The Founder of France Just for You Shares Her Top Essential Things for a Trip Around the World

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

My name is Emilie. I was born in the French Pyrenees where my parents were lamb breeders. We moved to Paris and my father managed a campsite for two years. Then we moved to the Loire Valley, which is where I now live with my partner Guillaume and our two daughters. My parents still run a Bed and Breakfast there to this day. I studied Business at university and during this time I had the opportunity to participate in some conservation projects at the Grand Canyon in the United States. I loved the US and worked in Miami for three years after graduating.

My partner Guillaume and I went on a trip around the world together in 2010. During this trip, we decided we wanted to try to avoid the tourist crowds where possible, and learn more about each country and its culture by interacting with the local people. The things we remember most from our trip are the conversations we had, the delicious local food and the incredible places we visited that were recommended to us by the people we met.

We settled down back in France after our trip, and started working on a business idea. We knew we wanted to introduce travelers to the hidden beauty of France, and help them to see our wonderful country through our eyes. Our vision was to organize tours which would immerse travelers in French culture by having them meet and interact with local people. We launched France Just For You in 2011, and now offer unique self-drive tours in France. We spend much of our free time exploring France and discovering new places and experiences to include in our itineraries. We enjoy camping, hiking and outdoor activities.

Emilie and Guillaume
Emilie and Guillaume in Bryce Canyon, USA

How and why did you get into traveling?

From an early age, I met travelers from all over the world at my parents’ Bed and Breakfast. Later on, my degree in Business gave me the opportunity to work in Italy and the United States, and this interaction with new people, cultures and languages inspired me to discover more of the world. My first priority after graduating from business school was to gain some experience in my field of study and to save some money for my future travels. I was lucky to secure a job in Miami, which meant that I could work abroad and save money at the same time.

Once Guillaume and I had enough money saved, we left our jobs and started our round-the-world adventure. We have always been independent travelers and prefer to avoid organized group tours, which take people to all the typical touristy places. We did do some research about places we wanted to visit in each country, but we didn’t want to be tied to a strict itinerary – we liked the flexibility that driving gave us, so if we saw places along the way that we wanted to check out, we could easily do so. This is still how we prefer to travel today, although nowadays we do make sure beforehand that where we go and stay will be suitable for children, as we’re normally with our two young daughters.

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

How do you finance your travels?

We run our own tour business, France Just For You, so we’re able to save for our travels by putting aside a portion of our income from that. We manage to keep our travel costs quite low by driving within Europe and by camping at our destinations. This is our preferred way of travelling and our daughters love camping. When we need to replace our camping gear or bags, we invest in good quality gear that will last us a long time. This means that, in the long-run, we tend to spend more money on travelling than on the gear itself.

Why is traveling important for you?

Our trip around the world was the inspiration for my business, which has become part of our family’s livelihood. Each time we travel to a new place, it is like a new chapter in a book. It introduces new characters, new surroundings and new ideas, and I feel that our lives are all the richer for it. And, like a good book, sometimes the experience of traveling is so good that you don’t want it to end!

Emilie and Guillaume

How do you bring your things with you?

When we travel, my partner and I normally carry a large backpack each, and the girls have their own small backpacks. This is usually enough, but as we normally drive in our own car when we travel, we do have the flexibility to bring more travel gear with us if we need it. My backpack brand was Decathlon – Quechua. (simple, economic and very efficient).

We usually shop at Decathlon, as they produce high-quality goods at a reasonable price, and value-for-money is important to us. We also like the fact that the sales assistants at Decathlon are all involved in sport in some way, and are therefore in a good position to advise about the best products for our needs, which isn’t always the case in many similar stores.

Au Vieux Campeur is outstanding for hiking shoes and extreme hiking gear – I have a pair of Meindl hiking shoes that I wore throughout our round-the-world trip, and they’re still in almost perfect condition.

In terms of advice for other travelers, I would say travel light! It sounds obvious, but you will almost always pack items that you will never use, and this is just an extra weight to carry, which you definitely want to avoid if you’ll be hiking or camping. One thing I never regret bringing? Waterproof clothing!

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

How do you organize things in your bags?

As we normally travel with backpacks, I always pack the least essential things first; the things that we might need, such as a raincoat in the summer and the first aid kit, but probably not every day. Then each item of clothing is packed in a particular order so that I know how to find what we need quickly. I always roll up clothes to maximize the use of space, and keep anything that could leak in sealable plastic bags near the top of the luggage. We normally carry the children’s things in a separate bag. It’s important to be organized when you’re travelling with young children.

Whether we decide to use waterproof bags or not depends on how much we plan to be outside with our bags during our travels. If we’re hiking and camping in rural areas, it certainly gives us peace of mind knowing that our bags are waterproof. The last thing we want is a bag full of wet clothes after a rainstorm!

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I always prioritize the quality of our gear nowadays, and if we can get good quality at a good price, as you can at Decathlon, even better. You don’t have to worry so much about things getting damaged if you don’t compromise on quality. My Meindl hiking shoes are proof of that!

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

The mistake that less experienced travelers usually make is bringing too much in the beginning, and I found that the more I travelled, the less I carried with me (that is, until we had children!). A lightweight tent makes a big difference. Hiking is much more enjoyable when you’re not weighed down by super-heavy backpacks. One top tip: always bring more water than you think you’ll need if you’re driving long distances or hiking in remote areas.

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

When we began our trip around the world in the US, I bought a Chevy Beretta in Miami for $100 dollars. Obviously the car wasn’t in the best condition, but it took us all the way around the US and down to Costa Rica. It saved us spending a lot of money on flights and long-distance buses, and gave us the flexibility that we enjoy when traveling.

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Often people worry about not speaking another language or going to a country where there are safety concerns. My advice is to try to learn the basic greetings in a language (Hello, Good morning, How are you? and Do you speak [e.g.] English?) and the rest will work itself out. It makes all the difference when people see that you have made an effort to learn a few words of their language, and they’re likely to be more willing to help you if they can.

Regarding safety, visit online forums and expat Facebook groups for a particular country and ask for advice. People are often more than happy to help, and it may alleviate some of the worries you have.

If you’re a keen photographer, back up your photos at every opportunity! Or if you can’t do it regularly, keep your memory cards separate from your camera when possible. When I was in Costa Rica, I met a girl who had her camera stolen after three months of traveling – she was much more upset about losing the photos than the camera!

France Just For You Emilie Martinez

What will the future bring?

We are planning a family round-the-world trip in 2020. Our dream is to tour the Mediterranean in an Outremer 45 Catamaran, and to acquire a nice RV to tour Australia. Let’s see what the future brings!

Visit Emilie and her partner Guillaume on their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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