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.

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.

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

I’m from Colombia, This is My Country

A modern 2016 perspective from a Colombian woman (25) who loves her country and her German partner (32) who fell in love with it.

Colombia is hugebeautiful, and the most bio-diverse country in the world per square km. It’s incredible in its endless opportunities to enjoy your travels. Life happens outside here. Fans of archaeology and historic facts will be delighted by Tierradentro featuring pre-Columbian culture, the ruins of the Lost City and San Agustín archaeological sites. In present times, local farmers from the campo are always happy to invite you to live with them and learn to grow coffee or cacao, like our invitation for people from Slovenia. The calm Caribbean and wilder Pacific ignite the wish for adventure on a boat, beach, diving, snorkeling or just lazily getting tainted to swim as a refreshment after.

Why not have your first Salsa class and enjoy the famous nightlife while you discover its delicious food? You can use the travel tips in our upcoming Colombia Travel Guide 2016 with inspirations for your travel year 2016 and places you haven’t heard of.

Colombian countryside with horses in San José Del Nus
Colombian countryside with horses in San José Del Nus

Continue reading I’m from Colombia, This is My Country

Why traveling is transformative

December is usually a time for reflection on a personal and professional level. And it’s also when businesses, like our own company, review what happened this year and what needs to be improved.

We won’t talk about figures, statistics and all that. We have in mind to start a conversation about the transformative aspect of traveling. Our friend, Eric Glustrom, Founder of Watson University, gives you an idea of how traveling can be transformative.

Traveling on different levels

Hotel travel

You can travel just going to one place and spending the time in the hotel area. Hotels offer comfort, luxury, food and drinks all the time and nice swimming pools. You are definitely in a comfort zone, moving from your room to your pool and some shady places within the hotel area. The difference to your home place is maybe only the weather and the people are maybe also nicer.

Road travel

You can travel on a road trip where to way is the goal. You may have or have no end destination. Your main variables defining the end of your travel are either time (e.g. being back before the semester or work begins) or money. On the road you don’t really care how and where you sleep. You don’t wanna get sick and enjoy the time. In fact, you could be on the bicycle, on the motorcycle, walking or in the car or van. The important thing is the movement.

Couch travel

A mixture of hotel and road travel is couch travel which refers to traveling in the couch surfing way. In this case you are often on low budget — but it doesn’t have to be like that. Couch traveling enables you to live in any kind of home (family house, single apartment, low-income apartment, run-down something, etc.) as long as it is offered through platforms like the world’s best known called Couchsurfing or other ways like friends or connections you made on the road.

The adventurer inside you is definitely awake when you travel like that because your time in the place where you stay is limited and you always will need to look for and arrange a new temporary place to sleep.

A comfort zone won’t build up in this kind of traveling, although you can be lucky or have good friends who can host you longer than a few days in very nice apartments or houses.

Backpack travel

Definitely one of the most popular ways to travel. You take a backpack, not too small, not too big. It’s your permanent companion. Backpacking can mean that you use couch surfing, that you travel permanently on the road or stay in hotels (or hostels). It’s therefore only the term that is different from the types of travel mentioned before. No type of traveling is exclusive to one another.

Transformative travel

Transformation in our understanding means that you as a person or professional experience a transformation through an intense, immersive travel-learning journey. One month is ideal for the transformation to take place, and is the ideal length we are aiming for — like in Colombia (March / April 2015).

Transformation takes places on different levels and in different qualities. What every transformation has in common is that it reveals a quality, skill, wish, etc. that was covered deep inside you. The magic of traveling, learning, doing good and connecting (the four central pillars of ON BOARD) provoke this uncovering or discovery process. Of course you will see super nice, breath-taking places. Of course you will these profound conversations you have been looking for in every day life. And yes, you will meet outstanding people who inspire you and initiate a mindset of possibilities and options — a mindset of abundance (“more”) instead of a mindset of scarcity (“less”).

But the most important thing is what happens to you and your environment in a social, economical, ecological, spiritual and (also) political sense. After an ON BOARD learning journey a lot can happen to you if you allow. So, you need to be willing that things happen to you. If you are open for transformation, transformation will happen. If you are unwilling to open up, you don’t allow transformation to happen. It’s like with hypnosis: It will only work if you allow it to work.

Therefore, pure willingness is the most crucial prerequisite for personal and professional transformation. Two past participants told us what they thought about their experience and the impact it had on them:

Marion Gabioud, from Switzerland:

ON BOARD is not an «anonymous» organization. To me, it is Alex, Marcela & Camilo, and all the other people who made me live 30-days of travel in Colombia, co-travellers as well as contacts carefully (and amazingly!) chosen by the On Board team, giving me the opportunity to meet special people who had a true will and a true love in them, that they were just incredibly open to share! It made me more conscious of what is done in this country, who believes in its value, and just opened my mind again to how I can change what I want in my own life to live more in adequation to my philosophy.

Traveling with a special team and other travellers willing to see the places with new eyes, meet people who share stories and put yourself at the place of the others while living besides them, in their houses, drinking their freshly picked coffee or tasting the cheese made with the cow’s milk you’ve milked the same morning!

Jorge Aristizabal, from Colombia:

For me ON BOARD was an awakening moment, it was that small push that I needed to get me moving in the direction of my dreams. It can be so deep and so light at the same time that I learned the biggest things about myself at the same time we were joking and hanging around.

What is transformative traveling for you? Write us: info@beonboard.org, or join a learning journey yourself: beonboard.org.