In this article, we meet Baptiste, a 22 years old French guy, who will talk to us about his experience.
A: Can you introduce yourself?
B: My name is Baptiste, I studied cinema in Paris, and my goal is to become a reporter.
A: We are doing the interview today because you don’t have a normal life. Can you tell us more about it?
B: For a couple of years, I have been travelling around Europe without money, which means I hitchhike to move to a country from another one, but also I ask for food and a place to sleep. This is my way of life now.
A: How did you come up with this idea?
B: I used to be really in my bubble, watching movies and series, limiting myself to that. At that time, I was in film school, and I lacked contact with reality. But for a while now, I had the idea of hitchhiking.
I had met a girl who was doing that, and she advised me to start light, short trips, which is very good advice. I had also read the book of Ludovic Hubler about a guy who hitchhiked around the world several times. I liked his approach because before, I had the image of the hitchhiker a bit in rebellion against society and capitalism, a bit like in Into the Wild and I didn’t want to end up like him. But Hubler’s book made me change my point of view. His approach was to go and meet people, exchange with them, and see the diversity of this world. He met all types of human beings: prostitutes, indigenous people, big NGOs and he even did some scientific expeditions.
I contacted him, and we talked for 40 minutes on the phone. I explained my doubts and fears, and he reassured me, gave me advice and told me more about his own experience. I really wanted to live the same thing as him, it motivated me a lot, and one month later, I officially started this way of life.
A: How was your first trip?
B: It was almost three years ago, in summer 2019. I wanted to make a short trip, so I decided to hitchhike from Paris to my home (Albi) in three days. I tried to keep a comfort zone while putting on some challenges.
I had told a friend, my parents were not aware of it because I was afraid of their reaction. They might be worried, and even if it wouldn’t have stopped me from doing it, I didn’t want to deal with their anxiety.
So I packed a bag, and I filled it with a lot of useless stuff that I thought was essential at the time. I made a sign on which I marked “To infinity and beyond”. I wanted to make people laugh, but it didn’t really work.
A: Now that you have a little more experience, do you know why it didn’t work with the sign?
B: Well, the most important thing is to inspire confidence in people, not to have a chainsaw in your hands, to look at least clean and friendly. Often a smile is enough.
And then you must be in strategic places, where cars can see you and stop.
A: Did you get a car in the end?
B: Yes, I was fortunate. After two minutes I got a car. But now I know it’s not an easy spot, and I think that maybe if I hadn’t gotten that first car so quickly, I would have been discouraged.
I had to take four cars to get to Orleans (an intermediate city). When I got there, I was hungry and wanted to try to get some free food. So I went to a bakery but was refused. Then I went to a restaurant, and this time the owner was very nice. He gave me some bread and grapes. He was very interested in my story.
For the rest of the day, I walked around the city. Towards evening, I was hungry again, so I asked a girl, and she gave me a box of fried chicken. So I ate them sitting on a bench, thinking that life was really good.
A: So everything looks good!
B: Yes, until the evening. Around 6 pm, I thought I had to find a place to stay. So I walked around town and asked people. But I was pretty clumsy, I guess. I must have asked about 50 people. I was so afraid of sleeping on the street that I would ask anything. That’s a mistake I don’t make anymore. Nobody wants to spend an evening with a grumpy old guy!
Finally, I met a fifty-year-old couple, and it worked. The woman was willing to put me up. She even gave me a small room upstairs. But unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble sleeping that night. I was too excited by everything that had happened. I couldn’t believe that this day was real.
I had breakfast with her the next day, and we talked a lot. Then I left.
The second day was quite chaotic. Some journalists took me in their car, but they dropped me off at the wrong highway, and I couldn’t find a car. Finally, after two hours, I saw a car picking up another hitchhiker. I realised I was doing it wrong; I ran to the car and explained that I needed help. This other hitchhiker is one of the best people I have ever met. He had been doing this for 8 years and was used to it. He was able to give me a lot of advice.
In the evening, I slept in Rodez. I tried to go to a museum for free, but I was refused entry, so a random mother paid for the place. This act of generosity touched me a lot.
On the last day, I went back to Albi.
A: You went home to your parents. How did they react?
B: The last mile home, I was very anxious.
Finally, my father laughed a lot, and my mother was very impressed by what I had accomplished. I told them about my trip, and they discovered a new side of me. I felt like I was introducing myself to my parents. I think it was really a pivotal moment in my relationship with my parents. Now they support me in my projects. I feel their admiration.
A: What would you say if you had to draw a conclusion from this first trip?
B: It was a turning point in my life. I think I was lucky because if a step had gone wrong, maybe I would have given up. And now it has become my way of life. I was also able to see the potential of travelling without money, breaking the bond of money that can separate people, and I also became aware of the generosity of people. This first trip was like a treasure inside me that I had wanted to share for a long time.
To be continue…..