Part of what makes Travelettes so unique is the team of women behind it. Ten profiles of experienced travelers, who share their stories, their passion for the world and their adventures. Each month, we are introducing you to one of them, so that you can get a better feel of what being a Travelette is all about, while still discovering the unique personality of the authors of the posts you read daily. This month, we get to chat with Elisa, who joined Travelettes last year, after writing a post about Iran and sharing with our readers for the first time her passion for the Middle-East.

Elisa in Azerbaijan (2015)

Elisa, have you always been an enthusiast traveler?

It all started when I was pretty young. I remember being about 8 years old and taking a train by myself from the north to the south of France. My parents were experienced travelers and also tried to take me and my brothers on trips whenever we had the chance. But I would say that my passion for traveling really took a new turn when I was a teenager. At 17 I moved to the US for a year as part of an exchange program. This experience truly changed me and the way I lived. I came back to France and took every opportunity I got to go abroad during my university years. I completed a second exchange program in Mexico and interned in various countries such as Spain, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco. Later on after graduation I kept on traveling but for longer periods of time. I did a backpacking trip in South America in 2013 and last year, I went from Indonesia to Europe by land, only sleeping in the house of locals wherever I would go. This was by far my most memorable trip and a quite indescribable experience.

Elisa in Peru (2013)

Did you travel by yourself to all of these places?

Yes, most of these trips were experiences I lived on my own. Though I wouldn’t describe myself as a solo traveler (I don’t really like “boxes”), this is the way I prefer to travel. I just feel that being on your own when abroad considerably enriches your experience. You get to meet more people, do what you really want and listen more to your instinct than to what a travel companion would have to say. You don’t compromise as much and just get an experience that only depends on you, your feelings and your decisions. Sometimes friends or family members join me on my travels, and it is also amazing to share my discoveries and my passion with them. But it is different and it doesn’t imply stepping out of my comfort zone as much. At the end of the day any type of traveling has its pros and its cons, but I certainly don’t regret having been on my own for most of the trips I have done.

Elisa in Uzbekistan (2015)

You have traveled to more than 50 countries in the last ten years, which one is your favorite?

I always get asked this question and I never find a proper way to answer. Every place I went to changed me in a way and taught me new things about myself. Of course there are countries that I liked more than others but it would be impossible for me to choose just one. I have been astonished by the beauty of the landscapes in Tajikistan and Bolivia, deeply moved by my trips to Palestine and Bosnia, touched by the kindness of people in Iran and Cambodia and I loved my stays in Brazil, Lebanon and Indonesia. But overall, to come back to your question, I would say that I do have one region of predilection: out of all the places I traveled to the Middle-East is where I feel the most at home.

Elisa in Brazil (2013)

Why is that? What do you find so special about it?

My love for this region of the world grew throughout the years. When I was 20 years old I set foot for the first time in Jordan, I didn’t know a word of Arabic and had no idea of what to expect. My original goal was to go to Syria but with the conflict slowly starting to tear the country apart, I found an internship in the Hashemite kingdom instead. This region of the world intrigued me in a way no place had before. I just felt more myself there, was fascinated by its history and really admired the values dear to the people. I liked the solidarity between them, their honesty and above all, their sense of humanity. Everything there just felt more real. Since my first trip to Jordan, I traveled various time to many other countries in the region. And even though each one has its particularities and is different, I always come across the values I just mentioned, wherever I go. Then again, it is complicated for me to truly explain why this region and not another, but it’s just how I feel.

Elisa in Egypt (2012)

You recently resettled to Amman. That must make you quite happy!

Yes, more than happy actually. I finally get to live in the Middle-East but also to do what I really love. I studied communications at university but always had a strong interest in non-profit activities. When I was 20 years old I created my own NGO, helping sick children and orphans in Algeria. I also volunteered in various places and for various causes in France and other countries. My strong interest in the Middle-East led me to follow training courses in geopolitics. My ambition was then to get a job that would combine my skills in communications and my knowledge and passion for this region of the world. It took me some time and a lot of applications but I finally managed to land my dream job. I work as a Regional Communication Advisor on the Syrian Crisis, for Handicap International, an NGO supporting people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations living in conflict and disaster zones and in situations of exclusion and extreme poverty.

Elisa in Bolivia (2013)

How do you manage to do this job and still travel?

My job mostly consists in telling the stories of the refugees I meet on a daily basis. In order to do so, I frequently travel to various countries in the region. When people talk about travel, they usually tend to see it only as a leisure activity. But traveling to other countries never made more sense to me than since I took on this mission. I travel to listen to the stories of people who seem to have been forgotten, the people who don’t get to have a voice and live generally in terrible conditions. I travel to put my skills at their service, to raise the media’s, the public’s and the donors’ awareness about the way they live. I still go on vacations once in a while, but I just don’t travel as much as before, and when I do it is generally for my job. Though many people would see it as something I should somehow be sad about, in a way I feel more human and more “valuable”. Plus, there are also plenty of places to explore in the country I now live in.

Elisa in Jordan (2016)

How has your job changed your view on traveling?

I have always been extremely grateful of my ability to travel. I value every encounter, every new food I try, every new thing I learn and every new place I discover. Spending so much time with refugees, who traveled not for leisure but because of fear and necessity, changed my view not only on traveling but also on life more generally. Before I was always thinking about where I would go next and what would be my next adventure. Time at home was just felt like a break between two exciting trips. I didn’t see all these little things that actually make your life so valuable: family, friends, the fact of not leaving in fear, being free or just having a home. My conversations with the refugees have just opened my eyes on these realities we tend to forget when we live with so much comfort. The fact that I mostly deal with disabled and injured refugees just makes things even more meaningful. Not only did these people lose everything, they generally don’t have the ability to move or sometimes to talk. It reminds me of all these things we take for granted that actually make a huge difference. If I had to sum up, I would just say that this job made me even more grateful and appreciative of life for what is truly is.

Elisa in Iran (2015)

If you would like to find out more about Elisa, feel free to shoot her an – she’d be happy to connect.