Nicolas is my brother. After years of struggling in school, at 17 he decided to leave his family, his friends, and his home to become a shepherd in southern France. Since he grew up in Paris, he didn’t have any specific affinity for agriculture or much experience living off the land. But something about life in the city disturbed him, so off he went into the countryside.

Four years have passed and I still wonder about him. How can someone who’s just 21 years old push himself into such isolation? Is he pursuing only a fantasy of the hermit life, the kind we see in movies like Into the Wild? Or is it because of a fundamental discord with the social interactions of our society?

How many alter egos does Nicolas have today? More and more young people are looking for an alternative way of life to escape the usual routine. Are they merely imitating each other or are they truly setting off to find themselves?

These days, he communicates rarely. He allows silence to fill his minutes, hours, days. Wrapped up tight in his sleeping bag during the long winter months, he doesn’t complain. He seems to enjoy his nomadic life. He is even self-deprecating, having dubbed himself “the mountain hobo.”

This project began in 2010 and is still ongoing—for as long as Nicolas stays out there.

—Clémentine Schneidermann

Editors’ note: Clémentine Schneidermann was named a finalist in the 4th Annual IdeasTap Photographic Award. You can see her work and 8 other finalists’ work in our feature about the award.