A perfectly vague title for a perfectly vague blog. Bottom line: I went traveling for about a month and I went as far as my wallet could get me… Western Europe. Mode of transport: hitch hiking. Company: Me, myself and… Actually a lot of people!
I was going to give a very elaborate and perfectly chronological report on everything I saw and did, but I decided I’d rather talk randomly about all stuff until I feel like I’m finished. So to understand, here’s a very brief summary: I hitchhiked to Brussels with two other girls from uni, we did some tourist things, I met up with my friends and I enjoyed my last little bit of comfort zone before setting out alone. Then I went to France, I stayed in Taizé, a Christian community with international youth, for a week, then I decided to stay another week because it was awesome. In Taizé I found some awesome people to give me a ride to Switzerland, I went to Basel and Zurich for a couple of days. I continued to Austria, then Germany, then Luxembourg and from there back to the Netherlands.
What?! A girl hitchhiking alone?! Do you want to get yourself killed? Well, I’m actually surprised I didn’t die ten times over along the way.. For those who don’t know me, I’m really clumsy. I get myself into the weirdest and dumbest situations while at home, so I’m kinda proud that I made it ‘abroad’. I mean, I’m the girl that was still afraid to take a direct tram to school for 11 minutes by myself when I was 14 years old. The first time I went time I went to Brussels by myself I was terrified to take a train alone. I was nearly 18… Now I’m going hitchhiking by myself, which really isn’t that impressive but for someone that is actually scared most of the time, yeah I’m proud.
The thing I like most about this month is the things I got to learn and the people I got to know.
First of all, I’m a poor judge of character. On one hand I instantly hate 90% of the people I meet. On the other hand, I instantly trust every person I meet. So when I meet someone and hate them, I just switch off that feeling and switch to full naivety. ‘My first impressions suck, so this person must be nice, right?’ Witch hitchhiking that brought me to two completely different situations. In France, kinda close by Nancy when I was stranded without a single soul to pick me up I was walking somewhere at the lonely edge of some unknown village. About 15 minutes of walking later I see a car stop and a woman steps out and saves me from sleeping on not so comfy grass next to not so friendly sheep. Not only did she get me out of the middle of nowhere, no this women was amazing. She offers me her house to sleep in, use of her shower, she makes me a delicious salad and a fruit dessert and the next morning she personally drives me to the highway with a lunch pack with cookies and juice and fruit and a tiny quiche and cold water. I must be a very lucky person…
The second situation I won’t elaborate on too much. I stepped into a car, 5 minutes later I stepped out. Let’s just say I now know what kind of people to avoid and I got out really well, which is nice 🙂 After this interesting ride someone else picked me up. He seemed nice, so I stepped in, of course shaking like a scared puppy. He started blabbing to me in French about being a beekeeper and making wine. So I nodded and pretended to understand more than three words at the time. Suddenly this guy stops in the middle of the bushes and says in his best English ‘I want to show you my bees’. So naturally I start sweating and thinking I’m going to get raped and murdered. He steps out of the car, he takes me with him to the bushes and… He shows me his bees. Actual bees. I’ve never been so happy to see these stinging buzzing bastards. I got lucky again.
