Travelling through 17 countries and overcoming 17,000km by bike, Clément Nothhmob embarked on a trip that was much more than just an adventure. He had a greater goal: to raise funds to give bicycles and scholarships to children living in rural Việt Nam and Cambodia.
“I am a man of challenge,” the young Belgian man said about himself.
|Clément set off on a bicycle trip from Paris, France, to Hà Nội, Việt Nam to raise funds for disadvantaged children in Việt Nam and Cambodia. — Photo courtesy of Clément Nothhmob|
With a curious mind and a burning desire to explore, Clément aspired to travel around the world by bicycle. But more than that, he believed that his journey should benefit the community and society as a whole.
Inspired by his sister Constance, who volunteered in Việt Nam in 2019, Clément learned more about disadvantaged children in the South of Việt Nam.
Schools in those locations are 20 to 25 kilometres away from their homes, yet there are no transport options available. A bicycle may be their only option. Some children leave school early to begin work at age 15 to provide for their families.
As a law and political science graduate, he believes in the importance of education.
“I think all children should have the opportunity to acquire a quality education,” he said.
The young man was excited when he saw how meaningful this was. Collaborating with Mekong Plus, a local NGO, Clément embarked on a cycling journey from Paris to Hà Nội to raise funds to buy bicycles and give scholarships to children in remote areas in South Việt Nam and South Cambodia.
“As I travelled by bike, I realised that every nation has hidden gems to allure beyond just their major cities and tourist attractions. On the bike, I can explore lesser-known areas and engage more with locals and other fellow backpackers. If you want to fully immerse yourself in local culture, a biking trip is undoubtedly the best option,” he shared.
Along the way, Clément developed a special bond with his bicycle, and even called it his girlfriend: “When you spent so much time with an object, you definitely called it your girlfriend. I even named her Bucephalus in honour of the horse of Alexander the Great,” he giggled.
Clément brought a tent and found free accommodation on the CouchSurfing app to save money. Cycling takes longer and is more challenging, but it allows Clément to discover the unexpected, even about himself.
“On the first day of the trip, I set off without knowing anything – never having camped, cycled or taken proper photos before. Frankly, I was unsure if I could get this far. Though, since I found a bigger mission that was even greater than myself, I felt stronger with the right mindset and positive energy,” he said.
After nine months and 20 days through all ups and downs, Clément finally reached his last destination, Hà Nội, and accomplished his journey, successfully raising more than 7,000 euros in donations.
|Clement Nothomb and his sister, Constance, were at Vĩnh Thuận Đông 3 Primary School, Long Mỹ District, Hậu Giang Province, donating 26 bicycles and 45 scholarships for students. — Photo courtesy of Clement Nothomb|
At the end of the journey, Clément arrived at Vĩnh Thuận Đông 3 Primary School, Long Mỹ District, Hậu Giang Province, gifting 26 bicycles and 45 scholarships to students. He hoped that the gifts would encourage those children to continue their education.
“I felt so rewarded when I was there with the children. The trip not only fulfilled my dream of exploring but also improved students’ lives by giving these children the necessary transportation for their school and commute. The journey is priceless and probably the best accomplishment of my life so far,” he said emotionally.
During his time in Mekong Delta, Clément was also involved in Mekong Plus projects, listening to people in precarious situations and raising locals’ awareness about sustainable agriculture.
After coming back to France, Clément will organise his first photographic exhibition in France and his homeland, Belgium. His photographs capture breathtaking landscapes, memorable events, hospitable locals and fellow travellers he encountered, engraving all his memories on an intriguing adventure.
However, Clément’s biking journey to Clément is only the beginning. When Clément gave an interview with Việt Nam News, he was enjoying a biking trip across France with his sister. Cycling is no longer just a hobby, but a lifestyle for him.
“I think I have got a taste for that kind of adventure associated with social work. Japan is probably the next destination. I will definitely come back to Việt Nam too,” he said.
His journey can be followed via his Instagram account @clement_nothomb.