Trusting people on the road

by Evyatar Ben-Artzi

Traveling across eastern Europe by hitchhiking is an exciting adventure. The journey of a TravelMaker is full of wonderful stories of good people on the road. You actually get to witness human kindness and the spirit of giving. Imagine standing outside in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm, trying to cross the border between Poland and Slovakia, relying only on strangers for a ride. Imagine the feeling when a miraculous car stops for you after hours of waiting in the cold. Imagine the sensation of finding a friend in who, only a minute ago, was a total stranger. Those feelings are the heart of the TravelMakers experience.

 

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However, the TravelMakers project is not all fun and games. Not all the people you meet on the road are willing to help, and others might even try to harm you. This was the case when the TravelMakers made it to Debrecen, Hungary. At first they gathered on the outskirts of the city, in an area suitable for camping. The TravelMakers made it from all corners of Hungary, after already hitchhiking from Germany to Poland and then to Slovakia. The weary travelers settled down for two nights of sleeping in tents, eating near the fire and gathering fruit from the surrounding trees. It seemed nothing could spoil the good times.

 

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But the good times could not last for long. In the second morning, waking up early to get to the city, some travelers discovered they were missing some of their belongings. shoes for one, a wallet for another, and even recording equipment for our film. It wasn’t long before we understood that we were victims of theft. Someone must have come at night and stolen what was ours. But this was not the end. Hours later, thieves struck again, this time stealing more money and equipment.

After blocking the credit cards from being used and visiting the local police station, we sat down for a group meeting. It was the first day of our journey that the faces of the travelers were not all smiling. It seemed that the thieves got away not only with our belongings, but with our good spirit as well. Some of us talked about the dangers of sleeping outside with no security, others of our lack of caution. Voices of disappointment were filling the air.

However, soon enough, after talking of what had happened the travelers, who lost much that day, decided together not to lose trust in others. We agreed about the value of traveling together, “through the borders“, those that are inside us, and those inside others. The conclusion from our conversation had two parts: one, being more cautious the next time we camp outside. The second, and most important, was to continue our journey without giving up on what we came for- trusting people, and encouraging others to do so as well.

 

How I became participant for the TravelMakers Project

by Ryan Castillo

This article is about my personal project that I chose in order to contribute to the TravelMakers Project. I researched multiple non-profit organizations but I couldn’t quite find that one that didn’t require large amounts of donations or an advanced college degree. So, here I was, broke, between jobs, between semesters and had two months to do something meaningful before my semester started again. Between cat videos and facebook I took a chance to check my couchsurfing profile – and there it was: ”TravelMakers 2014“. on the one hand didn’t require donations from my side in advance in order to participate, on the other hand it had already raised multiple thousand dollars on a prior trip.

This existing infrastructure would leave us time to focus on fundraising and the planned documentary. Besides the social project we would be getting the whole package: adventure, team-building and space for personal development. What more? This years’ trip would cross more or less the entire eastern half of Europe – on the way to Istanbul, Turkey. Before I finished reading the post I was already half-way done with my backpack.

After a quick Skype call with the initiator of the project (which felt almost like a job interview) I was certain that this would be a good life decision. Only one single question in the application form continued to worry me: ”What will your role be in the group if you become a TravelMaker?“. This question made me almost stop in my tracks completely. What could I, Ryan Castillo, contribute to the group? I had watched the documentary from the first trip in 2012 and it seemed that everyone of the people on it had some special talent.

It took me possibly four cups of coffee and a lot of thoughtful blank staring to find my role. I am not good – but great at talking to strangers. I have been working with customers for twelve years, including years of customer service in 4-star Hotels, Restaurants, Bars, Help Desks and self-employment in Sales. My family used to say that I could sell crayons to a blind person. But how could I use this skill for the benefit of TravelMakers? And then I had this idea: If I would sell this idea to people I would organize a complete donation run from planning to implementation in the two weeks that I had left.

I had never done a donation run. Some of my friends and especially my sister helped me brainstorm for ideas to raise funds and collect goods for the Syrian refugees. I specialized in donations for children since it was emotional and effective. After the first few pitches (talks) to stores in my hometown I scored my first success. A sport goods and clothing company donated about 40 soccer jerseys for girls, a soccer ball and 6 pairs of soccer shoes. My mother jokingly said that I should run donation drives more often with the bags of things I brought home.

The next day I became more confident, and with each donation my pitch and confidence improved even more. At the end of the first week I had about 300 Euros worth of clothing, 50 Euros worth of toys and drawing books and 20 Euros in cash. A great start! But my big breakthrough came when I was donating blood: The supervisor of a local blood donation drive heard of my idea and after a quick talk decided to support me more than I could have anticipated. I was allowed to put up piggy banks throughout their locations and the donating people would be encouraged to spend the uneven part of their reimbursement on a good cause.

In the morning of August 6th, I left my hometown with two huge backpacks en route to Berlin. In my cause to reach Istanbul I met other travelers that created similar projects – we were now all traveling under one banner: “TravelMakers – through the borders.” This dozen of new friends arrived from Jordan, Israel, France, Russia, United States, Czech Republic, Brazil and many more. We became a tightly knit group: We cooked, slept, painted, danced and played music together. When we traveled, we hitchhiked in pairs or groups. And exclusively thanks to this group I traveled safe and well.

Right now that I’m sitting on one of our hosts beds, and I’m glad that I dared to leave my comfort zone. I’m glad I left behind luxury and safety in exchange for adventure and new boundaries. So think about it, and who knows, maybe we will meet on the road sometime.

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Official Kickoff-Party in Berlin, 07th of August

Dear friends,
This is the quick announcement for our ongoing Kickoff-Party in Berlin on Thursday, 07th of August.
All of us who join the trip will come together on this evening and we will have some interesting programs for you. So you can meet people from different nationalities with a mutual spirit, talk to the organizers and find out what we normal people can do in order to achieve something extraordinary. Register yourself in our Facebook event or in our CouchSurfing event.

Having said this we want to thank Werner who is the responsible person at the NOMADEN KINO in Berlin. He is so generous and provides us the opportunity to show our little documentary at the open air cinema at the Holzmarkt area to all of us. In this way he helps us to enrich our event.

We are happy to have you around on this evening and to share the excitement with you.

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DIRECTIONS

WHEN: Thursday 07th of August, starting at 5pm
WHERE:Holzmarktstrasse 25, 10243 Berlin
The closest station is “Berlin Ostbahnhof” which you can reach with the S5, S7 or S75.

Get out of the station at the front exit, keep going right for a couple of minutes, you need to cross the red lights twice.
Check out the map in order to not miss us.

TravelMakers – Through the borders