What I have learnt from hitchhiking in Europe

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Two months on the road, multiple cardboards, cars and trucks after, I crossed countries to countries, hitchhiked a full month in Italy, got to learn many people from different places and be friends with some of them. I left home with the smallest budget I had ever had and decided to be homeless for two months in the summer. Luckily, it was a beautiful summer in Europe that you wouldn’t expect for more.

After planning my trip with such a short notice, which was 2 weeks before my travels, I was nervous to tell everyone about my trip.

“It is too dangerous!”, “Are you crazy?”, “Please don’t do that stupid thing”… That was what I got from their responses. It got even worse while I was hitchhiking, like “Be careful because you might get kidnapped then they would kill you and take your organs”. That was not cool to hear at all because you would not feel comfortable moving forward. It was hard! Very hard! I had to handle all the harsh words and the tiredness to move on and to finish my hike. And just so, from one city to another, from Italy to Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, I hitched with confidence and no fear.

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Have trust on people

I thought of hitchhiking with a goal, not just because I wanted to do something crazy or wanted to be killed. I wanted to learn about people around me and learn to have trust on people.

People aren’t that bad, just think of yourself and what you say about people in general because you are them too. We are all people and we deserve to be trusted. Surely there are bad and good people around the world but you need to give them a chance to be trusted and follow your feeling to know when is right. Hitchhiking requires a lot of trust, not only just from me to drivers, they also need to have trust on you to give you a lift. Your appearance could also cause them danger but who would tell.

Italian men are open about sex

Irony but fact! Most of my time hitchhiking was in Italy and I experienced quite some weird and scary moments there. They wouldn’t mind stopping their cars to ask you if you would want to have sex or even offer you money to be in bed with them. It could be the culture but for female solo travellers from else where, it would be terrifying. The worst case I got was being touched all over while I was in the car and I had no other option rather than asking to get out in the middle of the highway. Funnily, they would still talk to you like nothing had happened. Quite strange, isn’t it?

It is important to be calm instead of acting like a child or being a princess in this situation. Showing that you have no fear over them and react smartly. I would not recommend to be aggressive here because it might arouse some men even more.

Asking is better than waiting

The shortest time I had to wait was 5 minutes, and one hour for the longest. The average time was about 20 minutes. However, this would not be applied to everyone, especially if you are a boy and which track you take. Gas stations are always a good choice because you would have more chances to have closer interaction with people and they are more likely able to see your signs. In some cases, people feel very intimated to see you standing with a puppy face so they either pity you and give you a lift or they try to avoid eye contact and walk as fast as possible. Sometimes you will be dropped off at some off-track roads that it is nearly impossible to get a lift. Therefore, take action works much better. It is hard sometimes to approach strangers and especially to ask for a favour. But if you wait, you might wait for a very long time. Just knock their windows or just approach them friendly, ask if they would go in the direction you are heading to. Short distance than nothing!

It is not dangerous!

It depends how you define danger but it is definitely not dangerous as how your parents or your friends think. The fact that they have never hitchhiked in their lives, they would not know. I am a solo traveller and I am a girl but I returned home safely. I could understand that you might get in some bad situations but again, you need to take precaution and trust your gut as well. The sixth sense needs to be activated here.

It sounds very old-fashion but there are still many hitchhikers out there. You might meet them on the way, or notice them more often after your hitchhiking trip. If it was dangerous, why would people still do it?

 

TRUST YOURSELF, TRUST PEOPLE, TAKE PRECAUTION BUT NO HESITATION AND ENJOY!

 

 

Hitchhike Journal #10: Padova – Portoroz (SLO) | Yo, tu, Hotel, Fuck…

Padova – Portoroz
14 August 2016
Distance: 272km
Transportation:   4 cars
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes


I was on strike and did not hitchhike for a whole week to recover my health problem. I travelled from Bologna with the luxurious train to Milan and to reunite with my lovely girl Manoela and my awesome host Emanuele. We had planned a little vacation together when Manoela left me in Cinque Terre that we would go to Verona together but Ema was a small surprise. I had a beautiful 3 day vacation with them, went to Verona, Lago Garda and to the beautiful Venice. However, I could not keep my trip on hold so it was time to be back on the road.

