Solo Travelers Talking: Part 1
We’re fascinated by the fearlessness of solo travelers, so we asked Michelle Sander (a freelance writer and award-winning filmmaker) to find people living the solo-travel lifestyle and talk about what it’s really like behind the social feeds (with some honest language-learning advice, obviously). We’ll be publishing one every #TravelTuesday this month, so let us know what you think and if you’d like more articles like this.
In this first installment, we hear from Maïté Batina, a Paris-based solo-traveler with an unmatched curiosity for exploring the unknown. She’s a mom and works full-time in marketing and consumer behavior, but that doesn’t stop this busy adventurer from making the time to head out to see distant locations all over the world.
“During my travels I’ve noticed one thing: we are all the same–same aspirations, same feelings.” – Maïté Batina
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I’m a French native, living in Paris, and working in marketing and consumer behavior. My professional experiences, especially my years at the intergovernmental organization UNESCO, enabled me to gain a better mastery of English and create friendships with people from all over the world. These bonds have allowed me to have so many opportunities to travel and to connect. I travel as much as I can. I am a mom now and my daughter is young, so I tend to travel a little less these days.
Q: What do you think drives your desire to head into the unknown?
A: The unknown itself! By definition, the unknown means something that you don’t yet know. And what’s better than learning new things and growing? By learning from the unknown, you also learn more about yourself. This knowledge is what drives me.
Q: Do you think learning languages is an important aspect of being a global-focused traveler?
A: Yes, because being a global-focused traveler isn’t traveling to must-see places to take photos of them to share on Instagram. Being global-focused means also to be willing to create bonds with local people in order to understand them and to spread love. And to do so, in a respectful way, learning the language is essential. I know, new technologies help and can palliate a lack of vocabulary, but making the effort to learn the language of the other person is showing respect and recognition of the value of his/her language.
“Learning the language is essential… Making the effort to learn the language of the other person is showing respect and recognition of the value of his/her language.”
Q: Can you tell us a little about your experience learning languages?
A: My parents are originated from Cameroon and Congo, in Central Africa. They used to speak French to us because French was their second mother tongue (heritage of the French colonization) and the only language they share. But they kept on speaking their other native language with their relatives and friends. As a consequence, my ears have been familiar with foreign languages since my childhood. Also, I could witness the obstacles and difficulties that could encounter people with different cultural backgrounds, people from the minority group. I guess this is why I’ve always loved learning other languages.
In the ‘90s in France, school children didn’t learn foreign languages. The learning of another language started at junior high school. Learning English was mandatory from the age of 11. Then, a year later, you had to choose at least one other language. I chose to study Spanish and Latin.
My passion for learning the English language came from the entertainment industry, especially music. I’m passionate about so many styles of music: R&B, pop, soul, hip-hop. Many of the mainstream music entertainers are American. Because of the lyrics being in English, when I was young, I would sing in English (or at least I tried to sing).
“By learning from the unknown, you also learn more about yourself. This knowledge is what drives me.”
Q: If you had to choose only one, what’s your favorite travel story?
A: My first solo travel. I was 19 years-old. I went to the UK to work as an au-pair with the objective of learning English. My first interaction with the host family started right at the airport. I met this beautiful family, a couple of parents with three kids. One of the children was a five year-old girl. Very enthusiastically, she spoke to me directly and told one of her long stories. I understood nothing! She wiped out all my beliefs. I thought I had an intermediary level in English and I could make it easily. But, this little girl was only 3 feet-tall and I couldn’t understand her! She spoke the entire ride home. It was raining but the only noise we heard was her voice. I was speechless, incapable of formulating my thoughts. I was lost and I realized that it is not easy when you can’t communicate and express your feelings. To me, mastering a language is key to reaching integrity, to be in full possession of our own faculties and to be free.
“To me, mastering a language is key to reaching integrity, to be in full possession of our own faculties and to be free.”
Q: What do you see in the future for yourself and your travels?
A: I’ve always dreamt to live many years in a English-speaking country like the U.S. I know that if I’m out there I’ll be fluent very quickly. So, I hope someday I can travel there.
For now, I hope to travel more, experience new things, learn more things about the beauty of the world and mankind, and keep laughing with people from everywhere. A famous French humorist said: ”If we can laugh together, then we can live together.” During my travels, I’ve noticed that one thing: we are all the same–same aspirations, same feelings.
Q: So, where’s next for you?
A: I plan to go to London next month and to Berlin in a few months. I also plan to do a road trip in the Philippines next year.
Q: Any advice for aspiring solo travelers?
A: “Dare to go out of your comfort zone.”
If you’d like to follow along on Maïté’s next solo-travel destination, request to follow her on Instagram @nayou3131). In exchange for sharing her inspirational story, Rosetta Stone gave Maïté a three-month subscription to their award-winning app.