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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Travelling is an amazing journey. You get to learn so many new things you weren’t aware of, Jamie!
It is indeed!
Hi, you are inspiring. This summer I’ve hh’d on my own from Berlin to Biarritz and back to Paris. I must admit that wild camping is still too much for me -although I’d love to do it. Being a woman I am just scared of assault. Hopefully I will find courage to do it, cause hhing alone was very liberating 🙂 btw, a great way to feel safer and actually be safer is to ask the driver to let you photograph their license plate and post it to your friends. If I ever find such a trick regarding free camping alone – I’ll do it straight away 🙂
Fanny, thank you for your lovely message. That’s great that you got to do that. I hope you had lots of fun. I am thinking of creating an app that would work on similar terms, sending the image to a friend, yet tracking your movement for your personal enjoyment. Will post more on this soon as I am currently working on my first app (to do with flights).
I am older now, but I used to hitchhike across the US a lot when I was a college student. In 2 weeks my son and two friends will depart Edinburgh hitchhiking to Prague for a charity fundraiser (sort of a Phileas Fogg race). They are novices, and will probably travel the A1 to London and then through the tunnel and across Belgium and Germany to Czech. Can you share any advice for them hitch hiking along this route? I have suggested a number of practical things — stay on the main motorways, the girl gets in the car last and out first, try to stop and gas stations and rest stops, etc. any other specific advice you can give them?
That sounds exciting. The A1 is probably the best route, although when I have hitchhiked in the UK the police don’t like you being near the motorway, so make sure they hitch the safe side of the motorway sign, either at service stations or somewhere near the on ramp. It is illegal to hitch on the motorway itself. London is a nightmare as the M25 has so many exits – I have hitched to France multiple times, but have got stuck on the M25 on multiple occasions, but once hitchhiked all the way over to Portsmouth and took the ferry from there instead – much longer to travel, but less waiting. Then again they might get lucky hitching around London. Other than than, use common sense and instinct, don’t get in a car if they are going to drop you in a worse situation (once got stuck inside the M25 for five hours and had to take a train out), smile, and have a great time! A 5km or 20km sign can be pretty useful too. I’d love to hear how they get on.
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!
I like your blog post
Thanks for sharing good info abouthitch hiking
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.