After saying goodbye to Ema and Manoela at a gas station, I was partly ready to hitchhike again. I was going to cross another country – Slovenia – where I had no idea about the country as well as their language.

I didn’t have to wait very long to get my first ride. A sweet family driving from Milan offered me a ride. They were so kind to me that I was touched when I said goodbye to them. Luisella could speak proper English and her 6 year old son Andrea could even ask me my name in English. It was the most adorable thing I had experienced during my trip. Luisella offered me a panini and a bottle of water and she kept asking me if I needed anything else. It felt good to be taken care of for awhile. She was very fascinated speaking English with me because she wanted to practice her English. They dropped me off at a gas station and Andrea gave me a kiss goodbye (how sweet). Something unexpected happened. They gave me in my hand 20 Euro and insisted me to take it for on the way. I was speechless to what they had just done for me and didn’t know what else I could do more than giving them a hug.

Under 5 minutes, there was a guy driving a Romanian car registration plate car asked me. He was going to drive to Ljubljana and I asked him if he would go in Trieste direction. He said yes. I asked him if I could join him to Trieste. He said yes. We drove for awhile and he kept telling me that I was beautiful which made me feel very uncomfortable. At one point, he took an exit to a toll booth but on a different highway from the one I was supposed to take in order to get to Trieste. I showed him the maps and asked if he could drop me off some gas stations on the way in Slovenia. He said yes. The fact that he could only speak Italian, it was a difficulty for me to instruct him to bring me to a certain place and I was dependent on him. He started asking me about my vacation, then what else I heard was hotel, beach, man… I started to feel weird. We were close enough to the split of exits between Ljubljana and Koper. There was still no gas stations. He came to me and said – “Yo, tu, hotel, fuck, then you go Koper”. I said no and told him to stop at the exit right away. He started to say the same thing again, kept his hand touching my leg and even to my chest. I defenced and that was all I could do. I got out of the car, in the middle of the highway. It started to rain, heavily. For the first time in my trip, I felt I was broken down. I cried. I was standing at the vignette checking point and hoping for a ride to come but there was no traffic going to Koper direction. I just stood in the rain and tried to find a shelter to hide. Some cars passed by but no one seemed like to stop. Few cars in row were going toward me to the direction of Koper. They had to stop to be checked and that was when I found my chance. I knocked on some cars’ windows to ask and finally one person accepted me. He drove me to a town near by and dropped me off at the exit. Lucky enough, I got another ride right away from there to go to Isola – where I was going to wait for my host to pick me up.

I really cannot describe how I feel at the moment because my emotions are mixed up. I feel exhausted, energy-less, homesick. Right now, I just want to be home, to have my family’s food, to be surrounded by friends. But you know, it’s been 6 weeks and this is the challenge I have given myself. That’s why, I’m going on and not gonna give up.

My plan has changed!

I’m gonna cut off a week of travelling so I will be back in Germany one week earlier because I need to take care of some school works. I’m not crossing Austria as I planned but I will still go to Austria to head over to Bratislava, Slovakia. For now, it’s time to see Slovenia

Hitchhike Journal #9: Pisa – Florence – Bologna

Pisa – Florence
3 August 2016
Distance: 83.5km
Transportation:   1 car
Duration: 1 hours 40 minutes


Florence – Bologna
7 August 2016
Distance: 107km
Transportation:   2 cars
Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes


For the first time of my hitchhiking trip, I got to one destination with only one vehicle. My host in Pisa brought me to a gas station which was not so much of traffic but I was lucky enough to be offered the ride by a Physiotherapist who could speak English. It has been quite a challenge getting rides in Italy and the communication just sucks. But somehow, I have been very proud that I have been able to manage all that and have reached more than 1000km since I started.

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In Florence, I had 4 day stay for some business purposes. I was able to go to many small towns around Florence to get to know the area better and learn so much more about Tuscany region.

