Teacher, artist, and adventurer.
Birthday: March 8, 1991
Birthplace: North of France
Océane has fought for love, mountains, and security; lost it all, and come back. Her personal life has been as adventurous as the ones she takes down the snowy slopes in Switzerland in her skis, or riding atop buses in Guatemala, or motorcycle-riding behind strangers in a dark night holding her flipflops in her hands.
Océane doesn’t wait for life to throw adventures her way, she goes after them. From the Amazon River in Brazil, caves in Guatemala, the Galapagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Red Sea, and beyond, this native of the north of France, now a teacher of French in Vancouver, British Columbia, appears to have done it all. She’s not happy with just touching the ground, she has conquered the air. Had Julius Caesar seen her statue instead of that of Alexander, we might have a completely different world.
I met Océane a few years back in Los Angeles through a friend. Los Angeles was just one of her stops in her small lifetime of travels. I did not at that time realize what kind of adventurer Océane was. She has visited 54 countries, while I’ve been in only four. The very Pacific that I’ve had to cross on my way to Australia is a little pond to all the waters she has seen in a sunny day.
Océane appears ready to conquer the world. You could not throw a dart blindfolded at a map and not hit upon a place she has been. She’s the Alexandre le Grand of travels, besides a teacher of French, an amateur artist, and a fierce adventurer. Love is her du jour éternel, and travel her passion.
Océane has made British Columbia her home for four years, or, as she calls it, “her base.” Besides being a teacher, a translator, an artist, a writer of songs and poetry, and a conqueror of the alps, she’s the founder of Have Fun Learning French. I Zoom-sat with Océane a few days before her birthday.
Your birthday is coming soon. Germans find it to be bad luck to wish happy birthday before the actual date, what is your stance on that?
In France, we also prefer wishing it a little bit later than before as well.
Is it because it is considered bad luck or is it just polite to wish it on the actual day?
I would say it is more polite, though there might be a bit of superstition, for sure, but not that much. I think it’s more polite.
If we asked your parents what kind of a child you were growing up, what would they say?
I think my mom would say I was probably a quiet kid. What I heard from a lot of adults, but not necessarily from my mom, because she raised me that way, is that I was very polite. In camp, when was I five or six years old, I got a diploma for “most polite kid.” (Laugh).
I have good hopes for my daughter. Mom is teaching her to say “please” all the time, while I believe we don’t need to say “please” all the time.
I think it’s important that they at least learn it, and after, they can do what they want, according to their own beliefs.
Did you start traveling as a child or did that bug start later?
No, actually, as a kid.
Did you travel with mom and dad or just your mom?
Just my mom. My father was never in the picture. Like, since I was two.
You’ve done some painting. You got into a competition. How did you do?
I was very happy. It was back in 2018. I participated in the Vancouver Art Battle. I wasn’t selected for the final. [However] I was very happy. For me, I won that day, because that was my way doing my artistic coming-out. I was very proud, as well, because my painting got sold in the bidding—after [the competition], you have a bidding.
I sold actually a few [paintings] already. And what I do is, when I sell, 30% of the revenue goes to charity.
Un Papillon. Art by Océane De Decker.
Do you work with oil or watercolor?
No, I don’t do oil. I do acrylic. I don’t like spending so much time on a canvass. Same when I write. That’s why [I write] poems, songs, [things] that don’t take forever to complete.
What is your favorite thing to paint?
Oh, definitely the ocean!
I do. Ocean is my life. It’s also my name, [as] you know.
You have to share some of those poems with me.
Eventually, I will (Smile).
What is it about the ocean you like so much?
I don’t know. It’s like it’s a part of me. I always say I’ve been in love in my life, but my very first love is the ocean. I have the feeling I’m married to two entities: the ocean, and my freedom. I think both are very intertwined. The ocean to me is, you know, this strength, this power.
So, what is a digital nomad?
I don’t think there is a precise definition, but I say a digital nomad is a person that moves around with his or her computer.
I love that term.
It’s the best term ever (Laugh).
How many places with water have you visited?
Oh my god, with water? That’s going to be impossible. In 2018, I traveled from Alaska to Argentina. Every two or three days, I would be in front of a waterfall, or a new stream. I could tell you the oceans: I dove in [the] North Pacific, South Pacific, Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean side, the French side; the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea—I forgot the name in English, but La Manche? I dove in the Indian Ocean, [and] the Red Sea, as well.
You dove in the Red Sea?
