If you want to be a happier, more fulfilled being- hitchhike.
Azlan Black enthusiastically told me about his metal detecting hobby, and showed me photographs on his cellular phone of 15th century Portuguese coins he discovered. He picked me up on the side of the highway on my way to Ipoh.
“Aren’t you afraid of hitchhiking?” People have often asked me. No, I’m not afraid, and you shouldn’t be either.
It seems to me that life resembles capitalism, in that we vote for which way we wish the world to move with our choices. With every kindness, we make our sphere of influence more loving, and this promotes even more of the same. When we choose fear, and there really are only those two choices, love or fear, we make the world a little colder, more shut in, and paradoxically, more secure. Make no mistake, everything we do influences the world in a massive way.
It is easy and safe to choose fear. But our quality of life suffers as a result.
The hitchhiker stands on the edge of the lane; cars, trucks, and all sorts of vehicles fly by them quicker than the blink of an eye. Some drivers look at their sign, “Kuala Lumpur,” and they ignore it. Some do not acknowledge them, and others express a rage and an anger towards them. Why should so many people deposit this hatred on one individual I may never know. The rare person is one that stops, waves, and inquires, “Where ya’ headed to?”
Now, the men and women that see and do not stop, that is to say the people who do not choose love as a response to the opportunity before them, these people usually justify their actions by recalling some story they once heard of a dangerous stranger. “I do not know this person, perhaps he may want to harm me in some way,” they wonder. And this fear of harm keeps them from lending a helping hand. It could be 40 degrees Celsius outside, it could be below zero, a monsoon could be drenching this person to the bone, and still they allow their fear control over their decisions.
The above is only one-sided however. The fear goes both ways, you see. Many people who wish to travel in this manner avoid it out of fright. I’ve heard everything: Men saying how dangerous hitchhiking is, women making claims that they will be raped and left for dead, and so both sexes use the same category of excuses to feel more comfortable and safe. The familiar latches them to a chain so short they can scarcely see anything beyond it. Listening to News stations has gripped them so tightly they cannot even imagine a world where people are mostly good and generous. They took advice from those who never even trusted others themselves, an insane or mad opinion to suck up, one might say. Fear is powerful like that. It makes everyone suspicious of their neighbors- “Every stranger is trying to rob me, rape me, kill me,” and so on. The sad part is that when we believe this, it has a sort of secluding effect. We don’t feel loved, we don’t feel trusting, and we don’t feel safe. But if you want to hear a secret, here’s one: security is the enemy of happiness.
Now, when one does hitchhike, you’ll notice that many cars demonstrate stickers or symbols on the exterior of their vehicle: fishes, crosses, Islamic writings, and other religious relics. These people profess their love for God, yet upon seeing God, his sign held high and his thumb sticking up, they pass right by without even saying hello, without even glancing at him. What kind of love is this?
There are people, however, in the world who do choose love over fear, and are met 10 yards ahead of you with brake lights glowing red, slowly backing up the road.
“I always take hitchhiker travel with me, always. I see him go my way, I say come with me, I go same-same. Why not?”
The words of a man who not only drove me over 150km, but also bought me a delicious dinner, and delivered me to the door of a cheap hostel.
“My wife, she say ‘you crazy’ but I always take, and they are always good. It take big faith to trust others.”
The coin collector, Azlan told me, “Today, I help you. Tomorrow, someone help me.” I asked how he was so sure. “I know,” as he pointed to the sky.
Whatever that means, but maybe these people do know something. Something beautiful, and they’re all different colors, religions, and sexes. I’ve been picked up by Muslims, Christians, atheists, solo female drivers, groups of men with hobo-beards, and more. I’ve ridden on the back on a motorcycle, in pickup trucks, and other crazy things. These people don’t care how they take me, they just want to take me. I can barely speak English to any of them, and still we accept each other as strangers. There is a love between is, an understanding, that the world feels better when you trust. The world seems brighter and more colorful when you choose to subject yourself to an uncertain outcome in order to help someone else or to be helped.
