When he arrived for his secondment at Pictet Asset Management in Dubai in 2014, Sloan already knew deep down, that he would travel home to Geneva by road. So he bought a car accordingly: a Land Rover Defender. And with that, the wheels for the trip of a lifetime were set in motion.
The seed had been sown ten years earlier when Sloan and a friend had the mad-cap idea of a round-the-world-trip in a vintage Fiat 500 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this icon of Italian automobile design. Life got in the way and the trip never happened but the idea and dream of a long-distance drive quietly lingered.
Fast forward a few years and Sloan - happily married - is seconded to Dubai for four years. Curious and adventurers by nature, Sloan and his wife travelled extensively during this time, visiting Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and throughout Asia. The arrival of their two daughters did nothing to curb their itinerant instincts. “When you’re fine, they’re fine,” he says about travelling with young children. And Sloan has an innate faith in the inherent good of humanity. “We tend to build a set idea about a country or population based on how their politicians or religious leaders behave. But if you treat people like humans, you’ll find that fundamentally, they are good.”
That said, an eight-week drive with your family across Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Italy takes more than goodwill, so not a lot was left to chance. “I knew that if I was going to convince my wife to do this, I needed to be organised. I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak but I did have plan B, C through Z!” The most obvious worst case scenario was car trouble. So, on top of the extensive paperwork required to register, import, export and drive a foreign car across each country, Sloan also had a list of transporters, Land Rover mechanics and suppliers of spare parts in every country. He’d gone so far as to ‘lose’ a set of licence plates so that he had a backup if needed. “I even had the car chipped, so that if it moved during the night, I’d get an SMS. It was a hassle to set up because you need a SIM card that works in each country. But it was worth it for the peace of mind.”
“Our friends thought we were insane. They accused us of being selfish, irresponsible parents and sent us news stories of rebels burning flags. My mother even offered to fly out and take our daughters home by plane while we drove. Nobody understood. For us, it was about making ‘going home’ part of the adventure. A slow transition from our Dubai home to our Geneva home rather than a thud back to reality.” After months of planning, Sloan and his family were finally ready to set off. The car was inevitably packed to the brim with essentials such fire extinguishers, a shovel, two tents, an icebox but also kiddie snacks for three weeks and diapers for 2 months! “On our way out of Dubai, we drove through the city waving at all our favourite spots. There were a few tears but nothing compared to the excitement. Our next chapter had just started!”
Régis describes his family dynamic as ‘untraditional’ “But it works for us. It’s not uncommon for us to cross each other in the hallway, one going to work and the other coming home to sleep. It makes the time we do spend together all the more precious. We rediscover each other all the time.”
The pandemic changed all that. For a family who was rarely at home at the same time, they shifted to dad and son at home, all the time. “It was hard. My wife was working long emergency shifts and trying to manage our home life at arm’s length. Our son was home from school and had daily homework to complete. I was trying to perform my job at the bank entirely on Zoom. Tensions were quick to rise.”
With his wife’s increased workload, Régis became abruptly aware of how much his wife had been doing while he was at the fire station. “It was an initiation to domestic organisation!” A complex system of colour-coded post-its left in key locations was developed, reminding each member of their household tasks for the day such as ‘Empty the dishwasher’. ‘The coffee cups go here’. ‘No TV before homework’. “I have a renewed, profound respect for everything my wife had been juggling to manage our home in addition to her day job. I’m very thankful!”
Confinement was also an opportunity for father and son to go beyond merely co-existing. “We’d both been in our routines; my son with school and his friends, me with work and the fire station. Suddenly our routines overlapped and I got to know my son. What makes him laugh, angry, what books he likes to read and why.” There’s no turning back from that. “He likes to eat lunch at the station and check out the trucks. I don’t think he wants to become a fire fighter though, he’s more into graphic design*.”
Régis talks of the frustrations and joys of the bittersweet nature of his work. “I became a fireman to help people, not let them die. Even if I know we did everything we could, it’s hard to accept. As firemen, accepting our limitations doesn’t come easily. It helps to talk to the senior guys. Sometimes you just need to hear someone tell you what you already know: ‘this is what you’re trained for, you did everything right, you didn’t cause it’. Then the next shift, you deliver a healthy baby in the back of a car. It doesn’t make up for the losses but it does remind you why you’re here.”
Even if after 30 years on the job, he’s nearly a ‘senior guy’ himself, Régis is not tired yet. He has recently become President of the Fire Fighters of Villerupt Association.
In March, after spending his professional career in back office and client-facing roles in the banking industry, Régis has changed tack and has taken on a role in the Physical Security team where he is responsible for physical safety and fire prevention of the two Pictet office sites in Luxembourg.
*although he may be having second thoughts after reading a first draft of this text apparently