He drove from Paris to Lebanon and then through Central Asian countries to Afghanistan, Iran, U.A.E.,Oman, Yemen over to Djibouti and Ethiopia, where he is passing through.
He plans to drive up through Sudan and into Egypt to finally arrive in Jerusalem. He is planning to present a large book to Pope Francis conveying messages of peace and unity from members of the twenty-one Oriental Christian countries Vincent has visited.
Addis Happening caught up with Vincent to find out about his incredible journey.
Please tell us about the mission you are on?
My name is Vincent Gelot, I am a 26 years-old Christian Frenchchman and I left Paris in August 2012 onboard an old-Renault 4L in order to meet the Christian communities living in the Middle East, Central Asia Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa. In total, I have covered more than 70000 km and around forty different countries. These last 20 months. I traveled to Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Caucasian countries, Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, UAE, Oman, Djibouti and Ethiopia. The purpose of this journey is to see and record how the Christians are living their faith in their environment, to record their rites, liturgy and history.
Aside my diaries and photographic works and publications, it is also a mission. In fact, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (the final destination of this journey) is supported by my mission through a book: a Book of the Orient. This is also traveling with me to collect testimonies and prayers of Christian people I meet on the road. This Book will be given to the Pope at the end of this adventure during his visit to the Holy Land of Jerusalem next May.
The best way to give you an idea of this adventure is to have a look on the facebook page:
What have you been learning as a result of your journey?
First, I learnt a lot about myself. Because I am traveling alone and in a simple way, I cannot cheat with myself. Being involved through different contexts - sometimes difficult situations - dealing with different cultures and people, I see better my qualities and above all my limits. Then, I received a lot from the people I met on the way. This travel was the best school of life ever.
What have been some of the challenges?
First challenge: myself. Again, because you are alone, you must deal with yourself, adapt yourself without betraying your culture and where you come from. Even though you meet a lot of people, at the end you are still alone on this long journey.
Second challenge: My car. Everything except the music is mechanical. There is no air conditioning and no heater. I let you imagine when in Arabia it was more than 60 degrees inside the car this summer or less than 30 degrees in Armenia last winter. Dealing with the physical health of the car has also been a challenge.
Third challenge: Adaptation to the different countries. First difficulty is to follow the local way of driving (sometimes if there is one). Secondly, dealing with all the administration papers, the visas, the suspicious (or corrupted) policemen, crossing the borders and getting the other travel permits always presented difficulty. Also, in some countries, like Iraq or Afghanistan, it was paramount to be take care and be aware of the security issues.
What did you discover about Ethiopia from your journey?
In Ethiopia, I discovered a fascinated country. The diversity of its people, the beauty of its landscape, the richness of its history. Of course, Ethiopia has a special place in my journey because of its Christian identity. Traveling in Koulouby for the pilgrimage, in Lalibela, Axum and Gondar, I was amazed by the faith of so many Ethiopians.
Why travel in such an unlikely old Renault car?
I am traveling with this car because it an easy, modest, simple and sympathetic means of travel. Many people are asking me: "Why are you making such a long journey with this poor car, you come from a rich country, why not drive in a nice Land Rover or another big car?" Then, I try to explain to them that traveling with this special car is THE point. We can live in a modern world but to live simply is an attitude and a lifestyle.