The Travel Bug Meets a French Yummy Mummy: An Interview with Muriel Jacques

40blogSpotKnown as the “French Yummy Mummy,” Muriel Jacques has embraced London as her new home where she lives with her husband and two bilingual daughters who are “cheeky little girls.”

Muriel blogs as a hobby and though she feels like a newbie, 40blogSpot has quickly gained popularity. In it, she analyzes and reflects on the ways of the British with a candid sense of humor. “I am still finding it hard to comprehend how this country works, and what my friends really, really mean,” Muriel says.

As she juggles her hilarious “struggle to understand the Brits,” family life, a highly respected full-time slash profession as an engineer and lawyer, and a growing 4-year-old business in property management, we reach deep inside Muriel’s heart to hear about her underlying passion. What she’s truly passionate about hit her upon her first steps in Bali.

Check out this original video clip, created by Muriel’s daughter, paying tribute to their travels in Bali:

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Humble Beginnings

“My family is from a small village in Provence, South of France and we never traveled,” Muriel remembers. “There was an implicit assumption that Provence was the best place on earth and you would be a fool to go and live anywhere else.” It was merely acceptable to study in Paris where she was granted a Master of Science degree from one of the most prestigious engineering universities in France, École Centrale Paris, alongside a Master of Law degree from Paris La Sorbonne.

Despite being under pressure to return and settle in Provence, she began a career in Paris, making a name for herself in male-dominated fields. “I have always believed in women’s right to be educated, to have a career or to choose to stay at home,” Muriel explains. “I have been brought up thinking that everything was possible and I am grateful for that, even if in fact, everything is possible but that little bit more difficult for girls.” Her career eventually turned global as she worked “on big infrastructure contracts all over the world, building new trains and signaling systems.” She continued breaking down barriers when this “born and bred French” met her passion in Bali at 23 years of age and “discovered that life outside of France was possible and even enjoyable” nine years later when she moved to London.

Muriel Jacques

A Glimpse of Freshness

In her own words, Muriel describes how she encountered her passion:

“It all dawned on me when I took my first steps outside of Bali’s airport in Denpasar. A wall of heat fell on my head. This was unfamiliar. I loved it. From this moment on, all my senses were on alert. I was trying to understand everything. I learned a few words of Bahasa to try to be independent. This trip was a feast for the eyes: the Balinese dancers, the offering to the Gods, the batiks and the ikats (colorful Indonesian fabrics). Oh, and the sweet smell of the dark red earth, sometimes mixed with all the rubbish left in the burning heat –- simply unique.

Funnily enough, in the group, I was the only one enjoying the trip. All my friends were either sick or criticizing everything. You see, things were different, and somehow they couldn’t cope with this. Maybe I was lucky as well –- apparently, I have inherited my grandmother’s stomach and she has never had a tummy bug.”

The Travel Bug Bites Hard and Hangs On

Muriel’s love for travel only grew from there:

“From this trip on, I knew that I had itchy feet. I ended up traveling at every possible opportunity: Brazil, USA, Rajasthan, Malaysia, Singapore, Europe. Sometimes it was part of my job and sometimes it was just for holidays. I could sleep in a top-notch hotel one night and in a two-dollar-a-night beach hut the next day. I simply didn’t mind.

From my travels, I had to learn to speak English. I know it sounds silly, but my parents made me study German as my first foreign language, which is great in Germany, but not so useful in the countries I was traveling to. Another bonus is that traveling and Bali in particular are passions that I share with my husband, so to an extent, traveling helped me find (and keep) a husband!

Traveling is what makes me happy. I like seeing different landscapes and new types of art. I also love talking to new people to try to understand what their values and hopes are. Somehow, when I travel, my problems are put in a different perspective because, for instance, I see people who are happier than me with a lot less. Traveling is way to challenge my beliefs, put myself in listening mode — a difficult thing for me — and be more flexible, to take things as they come, because it’s never what I expect.

Now that I have a family, things had to change. I settled down in London and my little ones have already traveled to places I didn’t even know existed when I was their age. I hope that it will give them a different perspective and make them able to settle down wherever they want to.

Sam, I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview. We met in a group of like-minded bloggers and I believe that you are a very talented writer. It’s an honor that we have virtually met.”

How has traveling played a role in your life?

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22 Comments

  1. Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Great interview Samantha and Muriel. I agree that travelling certainly broadens peoples horizons, but only if they are open to it. Some people travel and though they may be in a totally different environment, they only want to find the familiar. So Spain, Bali, Turkey it makes no difference. All they see is the beach, the sun and the English or Irish Bar or Pub. I agree with Muriel’s view of travellling. It is more than just seeing the sights. It is about meeting new people, talking to them and trying to understand their way of life. That is where the real experience begins.

