The power of vulnerability and honesty.
Laurent was selling the Mercedes Sprinter he had customised as a camper van. When I called him to organise a viewing we got talking about the eco houses he was building, and some of his past adventures. Like me, Laurent had left everything – job, house – to cycle around Europe for a year.
I arrived at his place in the morning and as I could only get a carpool back late afternoon, I asked Laurent if I could hang around and help him with his construction site. I was curious to discover his way of life and hoping to be inspired by his traveling stories.
We'd only spoken once on the phone and yet when I arrived Laurent said: “I feel more like a friend from my home town is coming to visit me than someone coming to check out my van!” We spent the afternoon together talking about our desires to build healthier and more meaningful lifestyles for ourselves.
Later that day I received a text informing me that my carpool had been cancelled. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, Laurent agreed that I could sleep in the camper van I was hoping to buy from him – an opportunity to find out how it feels to sleep in a four-square-metre space. He even offered to steam-cook a gluten-free cake for us in the evening.
We talked a lot. Laurent shared a bit of his life with me. It is a miracle he is still alive, but he needs to take it easy. It's why he appreciated my presence – it forced him to rest from his work. I felt some loneliness within him. He hadn't mentioned any partner in his life, any children.
In the morning, before my departure, Laurent asked if he could take me in his arms. So brave of him to ask such a question. But how could I be sure he wouldn't expect more?! I just told him nicely, and gave him a big hug.
After been single for one year I could understand how important it is to be in contact, why grandparents want so much to touch you, why it is so refreshing to touch the skin of a baby. We just want to feel alive. Loved. Connected to someone, something.
That moment I shared with Laurent couldn't equal any career achievement, any photographic prize or Oscar. This is what I want my life to be about, nothing else.