“…the sense of having one’s life needs at hand, or travelling light, brings with it intense energy and exhilaration. Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being.”
Peter Matthiesen, The Snow Leopard.
One beautiful peculiarity of hitch hiking is that even though you might know where you want to go, you never know when, how, or with whom you will get there. Hell, you don’t know you will get there at all. I’ve come to think that it takes a serious helping of guts (and or idiocy) to set about hitching across Europe. Also it doesn’t hurt to have the deep seated confidence that you will make it there somehow, which starts to build when you make it as far as Sweden. Even so when I was hitching from the north of Sweden back to the south this time last week once you’ve been standing in the cold rain for over an hour, and watched only ten cars cruise by… some nagging doubt begins to creep in.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I start to see a real parallel between the hitch hikers plight and the the flow of life in general. You meet people and maybe they can help you, but maybe they can’t. So many people will pass you by, ignoring you, or not even noticing you. Some will try to help but may end up sucking you into places and situations you don’t want to be in. Stalling you, slowing you down. Of course they will mean well, but they can still throw you off track. And then you have the great chance to uncover a beautiful gem; amazing people and circumstances that you will otherwise never encounter. That is where the greatest thrill of hitching lies.
Sure there is massive uncertainty too, but from that can come such great reward. It’s not often you find adventure sat on a plane, a train or a bus. In truth, you would be lucky to find someone that even wanted to talk to you! The draw to comfort and efficiency is obviously strong, but it’s not likely that you will find a great experience awaits. I should mention that I was sat on a bus as I drafted this in the blank spaces of a free Gothenburg city guide book. It was lashing down with rain and I was happy to complete 90% of the journey with ease. The E22 North sign ready to go and strapped to the front of my rucksack to complete the last 40km back to the farm from Lund. I mean, someone had given me 300 Swedish Krona whilst I stood by the road side a few days earlier for a bus- but I had got a ride before the bus ever appeared- it seemed fair to use it on a bus in the end!
It’s not that I’m against organised travel, but if you’re not getting out of your comfort zone in life then you’re probably not getting very far; not meeting anyone exceptional, exciting or different. At least you are reducing your chances. Columbian oil workers, German philosophers, coaches packed with kids on a school trip, Swedes that let you stay in there caravan over night and give you breakfast the next morning… and Romanian truck drivers that think you are Romanian until half way through the journey. And not to forget the Swede of Light crew, Tomas is riding a racing wheelchair the length of Sweden for the charity Born Free, ably supported by Leo and DC. That was one of my favourite rides so far.
Anyone who tells you it’s too dangerous or that it can’t be done in such and such a place has probably never tried it. Just think about it.