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Discovering all the colours of the world is a delight than only a lucky few can experience. Travelling is the eternal dream of any artist or explorer. And also the dream of Marc Serena, a young journalist who decided to leave Barcelona for one year to celebrate his 25th birthday and embark on an adventure: he interviewed 25 people who were 25 years old and from 25 different countries. These interviews now compose his brand new book: La volta dels 25. 

Making the Best of a Quarter Life crisis

His suitcase was not very big, grey and practical; definitely a discrete travel companion. "A friend of mine told me that the best suitcase is the one that, if it gets lost, it's no big deal". Inside it were a pair of trekking pants, trainers, four T-shirts and a cardigan. Further, a travel-suited laptop, a dictophone, his documents and a bit of money. Marc was sitting nervously in his seat on the plane, the day that everything began. "If you travel alone everything is your own responsibility, you can't blame anybody but yourself if something goes wrong."

street_london
Photo: Marc Serena
Warning without words in London: on Marc's blog you can find a collection of funny street signs from each country he went to.

"If I'd been a computer technician I would have founded my own company, just to be as independent as possible!" says Marc. But instead he studied journalism. "After finishing my studies, I wanted to create something, my own project with my own savings and all my energy, in order to apply what I learned the previous years of studying. And I was also looking for a mental state of freedom, not limited by routines, but just my own resources."

"I was planning this crazy journey and the places I could visit…and after buying an around-the-world-ticket, there was no way back." The adventure was starting! Before leaving, however, Marc had to convince his family and friends that he was not totally crazy. "I was conscious that this kind of project is not exactly usual, especially not when I'd just started working. Writing a book after the trip was always my alibi; the excuse to justify this pilgrimage".

"Writing a book after the trip was always my alibi; the excuse to justify this pilgrimage"

His book shows a European vision of one specific generation worldwide - the 25-year-old generation - but also a personal impression. "I don't forget my origins. I disagree with the belief that when you're far away your origins fade or become diffuse. I think that it's beautiful learning about other cultures without forgetting your own. I feel Catalan and also European. And I have a story about that: I sat on the bus going to Zimbabwe and talked to some people. Then I asked them where they thought I was from. They answered: we don't know exactly, but you're European." They were right.

travel_sign
Photo: Marc Serena
Insights...

"[People outside Europe] have an ethereal idea of Europe, a little bit based on clichés. Someone described it as a 'land of opportunities'. But there are other opinions, some of them see Europe as an inaccessible region and they look at it in a weary and apparently uninterested way. It's like when the doctor tells you that you are not allowed to eat this very alluring fruit; eventually you accept that it's taboo and try not to think about it. I also realised that people see Europe as a unity and I was surprised by that, because I haven't thought of Europe in such terms before. For example, when I was on the plane flying to Zimbabwe a man who sat next to me asked me about the most interesting monuments to be visited if he were to travel to Europe anytime. And I was disconcerted by such a generic question… I told him about the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, Sagrada Família in Barcelona and a large etcetera… so large!

The ants

During his travel he got to know a Maori artist in New Zealand, a Paralympics athlete in Hong Kong, a campaigner against globalisation from Canada, a poet from Zimbabwe, a boxer from Thailand, a prisoner in Santiago de Chile, a famous singer from South Korea…"All those young people I was lucky to meet on the trip; they are the protagonists in my book. They gave me insights into their lives and explained to me what they aspire to in their societies." This is the reason why Marc subtitled his book 'A generational atlas from Johannesburg to Moscow'. "I'm interested in people more than in countries. In Ivory Coast they have a proverb: when two elephants are fighting, the victims are the little ants. This book is dedicated to these ants."

"Some of the people I met, see Europe as an inaccessible region and they look at it in a weary and apparently uninterested way."

"Sometimes, however, it was pretty difficult to find interview partners. I read the local press every day and I was also open to casual conversations, which could draw me to some interesting people. Usually during any bus or train journey, I tried to engage with my fellow passengers and sometimes I got valuable advice, personal impressions, answers…" Marc says. "There were days when I did lots of kilometres to interview someone important. In other occasions, I met interesting people casually or just looked for them by attending cultural events in the cities such as concerts, poetry recitals or conferences." In this way, he met an activist in a demonstration against the opencast mining in Montreal and also interviewed a famous young singer from Korea, by writing to her manager and begging for an opportunity to speak to her.

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