Passionate about travel since she was young, Charlotte swears by escape. We're not talking about travel in the tourist sense, like lying on the beach with her toes spread out. No, we are talking about "adventures".That's how she describes them. Her first adventure on her own was at the age of 11, and then all the years after that (in fact, she never really stopped). Her other passion is photography and video, capturing stories through her lens. She is now a content creator and social media manager in everyday life.
Hyper connected because of her job, at the beginning of July 2022, she escaped to take a break in Mongolia: 17 days, a horse and a childhood dream to find herself.
Can you tell us how you got the desire and the idea to go to Mongolia on horseback?
I have been riding since I was 3 years old, I grew up with horses, so Mongolia on horseback was a childhood dream. In my head, from the beginning, it was a trip that I imagined alone. At 27 years old, I knew that it was now that I had to live it and that it would be beneficial. Beyond the desire and the deep need to leave, I also needed the budget, I have been saving for a while to make this trip.
I left for 17 days in total. I spent two days in Ulaanbaatar, I was in full jet lag mode when I arrived, I was sick. I think it was the stress, the tiredness accumulated during the year that was falling back, I had in a way the backlash of my year. But strangely enough, deep inside I felt great, serene, fulfilled.
As I was leaving alone to find myself, I decided to cut off everything: internet, social networks, my phone so that the immersion would be total.
After 10 hours by bus, 2 hours by car, I arrived in the Orkhon valley. From there I did everything on horseback.
Did you meet anyone else during these 17 days?
The first person I met was Nagui, my French speaking guide. I hesitated for a long time to take one, but when I arrived there I quickly understood that I had taken the right decision, because very few Mongolians speak English, even less the nomads.
Then I lived with 3 nomadic families. I lived the same life as them. I learned to cook and eat like them. We prepared dishes based on potatoes, carrots, onions, mutton, sometimes we added pasta or rice. I went to catch the foals and the dzo with the lasso with the men, then I did the milking with the women. To drink, wash dishes or wash ourselves, we had water from the river. To cook and heat, we would cut wood in the forest. The rest of the time I was on horseback.
At no time did I have the impression of lacking comfort, I have never slept so well in my life, despite the fact that the mattresses are made of wood, that the dogs bark all night long, that the yaks graze all around the yurts etc. I loved washing myself in cold water in the river, this way of life suited me well. I loved to wash myself with cold water in the river, this way of life suited me well. A small drawback for the food, excellent but not very varied, I admit that after a while I didn't need to talk about potatoes and carrots anymore.
In the end, the language barrier did not prevent you from communicating with them in other ways.
So no, because in everyday life you manage to make yourself understood, you show carrots, they show you how to cut them. And my guide translated quite often. But still, I would have liked to learn a lot more about the culture. It frustrated me a little bit I must admit.
Did you have expectations, a goal when you left, or did you go in rather "head down"?
Since I experienced an expedition to the geographic North Pole, I see travel differently. I assume that each trip is a unique adventure and that all the adventures that will be part of it will make it an unforgettable experience. Just like when I was in the middle of the ice floe, in the middle of Mongolia with my horse, I didn't know what I was going to do the next hour, I didn't really know what itinerary I was going to do and I love that because you don't live in disappointment when you see things like that. Every new thing that happens is a surprise.
So the only expectation or objective I had through this trip was to find myself and to live in the way of nomads.
What was it like on site?
The people, the culture...
When I arrived in the families, I was extremely well received. I found the people beautiful, they had very bright faces, very smiling, very caring, immediately it puts you in a kind of positive bubble.
They are people who have a rather hard life, they move 3 or 4 times a year according to the seasons, they live from the land and the cattle which implies a lot of work. They never stop, but they don't complain, they are very calm and composed.
And that made me change little by little. I'm a very fast person, I have a hard time settling down. But there I had no other choice than to learn to live at their pace to integrate. During the trip, I kept a logbook, and sometimes I wrote " I'm tired of it, I'm impatient, I'm tired of waiting so long "... -laughs- I would write it down, because I had to remember it. And as the days went by, I saw that I was able to manage it a little better.
Also there is no time there, no notion of time. When you ask them how long it takes to get to a place, they can tell you a day when it's 2 hours.