    • Posted August 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mary. Somehow, travelling is also about getting to know what I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are…Being out of my comfort zone has allowed me to discover new things and adapt myself. And, more importantly, I am learning all the time, which I love!

    • Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this comment Mary. I have learned a lot about me as well on the road (probably because I was out of my comfort zone!). How about you?

      • Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        Yes I have definitely learned about myself. Again what my strengths and weaknesses are. When I was 40 I felt I was confident and had “arrived”. Shortly after this I learned this was only partly true, it was only when I was in my comfort zone. Travelling certainly pushes me beyond this, especially when I do it on my own. Also when faced with other peoples beliefs, often contrary to my own, it forces me to re-evaluate my own belief system.
        Definitely no more package holidays for me.

        • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          Thanks so much for the wisdom in your comment, Mary! I’ve always wondered what sets travelers and tourists apart and I think that has a lot to do with it — the tourists look for the familiar no matter where they are. I also love how you speak of stepping out of our comfort zones — that’s exactly when we grow and change. =) Love your perspective as an expat too! =)

  2. Posted August 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Samantha,
    A fascinating interview with a woman of many accomplishments. Engineer, lawyer,property management, world traveler, and linguist. Sounds like Muriel’s adaptability “top-notch hotels to two-dollar a night beach huts” and her variety of different cultural experiences (France, Bali, London)have helped her to a better understanding of people’s values and hopes. I love her sense of humor and eye for detail in her blog posts. Beautiful video.

    • Posted August 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind words Penelope. Samantha has certainly done a great job and I do admire the way she writes!
      As for the sense of humor and the eye for detail, well, I think that you have a lot more talent than me for this.I can’t remember whether I told you this already, but I love your independent spirit. There is a strength in your posts that I can’t help admiring!

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        Indeed! You describe Muriel so well, Pennie! She is a true renaissance woman. =) And it’s so true — the more open we are to experiences, the more we learn and truly understand others.

        Thank *you* for your kind words, Muriel, and for agreeing to share! =)

  3. Posted August 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    This is such a wonderful interview! Love Muriel’s take on travelling and she definitely has made Bali such a yummy tempting place to see!

    Travelling – oh how I wish I did more of it! The best vacation I had was in college with friends. I studied in a girl’s college and the admin planned a trip for all of us. So I went along with my best friend and it was both of ours first vacation without family and the feeling of seeing a new place all by ourselves was so amazing – although we did have 150 other girls around too!

    We went to Darjeeling, India and it had this serenity about it which I hadn’t experienced before. Just beautiful. Still remains my favorite trip!

    This is such a beautiful post Samantha! Loved the clip Muriel! :)

    • Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind comment Hajra! My daughter is very pleased that you like her video.
      As for travelling, I think that we all have different ways to learn. Maybe yours is another one and I would love to read about it!

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Sounds you had a very similar trip to Muriel’s, Hajra! I’ve never had the chance to go on a big trip with school friends — it’s very typical here in Peru to travel with your class before graduating. Wish I had the opportunity for something similar as it sounds like it was such a beautiful experience for you! =)

      Maybe you and I can meet Muriel in Bali one day! =)

  4. Posted August 14, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Loved the post. It’s nice to learn more about Muriel. I haven’t travelled as extensively as some of you, but spent a few years as a travel nurse. The year I spent among the Yupik tribe in the Alaskan tundra taught me a deep appreciation of other cultures, and opened my mind.

    Thanks for sharing this post! :D
    ~cath xo

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      Wow! I second Muriel — would love to hear more about your time with the Yupik in Alaska and as a travel nurse! I’ve always imagined living in the far north of Canada one day. =)

      • Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        So, Sam, Cath, when are we going? I have never been to Alaska. Always wanted to.

  5. Lalia
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    It’s so nice to learn more about you Muriel! What an impressive resume. And the traveling…I’m so envious. I don’t travel much at all but wish I did. Thanks for sharing a piece of yourself and thanks Samantha for the fun series.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      I had the same reaction you did, Lalia! As I got to know Muriel, I was thoroughly impressed with all that she’s achieved and experienced in life! =)

      • Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Thank you ! Thank you! coming from such terrific writers I am flattered!

  6. Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Muriel, you’re right! Travel opens you up and makes you listen better. I am convinced that travelling is such a great way to educate oneself. Having an open mind is key in human growth…and happiness, I think! Thanks for sharing more of your life with us Muriel!

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      Wow! I love how you put it, Joy! That’s exactly how I feel about traveling and how I felt Muriel expressed it in this post as well. =)

      • Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Very nicely put Joy. I also think that traveling can heal you, don’t you think?

  7. Posted August 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Yupik tribe in Alaska? Well, you have got to let us know more, Cath…

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