From Florence, it is quite difficult to find a good station to stand. There are 2 exits – North and South – and they both direct to many other highways. I was brought to gas station which is on a highway that exits to Pisa Nord. It was a 30 minute waiting time in the sun. During that time, a girl came to me and told me that it would be difficult for me to get a ride there because there was not much of traffic and it was difficult in Italy since people don’t trust people. It was nice of her to tell me that and I appreciated. But of course, I told her that it was not my first ride. After 30 minutes, a van offered me a ride. Again, no one could speak English. They brought me to the exit of the toll charge booth. Just 5 minute till a Parisian couple pity me, a girl standing in the hot sun, and took me into their car. They kindly brought me all the way to my host’s place.

So guys, it has been a month being on this hitchhiking trip. I can’t believe that I have reached 1.395km and changed so many plans on the way. In fact, I’m changing some destinations in the coming time too. I will be no longer taking the trip to Austria and instead to Slovenia. From there, I will go East to Hungary and Slovakia.

Hitchhike Journal #5: Zurich – Milan| I was asked for sex

21 July 2016
Distance: 279km
Transportation: 1 truck, 2 cars
Duration: 6 hours


As the trip from Stuttgart to Zurich, since it was my first time hitchhiking crossing border, I decided to take carpooling to get me to Zurich. Luckily, it was a good option because that day had a terrible weather. It was a blast staying in Zurich. Staying with my host Tim Dubbels, it has partly confirmed how great Couchsurfing is. Tim has made my stay awesome and a great company. On the last day, he kindly took the morning off and drove me the first 40 minutes in the direction to Milan. I got a chance to watch the most picturesque view in Switzerland before hitting the road again.

Being dropped off at a gas station which is just few kilometres away from the Gotthard tunnel and having the farewell with Tim, I was ready to hitchhike. The sun was strong and it started heating up. I struggled the first 20 minutes in the hot weather. It was a hard time to hitchhike at that moment since everyone went on holidays and most cars were full of people. I was hoping to have someone let me join the ride soon because the sun shining directly to my face really made me dehydrated and tired. After awhile, a truck picked me up and offered me a trip to Bellizona. The truck driver didn’t speak any English, neither German. With a little Spanish knowledge, I tried to communicate with him just to catch some awkward conversations. Everything went fine the first hour driving. We made a stop to rest the truck as he told that it was needed. He started a conversation which I could hardly understand what he was trying to say. He was saying something about money, writing down 100CHF = 95€, which I thought he wanted me to pay him as I took his ride. Then, he pointed to the mattress behind him and gave me a package of condom. I was stunt for a second, and calmly said No. I really did not know what I was trying to do eventually – Should I have run? I was in the middle of nowhere and being freaked out would not solve the problem. He asked me twice if I wanted to have sex with him and he would pay me 100CHF. I told him I had a boyfriend and would not do that, which would be the stupidest excuse because he wouldn’t care obviously. “I could go out here and catch another ride from here” – I told him. He said it was cool and he would drive me to Bellizona. He actually asked around a guy if he was driving to Milan but sadly he said no. At one point, I thought I could not do anything much at that moment so I continued my trip and tried to ‘act cool’. Was I scared? Of course I was, but I did not show that to him. I just had to wait to arrive in Bellizona and for this ride to end. I was out of that truck after 10 minute ride from the last stop.

The guy who was asked by the truck driver was at the same stop as I was dropped off. He recognised me and asked me if I wanted to share the ride even though he was not going to Milan. He was kind and gave me a ride to a town near by to take a train to the Milan city centre. Having arrived in Milan, I fell completely relieved. The image of the truck driver giving me the condom terrified and traumatised me but it was a lesson to learn. I was safe and that was all I knew.

Hitchhike Journal #2: Cologne – Mannheim

9 July 2016

Distance: 247km
Transportation: 3 cars
Duration: 5 hours


Waking up early this morning with full of excitement because I knew from today on, I would hit the road and will be there for the coming months. Having everything packed, I headed to a subway stop from where I could walk to the gas station. The gas station is at Am Verteilerkreis which is the gas station before the exit to the highway. As my destination was Mannheim, I looked for the direction to Bonn and Koblenz and that gas station was a perfect spot.

