Xavier, I was seduced by the names of the wild areas he mentioned, by the isolated corners he wanted to explore. Xavier had dreams without limit, and he allowed himself to live them. As a couple, we set off for three years by bike. With our savings and the articles, we wrote for a Swiss newspaper, we cast off. Leaving Switzerland to cycle to New Zealand, we first crossed the Alps. Our bodies were tired, our muscles aching, our minds struggling. The mountain passes propelled us into the intensity of the journey, with rain and snow cutting us off from the surrounding beauty. Our minds worried about the thousands of kilometers to come, the mountain chains to climb, the deserts to cross, the cold of the winters. We had no choice but to learn to live here and now.

Yet in the middle of the Kazakh steppes, we felt that we were changing. After more than two years on the roads of the world, the adventure we had dreamed, imagined and then created had become our life.

Your two daughters were born along the way, is it right?

We opened ourselves to the possibility of a new adventure, that of becoming a parent. I got the intuition that I was pregnant in Nepal. At an altitude of 5,500 meters, facing Everest, I told Xavier that he was going to become a Dad. The power of the Himalayas was all around us. There was only the vibrant silence and the breath of the wind. 4 years later, Fibie joined us. I was pregnant in Japan. She revealed herself in the heart of wonder and cultural discovery.

They were both born along the way, in Malaysia. After each birth, we hit the road again when they were just 5 months old. We dived into the journey with a baby, twice in a row. We had to lighten up, first of all, materially and take only the essentials. But above all, we needed to lighten up emotionally. We needed more than courage. We needed to trust life, to surrender to the path and to let go of the thousands of questions that were spinning in our head.

Once on the road, we had to find a new balance, cycling the three of us in Thailand, then the four of us in Okinawa. We had to find harmony in the constant movement, which combines the rhythm and needs of Nayla and Fibie, breastfeeding, the necessities of the road, the immersion in a new culture and the changes in climate and weather.

How is it to live in a tent?

For thirteen years, we have been living in interconnection with the earth. In a tent, we are in connection with every spark of life. By bicycle, we crossed remote territories and wilderness in autonomy. We delve on ancestral wisdom to live in motion. The land calls us from one place to another and we already experienced through our senses the various cultures, the indigenous knowledge, the song of the ice, the high altitude or for example the vibrations of the sacred places. At every moment, we plunge into the unknown and do not know where we will pitch our tent that evening. This unknown is at the same time breathtaking and powerful, at times terrifying. We had to learn to live with it, to face our fears. Our two daughters are part of the team. They take part in the decisions, they pedal, they pitch the tent, and above all they play. They play freely in the vast spaces we cross in endless wonder. 

Why did you choose this life?

We chose to bring at the center of our lives what really matters for us. Spending time with our children and offering them a quality of presence, living in nature, trusting life. We also decided to dare try and follow our intuition.

As an anthropologist, a photographer and speakers, we share our discoveries and the teachings we receive. As ambassadors of a life in the outdoors and mindful parenting, we participate in what is emerging in society towards a more sustainable way of life and in natural learning for children, helping kids learn at their own pace through play, first-hand experiences, nature, and self-direction. As adventurers, we chose to live with less, using 20 to 40 liters of water a day and recharging our electronic devices with 2 dynamos and 1 solar panel. This life leads us to make extraordinary choices. We work along the way and live on the delicate balance of simplicity and yet carried by the flow of creation and following the four cardinal points of our compass: to live, explore, share, and inspire.

The Pasche family will share their experience in Japan with us over the next 6 months through a series of interviews published here.