The insecurity comes and we realize that everything we need is right here, somehow, that all is well with our soul, as you drift to sleep to the soothing hum of an engine. “Everything is well. Everything is so perfectly, damnably well,” and we live this way when we choose love over fear. It is unpredictable, it is not as “safe” as other options, but it is better. Hitchhikers learn this. They learn to trust. Grace Ha Eun knows this, as a solo female hitchhiker, she is the first to tell you how beautiful it really is.
Reflections on hitchhiking Bangkok to Singapore
Other influences: Osho, Brene Brown, Every person that picked me up,
Many people see traveling as an expedition across seas and lands, running from the bulls in adventure, a wild and perhaps foolish explosion of self expression, freed from your routine lifestyle. They say,
“You will fall in love,”
and surely they are right. You will fall in love with many people, places, and friends- it is truly incredible just how much love you will come to understand; the love of a stranger inviting you into their home, the love of a stray dog protecting you while you sleep in the street, or the love of a warm body next to you. Many people see traveling as a waste of time and assets, appealing to the insecurities that come with the road. You are not saving money for a retirement plan and anything that does not move you in that direction is useless. And they are half right- you will not save any money, and if anything you’ll lose it. Financially, you will become stagnant. But it’s not useless.
I have been traveling for a full 365 days now; I have not seen my family or friends back home, I have not eaten recognizable foods, and I have not slept in the same bed for more than a few months. My funds slowly diminish, my body is worked to the bone, and everyday you wonder what the future holds for you- a mystery that only god knows. But it is not useless.
While your bank account drains down and your body becomes weak, you look back at everything you said and done, and you realize that you were anything but static- you are no longer you. It has been a year for me, and I have changed in ways that I didn’t consider such as my attitude towards people. My judgements have decreased in number, my stereotypes are destroyed, and my fears are slipping away. My confidence is powerful, my view on life is simple, and my religious attitude towards love and compassion only grows with each kindness and every gift that is bestowed on me by these beautiful souls that cross my path. I feel full of life, happy, and free.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
It is interesting to see all the ways I am different, but perhaps what is more fascinating is how exactly I am the same- when I peer inside myself I can see my insecurities remain, my fears of commitment remain, my sadness and loneliness remain. This seems to be a complete contradiction, but it’s not. I don’t think so, anyway. It seems to me that everyone is a shade of their own qualities. We are both sad and happy, brave and cowardly, good and bad, alone and surrounded. Life makes itself clear to me in this way, and I have learned this from every external experience I acquire along this road.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Right now, I am sitting in an office in the middle of the Carpathian mountains, Ukraine. I have been working here at a summer camp for a bit to refund my source of income. Arrived early June, leaving late August. This camp has changed me in a millions ways and I couldn’t be more grateful for its influence. I feel small, I feel humble, and I can see all of my faults and flaws- how weak I am. But this feeling, while we assume may make one upset, in actually affirms me and comforts me.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
It has been a year for me, and yet it feels only yesterday that I got on that plane to Ireland. Time moves fast, but with so much growth it feels much longer. I am not saving money for retirement, I am not buying a house or a car, and I am not preparing for the worst in my health. But I am changing, growing, loving, laughing, smiling, crying, running, walking, sleeping, and waking- I am living. A year of living has shown just how powerful it can be. But nothing I say, and nothing any other travel can say, will ever convince another to accept such a inexpressible journey into themselves. We can only choose for ourselves.
“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry
I could write more about the changes that come, but part of my job here is to dance 20 minutes before each meal with the entire camp staff. So, I’m off to move to my body with 100 kids to songs like “Uptown Funk” or “That Power.” Is it crazy and weird? Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade this experience, and the entirety of this year, for any amount of money, home, job, or whatever other trap keeps us from being the best versions of ourselves.
