Marie-Therese. © Carrie Speaking


Egalement disponible en français.

She was our first encounter.

My wife and I were in a fast train to Paris, where we would take off to Auckland, New-Zealand. Marie-Thérèse, 70, was riding on the same train, headed to a wedding in Bruxelles.

This story starts with a yawn: mine. My wife was already dozing off, lying on the two seats in front of me.

As my mouth was still inelegantly half-open, Marie-Thérèse came up and said:

“You should get coffee!”

I laughed. I said I had thought about it, but I didn’t know if they made good coffee aboard these trains. She said they didn’t: hers had been too light. She liked her coffee strong, she said. “Ah, ristretto!” I exclaimed wittily.

This prompted her to ask, as if that was the next obvious step in the conversation:

“Have you ever been to Venice?”

As soon as she asked, I knew I’d love her. I knew a photograph would be taken and a story would be written.

The sum of past travels, interwoven in my mind, equalled that intuition — that certainty. Travels do that to you: they give your guts a power of prediction over places and encounters.

Marie-Thérèse comes in many colors.

Before she retired, she owned a bakery with her husband in Savoie. When she eventually retired, she wondered what she’d do with herself.

“I thought about it every day for a long time”, she said. “And then it occurred to me suddenly one morning: I would get on the move, and travel.”

Marie-Thérèse is a vegetarian. She likes almond milk but she finds oat milk tasteless. She loves sprouted seeds: especially alfalfa and fennel. But she doesn’t make them herself.

“They stink!”, she exclaimed.

This sprouted a conversation about how alfalfa is in fact very easy to grow, with a fast sprouting cycle, as opposed to wheat, which has a slower sprouting cycle.

Marie-Thérèse was happy to meet us. Her husband rarely travels with her; that day, he remained seated a bit further down the aisle while we talked. My wife and I almost missed our stop and had to rush. Marie-Thérèse gave us her email address and told us to write.

“Shall I take off my shawls?”, she asked as I was taking her photograph. “I know I come in many colors, but it makes me look like an eccentric hippie, don’t you think?”

The English language has kind of borrowed and coined a new word: “Sonder”.

Sonder. n. “The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.”

I am a travel writer. But shall I travel to the farthest corners of the world, I’d still completely miss out on the real thing. People are the real thing. Travel is in fact a person. An endless chain of experiences. A never-ending road to anywhere.

Marie-Thérèse was a trigger encounter. Over the months after we met her, I mulled over the fact that I’d be staying in a foreign town for several months. That it would be a place where I’d both travel and live; transit and settle.

That place is Golden, British Columbia.

So let me do something I usually do not do: shameless advertising.

I started a new project online. I named it

“Portraits of Golden, B.C”
1 Day, 1 Portrait. In English & in French.

Obviously inspired from Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” and all its spin-offs, it will tell you the tales of the people living in or just passing through Golden. It is a crossing. It is intimately connected to the history of a railway company, it is located at the confluence of two rivers, it is settled at the border between two provinces. Here, all sorts of people live, work or just transit.

Come, and meet them.

Travel Writer, Blogger.
Visit my blog @