Places we’ve been to or through in the last twenty days: Uccle, Charleroi, Jeumont, Solre-le-Château, La Capelle, Montcornet, Évergnicourt, Reims, Épernay, Château-Thierry, Meaux, Pantin, Paris, Melun, Fontainebleau, Vallery, Joigny, Migennes, Saint-Florentin, Tonnerre, Montbard, Pasques, Plombiéres-lés-Dijon, Dijon. Plus a day trip yesterday by car from Dijon to Auxerre.
I have a confession, which is that I wish I could be a better journalist. Perhaps there will come a day, a day when I’m not running a production studio out of a bike, a day when I have a functioning computer (not just a tablet), a day when I’m not doing the work of three professionals for free. In the United States, I got bored with waiting for permission to use my skills, bored with the endless repetition of application and rejection, and I seized this opportunity to write and travel and learn about something as foreign to me as outer space. Zero regrets, except that sometimes I feel like twenty-four hours in a day is not enough time to accomplish the monumental task I’ve assumed. Since you have to be paid to be a professional, I’m technically just a woman on a bike filming a documentary about European Fab Labs. Just your average badass who can barely stay on top of her self-assigned workload. I cannot express how grateful we are when people are flexible and patient. Our plans shift hourly.
Still, somehow it’s all coming together like magnetic magic. Our current tally is 2084 kilometers cycled, four borders crossed, twenty Fab Labs visited. Our momentum builds with each fresh visit. At FacLab, Ophelia Noor and Antonin Fournier turned the microphone around to interview us. Madison recently uploaded a new Gofundme campaign video, and we’ve received a minor surge in donations. When we arrived in Dijon, we learned that there were two festivals happening in the area: Catalpa, a music/maker festival in Auxerre, and Alternatiba, an sustainability faire in Dijon. Kelle Fabrik, one of two Dijon Fab Labs, participated in both. We altered our plans to witness Kelle Fabrik in action, and at Catalpa we met members of Fab Lab Comtois, a collection of rural Fab Labs to the southeast. Through this fortuitous series of connections, tomorrow we’ll attend the grand opening of a new Fab Lab in Beaune, right along our cycle route to Lyon. Everything usually falls into perfect place at the last minute. In a couple days in Mâcon we’re even going to reconnect with Tim Carrington, whose sailboat I lived on for three weeks in February while preparing for Research Road in Italy.
Still, the fact remains that I wish this blog was more journalistic, less journal. At FacLab in Paris, for example, we had a deliciously productive conversation with some of the biggest players in the French maker scene, but I simply don’t have the means between my tablet and our workflow, to access the audio in order to quote people. We said stuff. They said stuff. It was truly grand, but to hear the specifics, you’ll have to wait for the free download of Self-Made to hit the internet in six to nine months.
At this stage, Madulthood is a blog, not a news source, and I just have to roll with that. This is the place where I can admit the less glamorous things, like the fact that I’ve slept under so many roofs and in so many fields in the past five months, that I often wake up and can’t remember where in the universe I am. I can admit that I miss my family, and the ease of having a home. We’ve probably been to as many McDonald’s across Europe as Fab Labs, simply because they have free Wifi. That’s pretty pathetic. I can admit that I miss having an income and that I have saddle sores. That my clothes and shoes are falling apart. That sometimes I feel like a bad Couchsurfer because I’m so thwarted by constant activity I can barely focus on personal conversation. And my left shoulder blade still pinches from when I fell off my bike into a ditch on our way to Paris.
Here in Dijon we’re hosted by Laurence Lafarge, manager at Kelle Fabrik. She and her family just so happened to be also hosting a group of eight or ten other bike tourists, a French crew traveling around the country researching eco villages. Their project is years in the making–they planned, got funded, and collected a team. Honestly, they made us feel pretty small fry. We’re a Flying Circus.
We may be broke and broken, but we’re so very far from beaten. Barcelona lies about 900km and two weeks away. We’ll get there, that is something I’ve never doubted. And what we’ve accomplished with next to no resources is actually pretty damn impressive. We’ll have amassed two terabytes worth of footage, visited over two dozen Fab Labs, and conversed with countless intelligent and passionate minds. My world is bigger than I ever expected. We’re instigating a candid discussion of the sustainable future and (perhaps because we’re so unassuming) people are eager to talk to us.
We envision a planet fundamentally different from the one we currently inhabit. The first ten years of Fab culture have been about education, about inspiring people to learn new skills, about dispelling fear of technology. Now that we have the knowledge and the access, we can improve our global standard of life. The creative economy isn’t about getting rich, it’s about living richly. We don’t need anyone’s permission.