Let the journey begin – first steps of a world tripby Jakob Horvat, November 14th 2016, Nice / France
Hitchhiking is exhausting. In the beginning it pretty much feels like begging for a ride the way a homeless person asks for money. And we got rejections aplenty which emphasized this feeling. But the more people we got in touch with, the more magic happened. Within the first three days the road has become our playground. And the unknown lost its scary face.
Asking strangers for a place in their car makes me experience a broad spectrum of reactions. And it´s an effective way of learning to deal with rejections. Accepting a „no“ as part of the story and not necessarily as something bad, helps approaching the whole game with joy. Dancing on a roundabout in Graz and holding a cardboard with our preferred destination was a first step for me. Some looked at us in disbelief. As if E.T. and his mom were just about to land on their windshields. The majority though, was enjoying the scene – waving, horning, smiling, laughing. We had found a simple and entertaining way of connecting with people without even talking to them.
Vienna, Matzleinsdorfer Platz: the very beginning
Four hours later we were still standing at the roundabout in Graz
The dancing had stopped and we were doubting if that was really a good place to continue our journey from. It was not. Getting out of a city turned out to be the hardest part. I am not used to people being scared of me. Some apparently are; I am a stranger. Asking them for a favor doesn´t help, I guess.
Remarkable are also the reactions to our answers when they ask for our destination: „We are hitchhiking to South America.” Some crack up laughing, others look sceptical, obviously thinking something between „Shall I call the doctor?“ or „Shall I call the police?“. And then there are those who are stoked by our plans taking pictures of us posting it on Facebook, paying us beers or coffee, asking questions, offering us a ride.
Boom! That is when the magic happens
When one warm smile joined by a welcoming „Yeah, guys, take a seat. I´ll give you a ride!“ makes up for all the rejections before. When a connection between strangers is built up instantly, knowing that we need to trust each other if we want to make that work.
Party in the car with Nora, Davide, Jimmy and Matteo for 400km from Udine to Milano.
Peeing requires trust
I soon noticed how strong this trust is that we are talking about. Romanian truck driver Dany took me from a gas station nearby Klagenfurt to Udine. Martin and me separated, Dany´s 40 ton truck had only two seats. And a bed. And even space for cooking. Dany is living in his truck. Next time he will see his one-year-old son and his wife it will be Christmas. He is working hard, earning 1800 Euro per month. That´s a lot considering the fact that the minimum salary in Romania is 220 Euro. Dany asked me why I am not flying to South America, it would be so much easier. „I am searching for adventures, you know?“ My answer obviously didn´t satisfy him. The beer I drank while we were talking about our lifes soon made me ask him for a stop. I jumped out of the truck and there I was, standing in the middle of nowhere of cold, dark and foggy Italy. When I realized that everything I own at the moment is in the truck. My backpack, passport, money, even my jacket and my mobile phone where inside. And I was peeing. Ten meters away. Way too far to jump on the truck if Dany had decided to end my journey here. But Dany was waiting patiently, smiling at me when I got back inside. Again I tried to answer his question, why I am not flying but hitchhiking to South America. „It makes me feel alive“, was my answer now. „Trust makes strangers become friends. I don´t have these emotions when I am flying.“ Now he understood. And added: „But you shouldn´t trust anybody like you trust me.“ Smart guy.
When love is in the air, inhale deeply
Three days on the road. It feels like ten. We surfed two couches and slept in one hostel. At a gas station between Milano and Genova we were searching for a ride, knowing that if we were a bit lucky we could make it to Nice today.
Martin: „Sorry, I am not motivated to ask for rides at the moment.“
Jakob: „Neither am I. Let´s have a beer inside.“
Sometimes leaning back, relaxing and not forcing anything is the key to success. And sometimes coincidences couldn´t be planned better. The girl sitting next to us at the restaurant table was just on her way to Nice with her boyfriend. „If you can squeeze your backpacks in our coupé, you´re welcome to join us“, they said. We canned.
Ornella and Renaud know each other for only two months. Their weekend trip to Lake Como was their first holiday together. Again and again they are holding each other´s hands. The car is filled with the loving energy of a sweet french couple. When love is in the air, it´s a pleasure to inhale.
That´s when I noticed that my sweater started to smell. After three days of traveling it´s time to change.