Antoine Pagis, a 30-year-old Frenchman, is visiting Pakistan in his VW van fuelled by two desires: to explore the world and to find ‘Miss Right’.
Pagis has been on the road for two months, having decided on a world tour after waking up one morning fed-up with the drudgery of his daily life. He quit his job at a software company in his hometown of Montbrun les Bain, southeast France, and embarked on his dream trip. “I felt the need to feel alive,” he explained.
He also felt the nagging need to find his perfect match. Marriage and children are on his mind, and Pagis told The Express Tribune he seeks the one true love of his life — something to alert all single Francophile women in Pakistan.
What qualities is he looking for? “I’m a young man. Of course I want her to be beautiful, but it’s very important that she’s also smart,” he said.
Arriving in Karachi, he was pleased with what he saw. He said he was glad to discover that young and ‘modern-looking women’ exist in this part of the world. In Quetta, by contrast, he said he rarely saw women, except for elderly ones or children.
As of now, he rates East European girls as the prettiest, but revealed that some Iranian women were very exotic. He found Turkish women to be quite ‘hairy’. After Karachi, his next stop is Lahore. Time will tell if Pagis thinks Punjabi women have the requisite je ne sais quoi.
After ditching his life in France, Pagis had €10,000 in savings, of which he spent 4,000 to buy an old army-green-coloured Volkswagon Transporter van, which is equipped with cooking range, bed and closet — but doesn’t have an AC. He knew that the €6,000 he had left was insufficient funds, so he tried his luck at an online poker championship. “And would you believe it, I won €20,000!”
There was no turning back for Pagis, who on March 21 took the road trip from France to Italy, then Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Iran and now Pakistan.
Pagis says he spent the first night in the country at the Pak-Iran border at Taftan, since the concerned customs official whose stamp was needed on his papers was not on duty when he arrived.
The language barrier has been a persistent problem with officials, but that aside he has faced no problems. In fact, at all the 11 border crossings he has passed so far, none have even checked his van.
On driving in Pakistan, he said “the road from Taftan to Quetta is the worst I’ve ever seen. Maybe it can be compared with those I’ve seen in Africa.” However, he did get to see a number of small tornadoes along the way. He has also been accompanied by armed escorts. “I’m not used to such attention,” he said with a smile as he recalled how five police mounted motorcycles and followed him around Quetta.
He said he was warned by his friends against visiting Pakistan. “Some of them even called me crazy,” he recalled. But the love and mutual respect he has found has overwhelmed him. He was even staying at a place in Karachi with a friend he met on Facebook.
The hospitality has been extensive. He has been handed an AK-47 by a Levies Force escort to pose for a photograph. In Quetta, one policeman even gave him some hashish for the trip ahead. “Nowhere in the world will you find such a wonderful law-enforcement authority,” he said with genuine praise, declaring, “I love Quetta police.”
He has also met other foreigners in Pakistan. In Quetta, he met a Dutch drummer, whose mission was to play with musicians in Pakistan that he meets along the way. From Quetta, Pagis went to Sukkur, then down to Karachi.
He said one of things he has discovered in Pakistan is the word ‘loadshedding’. Only in Pakistan has he heard such woeful tales about power outages.
But his travels have deepened his knowledge beyond just the opposite sex. “My journey has taught me a lot. I’ve learnt that one can find friends in any corner of the world, that we are all same and all these borders are man-made and don’t exist between common people.”
Antoine Pagis is now in Lahore, from there he plans to cross the Wagah border into India and beyond.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.
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