Hero’s Journey On The Road: A Hitchhiking Experiment

Some weeks ago I had to expand my hitchhiking experience.

I had done short hitchhiking rides, especially in Slovenia where people are very open about it because it’s needed sometimes over there. Also in Slovenia, I discovered the very first Museum of Hitchhiking, an inspiring experience.

This time, I had (!) to go from Amsterdam to Copenhagen though my final destination was Oslo.

I didn’t buy a flight ticket beforehand. Instead, I assumed I could use a car sharing platform right before my departure. My last-minute strategy didn’t work out. Everything was fully booked or incredibly expensive. So, I decided hitchhiking was going to be my way.

I was extremely lucky to find Jass (a hitchhiking expert) at the Alternative Gather Festival where they invited me to speak about flow and ON BOARD. I saw it as a (good) sign that he was also heading towards Copenhagen.

Day 1: Not in a good mood, unwilling to hitchhike

The day started early in the morning doing some small groceries for the road and WAITING (it would later become the word of the day) for Jass to arrive.

While I was sitting with all my stuff around waiting, someone threw me 10 cents. I desperately tried to tell him that I was not begging but he continued his way and I was left with a weird feeling of scarcity.

This triggered me to change my attitude and take a hitchhiker’s attitude for one day: trying to enjoy the ride as much as I can, opening myself to the adventure and stories. It took a while until I got there… in fact, it took the whole day.

Getting out of the city was the worst part. Long distances in public transportation and then walking at least 1 kilometer with our heavy bags. Jass walked all the way not using public transportation. That’s why he was late.

Finally, we arrived the hitchhiking spot. Yes, these rather unofficial spots really exist. In the Netherlands, they have a name for them: Liftplaats is what the Dutch call them. However, they are usually not well located which is why I remembered this popular quote:

A day spent at a damn Liftplaats is a day well spent.

It made me think that I had to forget about having a rush. I needed to change my mindset. Otherwise, nobody would stop.

The truth is, the day before I was so nervous. I didn’t want to do it. I kept looking for options but nothing was possible. So, I decided to start energetically attracting people that would take us the next day. I was hoping to have an enjoyable experience, ideally as direct as possible and with not many different cars and waiting time.

While waiting, I was still on my phone trying to find BlaBlaCar options until Jass told me:

You need to stand up with me. Otherwise they won’t stop!.

Of course, I knew that was the basic rule. Still, I was not fully convinced of doing it.

Eventually, I stood up. Not only did I start doing the hitchhiker’s pose but added my own style of waving and smiling to people.

Another hitchhiker approached us at the stop. My first thought was:

Great! Now we’ll have to fight for stopping cars. Who stops for whom?

You can tell that I was not in the best mood. It turned out she was a sweetheart and even shared some of her food (local Danish pastry) with us when she realized that her hitchhiking would only last some kilometers and ours would take us more than a day.

Car no. 1

Our first stop came! It was a couple and he had also done hitchhiking before. He picked us up because he knows how hard it is to get out of Amsterdam and because he also wanted to reconnect with his hitchhiking spirit. He said he lived with 1 Euro a day when he did his last hitchhiking experience.

Hitchhiking: A couple stopped for us
Hitchhiking: A couple stopped for us

They were going to visit a nearby town to see an art museum with special Van Gogh masterpieces. He also told us about how he struggled with loneliness when he was traveling but also the power of connection hitchhiking gave him.

He left us at a gas station where we split our efforts (a division of labor): Jass outside the shop and me at the parking lot. After having asked more than 10 cars and being refused, I went back to Jass and took new hitchhikers with me.

There was a man driving all the way to Copenhagen. Perfect ride! So we discussed who should go. He had only one spot. I went to ask him but he refused to take me.

Car no. 2

A father and his son picked us up. The father was putting gas. When his son got off we were already in the car. They were changing wheels.

They were very nice. At the end, the young men asked me if I had cash. I told him I had none with me at the moment only my credit card (I thought he was going to ask me for money for the ride haha.) He actually wanted to give us money for the ride to get something to eat — he gave Jass 5 Euros.

Car no. 3

Also in a gas station, we were talking and heading to the parking lot when Jass saw a woman smoking and immediately approached her. He asked her if we could go with her. When she said „Yes“ she seemed surprised by her own answer.

In the car, she told us that she has been driving that route very often. Normally she would never (!) stop. She added:

You’re the kind of people I would stop for.

Soon we realized she could get us further than we thought. More than 3 hours with her. It was a blessing! I thought of the people I tried to approach the day before. She was like one of them.