Yes, like when I was fifteen. My first dive was when I was eleven. I started diving regularly [at] 14, after a trip I took with my mom [to] Australia. I [snorkeled] in the Great Barrier Reef.
I’m probably gonna go scuba diving somewhere in June like for four, six weeks. In the Caribbean, probably.
What about the Amazon River?
The Amazon River is fantastic! I’ve been on it quite a bit. I crossed from Belém to Santarém by boat. I was with like a hundred Brazilians. We had hammocks in the boat. I [slept] there for four days. Fantastic experience!
What about the Dead Sea?
I haven’t been there, yet. Hopefully one day. (Smile)
What about the Nile?
I did a cruise with my mom. The same year I dived in the Red Sea, we did a cruise in the Nile.
The Mississippi River?
LOSING IT ALL AND STARTING AGAIN
“I didn’t have the luxury to live in a car. I was lucky I had fantastic friends who helped me along the way, who I’m still really thankful for.”
Now about your marriage to the ocean and to freedom. There’s a lot of guys out there who are after you for more than just your French. How does romance fit it with your sense of freedom and your passion for travel? How do you make it work?
(Laugh) Well, it’s not like I don’t want to make romance exist. I would say that romance is very temporary in my case.
What is an event that changed your life or way of thinking?
There have been quite a few. If I had to pick one, I’d say losing two jobs in a row made me realize it’d be actually safer if I became [an] entrepreneur and diversified my sources of income.
Did you feel desperate, and how did you overcome it?
Oh. I did. I did feel desperate when everything collapsed around me. You know guys, I know exactly what it is to lose it all. I know because it happened to me. It was definitely a hard time.
Océane had also given up her apartment at that time. Luckily, she managed to take a trip to Mexico to see her boyfriend. They broke up while there. Upon her return to Canada, she almost had no money.
Did you live in your car or did you stay with your friends?
Oh, I didn’t have the luxury to live in a car. I was lucky enough I had fantastic friends, who helped me along the way, who I’m still really thankful for.
How did you manage in the end?
I decided I would not come back to the classic type of jobs. I pushed my French business to try to get more clients.
What did you do in the meantime?
I actually cleaned toilets. I’m actually proud of it, cuz I didn’t ask for help. I mean, I asked for help for my friends to host me. I didn’t ask any money to my mom; I didn’t ask any money [from] anybody. I made my own things. I made my own decisions, and I pushed through.
The full month of January, and most of February, I was crying every day. I guess perseverance always pays.
Now I’m actually less scared. What I would advice to people is: diversify your activities. Don’t put your life in the hands of only one person. If you lose your nine-to-five job, you’re most likely going to end up in the street, or at your friends’ couch.
How did you find that gig cleaning toilets?
What is the highest slope you’ve ever come down from?
Oh, that’s a good question. So, I’m going to talk in meters, because obviously, French, Europe…I think it was in the alps. The highest I think was 3,300 meters.
Do you time yourself?
Yeah, I time myself. I like performance, so I’m usually curious. When I was sixteen, I stopped at the level before doing competition.
That’s almost semi-professional. So, you’re a pretty good skier.
I wouldn’t say so (to being semi-professional). I am a good skier, that definitely. [But] I don’t do ski figures, and do crazy stuff…I’m not that kind of skier. However, I can take a slope that is very steep. An objective of mine is to start doing sky diving with the skis. It’s kind of paragliding.
Yeah, yeah (Laugh).
Is that a thing?
Exactly. Actually, it’s a sport. People do it. A lot in Switzerland. It’s very common to do in Switzerland. I really want to do that.
Did you ever have an accident?
No, never. Just, I mean, you know, a few falls here and there. But nothing serious.
What is your biggest dream in life?
To be happy, and feeling full. Otherwise, diving in Antarctica.
You meet the most incredible person, and you both set up the date of your wedding. Then you see an announcement that says, “Diving in Antarctica! Totally free!” and it happens to fall on the day of your wedding. What do you do?
I move my wedding over there, and I get married on the freaking iceberg (Laugh).
Is this love for travel as an itch? Like some people are addicted to nicotine, are you addicted to travel?
[I can’t say] if it’s just a part of me or an obsession, or an addiction, if it’s healthy or not. I don’t know, because now it’s just part of who I am. I don’t even think! Even sometimes when I just want to stay where I am, I’m just ending up somewhere else.
So, why did you choose Switzerland, Canada, and Brazil to live in?