Another thing I’m really happy about is Taizé. Like I said, I came for one week and I stayed for two. As a student in cultural anthropology, as someone who is trying to figure out the meaning of life and as someone who loves music, I can say Taizé was definitely the place to be. Life in Taizé, if you’re a regular guest, basically lasts one week. You arrive on Sunday, you get an overview of the rules and activities, you make friends, you say goodbye to your friends while crying your eyes out, exchange contacts and start planning your next visit. A day in Taizé is as follows: You wake up at around 7 (or 8 in my case) and you join the morning prayer and (some) receive the Eucharist. (I did that one time for the first time! Interesting!) After that you join in breakfast with about 3000 other people (in holiday times ofc.) after breakfast you either have a kind of work or bible introduction. I started out with cleaning toilets in my first week. It was actually fun! They had this cool cleaning song that changed every day, and the people I cleaned with were pretty cool :). In the second week I was in the food distribution team. We handed out lunch to 2000 people every day for a week! That was really great, I definitely want to do that again. Also, I had a great team with great people who sang Disney songs with me and we played ukulele! After work we had the afternoon prayer and lunch. This was followed by bible introduction. First we discussed a bible text with a very big group, after which we split up in small groups to discuss a little more. With a little, I mean a lot. I love discussions, so I went full on. I had a really great small group that thought me great things about religion and weren’t afraid to defend their opinion. I really value the time I spent with them, and I’m even a little sad we don’t get to discuss like this anymore. After this it was around 5pm (or later, depending on how much we wanted to talk…) which was tea time. The tea in Taizé is a lie. It’s not tea, it’s water with sugar. But in severe heat, it’s oddly refreshing and I always really looked forward to tea time! One time, I took a friend to first aid and she got actual tea. With tea bag and all. We took a picture for the momentous occasion :). Ok back on track. After tea time you get to follow some really interesting workshops until it’s dinner time. (The last two days I joined the dinner distribution team as well, which was really cool! They were great!) After dinner you go to evening prayer and after that I would always go to Oyak. This is the place for people to hang out, get some drinks, get some guitars and sing. Yes that’s right, sing all the time. In these two weeks I sang so freaking much. In prayer we sang more classic church songs, at work I sang Disney and every song that came to mind (including a French song that a guy taught me when we cleaned toilets :)) and at night I sang at Oyak. I never stopped singing. This is also how I got to meet some really great musicians! In the first week there was a group of Germans with amazing voices and music skills, and in the second week I met two Germans who sang really new songs to me. The guy played guitar, while the girl played a kind of oriental drum while they both sang. Another guy, from Lithuania, joined and started completely improvising on his harmonica and his flute. Later I sang some classic worship songs with him as well 🙂 Man, I really really love singing. I rediscovered my passion for this in Taizé 😀
What interested me most was the structure in Taizé. Somehow, people from all over the world join up and live lives as Christians, whether they had zero religious background or were born, raised and dedicated Christians. They joined together, they accepted each other. They made friends in just a week, enough to cry over the, at the end. They quickly adapted to the structure, it became their routine overnight. They functioned as members of a community, in just one week. It’s like they built up an entire life overnight and after the week ended, so did that life. I had the privilege of staying for an extra week. I watched the majority of the population in Taizé change overnight. People came and went, and I stayed during that whole awkward goodbye fase when everyone was crying goodbyes to others and I just thought, hey, I’m staying. (Not so much for the crying… I guess I’m really getting used to this whole goodbye thing!) After that I got to start up the second week by meeting new people… Again. They got all settled in while I just though, hey, I’m here already. It’s so weird how everyone just arrives and naturally follows this rhythm that ends within days. Then they go back to live their lives, maybe changed, maybe not.
I loved seeing how Taizé worked and I kinda want to go back one time. Also to participate in a weekend of silence. I did my own little day of fake silence. Not that I didn’t communicate with people, or heavens forbid that I didn’t sing. I only did it to not use my voice to communicate. And it was hard. Everyone was talking to me and I didn’t know how to respond. I learned two thing from this. First: Man, I talk a lot. Crazy. I really should talk a little less in some occasions. Second: I like being silent. I really enjoy listening to other people. Knowing that, I’m gonna start finding key things that motivate other people to talk a lot, while forcing myself to shut up for more than two seconds so I can actually know people. That’ll be interesting 🙂
I also really liked meeting the people I met. I heard new stories every day from people everywhere. In the second week I met a really nice Swedish girl. It’s too bad we only had a week, I feel like we could be good friends 🙂 I was even kinda sad to leave because of her and because of all the other friends I made and things I learned and saw in Taizé. To make it harder to leave, this girl gives me a bubble blower with a plane from Disney on it!! (I lost my bubble blower the week before and I was really sad.. Yes, a bubble blower is in my standard travel kit.) I really had a good time there, but for someone that’s allergic to routine, I think it was good to keep moving 🙂
So at this point, the real travel started. I was dropped off in Switzerland by some really nice people. I had zero planning, no idea where I was, no idea where to sleep and zero sense of direction… I made it off quite well 🙂
Up until now traveling alone has taught me two things (aside from the million other things I learned). First: You’re never alone. Really. In cars, in hostels, in the city. You meet people constantly, you’re socializing constantly, and it’s great! Second: The perfect contradiction. Sometimes you’re really alone. At some petrol stations I was waiting by myself for such a long time, constantly talking to people and seeing people, but there I was, basically on my own until some passer by showed mercy on me. Ok, it wasn’t that dramatic most of the time, but sometimes it was. One time I ended up sleeping against a wall at the petrol station, sleeping bag over my head, pretending to be a garbage bag for passerby’s. Another time I spent around 2 hours waiting for a ride when worlds cutest family (mom, dad and baby) picked me up, gave me a bed for the night, breakfast and my ride the next morning. In between the best and the worst cases it comes down to its essence. Just you. I loved it most of the time. Doing my own thing, going wherever I pleased, getting stuck in bushes near the main road because I thought it looked interesting two hours before. But I also really like having a friend nearby.