We had time to talk a lot about milk (it’s part of her work),
suggestions for her Colombian trip in the future and time to rest.

We also talked about hitchhiking itself, the stereotypes, prejudices, and assumptions. We talked about the benefits for the „picker“ filling his car with stories and going to bed knowing that he or she did something awesome by giving a hand to someone else on the road.

One of the things you hear the most when hitchhiking is that you have to be really careful where they drop you. You can lose a lot of time and energy if they drop you at the wrong exit or in the wrong place — wrong meaning: nobody passing by.

There is actually a wiki for hitchhikers: I was constantly reading it and verifying that we were right. The wiki was not finished, so we were missing indications here and there.

Our driver was so nice that she actually did a detour to try to find the right place to drop us. Unfortunately, she dropped us at the wrong ferry station: Instead of going to Copenhagen it was going to Malmö (12 hours by night).

Hitchhiking: Sunset towards Denmark
Hitchhiking: Sunset towards Denmark

I was so tempted to just take it and cross but I wanted to know how this adventure was going to end. So, we just said goodbye to her and walked the path she drove us before trying to catch a car.

After 30 minutes another couple stopped.

Car no. 4

They just wanted to help us going to an easier spot to catch a ride since they knew we were in the middle of nowhere.

They have never stopped for anyone before and would actually like to try hitchhiking. Also, they had never traveled outside Europe.

They dropped us at a gas station that was not very „wow“. We gave it a try although Jass thought that it would have been better to continue going with them to their city, and from there trying to find a better spot.

We ended up waiting about an hour and 45 minutes when we were getting hungry. Grabbing something to eat at the gas station, a tall man asked Jass what we were waiting for and where we were going.

He took us to a better place, and we were so happy to finally be in a car again.

Car no. 5

They were actually having their first date! So, we told her he was earning points by being so generous to drive us. The thing is: This guy was incredible. He went not only once but three times away from his original way because he was not able to just drop us anywhere.

In the end, we made a detour driving us to the last gas station before the ferry place. There, we got off his car waiting and hoping for another person to come and pick us up. But he came back and offered to drive us 30 more minutes to the ferry station where we finally said goodbye.

We exchanged email addresses since we both promised to send them a copy of the book we are writing.

Finally, at the ferry station, we had what I considered the hardest challenge: finding a ride that would accept crossing the ferry with us including passing the immigration. I thought it was really hard considering all the security issues happening in Europe.

It was already dark (11 pm). For an hour we tried. Without success. So, we decided to camp outside and put our tent facing Denmark… a nice and a bit cold night was ahead of us.

Day 2: The split and car no. 6

A windy morning woke me up, together with the feeling of really wanting to arrive and discover Copenhagen.

Hitchhiking: Camping at the coast towards Denmark
Hitchhiking: Camping at the coast towards Denmark

Jass wanted to stay a bit more so we decided to split. It was raining and I didn’t feel like hitchhiking on the ferry way. Hence, I paid as a normal ferry passenger knowing that I would need to meet someone on the ferry to drive me to Copenhagen.

I spotted two guys on a table next to me, asking them if they were going to Copenhagen. They said they were, and of course, I asked to go with them. First, they were surprised that I was on my own and then immediately they asked me:

Do you know how to drive?

I didn’t understand well because they asked in Farsi exactly in the same moment when I asked who of them was going to drive. They had been driving from Barcelona in a day and were so so tired. In the end, we all laughed, and I was surprised that they would be trusting a stranger to drive their car and that I was accepting to drive a stranger’s car as well haha.

At the end, I didn’t drive but I did have some waiting time the immigration because they didn’t know that Colombians don’t need a visa anymore to enter to Schengen territory. They had to do their homework and research. Eventually, they apologized and let me continue with my new friends who were laughing about having a Colombian with them haha.

I said goodbye to them and ended my experience eating at the place they suggested me to eat.

My hitchhiking conclusion

After 6 cars, 11 people, 800 kilometers, 3 countries, a night in a tent at the border of Germany and France, and 28 hours, I made it from Amsterdam to Copenhagen hitchhiking!

It was a beautiful learning experience, an emotional journey where every picking driver played an important role. Each one of them not only helped us move forward but handle our emotions and understand how waiting can be an incredible master of life.

I learned that hitchhiking is the best metaphor for the dynamics of life and how we all need one another to get wherever we want to go. It can take longer trusting people but it is for sure more rewarding.