Well, Canada and Switzerland for my first love. I originally didn’t want to live in Canada, which is the irony. I decided to go there in 2012, 2013 for my studies, [so we] would have this experience in Canada together.
What about Brazil?
Brazil was my own decision. I was dying of cold in Quebec in 2013, and I had to choose a destination where I would study next. I said, “I’m going to take the hottest country on the list.” I took Brazil (Laugh).
What is your favorite book?
Le Petit Prince de St. Exupéry.
What message do you draw most from the book?
It’s the message of creating links. That concept also of taming. When the fox is talking to little prince and he’s like, “You’re a boy among a thousand other boys, and I’m a fox among a thousand of fox[es]. I don’t mean anything to you, and you don’t mean anything to me. But if you tame me, you’ll be unique for me, and I’ll be unique for you.”
And I think it is that message, really, to create that link, to create this very unique relationship that we have with every being in our life, and I think that’s very important. It’s a reading I usually share with my students.
“I have the feeling sometimes [that] I’m married to two entities: I’m married to the ocean, and I’m married to my freedom.”
What book or author has been your greatest influence?
Cyrano de Bergerac. For the importance of fighting for noble causes. That book also shows real love in a very beautiful and poetic way.
Interesting choice. Outside the romantic play, what would you think if the poet who got your heart let another man take credit for the romantic letters? Would you go on a date with him?
I guess…that’s a very good question. I never actually asked myself that. I love it. Well, definitely, the one who took credit for those letters, I’d be extremely angry [at him], because I would consider that this is stealing intellectual property, and this is something I just cannot stand.
But again, when we analyze the play, and how it happens, Christian was also ready to give up. He was about to be honest, cuz he really truly genuinely loves [Roxanna], so…he wanted to be honest with her, and knew who she would choose. He’s actually the one comforting Cyrano, and saying “No, you’re going to be honest with Roxanna! You’re going to say you wrote the letters!”
“Knowledge is something that we can share. I really love the lightbulb moment in my students’ eyes.”
ADVENTURER AND TEACHER
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
[Uplifting] people. Guiding them on the path of knowledge.
What made you become a teacher? Did you feel pressured to become one, or was it love at first sight?
It’s funny, my mom being a teacher, I was seeing all the drawbacks of the job at home when I was young. So that was basically the last thing I wanted to do. I think you don’t choose to become a teacher, but teaching chooses you. For me, it’s completely vocational. I think I’ve been teaching most of my life without realizing it. It got more concrete when I decided to create my business Have Fun Learning French. Teaching is what brings harmony and balance in my life. I think I’ll be teaching all my life.
Why is uplifting people your favorite thing about being a teacher?
Knowledge is something that we can share. I really love the lightbulb moment in my students’ eyes. I feel pride when my clients tell me that my work is helpful to them.
What are the drawbacks of teaching, how do you minimize them?
I try to minimize my correcting time. I try to do most of it during class time, and not after.
She also goes a little into her teaching methods.
I try to use existing resources. I do different activities that are original, that are out of the books. I like getting out of the box. I do original activities that don’t ask too much prep time. Instead of using boring books—I mean, some books are essential and are very great, and I recommend some, actually—I try to do other exercises. I mean, we have so many resources: YouTube, newspapers, images, etc.
Do you have classes in person, or do you do everything through video?
Before Covid, I used to do face to face. Then I switched to online. But that was already an objective of mine. Now, I really intend to stay online.
Océane indicates that when Covid is in the distance, she might do some workshops where she will see clients face to face.
Do you do group classes online or just one on one?
That depends. I have some [group] classes. Usually, I like working with small groups, because, you know, better interaction. My biggest group is like seven [people].
Do you usually have a black board behind you?
No, I write on the Zoom’s white board.
We could fill volumes of a single interview, but I think we have a good picture of the teacher and the adventurer, the lover and the fighter. But I was curious about what is next in her life’s repertoire.
What adventure is still left to do?
Two big adventures. Diving in Antarctica. That is one big for sure. Another big one would be to cross from Alaska to Portugal by [sea and land].
What is your message for people struggling in their lives?
I would say to push through, and to really define what you want. Don’t think you don’t have the resources. Lots of people, they all see what they cannot do, but they don’t see what they can do. So, start seeing what you can do, and do it. Stick with it and fight. Push through.
I love that message. Thank you Océane.
If you’re interested in reaching Océane personally and becoming one of her students, click on the links below.