Julien Charlier is a French carpenter who started traveling the world at a young age. Even during his teenage years, Julien admitted that he had an itchy feet, traveling from one country to another in Europe. At 25, his current last stop is Siargao in the Philippines where he enjoys surfing the waves while waiting tables to fund his dream of seeing the world.
He has been in the Philippines for two months now and will spend a month more before going back home to France. He plans to return in September to watch an international surfing competition in Siargao.
We had a quick chat with him during our stay at Siargao Bleu, a spa resort where Julien does part-time work.
Why did you visit the Philippines?
People told me to visit the Philippines because it’s beautiful, the people are lovely, and the beaches are nice. Finally, I find Siargao and I like surfing so I stayed here.
It’s my first time in the Philippines. I didn’t travel a lot around here. I arrived in Manila then I just did Baler, Sagada, and then I came here in Siargao.
I didn’t plan to stay here for a long time but I just loved the place. So, I had to find work too.
How did you find out about Siargao?
Well, I’m a surfer.
When did you start surfing?
I started surfing when I was young but then I stopped. I started surfing again six months ago.
Where did you get your love for surfing?
First time, it was in France. I learned alone. I live in the land, and my family like my grandma and my uncle live near the sea. I go on vacations there and I just borrow a board to go surfing just by myself.
There are many surfers who see me when I do that and I fall, they give me advice.
Have you been to other countries in Europe?
Yes, plenty like England, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Spain, Portugal… There’s no border in Europe. It can be like you’re just driving your car and then say, “Oh, I’m in Spain.”
In Asia, what countries have you been to?
Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Indonesia. I have also been in New Zealand but it’s not Asia.
I stayed five months in Vietnam, three months in Thailand, one month in Indonesia, and one year in New Zealand.
What other countries do you plan to visit?
I would like to go to South America. I don’t know yet when. I also like Middle East Asia like India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
What is your favorite country that you have visited?
I really like the Philippines. It’s easier to communicate.
Where did you get your love for travel?
I got a little bit of it from my family but I guess I just like to meet new people and know about other culture. Like in school, we have been to Holland and that’s maybe the first trip I did. I was just 12, but it’s different when I do it on my own. From there, I started to like traveling. When I became 17, I started working to get a car and traveling for a holiday like two weeks somewhere.
Are you still studying or working?
I’m already working. In France, I’m a carpenter. I got the qualifications for this in France.
As a carpenter, I build houses and renovation of historical monuments in France like churches and castles. In Paris, I did Hotel Lambert, the private hotel of Prince of Qatar. I also did a church in a small village in France.
In Vietnam, I build a bar and worked as a bartender too. However, I may not be qualified as a bartender but I know how to make drinks. A friend of mine lives in Vietnam so it’s easy for me to find other people who can give me a job. We’ve been to one bar then we met this guy who has one room and he wanted to make another room. So, I did that. I also worked the weekends in his bar. I just helped them. He has a lot of staff but the weekends there can be very busy. So, I helped giving beer or rum and coke, just the easy drinks and not cocktails.
Why do you need to work?
My money was getting low so I needed to find work so I don’t spend all my money.
I asked around and people told me to try Siargao Bleu. I came here and asked if they were looking for bartenders or something like that.
If I like the place and I want to stay, I find a job. I don’t have unlimited budget so I need to work.
How did you learn English?
Yeah, most French people don’t speak English. In school first but I wasn’t good at the end of my education. Then, I traveled in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand. In New Zealand, I was working with people who speak a lot of English so I learned from that.
So, when you back in France, you save money and then when you visit places, you work there to fund your travels? Is this what you plan to do for the rest of your life?
For the rest of my life? I don’t know. If I got a family I don’t think I can really do that. I mean, if I have a wife and children but not yet. I also saved money in New Zealand but it’s really expensive there, but I still saved a little money from there.
I still want to do South America, Middle East, and Africa. If I find love here maybe I’m going to stay even without visiting the other countries, but right now I just want to visit the other countries.
Are you not afraid to travel alone in remote countries?
I’m not afraid but I have to be careful. Like in Laos, there are places foreigners are not allowed to go because if you go, you might have a problem. It might not really be big problem but if you go there, they will think you’re a spy. I used my motorbike on one road there and the police stopped me. They looked for my visa and passport but I just rented the motorbike so I gave my passport to the rental company. I stayed all day with the police because they needed to check my documents. Finally, they told me I can go but I cannot use the road. I just had to go back.
What’s your best and scariest experiences when it comes to traveling solo?
The scariest was in Vietnam. There is a trek to visit a big wall cave. It’s new because when I was there two years ago, it was just opened to the public. It was really expensive. It was worth $200 for two-day trek. I did it by myself, I found a way how to go there on my own but the rangers found me. They told me I cannot do that so I left. The first time was alright but I tried again and this time they took me to the rangers’ station with guns around me. They were just speaking in Vietnamese and I was really scared. I don’t know if they were going to put me in jail or kill me. I wanted to send a text message that I got into trouble to a friend in Vietnam but there was no service. I was really panicking. Then, a car came with someone speaking in English. I was told what I did was illegal and I needed to pay $75 fine so I can be free to go. I stayed there for a whole day, but they gave me food and water. At the end of the day, it was alright. I just left the city the day after.
My best experience was in Laos. I stayed for a week in one village. It’s really a poor country so there is no electricity, no TV. I helped them to harvest rice. They were very friendly people. I wanted to pay money for accommodation and food but they didn’t accept my money. They just said see you next year.
What’s your advice to people who want to do what your doing?
You don’t need to travel overseas. Sometimes traveling even just in the same country can be nice. When I was 17, I really wanted to travel but I didn’t have money, so I just visited other cities where I don’t know anybody there and then started working there.
Do you have travel tips and other suggestions for Julien?