Part 1: Changing skies

After a beautiful time spent in both the calm of the counntryside and the festival-atmosphere of my host family’s party, I was left at a service station on the main road out of Brittany.

 It was grey and a bit foggy and I realised that this was the very same station where, 4 years ago, a much more nervous version of myself did her very first solo hitching. After about 15 minutes, a retired optician took me, and very soon the sky started clearing up. He was traveling towards Tours to pick up his four grandchildren who were brought up North by their dad who coudn’t take time off for them during the summer holiday. He left me at the entrance of the station, where I first had to take a break and strip off various layers of clothing. Then, I went around asking “Est-ce que vous allez dans la direction de Lyon, par hasard?”… until someone half-grinned at me and asked “Are you German?”. I realised what had happened when four girls came to kiss him goodbye – I’d found the son of my first driver! He continued the new family tradition and drove me further (as well as the old family tradition of being an optician).

The next stop, before Montluçon, was the longest wait of the trip (and also that was only about an hour long!), where I met a guy who wanted to hitch the same way as me. He immediately asked whether we could “say we’re together” (however he meant it?) and I declined, knowing that I wouldn’t help myself at all. It would have been interesting to compare his success rates to mine, not only because hitching is generally said to be easiest as a woman by herself, but also because he didn’t seem to compensate his initial disadvantage very well. I could see that he’d put on a shirt to seem “proper”, which looked a bit overdone (like when you meet Jehova’s witnesses on the street); and most of all, he had a kind of awkward way of approaching people, which probably didn’t help them trust him. How sad that you can’t cover up your body language with nice clothing :D.

Anyway, I did continue eventually, with a headache from all the sunshine, and passed Lyon at about 4pm in a super cool VW van containing a dad and his 14-year-old daughter.

The last ride of the day, which brought me to the middle of the mountains (just next to the Mont Blanc!), was given by a shy 32-year-old who looked much younger than that.

Part 1 Ronja.PNG

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Hitching again!

It’s been 10 months since I haven’t been on the road; 10 long months in which I finished a degree instead, and discovered that being sedentary can also be fun. We-ell, here I am again. I used the past few weeks to piece myself back together, after running on a limited version of myself for quite a while (I really really did enjoy all the studying. But that’s not all I need, and then there’s the stress, of course).

First came Tandem Festival (whoa! Music! Crafts! Movement! … I kept on smiling sheepishly – “Forgot how happy this stuff made me!”) and sunshine in Oxford. 

Then I stayed up a whole night running around London parkour-style, while also learning how to build shelters or light fires … which made me feel a bit more ready to face an urban catastrophy scenario (or a G20 meeting … or long nights next to motorways).

I traveled to Germany, did couchsurfing again (“whoaaa, such nice people” *gratitude overflow*), and felt scared about all the hitchhiking I’m planning to do this summer.

Then I shut up for 10 days and meditated and now life is kind of easier. At least the bit of it which is self-caused misery; which might end up being all of the misery we feel. Please remind me to write a post dedicated to meditation!

After meditation retreats, sometimes great things seem to happen and stuff suddenly works out; like when I found someone driving past my family home (in Western Germany) and did a surprise visit for a few hours. Imagine the happiness of seeing family again after months, and then receiving the gift of doing so unexpectedly. Add to that getting your uni results which turned out fine; and an impromptu party including both of your divorced parents (“Efficient time allocation”). Bliss – and so many hugs.

The next day, after a long long breakfast, my mum dropped me off at a service station to hitch towards Brittany. Hopefully it is evident how much I love her for being that kind of mother.

About to set off!

And then – vrumm, vrumm – back en route! I didn’t have enough time to get properly sceptical or pessimistic about my lift chances, because an old couple in a minivan took me on board after 15min, and the magic of the hitch started working again. He told me how he hitchhiked to the red sea back in ’59; and I learned some things about market research and Iron Man competitions. I got my next ride from a German ladder-manufacturer whose father had invented a special type of ladder now endangered by new EU-regulations. He was off to Paris attempting to get an exemption through, and had a great hands-on life philosophy… again a nice reminder that one does not need to be an academic to make sense and to think on one’s feet (and that, conversely, I  should not stop trying to make sense even though I know fancy words. Surprise.)

He dropped me off just before Paris, since I wanted to continue to Brittany… but here, time passed and I got bored (also, I’d only slept 4hrs because of said impromptu-party). And so, I hitched into Paris and spent a lovely evening with a high-school friend who lives there now. More of these beautiful surprises 🙂
Anyway, now I’ve reached Brittany, staying once again in the house where I spent some of the most important months of my life, helping my ex host family prepare the party that’ll happen here in a few days.

So, for example, this ladder is built in accordance with the new standard, prescribing that the bottom width be 50% more that the top width. However, that does not take into account the special case in which the top is larger too, which means you only need 25% extra at bottom and top… also, we made bunting.

Hopefully, I’ll have some time to rest and to brace myself for the journey to Croatia which awaits next week…