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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : 1000 vehicles

A thousand...

Indeed, I am doing today the anniversary of my lift number 1000. In thirty-one month of travel, I have been able to hitchhike in many different ways. Mainly by car, but also by truck, motorbike, rickshaw, tractor or even donkey... Hitchhiking became for me a sort of sport but without forgetting its most important asset, which is the social side of it.

For this ''thousand'', I am going to share with you a special article. Indeed, I would like to talk about hitchhiking, about my way of stopping the vehicles, the vehicles in question and the human side of this mean of transportation.


Hitchhiking

How to hitchhike?

There is a well known way of hitchhiking in the western world, which is to stand along the road and to stick out your thumb at the attention of the drivers.

I am using my thumb to stop the vehicles, like here in Syria in February 2008.

However, it does exist different ways. For example I wouldn't recommend to use your thumb in some muslim countries. Indeed, the thumb is often seen there as the middle finger in a western country... Welcome in a world of cultural diversities!

Also, in some countries, hitchhiking is simply unknown. Hopefully, helping each other is universal. In Africa, I was just try to catch the eye of my driver by just agitating myself on the side of the road. I didn't need my thumb to catch a ride.

It is also possible to go to look for vehicles in the places where they stop, or where they are driving very slowly.

The petrol-station is a very good strategic point to find a vehicle. You can have an idea of who will be your next driver and you can even choose the destination. Even if you lose a good part of the trafic, you will still improve your chances by talking directly with the drivers.

The hot-spots can also be behind the bumps, after the trafic lights, or even the pay tolls.

In Guatemala, the ''tumulos'' helped me a lot to talk to the drivers


The lifts

lift = Ride given while hitchhiking

My first lift

I am in the pay toll of Dozule, near Caen in France. My friend Oliver let me and this is from there that I start my journey.

I am in the parking of this same pay toll, because there is plenty of place for the vehicles to stop. The sun is shining a little but help me to see something shining on the floor, close to my feet... Nine euros, by coins of 1 and 2 euros... Someone must have dropped them but this is me who find them.

It is impossible for me to not associate this fact with a good sign who smile to me for the beginning of this journey.

A little bit later, a truck comes to park on this same spot. He asked me to come. The driver heard me on the radio this morning and recognized me. He calls with his own radio one of his friends going in my direction. After ten minutes, this one arrives. The adventure is starting...


The longest lift

This one is the first record of my world tour. It was on my second week of my journey, in October 2007.

I am in the North of Italy, close to Milan. I just spent my second night outside, but this time, I didn't have any shelter. It rained the whole night, I am completely wet. I decide to keep walking in the middle of this mountainous landscape, still under the rain.

A van is parked on the side of the road. The driver calls me and invites me inside his vehicle. Phil, an australian traveling in Europe, lends me some warm clothes and we start a tour of Italy, which will last days and 4 hours.

The van of Phil the australian

 

The most diversified lifts

The majority of the vehicles were cars of trucks. However, I had the chance during this trip to try different kind of vehicles, which can be quite uncommun in the western world.

Here is an example of some vehicles that I hitchhiked during this first ''one thousand''.

Tractor-hitchhiking in Sudan in April 2008


Donkey-hitchhiking in Syria in January 2008


Still in Syria, the touk-touk-hitchhiking


The most difficult lifts

If you decide to go a little further in hitchhiking and to extend it to every mean of transportation, you will notice that the biggest difficulty isn't on the side of the road.

Indeed, if there is a road, there are vehicles... Generally...

However, when this road becomes lake, sea or ocean, you will have a problem.

For me, the most difficult lifts in this first 1000 were when I was looking for a boat to hitchhike.

It took me 3 weeks to find my catamaran in South Africa, 2 weeks in Florida and 1 week in Cuba. Very recently, I needed 5 weeks to find one leaving Panama on my way to Colombia!

Boat-hitchhiking in South Africa, after 3 weeks of research


Here, holding the helm of the sailing boat who brought me from Cuba to Guatemala

 

The social side of hitchhiking

For me, it wasn't an option to travel without trying to understand a little bit better our planet.

That is probably why I chose to hitchhike as a mean of transportation. Yes, hitchhiking helps you to have interactions with the local population. Those interactions are for me important because they are true and diversified. I can meet the rich, the poor, the student, the unemployed. Everyone gives me his point of view of his country.

In Ethiopia in May 2008. the interactions that I had with the locals were important for me to understand the country.


The vehicle is often a small and closed space. This fact is often leading to a social exchange, it leads to the conversation. I ask many questions to my driver and I listen because I am here to learn. The driver explains to me his life, the situation of the country of the landscape around us.

In Kosovo in November 2007, the population opened again his door to me


Easy or not easy?

-The most difficult countries to hitchhike

Today, I think that those two countries are really the places where I would hesitate to hitchhike again. Those are Italy and the United States.

There, be ready for some unforgetable amount of time waiting on the side of the road, and thousands of vehicles passing by without even looking at you.

The first, Italy, seems to simply not having the culture of hitchhiking. I didn't have the time to understand the reasons, but I had the ''chance'' to realize that indeed it didn't work at all.

Waiting for a vehicle in Milan in October 2007


The United States have maybe been even more difficult than Italy after all. The illegal side of it in most of the states, added to the fear of the majority of the drivers, can give you an idea of how difficult it was to stop vehicles in this country.

In the United States in 2009, the illegal side of hitchhiking really didn't help me


-The easiest countries to hitchhike

I noticed that most of the time, it was in the less developped, or poorest, countries that it was easier to hitchhike.

Also, less the place is touristic, more the fact to be foreign attract the curiosity of the people. Indeed, I would say that hitchhike has been very easy near Syria in Middle East, Uganda in Africa, Nicaragua in Central America and Eastern Canada in North America.

In the pick-up in Nicaragua in April 2010



 

At the end, I wouldn't change for anything this mean of transportation to discover our planet. It allows me to have a better idea of each places where I am passing through. My sight is good because I have the chance to access to a reality very close to the truth.

Hitchhiking is indeed a wonderful chance to understand the world of today, by getting close to the bright side of it but also to its problems.

According to my estimations, I have surely reached the half of this world tour and I think that I am culturally richer. I think that I got lessons every day, by my drivers but also by the locals I meet.


I arrive today in a new continent: South America. I finally succeeded to go around the Darien Gap. To know more, I invite you to check very soon the website for an explanation in two articles of how I went from North America to South America, still by hitchhiking.

See you very soon,

Jeremy

 



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