Otherwise for the photo it was a real happiness, when people saw me with my camera, they tended to pose, smile. So I would smile back, then we would look at the pictures together and check each other out. This kind of moment will remain engraved in my memory for a long time. On a daily basis, I work with models who are kind of formatted to pose, I have to trick them into being natural. There, it was so spontaneous!
Well, I saw plains, very green mountains, some lakes, rivers, canyons... What surprised me was the volcanic rocks in the middle of the plains and the fir trees growing in them. It is incredible how nature can be reborn, transformed.
On the other hand, the climate...laughs- I didn't expect it, and fortunately I had the products Flotte, I used them every day without exception. I even regretted not having taken several copies. The weather changes very quickly, you can be in a t-shirt with 25 degrees and then have a hail storm in the next second. I had rain every day. I even spent a day riding in the rain and hail with my raincoat Flotte ! -laughs- So well, weather a bit capricious.
And as we were between 3400 and 3800 meters of altitude, the night it was really cold, I slept with the polar FlotteI slept with the polar, my comforter -5°, and a blanket.
Did you encounter any difficulties at the technical level, content creation...?
Yes, it was also a challenge at that level, because when you leave and you know that you are not going to have electricity, how do you do it?
With 4 Canon batteries for my camera, 4 GoPro batteries and 2 external batteries for 17 days of adventure. Before turning on my camera, I thought " is this picture worth it? Is it worth using your battery for this knowing how precious it is? ". And so it really forced me to think about my compositions, to be sure of myself in my creative vision, in the story I want to tell... On a daily basis, when I work for myself or for brands, I have this obsession with storytelling, for me an image without emotion, without a story, is an image that "serves no purpose".
Photography has been my means of expression since I was a child, I sometimes find it difficult to express what I have felt, seen, experienced during a trip or in my daily life. Through photography or video, I find it natural.
Finally, the last challenge, photos in a car and on horseback. I am used to doing content standing in a car, in the trunk of a car etc.. But here the roads are full of ruts. So it was sport. And people are driving fast so you better be super responsive in your settings and approach.
In France, I take pictures on horseback, which is normal. I thought I would do the same thing here, but when I arrived, the guide told me that the horses had not been ridden for 2 years because of the covid and therefore the lack of customers. So, at the beginning I had very strict instructions like: " don't caress your horse, you have to go quietly, when you are on it, don't make any sudden gestures, don't take out your phone... "I was there ok... well it's not what I imagined " -laughs-. The guide finally let me take my pictures after 2 days of riding.
On a daily basis I take more risks than that to capture images, that's what drives me in a way, to go after what others wouldn't dare to do. I like to take risks, that's how I feel alive.
We saw that you were sharing a travelogue on Instagram, can you tell us about it?
In fact, I noticed that many people were afraid to travel alone, to simply be alone. So I wanted to show that it's cool to do that, that it's important to be alone. You shouldn't be afraid of that. This trip, for me, was so different from all the others, that I wanted to show who I am in a more intimate way. I think that it will also be a trigger in my way of working, of creating, of communicating on the networks. I want to be fully me and to share a little bit more this side, my thoughts, my reflections, the backstage of my activity...
You've already told us about the Flotte pieces that came with you and that were very useful, what made you want to collaborate with the brand in the first place?
I knew the brand at the beginning via Valentin, a model who had done one of your campaigns. On a shoot he told me about Flotte, I looked at it on insta and I loved it. After that I had ads that were playing all the time with Valentin's head and it was funny, well sometimes I couldn't stand to see his head -laughs-. Then when I organized the trip to Mongolia, and I saw that we needed a raincoat, it clicked. It was a good fit, it was the products I really needed to go, it was coherent, there was a real project, a real feeling with the brand and the team.
Yes, I knew what I wanted! -laughs- For the raincoat I would have maybe taken it in another color, but there on horseback it was not necessary to have a too light color, it would have been dirty, so I took navy. I chose long because otherwise I would have had my butt soaked on horseback -laughs-. And the fleece... I thought it was really beautiful, I took it in pink for the girly side. I didn't want to stain it, so I kept it for comfort, cocooning in the evening and to be warm at night.
Find Charlotte on Instagram la_petite_bert