Liftplaats, an official hitchhiking spot
Liftplaats, an official hitchhiking spot

I strongly recommend trying to hitchhike at least once in your life. I’m sure I will include a hitchhiking day in my future travels to keep learning more about myself and the journey ahead in a slower phase, in a different rhythm.

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If you want experience adventures like these yourself, consider joining our next trip to Colombia, the gate to South America and home of Gabriel García Márquez who is very famous for magical realism.

How to Make an Impact as a Traveler Without Pre-Defined Solutions in Your Head – Part 1 of 4: Group Travel

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Making an impact has become a blurry, diluted notion although it’s a fairly easy concept. You always make an impact with your actions and non-actions. What you buy at the super market is making an impact. What you leave in the shelf is making an impact. Whether you help an older person crossing the street or leave him/her doing it on his/her own, is making an impact.

An impact is every decision you make. In every moment.

In this 4-part series I want to help you increase your impact as a traveler by learning ways to do it beyond volunteering and receive actionable advice to apply in your own travels and travel-esque life style in your hometown.

Let me first define the term „traveler“ and „impact“ so we’re on the same page.

What is a traveler

Travelers travel the world. They show their friends who stayed home what a place is like and how the people are. They will talk about cultural differences and their very personal insights. I have in mind an awake, attentive, observant and active (pro-active) traveler who is curious about a new country and place

You’re not a tourist

Mainstream tourism allows these insights in parts but not as much as it could be. Therefore, I’m not referring to a touristic traveler who sees traveling as something where you go into a place, be served by other people, buy souvenirs and take photos to prove that you’ve been at this place.

You’re not on vacation

This superficial way of traveling is commonly called vacation. It comprises relaxation, prestige and little contact with the authentic life of real people living in the country you visit. A touristic vacation like that is a circus where „vacationists“ are blind-folded with attractions, presented with shows but without showing what happens behind the curtain.

You’re digging deeper

When I say „traveler“ I’m not referring to vacation travelers, but those travelers who seek, explore and want to immerse themselves into a country, its culture and have conversations with locals for exchange and creating mutual understanding. The goal of a traveler is to learn, grow and become a better human person and professional in the respective field.

What is an impact?

Impact refers to a positive, long-lasting and sustainable impact. No quick fix or rushed problem solution. In the manner of ON BOARD an impact is the basis for a long-lasting relation in either a social or environmental regard.

See what’s around, then act

Making an impact is when you listen and observe first to find the obvious solution to the existing problem after. You don’t create the problem. You don’t make it up yourself. You uncover the problem by spending time being an attentive observer. This can last one week and up to several years, depending on the complexity of the situation.

An impact step by step

When you make a directed impact you take responsibility for your actions. You direct your impact. All of a sudden every step you take is a step towards an impact. It becomes a step with meaning and purpose. In part 2 I will go into more detail about how to turn your feeling of responsibility into your duty.

A practical example

In our last learning journey in Colombia our group from Slovenia learned all about coffee. They were coffee lovers and were interested in how Colombian coffee is made. One of them (Tine Čokl owns a little café in Ljubljana that is selling only cups of coffee that has been produced in a fair trade manner. Another one (Živa Lopatič) has a shop in Ljubljana that only sells products made with sustainability and fair trade in the center.

Both have a project that encourages people to „begin repeatedly questioning where the products and services they are buying come from, how they were made and how their price is structured“BUNA.

A young Colombian coffee farmer

We met Sandra on this journey. She’s part of the young generation of local Colombian coffee farmers who wants to make the best coffee in the world. She’s very ambitious and showed us around her coffee plantation in the heart of Colombia’s coffee triangle. We learnt a lot from her, her colleagues and family. Also, we helped them making coffee.

Eventually, Živa and Tine bought Sandra’s coffee beans to roast and sell her Colombian coffee directly in Slovenia. Depending on how much their customers like the coffee, they will import more coffee from Sandra.

Promoting self-made entrepreneurs

From our side (as ON BOARD) we do help promote Sandra’s coffee outside of Colombia. Her brand name is „Pavo Real“ (peacock). Marcela spread the coffee already to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as Portugal (and Germany soon).

Creating a space that allows unforeseeable encounters

Meeting Sandra was not planned. It happened because we listened carefully to one of our local mentors (in a little town we visited) who mentioned to talk to her. Meetings that happen because of serendipity (and synchronicity) are an integral part of an ON BOARD learning journey. We always leave room for uncertainty und surprise. In fact, we fully embrace it. Just like in everyday life, there is a gold nugget in every interaction. You just need to be willing to always investigate.

