Things I Learnt by Hitchhiking Europe Alone

Sitting on a Dock Alone

Life is both a journey and an education.

In 2012, I started hitchiking through Europe on my own. I have learnt a lot about the world from my travels and have an infinite amount more to learn.

Here are a few new things that I learnt on my recent journey.

You Are Never Truly Alone

When you are most alone, you make more friends than you could possibly imagine. No matter how hard I tried to get away from everything, people were always around. And many of them were wonderful. I made a video featuring some of the wonderful people that I met on my journey, but this didn’t even come close to the hundreds, probably thousands of people that I interacted with on my journey. I was driven by over 200 individuals and for one week, wrote down the names of people I interacted positively with. It was around 50 people. This happened continuously for many months.

You Are Not the First

Whatever you do and however far you push yourself, there will always be someone who has done more. I started hitchhiking and free-camping alone because I thought that no-one else would want such a thing. I met many other people doing exactly the same as me and when I was in Lithuania, I attended a festival of hitchhikers with well over a hundred people in one place. It was strangely comforting.

Hitch Gathering 2012 in Lituania
Hitch Gathering 2012 in Lituania

Eating From Bins is OK

All the food is wrapped and often thrown away that day. Skipping (dumpster diving) was something that I had only heard of in passing, but recent inspection has led me to believe that it is not the poor people who do it. Rather it is a slightly more affluent section of society who hate to see waste.

We took all of this food from a bin in about ten minutes
We took all of this food from a single bin in about ten minutes

Sleeping Outside is OK

On my first night on the road, I was left on the outskirts of Brussels at four in the morning. I found an abandoned building and slept in the garden. I slept in many different places on my journey and found that free-camping (sleeping outside) was liberating and freed me of the need to organise a bed in advance. I even made a short video showing myself sleeping under bridges, on beaches, inside bushes, and wherever else I found myself in the evening.

Camping Under a Bridge in Poland
Camping under a bridge in northern Poland

The Sun is Your Friend

As a free-camping hitchhiker, the cold is your enemy. It is physically dangerous if you do not have appropriate clothing and as winter closed in, all I could do was head South. I met a guy on the road who wrote The Sunhitcher which is in strong agreement with this.

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Sad

When suffering from negative emotions due to fear, loneliness, or personal discomfort, your decision making skills are fundamentally screwed. You will make decisions that will affect you adversely in the future. Hold tight, let the bad times pass and make a decision when life feels better. If you are experiencing feelings of happiness and joy, don’t hesitate to make decisions. They will  be great.

You Don’t Need Money

It is very possible to travel without money. My experiences and the people that I met have helped me to see this.

Don’t Let Your Travel Insurance Expire

I let my travel insurance expire and it caused me problems. I will comment on this in greater detail through my story, but for now, I strongly advise travel insurance.

There Are Always Purists

Whatever you do and however hard you try, someone will always do more. They will travel bigger distances, meet more people, and spend less money. Remember that life is not a competition. You do not need to compete with these people and you must do whatever it is that suits you.

There Are Always Haters

Whatever you do, people will always be able to criticise you. This stands true for everything in life. Some people (unfortunately) take great pleasure in knocking others down.

Taking Pictures of Yourself Isn’t Fun

Having a friend makes pictures more fun. For many parts of my trip, I never took photos because I was too lazy to get the camera out to take a photo of myself.

I Kind of Like Rats

They are almost cute.

In Estonia, the girl I stayed with was training these three rats to do tricks
In Estonia, the girl I stayed with was training these three rats to do tricks

I have compiled a lot more of my learnings into The Avant-Garde Life. You can download it and read it for free and I hope that my small idle learnings can help to benefit others. It includes life education that I received from all over the world, not just hitchhiking through Europe. Please read it!

6 Comments

  • Great timing Jamie, heading for an Easter hitch over easter for the first time in nearly 3 years. Thanks for sharing these nice bite-sized pieces of insight!

  • Your stories are truly inspiring. I hope my future holds such exciting and impactful experiences.

    If you haven’t read it already, I recommend “The Kindness of Strangers” edited by Don George. I see parallels between your life and the essays in this book.

    • Thank-you, I hope the same for your future. I will have to look for the book when I find a book shop with English books (which might be a while yet).

  • I miss my hitchhiker past! The freedom of not knowing where to go! I do food skipping but I try to ask the restaurant before they actually throw it away (it works specially well for the sushi places!)

    • I’ve heard much about this (‘table diving’ as some people called it), but am yet to try it myself. I hear you can get some wonderful food this way.

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