Subscribe, Share, Comment, peace out~
I board a bus headed to Pristina, Kosovo, and as the vehicle rumbles to life, I plug my ears with headphones and cue “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. It breaks down, and the drivers pull of some wizardry, because I cannot explain how they got the wheels replaced with, and I’m not joking, no tools or lifts or anything. Magic. What a way to Leave Serbia.
Nostalgia: this one word can accurately sum up the after effects from my time at Goodbye Lenin Hostel. Like a dream that I’ve just woken from, I wonder, “Did all of those things really happen? Is it possible that I could have met so many people, and have done so many things?” Of course the answer is yes, but sometimes it feels as if my life is completely fake. Am I really this adventurer, or am I somehow a child playing Make-Believe?
In any case, my plan has burned down to one priority: Escape Winter. Life has become a larger version of Hide and Seek- me hiding, and Winter finding everyday; it bites at my fingertips and toes. If only these roles were reversed, I would feel no guilt playing the bully that leaves the Hider alone forever. Can you believe that it can get down to -35 degrees celsius? Cold enough to die, seriously.
With this in mind, I have put both hitchhiking and camping in the garbage bin of activities until my world, and my body, thaws out in spring; this leaves me the duty of finding refuge for 3-6 months.
Bad news: I have been going over my budget consistently for the past months. I plan on putting to use some strategies to quell my spending and get back on track… We’ll see.
More bad news: I got a workaway in Romania, but it turned out to be terrible! So I left because, hey, I’m traveling dang it! And I can do that sort of thing. Peace out! Shout out to the other two amazing volunteers Faith and Beverly for keeping me sane in that spot.
Good news: finding work in the Balkens is easy. Sort of. And I also purchased a full size Guitar- zero self control, but I feel so remorse or regret!!! Actually, I went into the guitar shop and saw this beauty. A friend was with me, and he asked the owner how much it cost. I was sure it would have been 300-400 USD, but to my complete shock it was 90.00. I thought it over the night, and decided to get it. the price was lowered and when I asked my friend Illia how he got it down, his reply was,
This is Ukraine, you can do this sort of thing.
I flew through a few more countries: Ukraine (not as scary as I was led to believe), Moldova (the poorest country in Europe), Romania, Serbia, Kosovo, and now I am volunteering in a beautiful hostel in Albania. I certainly underestimated the challenges that Winter brings, but certainly this has been a learning experience.
Speaking of experiences, I’ve been able to help out a little at the LGBT center in Kiev, I’ve been followed by numerous stray dogs for hours because I pet them a little, people have thanked me in Kosovo because I am American, and I climbed up cranes in an abandoned theme park. So! Just letting you all know that I’m still kicking, and hopefully I can go North slow enough for Spring and Summer; I’ve got my eyes on the National Blue Trail in Hungary!!
- Wicklow National Park (And home of the owner of Guiness)
- Wicklow Town
- Frankfurt An Der Oder
- Hiking 700 miles (1,128 km) on the National Blue Trail:
Pictures of everyone who allowed me to stay with them =]
Enjoy these great people! I tell my hosts they can make any face, position, or anything they want at all in their photos.
- Invisible Cities
- The Upanishads
- Essential French in 15 Minutes
- A Pale View of Hills
- The Psychology of The Chess Player
- The Earthsea Quartet
- Don´t Shoot The Dog
- Five Great American Short Stories
- True Spirit
- Rising Strong
- The Road
- Heavy Water
- Someone Else’s Kids
- My Booky Wook
- Chant and be Happy
- Beautiful Souls
- Beyond Birth and Death
- The Slave
- The Island
This post is a test to see if I can add to the site without the need for a computer- just my mobile device.
Today is my last day of work, and I feel… Normal. Like I’m not about to go on this crazy journey throughout the globe. But the reality is that I may never come back to this small town library.
I am filled with tons of, somewhat, conflicting emotions such as fear, anxiety, excitement, new life- I feel full of life.
Departure date remains in effect: August 3rd.