Impressions about the beginning of my trip

The school holidays are drawing near, it has now been a month and a half since I started this trip. I am doing just fine: I still haven’t been murdered by any psychopath hitchhiking and I am writing this article sitting in a deck chair in a sunny garden in Brittany:

sans-titre-32

Doing this project, I think I enjoy the adventure part as much as the educational research part. Let’s be honest: I use hitchhiking and Couchsurfing (I stay at teachers’ places or strangers’ houses) because I haven’t got a driving licence (I like to say that I have my “hitchhiking licence” but no one takes me seriously) and I couldn’t afford to travel in any other way. But I reckon that it’s what I like about all this. If I drove to the schools alone in my car and if I stayed at hotels at night, I would miss all the fun I have when I meet random people and I would probably get bored. It would be a whole different experience. So it has been a month and a half since I experienced my new social status as a wanderer. It hasn’t been that long and I have only been to a couple of countries at the moment. Yet, traveling is a challenging, perplexing experience in so many ways that I feel like it has been forever since I left.

One the one hand, the teachers I meet all inspire me: my thoughts on education keep changing. At the moment I am re-reading the works of Bernard Collot with the same enthusiasm that I had when I was 10 and read Harry Potter. I don’t publish that many articles but I do write a lot: I am obsessed with some questions and my answers are different every day. On the other hand, this specific way of traveling makes me experience various universes, personalities and lifestyles. And everything goes very fast. It is sometimes quite unsettling to switch from one place to another with no transition but, as I am kind of daily routine phobic, it actually suits me pretty well. I keep discovering new environments: I have been to ghetto areas, to quiet suburbs, to overcrowded cities and to small villages in the countryside. In this short time, ten different people have hosted me and I have been given about 50 lifts hitchhiking. These random, unpredictable moments are quite thrilling. I am dependent on the people who drive me from one place to another and who host me, but in the end it is so much more than this.

When you experience such an intense, always changing lifestyle, it is sometimes difficult to have time to realize what is actually happening. This is why I am trying to take stock of my impressions now. It is a special occasion as my blog has just had 1000 visitors today (coming from 33 different countries according to WordPress, I am perplexed about this: who the hell are all these people that I don’t know?)

In the past few weeks:

  • I have lived with various people, among them I found a young pacifist political activist who writes poetry on his walls, a lovely family in Belgium and a student from Pakistan in Brussels.

  • I met a young traveler who had walked 900 kilometers from Austria to France.

  • I organized a scientific workshop with a French NGO (I had to improvize the whole time and you should know that I don’t know a thing about science).

  • I hitched a lift in a convertible Mercedes. It was a 75-year-old woman driving and she told me all about the dissolute life she had had when she was young.

  • I had discussions that felt quite surreal about the books I should write or not.

  • I was offered accommodation and school visits that were not originally planned.

  • I had a fascinating talk about art while I was hitchhiking with a Belgian painter.

  • I tried to hitchhike one night around 11pm (not very hopeful that it could work) and I was given a lift by three funny teenagers who were heading to the casino and were convinced that helping me would bring them good luck in the games.

I also got in trouble several times but now I laugh about those moments:

  • I was once in a car that ran out of petrol on the motorway (the driver did not even have an insurance).

  • Once I had to hitchhike during the night, I was late because the driver with whom I was before was a Dutch man completely in love with the French landscape and he had decided to visit every single small village on the way.

  • My mobile phone suddenly decided to turn off when I was in a petrol station between Brussels and Lille, which left me totally lost as I didn’t have the address or the phone number of the person I was visiting.

    … and a few other stories.

    To conclude, I am happy about how my trip is going at the moment. I enjoy the freedom I get when I travel and it has never been so easy to get up in the morning…

    Next destination: I will be heading to England soon!

    One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the lack of the unexpected, the absence of adventures. (Theophile Gautier)

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