After admiring the beauty of Switzerland and Austria and feeling in heaven multiple times is continued on to Germany. About three days in advance I asked my friend where in Germany she lived, I warned her I was coming and three days later I stood at her doorstep. Or rather, I stood in a big field as far as the eye reaches that was the closest to her doorstep I could get dropped off. (confusing sentence..) Little did I know that she lives a couple miles away from the middle of nowhere. But it was great 🙂 about 10 minutes in, I realized I hardly knew anything about her. We met in Ghana, later we met again with a group of old volunteers and now here I am in Germany realizing we never talked that much. So this time we did. I quote: “We shared pee stories, now we’re friends.” Sadly I’m not going to elaborate on this hilarious story. So I ate pasta and drank coffee with an Italian family (I’m so lucky) we made music and I got to be a typical tourist!
After two days there she went with me to Stuttgart and we got to stay at her best friend’s house for the night, which was also really fun. Now comes the awesome: when I left she actually left a secret present in my bag that I could only open after she left… She gave me her cool awesome bag and her two kashaka!! I mean, who does that? Why would she… Ok let me explain why I’m so happy, I tend to break things. I’m dumb like that. So I took a bag that I severely overused during this trip and it was ripped from all sides. I was sad, because I hate breaking things, especially when I got them from Ghana. Besides that, being a big idiot, I also broke my kashaka that someone went through the effort of getting for me from Ghana! I probably used it too much… Then hero comes along and gives me the two things I really want and need, without me even asking! Plus, I got a jar of homemade jam that I’m eating as I type 🙂 again, I’m so lucky. (Fun fact: My mom likes the jam too!)
So after Germany I went to Luxembourg, which was really nice. The city is beautiful! It kinda surprised me how small it was, and that it had different levels. That basically meant me climbing up hills just to sightsee… I liked it from the moment I was at the top! On the way from Luxembourg to the Netherlands I got really lucky again. Someone picked me up from out of the rain, he drove me to Liège and on the way he stopped at a restaurant and got me dinner!
In this month I got to meet over a hundred nice people, I was in around 40-50 different cars, I saw 6 countries, 10 different cities, loads of amazing sights, I slept in 2 stranger’s houses, 2 friend’s houses, one friend a friend’s house, two freakishly fancy hostels, a Christian community, an occupied house and a petrol station and I got to learn around 5 extra languages to say goodnight in. I loved it 🙂
Going back home was kinda nice too, I was getting tired of living out of a backpack… Pfff, who am I kidding. It took me three seconds of being home to get bored. I need to travel, I have to! I want to go to see Great Britain, and I want to see the whole of Eastern Europe and then I want to see the whole of the world. During this month I, as always, thought a lot about the meaning of life and seeing the world and my urge to keep moving. I just decided that this is the way my life is. Maybe one day I’ll find a place that feels like I can be there for a long time and maybe one day I’ll find the person I should be. But I really think, at least for ‘me’ I will spend my life searching. I don’t want to know who I am or where I’m going. I want to see it all.
So the clue of this essay long ‘summary’ of my holiday: I get lucky a lot.