I've always loved traveling. First, because it's part of my cultural and familial heritage. In Lebanon, there's no one who can who doesn't leave - as soon as we can go, we go, far away. To seek fortune, to seek glory.
The Lebanese people is one of diaspora, a diaspora that maintains a tight relationship with the homeland while still cultivating the diversity of feeling like a local anywhere. It's super important for a Lebanese to feel like the most insider of all the outsiders.
I've been lucky to travel a lot. I've lived in numerous places, had the pleasure of working in some, and of course I've been a tourist in many others. Each experience was unique, bringing its batch of surprises and discoveries.
I also love to discover different languages and ways of thinking. Each new perspective is like a new window being put into a big house: it brings even more light to your days.
Where I've lived
Born in Lebanon, for many years I had a complex relationship with the country. First, because it was a country that my family left in chaos. And then because it's a tough country to carry around when you're young and growing up in a small province. And finally because I wasn't able to go back there from when I was about 4 or 5 until I was 16. That's why I'm always forever a stranger in strange lands, never having roots. My mother showed me how to love the adventurous spirit of Lebanon, but she never let me see, or at least not for a very long time, all the little regional quarrels. She lives there now, and I love going to visit her as often as possible. I've gotten back to speaking the language (I drink it up like a thirsty child) and I'm happy to spend time there. Even if the situation on the ground there never seems to get any better, the people are always vibrant and passionate.
Kinshasa, where I have very few memories. The only exception is having an apartment so big that I could ride my bike inside. Skidding around, knocking over plants, having the babysitters run after me, getting away with a triumphant smile. And then I also remember the wild animals kept in the local dictator's park, a place we could visit thanks to a family friendship. Then fleeing, ruined. I was too young to understand, and too old to not see it.
France, which I love like a foreigner. I've always been surprised by how little love most French people seem to have for their country. But still, they're so, so proud of it. It's the paradox of the Gauls, I guess. I've always felt like a foreigner because I was always made to feel like I was different, an outsider, that I'd never really be French. After all, both my name and my origins are exotic. But I still received so much here: an incredible education, knowledge of the art de vivre, exceptional culture, invigorating philosophy. I really can't complain.
There are some things that I'll never get: the relationship with money and business; the focus on equality; the continuous cronyism and corruption. But all of that's nothing compared to the pleasure I feel in sharing part of my destiny with that of the country.
It's been 8 years now that I've been back living in France part time, after spending most of my childhood and adolescence here. Being here part time works for me. I get a ton of pleasure out of it and no real annoyance. I don't think I'll ever live in France full time again. But who knows? Life is long, and full of mystery.
São Paulo is the city where I spent my summers from 14-18 years of age. I then was able to go back later. I learned just how much being Brazilian means being cut off from the rest of the world, because you just feel good there. I learned about the party, joy, the fact that you can never let yourself be defeated. And then Carneval...
Hong Kong is a city with an obscene amount of energy. Everything's obscene there, which is what makes it so charming! It's a city where I never slept much, I drank too much, but I learned so much. I was lucky when I was young to be thrown into the business culture there, which is one-of-a-kind. It's where action is king, and the cornerstone to it all is the speed at which you make decisions!
San Francisco was a city with lots of work, but no life. It's great to learn from all the giants and to be encircled by all those brilliant people, it's super stimulating. But your personal life in San Francisco isn't up to European expectations. I was happy to spend time there, but I was also happy to leave and get back to my beloved Europe.
London is the city that I can call home. It has everything I love. A great business community, a thriving social life, refined tastes and products that come from around the globe... And people! People everywhere. It's a city of pirates, it kept that rebellious, adventurous spirit. Brexit won't change that, on the contrary... And that's what makes Brexit so sad, because by losing London, we're losing a lot in Europe.
Berlin is my next adventure. Sara's from Berlin, and she misses it. She loves Paris but she agrees that we can have more than one city in our heart. So we decided to get an apartment in Berlin and spend more time there. I had an office in Berlin, but I didn't really feel tons of love for it. I'm happy to be going back to Berlin with one of the city's true princesses, an outsider with a place among the biggest insiders.
Places where I must go at least once a year
Japan, to eat 5 times a day and be curious about curiosity.
Italy, especially in Les Marches. No one else is there. It feels peaceful. And Rome, because it is the quintessence of la dolce vita.
Where I've been
Austria, Italy, Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Luxembourg, Malta, Czechia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Portugal, Finland, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Ireland, Thailand, India, Morocco, Tunisia, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Indonesia...