By Stuart Jameson, Somewhere.
So a few years ago when I set off traveling I was drunk one night in a bar in Berlin. As you do. I was alone, and staring into the bottom of another empty pint glass, contemplating my future. Then it just popped into my head like a flash of utter genius and stupidity combined. I’m going to hitchhike to India.
I had limited knowledge of this largely misunderstood mode of transportation, having last attempted the feat with a particularly attractive ex-girlfriend back in Scotland. “We’ll take her, but not you” was the general consensus.
Unperturbed, and over five years later, I thought it time to grow some balls. The following day, heart pounding out of my chest, I found myself at a petrol station on the outskirts of the city. One sign said Dresden (187Km) and the other said INDIA (7,874Km).
I had to start somewhere. I enjoyed the chuckles from passing motorists. “HAAAhaha…look at this idiot.” Two years later and I’ve made it as far as Bulgaria. I travel slow. I go back on myself. I work in hostels. But one things for sure – I am making it.
With the exception of seven hours by the side of a freezing cold Polish road (a story for another time – see photo), I have managed to hitch through 23 countries in Europe with relative ease. This includes the Ukraine – which some might say probably wasn’t the best idea.
But for all this recent scaremongering, the one thing that hitching has taught me, is that people are good. I’ve been offered accommodation, I’ve had dinner bought for me, been given tours of cities. I’ve been rescued at borders. People have driven out of their way to make sure I arrived safely. I’ve had mile after mile of conversations with elderly Bosnians when we’ve had no idea what the other was talking about. I’ve experienced first-hand the kindness of strangers, and it’s been empowering and emotional, even when getting a lift with Romanian Police.
And yet people often ask me, is it dangerous? It’s more dangerous for them, the drivers, because they don’t know if I’m just some escaped nut on the loose.
Statistically, a motorist isn’t going to get in their car today and think; “I’m going to murder a hitchhiker – oh look! Lucky me! There’s one there!” To be honest, the most dangerous thing about it, is whether or not this person is a good driver?
I’ve had some squeaky bum moments there I can tell you. 200kph down a Croatian highway in monsoon rain will have you changing your shorts.
But if you’re clean, you’ve shaved (ladies too) and you’re not carrying an axe, you’ll be waiting an hour maximum. You make a professional looking sign. You smile at every driver, make eye contact and you wave a thanks even if they don’t acknowledge you – because a driver behind them will see that you’re courteous.
Sticking your finger up and turning the air blue isn’t helping your cause. Don’t be afraid to turn people down if you’re uncomfortable, or they’re not going your way.
Oh – and wear a Superman T-shirt. A universal symbol of hope, peace and friendship, it’s bright, colourful, and I’m convinced it’s getting me picked up faster than a speeding bullet. You heard it here first.
I use a website called hitchwiki.org, which hitchers all over the globe contribute to, and it’s a wonderful resource for all things nomad. Traveling through the central Asian countries is going to be a bit of a challenge, especially considering these trying times, but nonetheless that’s my route.
If that website is anything to go by, it’s perfectly possible armed with some knowledge and a decent head on your shoulders. I hope I’ve still got mine by the time I reach India.
Stuart will be sharing more of his experiences with us here, want more? Check out his site…