Xavier and Celine Pasche set out on an ambitious journey in 2010 that morphed into a family adventure of a lifetime for their two daughters born along the way. This Swiss family has now been cycling and living out of a tent in remote corners of the planet for the past 13 years on four continents spanning 50 countries.
“We’ve never stopped exploring the Earth. We’ve cycled 87,000 kilometers on four continents,” says Xavier. “The ‘Infinity’ project’ (2010-2015) led us on two loops: one around the sacred Altai Mountains in Siberia, the other around the high peaks of the Himalayas,” he adds.
“From 2016-2022, the ‘Great Northern Horizon’ project took us to the remote corners of Siberia and Mongolia, then to North America, from Alaska to the Atlantic, as well as Eastern Europe. We experienced – 45°C and + 53°C, Arctic tundra, deserts, jungles and so many diverse cultures.”
Celine vividly remembers that first pedal stroke that completely transformed her life. It was a transition that happened in the blink of an eye.
“In 2009, I was on my way to a small music festival in the Swiss Alps. When I met Xavier, I was seduced by the names of the wild areas he mentioned, by the isolated corners he wanted to explore. Xavier had dreams without limits, and he allowed himself to live them,” she recalls.
It wasn’t long before the new couple set off on a three-year cycling adventure from Switzerland to New Zealand with nothing more than their savings and some articles they had written for a Swiss newspaper. They first needed to cross the Alps. Their bodies were tired, muscles aching and minds struggling to go on.
“The Swiss passes propelled us into the intensity of the journey, with rain and snow cutting us off from the surrounding beauty. Our minds worried about the thousands of kilometers to come, the mountains to climb, the deserts to cross, and the cold of the winters. We had no choice but to learn to live here and now,” Xavier remembers.
Yet in the middle of the Kazakh steppes, they felt they were changing. After more than two years on the roads of the world, the adventure they had dreamt, imagined and created had become their life—and it was soon to be one to share. Somewhere along the way they opened themselves up to the possibility of another new adventure—becoming parents.
“I got the intuition I was pregnant in Nepal, at an altitude of 5,500 meters. Facing Everest, I told Xavier that he was going to become a Dad. The power of the Himalayas was all around us. There was only the vibrant silence and the breath of the wind.”
A few years later, while the family was discovering the wonder and culture of Japan, Celine realized she was pregnant again, and a second daughter, Fibie, joined the team. Both daughters were born back in Malaysia and after each birth, when the girls were just five months old, the family would hit the road again. Diving back into the journey with infants (twice), they had to lighten up their loads, taking only the essentials. Above all, they realized, they had to lighten up emotionally and find a new balance. They first cycled as a family of three in Thailand, then as four in Okinawa.
“We needed more than courage. We needed to trust life, to surrender to the path and to let go of the thousands of questions spinning in our heads. We had to find harmony in the constant movement and a rhythm following the needs of Nayla and Fibie: breastfeeding, the necessities of the road, the immersion in a new culture and the changes in climate and weather,” Celine states.
Nayla and Fibie have grown up understanding learning is part of daily life. The Pasche family have chosen to cultivate wonder by spending most of their time in wilderness or nature.
The natural world has become one of their greatest teachers, developing their senses while anchoring them and inviting them to be present. The constant movement develops their bodies and their coordination. They’ve noticed the dexterity, confidence, strength and capacity of their bodies in the way they move.
“I think what we like about this life is the quality of presence we can offer to our children. It is the most amazing thing to see your children grow, learn, wonder. Our two daughters are part of the team. They take part in the decisions, they pedal, they pitch the tent and above all they play. They play freely in the vast spaces we cross in endless wonder,” they’ve observed.
The sisters are learning by experimentation. Crossing paths with a wolf or a bear is an invitation to discover them, to understand their world, to reveal their behavior. Crossing a desert, experiencing its vast spaces and intense heat through the body, helps them to understand the scarcity of water. This first-hand experience creates a foundation for context, empathy and knowledge.
“In the same way, Nayla and Fibie know what it’s like to live at high altitude, in the far north or in the middle of the jungle. They know how to build a shelter, filter water and heal themselves with plants. They know geography because they’ve been there. They know what religion is because they have prayed in temples, mosques, shrines and churches. They learn about history from the legends of indigenous peoples or from the pasts of nations and civilizations. They learn languages by talking to the people we meet. They discover other ways of being and thinking by living with communities around the world,” the parents note.
Sea to Summit in Hokkaido
The couple first came to Japan in 2012. The second time they traveled in Japan they met Shigeo Kobayashi, who has become a great friend. He introduced them to Isamu Tatsuno, the founder of Montbell, during a Sea to Summit event in Hokkaido.
“Since that day, we’ve had a great connection with Tatsuno-san, filled with respect,” Xavier says. “He really enjoyed spending time with our daughters and we’ve been fortunate to spend some time with him at his home in Nara as well as our friend Noda-san down in Shikoku. Both of them are great adventurers,” he adds.
In 2019 the family received the Montbell Challenge Award, which recognizes and awards scientific expeditions, humanitarian projects or expeditions of people not afraid of failure. They are also Japan Eco Track Ambassadors. Japan Eco Track is a series of guides to human-powered routes, experiences and local partners around Japan.
“We are really grateful to be supported by Montbell and the quality of their outdoor equipment has helped us in many circumstances,” Xavier states.
As Japan Eco Track Ambassadors, the family will be connecting with people and children to experience Japan’s rich and diverse nature by human-powered transportation. For six months, they will cycle 6,000 kilometers in Honshu and Hokkaido. During the journey they will join three Sea to Summit events and be part of three environmental symposiums. They will also give about 30 inspirational talks along the way.
“We will address the importance of being in nature. More than ever, children and nature need to spend time together—re-enchanting in this connection for the development of their senses, their bodies and their self esteem. We need to cultivate their creativity and wonder for the well being of the planet,” Celine says.
“We face great environmental challenges and children’s connection with nature will be key to for them to become the solution-finders of tomorrow. It is also crucial today, as more scientific studies show the disastrous effect nature-deficit disorders can have on children in nearly every society,” she adds.
The family tries to do more with less, using 20 to 40 liters of water a day and recharging their electronic devices with two Dynamo hubs and a solar panel. They’ve clearly chosen what matters most in their lives, spending time with their children and offering daily opportunities for them to live in nature, be present and trust life and their own intuition. This and the four points of their internal compass keeps them going: to live, explore, share and inspire.
Celine adds, “Fibie likes to say, ‘Our home is our tent and the world is our playground.’”
Follow the Pasche family on their journey or meet them along the way for one of their talks. You can support their mission by purchasing their photography book from Montbell stores or the Montbell online store or by making small donations to plant seeds of hope through their website.
The Pasche Family
Xavier Pasche: Born in 1980 in Switzerland. Architectural draftsman, editor, photographer and solution-finder. He is the mechanic of the family.
Celine Pasche: Born in 1982 in Switzerland. An anthropologist, speaker, life coach, writer and the mountain leader. She is the medic of the family.
Nayla Pasche: Born in 2013 in Malaysia. She has already been on the road for 50,000+ kilometers and cycled 10,000K on her bike. She made her first step in the Angkor temples in Cambodia and is the first and youngest child to have crossed the Nullarbor Desert in Australia.
Fibie Pasche: Born in 2017 in Malaysia. She has been in a chariot or a tandem system for 25,000 kilometers and cycled 800K on her own bike. She learned to walk in a yurt in Mongolia, drinking fermented mare’s milk for her first birthday.