Local students get a glimpse of the world

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Chris-Alexandre Gionchetta, a native of Switzerland, made a pit stop of a week or more in McDonough at the home of Claude Gaw, a family friend. He was scheduled to be back on the road March 7.

Chris-Alexandre Gionchetta, center, a native of Switzerland, recently visited Ola High School and shared some of the stories of his travels around the world. Special photo

Among his activities here was a March 2 visit to Ola H.S. where he made seven presentations to various classes. He showed photos of the places he has visited and described everything from the landscapes to the various kinds of food he has experienced.

On a separate day he visited a school in Covington, he said during a phone interview with the Times, transitioning nicely from his native French to English.

“When I was 10 years old I told my mom I wanted to take a world tour,” he said. “That was my dream. Seventeen years later I decided to make the dream come true.”

Now 31 years of age, Chris has traveled through 34 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America since his trip began in 2011. He expects to be finished in a few months.

Many of the places on his route may not be considered typical destinations for U.S. tourists - from Romania and Bulgaria to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; from Mongolia to Laos and Vietnam.

When asked what he has learned on his tour, he said initially that it would be extremely difficult to pick one thing.

“I think I’ve learned a lot about myself,” he said, pointing out that while we so often spend our lives connected with so many people in so many different directions due to technology, the time spent alone on a bike allows for a special kind of introspection and thought.

“There are good people all around the world, and there are bad people all around the world,” he said.

He believes he has a lot he learned the past four years that he can apply to his “normal” life when he returns home in a few months and gets back to a regular work/life routine.

Throughout his journey Chris has maintained a website, www.allschoolproject.ch, which is in French but can be translated using an online tool. He also has a Facebook page titled “All School Project” which is mostly in French. Both the website and Facebook page have tons of photos from his travels, and on Facebook there is a link to a story written for the Ola High student news site with much more detail on his presentation there.

And who knows? A decade or so from now we may be reading about a former Ola High student who has undertaken a similar trip after being inspired by Chris during his visit.