Luxembourg native and history teacher Marguy Baum (shown here in Sudan) says she normally centres her trips around archaeological sites. All photos courtesy Marguy Baum
High school history teacher Marguy Baum has a passion for archaeology that has taken her everywhere from the Great Wall to the Silk Road and beyond. But this year, in light of the covid-19 pandemic, she decided to look into some new digs.
Baum was bitten by the travel bug early in life, after a childhood stint with her parents in South Africa, where her mother worked for an airline. “My parents gave me this passion to travel, especially my mum…even in Luxembourg, we travelled a lot on the weekends,” she said during a recent interview. “When you do it as a kid, you don’t get nervous about travelling, you aren’t afraid to go anywhere.”
Baum knew from an early age she wanted to be an archaeologist and studied to be one in Germany and France. Her final thesis focused on the Sanctuary of Apollo on the Greek island of Delos in the Cyclades, although she has also been on digs in Luxembourg (in Schieren, for example, where remains of a Gallo-Roman villa were discovered in 1991). Although there are plenty of historical sites in Luxembourg, she said “it’s difficult to get a job as an archaeologist here, that’s why I chose teaching, I thought it would be nice to share my experience.”
She says she always combines travel with an archaeological site, and has a particular interest in the near-east. She’s already been to places like Iraq, Iran, Syria and Kurdistan, and one of her dreams is to travel along the entire Silk Road because she wants “to follow the path of Alexander the Great, to travel like him to India.”
But this idea of tracing another’s path also resonates with her in other ways as well. “I once met a girl in Vietnam, whose father is a fisherman in Applecross, close to Inverness, a fishing paradise,” she said. “I would have never gone to this village but you get to know someone and you follow their footsteps.”
She has also run marathons along some archaeological sites, including one through the Bagan temples (Myanmar), another in Petra, Jordan, and one of the world’s most challenging, along the Great Wall in China. “From the moment I finished that marathon, I quit jogging for one year because it was so difficult, since you’re running along stairs.”
Running the Great Wall marathon in 2018
Freedom to roam
Despite being an avid traveller, when the health pandemic confinement period hit, Baum says she wasn’t that bothered.
“I like to be in a quiet place, so lockdown was really easy,” she said. Moreover, “museums put up virtual reality tours, with a lot of archaeological sites, so you could ‘travel’ digitally.” She then began planning future trips and, before she knew it she caught herself looking at glamped up campers, inspired by how many fellow travellers were refurbishing their own vehicles.
In July, she flew down to Algarve, Portugal (on the Sumo plane, no less!), to do two things she’d never done before: she hired a luxury camper van and booked surfing classes. “I wasn’t familiar with this lifestyle--living on the coast, sand everywhere, with a board.” Although she said it was a challenge at first as a solo traveller--especially to change the waste tank--other campers were happy to assist. “Campers help each other out, it’s like a small village,” she added.
But there unexpected perks as well: Baum said that at one campsite, there were enough spaces for around 200 vehicles, yet there were only three on site, so she had plenty of space. Moreover, although there are often restrictions on where people can set up campers, “In Portugal they were really relaxed, especially this summer since there weren’t so many campers.”
A view from the interior of the camping van Baum hired in Portgual
While she praises the flexibility the van provided, she’s not sure she would travel this way again, adding that it’s a style of travel better suited for a small group.
In the meantime, she’ll be spending her weekends reexploring some of her favourite sites in Luxembourg and visiting her archaeologist friends. Next week she’ll be in Brittany, but she’s still dreaming about places like New Zealand and New Caledonia once the health crisis is over.