Travel in a group for global impact

Group traveling as a way to impact existing conditions is at the core of our beliefs. In small groups we use the power of being many but also agile and flexible because we’re not too big – usually around 5 to 15 people.

Have ad-hoc, face-to-face conversations

Direct exchange in a group is a huge bonus. You can brainstorm and validate ideas easily and quickly (all within the same space), only because you travel with a group of people that is like you interested in making places better than they were before.

Use limited time to enhance focus

Since a journey starts and ends at a specific time, the time constraint is your friend as you will want to come up with ideas in this time restriction or set a timer yourself.

While a limited time puts pressure on you and your fellow travel-learners, it also forces you to focus on only the most important thing – the one thing. This is especially helpful when you made progress in your observation of the situation, can identify already real, existing problems and start ideating first steps towards a solution.

Take advantage of new views

In every bus journey and walk through local places I experience that traveling and knowing you’re moving activates your thoughts. You gain all these new impressions that strongly help you in your problem-solving. It’s as if your brain suddenly starts working again.

You’re not another person with a different mind. You’re the same person who puts yourself into a new environment, an environment allows your brain to work differently gaining new perspectives.

Hold each other accountable

Making a lasting impact means committing to make progress every day in an area you chose. It can mean that you are directly in a place acting according to the impact process (observe, analyze, reflect, construct) or geographically far from the place you want to make an impact on using online tools.

When you’re being held accountable or hold others in the group you’re traveling with accountable, it means you’re helping stick to their commitments. You become an explicit or implicit accountability partner and exchange the current status and how far the both of you have come in reaching your goals.

Social pressure acts as a positive pressure that enables the other person and yourself. It works because you don’t want to disappoint your accountability partner.

Holding each other accountable is a powerful tool when you’re in a group-traveling environment. People doing what they’re saying is often more an exception than the rule. By walking your talk, you’re already an exception although it sounds ridiculous if you think about it.

What you talk, is what you walk (and work) upon. Therefore, accountability is a crucial element for making a sustainable impact in the world. It makes you stick to your commitment. But what if a group of many people is involved in this commitment?

Join a group of experts in their field

When a group of many people with different backgrounds being experts in their respective field are facing existing realities, a well-coordinated impact process can lead to unexpected and really disrupting results.

The way these people think and collaborate in combination is so out of the norm that potentially their solution for a problem they focus on becomes innovative. Design thinking is an example for a concept that enables innovative problem-solving.

„The Design Thinking process first defines the problem and then implements the solutions, always with the needs of the user demographic at the core of concept development.“ — d.school

Let many brains (domain experts in a heterogeneous group) work on one problem and you’ll be amazed by the outcome.

Join us making an impact in Catalonia

With our partners (CODINO, Pandorahub, NAII) we’re organizing a truly immersive learning journey into Catalonia (Spain) how it really is. The journeys starts on 12th of July and ends on the 23rd.

Explore Catalonia July 2016
Explore Catalonia July 2016

Learn with more curiosity

Traveling enables your learning. Traveling amplifies your curiosity and speeds up how and what you learn. Since you’ll be discovering Catalonia through the eyes of the people (connecting with local projects, entrepreneurs, communities and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country), you’ll understand that traveling is the most authentic way to learn.

Dig for the secret lessons

Learning from locals and their realities makes you learn about your own reality. These take-aways you can apply to your own life. On the journey, you’ll become a gold digger that is permanently looking for gold nuggets in every interaction and exchange. Sometimes hidden, sometimes more obvious. You’re the explorer in this adventure, with cool people accompanying you.

Understand Catalonia’s realities

The itinerary includes Barcelona, coastal towns along the Costa Brava (like Sitges and Tamariu) and abandoned rural villages (like Solanell) that have been revived to be used as modern co-working and co-living spaces for digital-phile people like you – while keeping their historic charm.

Learning exchange in every situation

You will learn from local people and get to know how the reality of Catalans looks like. With interesting stories from them and a continuous learning exchange with your fellow travelers you’ll learn in intimate 1-on-1 conversations, group-learning setups, Barcamp-style workshops and expert talks.

Learning is in the center of your journey so that you can grow as a person and professional. Especially when you’re feeling „lost in transition“ this journey allows self-reflection, self-discovery and the mutually beneficial exchange with a variety of interesting and cool people that go on this road adventure with you. A good way to tune in with yourself, ground yourself and get in profound touch with yourself again.

