Is it possible to start a hitch hiking journey from a rural village in Norfolk? Yes, I’ve done it before. This time around, my kind mother drove me out to the main road. It’s quite far.
The first lift can often seem the most difficult. You stand on the side of the road, or at the exit of a garage, hoping for someone to pick you up. Put out your thumb or hold up a sign? I’m still trying to perfect the technique. For me, my first ride came in just fifteen minutes. A youngish guy who introduced himself as a gypsy and told me not to be scared. I wasn’t scared of him, but it was an ironic start to a journey about a great big scary world. He told me about the prejudice that he had received for both being a gypsy and for being gay. Do you know what a real gypsy is? he asked. It’s the sort of question that you are supposed to say no to, so I did. A gypsy is not a traveller. It is a race of people. Except that they have no homeland, similar to how the Jews were. I promise to look it up later.
My next ride came from a National Express coach who picked me up on the promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone. Keep it a secret. Unfortunately he drove me into London town and hitch hiking from London is a very difficult thing to do. I was in an area I didn’t know, surrounded by signs to places that I had never heard of. The rain was lashing down against both myself and my two backpacks, but we were OK because we were covered in waterproof material. Four hours of aimless walking through London in the pouring rain proved that nothing is truly waterproof and any spirit can be dampened. Dismayed but not beaten, I suffered my first failure of trust and took a train out of London. It did not feel good.
In Dover, the sun was bright and people were smiling. The calm after the storm. The world became a better place. I saw something that I had never seen before. I saw a dead fish on a drain in the dual carriage-way. Challenge of the day; write a story that tells how the fish came to be fully grown, lying in the gutter of a busy road.
Ferries close early to foot passengers, so I had to hitch my way onto the boat amongst heavy throngs of police. Apparently it isn’t illegal, because no-one stopped me. I spent a pleasant crossing with a gentleman from England who was kind enough to drop me in Brussels. We arrived there at four in the morning, at which point my excessive packing came into play. On the outskirts of a city, alone at 04h00 in the morning, it is easy to feel a little lost. Or afraid. It is another barrier to overcome. First I wondered through thigh high grass, unsuccessfully looking for a place to camp, knowing all the while that it was near impossible to assemble my tent in such a situation. Then I considered sleeping on the pavement. Undesirable levels of comfort prevailed. It wasn’t long before I found an abandoned building. In the garden on this building, I put up my tent, ate some dried fruit and slept. I never travel with a ground mat, but after several hours of sleeping on gravel, I would recommend getting one. In the morning, builders were working on the opposite side of the building. They never found me or they decided to let me sleep Either way, I am grateful.
My journey continued into Brussels as I explored the city before meeting my couch host for the night. If you don’t know what couch surfing is, I will update you fully, very soon. We spent an enjoyable evening exploring some bars and meeting countless Belgian people who spoke perfect English and were lots of fun. I don’t remember any of their names, but part of the adventure is that you are only temporary friends, so you enjoy the situation for what it is. I left the next day, hitch-hikinh to Den Hagg (The Hague), where I spent the evening with my cousin and his wife. We were the only people in the bar laughing as Holland lost to Denmark.
My last two days were spent enjoying interesting conversation and dinner with my host in Gent, Belgium. Today I visited both Brugge and Gent, observing fascinating architecture (a far cry from my year in Korea). The rain poured on me for most the day and once again, even my underwear was wet. But I was smiling. I like cobbled streets.
Over the past few days, I noticed the obscene amount of tourists in the cities that I visited. As a result, my first photo project shall be ‘Photos of people taking photos (of people).’
Today I saw a drain cover that looked like a space invader.
Sometimes it is important to notice the most (un)remarkable things.