I always loved to travel and the different cultures one encounters. My father was an ex-sailor, traveling the seven seas while he was young and he regaled me with stories from Rangoon, Mombasa, Maracaibo, and so many other exotic places. As a little kid, I had nothing better to do than looking at those places up on a map and imagining living there.
I must have inherited his lust for adventure. When I was 17 years old I embarked on a journey to the German port city of Hamburg with the aim to board a ship (cleaning deck if that was the price) in order to see the world on my own. The journey was a failure as the world had changed since my dad’s seafarer’s days.
But after my military service, I saw my chance by joining the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Syria. It seemed much less adventurous than my father’s tales but it immersed me for the first time in a foreign culture. I loved it. It was at this time that I have developed a deep love for the Middle East and Africa. When other Blue Berets (because of the blue berets UN soldiers wear) had parties, I traveled the host countries and beyond – always on the quest for the next adventure.
In 1992 I learned from a member of the UN Military Police in Damascus that a branch of the Saudi Royal family was living in Cairo and that he had worked as a bodyguard there. I quit service with the United Nations and went there. It was the family of Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz, one of the Sudairi Seven, who then employed me as a bodyguard.
After one year there and a short stint as an entrepreneur in New York, I was back with the United Nations in Damascus. My hunger for adventure was unbroken.
When I was 25 years old, I went from Istanbul to Damascus and then Cairo on a bicycle and less than one year later I made it from Cairo to the Sudanese border on the same bike, crossing hundreds of kilometers of the Egyptian desert.
In 1996 I fractured my leg in a bike accident in Zanzibar and after extensive surgery in Vienna went to live in Paris with not a word of French and 3000 USD in my pockets. 2004 I graduated from a law school masters program (I did not even have high school education before) as one of the French students. The rest is history.
But it all pales compared to the family adventure. Nothing beats having kids.