All inclusive journey

The journey is an all-inclusive program. Three meals a day, accommodation, entrance fees, transportation, lots of learning, fun and exchange in 12 days with an awesome group of people. Everything is covered.

It’s 950€ all inclusive. If a person you refer ends up joining an experience having gone through the application process you receive a 50€ discount per referred person.

Also, we’re traveling with not more than 15 people in total (including the facilitators, local mentors and experts that will be with us). Therefore our seats are limited to 12 participants.

Apply until June, 25!

The application form is open until the 25th of June. It would be great to see you on this learning trip that will transform your life and the life of all people (locals and fellow travelers) you’ll meet 🙂

Find more information about the learning journey through Catalonia.

What’s holding you back to join? Send me an email or ask your question on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Marcela, our team and I are happy to answer your questions.

ON BOARD founder Marcela Fernandez
ON BOARD founder Marcela Fernandez
ON BOARD team member Alexander Kluge
ON BOARD team member Alexander Kluge

Please copy me

I’m on a mission. This is the greatest venture I will ever build. The most exciting adventure that makes Indiana Jones and Lara Croft pale in the face. The most successful business I’ll be the operator of, taking all the roles, the CEO, CTO, CMO, CCO, COO, CFO, ABC, and XYZ.

In fact, you’re invited. Invited to make your mission impossible possible. You’re not Tom Cruise. Instead you’re Joe, Hero Joe, and Josephine Heroine. Get ON BOARD, this is your call, all your hero/-ine friends have been waiting for you. Do you accept the invitation? Continue reading Please copy me

Inspiring & educating video to travel Portugal

Despite its small size historic Portugal was a real conquering nation and a major economic, political and military power. In the Age of Discovery they divided the world into two with Spain and strongly influenced world history. Their colonial empire lasted about 600 years – enough time to spread their language that by today is spoken by 220 million people in 10 countries.

Medieval castles, peaceful cobblestone villages, world-famous wine, delicious and affordable seafood, delightful cities, brilliant beaches and warm weather are only some elements that make a visit to Portugal so exciting. Continue reading Inspiring & educating video to travel Portugal

Join us traveling Portugal in June and learn from locals

We’re thrilled to announce that ON BOARD will be heading to Portugal from June 11-20, 2016.

In a 10-days travel marathon we’ll be doing many things. Here’s an extract of our program:

  • Learn Portuguese
  • Sightseeing in Porto and eat local in Lisbon, surfing and relaxing nearby
  • Camping, trekking and enjoying the village life in São Pedro do Sul
  • Exploring Aveiro
  • Beach day near Coimbra
  • Village sightseeing in Mertola and river tour
  • and much much more

For the full program write us.

Continue reading Join us traveling Portugal in June and learn from locals

Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2016 in Medellín

Today the annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) opens its doors for the first time in Medellín. Already known as an uprising international hub a wave of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, business and startup owners from over 160 countries will populate Colombia’s second largest and 2012 world’s most innovative city to explore „new ways helping new founders start and scale new ventures around the world“.

Continue reading Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2016 in Medellín

Solo travel in a group – part 2

Two weeks ago we wrote about why you travel solo. Today we have a look at what group traveling offers for you.

Group travels, especially small group travels, like we offer them, are a great bridge between a personal journey and a group travel adventure, always with the option and no obligation to share the outcome of your personal insights with like-minded fellow travelers.

Let’s have a look what group traveling means.

Continue reading Solo travel in a group – part 2

Solo travel in a group – part 1

This is not against solo-traveling and pro group-traveling. This is about getting the best value while traveling with the biggest amount of learning nuggets and the most authentic experience of a land you can imagine. With ON BOARD we are on a mission to make traveling the most authentic way to learn, using the world as our classroom.

Our thinking is inclusive. This is reflected on the way we travel and the kind of people that apply to join us. We travel visiting all the popular places and the ones people have barely heard of. The kind of people joining ON BOARD are solo travelers, group travelers, and more specifically remote workers (digital nomads), students, business owners, entrepreneurs, people in sabbaticals and travelers who want to see a country through the eyes of locals.

Continue reading Solo travel in a group – part 1

Announcing our Ambassador Program

And what it means to be an ambassador.

ON BOARD is an alternative education and travel program for remote workers (digital nomads), students, business owners, entrepreneurs, people in sabbaticals and travelers who want to see a country through the eyes of locals. Our participants put their talents into the service of the travel group and visited communities to learn from each other and initiate transformative processes both in our participants and the local people. It’s all about sharing what we know.

Continue reading Announcing our Ambassador Program