In July last year, two friends bid au revoir to their home in France to set out on an extraordinary adventure.

Cycling through 21 countries in 178 days and covering 14,800km of cities and wilderness, Jacques de Maistre and Joseph Serdet arrived at the steps of ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific in Singapore on 28 January 2024.

Documenting their expedition on Instagram under the handle, the pair expressed their motivation as “a fascination with new cultures and exploring the world firsthand.”

Jacques and Joseph crossed paths as graduate students at ESSEC Business School in Cergy, France—an experience that introduced them to the autonomy of shaping their academic paths. 

Image by Jacques de Maistre and Joseph Serdet.

This freedom to carve out their future inspired a plan for a six-month expedition by strategically arranging and managing their timetable. He shared that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I wanted to do something that will challenge and remain with me for life,” Jacques remarked. 

Initially, the trip centered around creating a documentary exploring the future of mobility and how societies envision and adapt to it. 

With oil reserves dwindling, there’s a pressing need for viable alternatives, and the pair aimed to raise awareness among the people encountered during the journey.

For their bicycles, they sought advice from a friend who was an experienced world tour cyclist and provided information regarding wheel size, tire brand, width, and the number of gears.

In terms of luggage, they carried only four bags each, containing essentials such as two sets of clothing (one for cycling and one for casual wear), a sleeping bag, a portable charger, a diary to document their journey, and a book to accompany them along the way.

But even with the preparation and a mostly scenic and empowering expedition, it wasn’t all a smooth ride.

Image by Jacques de Maistre and Joseph Serdet.

In Greece, their route abruptly ended, forcing them to navigate across a lake. In Uzbekistan, they faced a 200km detour to the east due to border restrictions limiting access to Uzbek-Kirghize nationals. 

The border with Azerbaijan was closed, necessitating a journey across the Caspian Sea. Initially unplanned, they had to traverse through Russia.

With the bumps on the road, that didn’t stop them from exploring side quests.

During a leg of their trip, Joseph climbed the Kirghiz mountains to 3,200m high on a snowy road while braving the cold elements.

Jacques was on an adventure of his own; while traveling with two young Kirghize, they came across an old truck that caught fire. With a dozen men, they had to fill their water bottles from a tiny river to help put out the blaze.

Joseph and Jacques’ experiences highlight the unpredictability and excitement of travel and the importance of adaptability and resourcefulness in dealing with unexpected situations.

The pair made it in time for their new term at ESSEC Asia-Pacific Singapore to continue their Master in Management program. 

While the program will take over 178 days to complete, the duo’s resilience, eye for alternative solutions, and openness to cultures and ideas would arguably make their academic journey less daunting.

If you want to hear their story, book your seat for the Sports Conference: Unlock Your Leadership Potential Through Sports! workshop taking place on 6 March 2024 at Alliance Française de Singapour, 1 Sarkies Road, Singapore.

Follow their Instagram page to see photography of diverse cultures and breathtaking destinations alongside reflections on life’s purpose and the power of cycling.