Hitch-Hiking in Europe: Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
A few hours had gone by and not a single vehicle had passed us. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere in a little, desolate Spanish town called Peniscola. At that moment, I thought to myself: “How did I did end up here?” It all started when my friend and I signed up for a one-week charity trip hitch-hiking in Europe to our destination, Morocco. Our main goal was to raise funds for an NGO charity organisation called Link Community Development (LCD), which works with local governments and communities in education and school building in Africa.
Even though language barriers were a big hindering factor for us, we quickly made friends with the locals who were curious and inquisitive about our LCD T-shirts. We were quite proud of ourselves in managing to collect some donations for LCD from the drivers who were kind enough to give us a ride. However, the trip wasn’t all smooth-sailing.
It was quite a bizarre experience sharing a car with several cross-dressing men with full-on mascara and fake eyelashes.
It was a Sunday and we were in the deep countryside of Spain. Cars were few and far between. We were really anxious that we would have to spend the night at a deserted gas station. After what seemed like an eternity, a car pulled over. A man sporting make-up and a wig rolled down the window and took a glance at me. Loud Spanish disco music blasted in the background. I politely asked for a ride to anywhere as long as they were headed south, my fingers pointing vaguely towards Southern Spain.
He seemed to understand where we wanted to go, hesitated for a few seconds, and finally gestured to us to hop in. It was quite a bizarre experience sharing a car with several cross-dressing men with full-on mascara and fake eyelashes, and the Spanish version of Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor” was playing on the car stereo in the background.
As we started to relax, the car came to an abrupt stop after what seemed like a 20-minute drive. We were kicked out of his car in the middle of nowhere. Utterly flabbergasted, we then found out that the drag queen had actually dropped us in a small town called Peniscola, about 10 km from the gas station where we had been picked up. We desperately looked around for any kind souls who would give us a ride, but to no avail.
As the night was approaching, we were close to giving up and were thinking to look for a place to stay put for the night. Out of the blue, bright headlights appeared from a distance and a car pulled over.
I learned that people are generally kind and friendly regardless of nationality, and are willing to help without expecting anything in return, even when there is a huge communication barrier.
“Do you guys need help?” A guy peered through the car window with a concerned look on his face.
Oh my God, he spoke English! It turned out that the car was full of English-speaking tour guides headed to Valencia. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Valencia, just in time to catch an overnight bus to Algeciras, the southern tip of Spain, where we had to catch our pre-booked ferry to Morocco the next day.
In the end, we did not hitch-hike all the way through Spain. Nevertheless, hitch-hiking in Europe was one of the craziest and most adventurous things I have ever done. I learned a lot and grew up throughout the whole journey. I learned that people are generally kind and friendly regardless of nationality, and are willing to help without expecting anything in return, even when there is a huge communication barrier. Body language, hand gestures and a smile go a long way in breaking those barriers down. This whole experience also taught me to persevere and not give up easily even when things do not go the way you wanted it to be.
Would I do it again? The short answer is no. Do I regret hitch-hiking in Europe? No, I have never regretted a single bit. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had, a life story which I can proudly share with friends, family and strangers, over and over again.
So, if you’ve been thinking about doing something bold and adventurous, don’t second guess yourself and just do it. You only live once!