It was a tiring enough walking from the train stop to the gas station since I had quite a big backpack on, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to get a ride right away. When I arrived at the gas station it was exciting at first. Everyone told me that it would be easier for girls. After 30 minutes, no luck for me. Moving around to get the best spot but everyone just smiled at me and gently said no. Another 30 minutes, there was a man kindly asked if I wanted to go to Mainz with him (which was halfway for me). I was happy enough to have an offer so I took the ride. After some chit chat, turned out, he had been standing at exactly the same spot that I did 20 years ago hitchhiking to Italy.

In Mainz, we missed the exit so he letted me out at one gas station that was a bit off the highway. The location was definitely the best for me so I needed to be on the high way at one point. Luckily for me, some young guys were on their road trip to Cologne and they were happy to help me get to the highway. We found a big gas station which is located on A3 Wiesbaden and I called it the paradise for hitchhikers. There, I met 3 hitchhikes – 2 Dutch girls were heading to Vienna and Thomas, a Canadian was trying to get to Stuttgart (which was on my direction) to see his girlfriend after 6 months apart. We split up after a a short conservation. Thomas, sadly, had been waiting for more than 3 hours at that station but with my sign to Mannheim, we got picked up by a woman just the moment we were in front of the gas station store. I arrived in Mannheim in the afternoon, safe and sound!

 

Hitchhike Journal #1: Emotionally prepared

In the back of my head, there was always something asking me if I would dare to do it – travelling, backpacking, or hitchhiking. Bringing myself in a position of a backpacker, what would be a reason for backpacking. People used to asked me why I did that because what they thought of backpacking of travelling alone was something dangerous to do, especially for a young girl like me. I know my answer – I have the passion for travelling but I don’t have the money to have a luxury travel or even to fly from place to place; if you want to travel, you find a way to do it rather than staying at home and wait till the money comes to you. Therefore, budget travelling is my way of fulfil my passion.

To be honest, before any trip I took, I needed sometime to prepare myself to get ready. Travelling alone is not always easy. You have to take many things in consideration – being on your own most of the time, consequences of being alone, things could happen on the way, etc. However, those things in your head would only make you more nervous and scare you a bit too.  I myself need few days to get my emotion set ready.

I might have not had much experience of backpacking alone, there might be many people have travelled alone more than I have done. However, in my own experience up to now, having yourself mentally/emotionally prepared is the most important thing before the trip is started. First of all, you need to be CONFIDENT about all decisions you are about to make. Have in mind the answer for why you do it. For me it is definitely the experience that I’m so excited to try and to get. It would be a thing that make me grow, and learn better about myself. What yours?

There will be many people telling you bad things could happen to scare you off and stop you. But, if that’s why you want, stick with your mind set. In the end it’s your decision, not theirs, isn’t it? Obviously, there might be some consequences that you are travelling and bad things might happen. However, that’s when you need to be confident that you are up for it, you are prepared to deal with it and will take chances to overcome it. Listen and learn but not let yourself distracted by what people say.

I believe as long as you have your self emotionally prepared, you are on step ahead to get ready for the trip.
Stay safe, trust your instinct but never stop yourself of trying new things.

Hitchhike to 5 countries, 25 cities

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I have spent most of my money on the last trip in South East Asia and made some small trips during since. Long story short, my savings are draining. But you know, that’s the life of a traveller – we don’t really have a luxury life to save all the money to travel the world, spend it all and save again. However, there will be nothing stopping us from travelling as long our heart and mind are strong.

With a tight budget, my mind came across Hitchhiking. I have never dared to do it and there is no reason for that . That’s why, I have decided to hitchhike this summer. I will be hitchhiking  to 5 countries25 cities in Europe  for about 2 months. I don’t know the proper way to do it but I’m gonna learn and figure out the way. All trips will be taken spontaneously so there will be no date scheduled.

My trip will first start from Cologne, Germany on 9 July. Here are following planned destinations:

Germany

Mannheim – Heidelberg – Stuttgart

Switzerland

Zurich – Lago Lugano

Italy

Lago Como – Milan – Genoa – Cinque Terre – Pisa – Luca – Florence – Siena – Bologna – Modena – Verona – Venice – Trento

Austria

Innsbruck – Linz – Vienna

Czech

Cesky Krumlov – Prague – Brno

Slovakia

Bratislava

Hungary

Budapest