10 little lessons taught by hitchhiking

by Jorin Eichhorn

Hitchhiking is my personal university. My University of the Street. By the time I have realized that I have learnt more about real life on the road than sitting in the university library with my book. The most outstanding experiences which definitely have an effect on my future life in many terms are depicted here. Let’s get on the road:

 

1.) Beyond money

People often assume that we guys, we hitchhikers, travel this way only because we wouldn’t have money or we want to save the little bit we have. Some hippies might have this attitude. Real hitchhikers, though, are those that give back for what they get. An interesting story of their life, the excitement of hitchhiking, giving advices and simply spending a good time with each other. In the best case, and this happens quite often, such an encounter is fruitful for both sides. And people that take you often enjoy the feeling of having given you some help.

 

2.) The need of asking for help

Honestly, nowadays we are less and less depending on others people help. I mean real help. When you have a pipe burst in your house you simply call the plumber and you give him money for fixing it, if you are in a legally difficult situation you give (in this case some more) money to your lawyer and he does his job more or less. And if as a woman you need to get pregnant no matter what you can go to a sperm bank and afterwards raise your child without that a male being has ever approached you. Money does it all.
Hitchhiking is one of the very few situations where you are really depending on other people’s help. Where money doesn’t play a role but real giving and kindness of strangers. Especially after a looong while of desperate waiting you can feel this kind of gratitude and humanness. The unique feeling and the amazement about how it was possible with the help of all of these kind people to get to your destination after a long day hitchhiking is irreplaceable.

3.) Take what the world gives you

Yes, you are allowed to do it because you will have plenty of occasions in your life to give it back to the world.
What I mean is this: it happens quite sometimes that people who give you a ride offer you even more like a cigarette, something to eat, a detour to drop you in a better place to continue or sometimes even a place to stay overnight. You might think –wow this person already gave me a ride which is so kind, I shouldn’t, I can’t take even more… –
Take it because the world gives it to you! You get it offered and you should enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if this person might have a lot less money than you do because it is not about that.

4.) You never give something without asking if people actually want it

Sounds a bit contrary to what has been just mentioned in point 3, no? Not quite. What I want say is rather the situation when your benevolent aunt serves you the third piece of cake without ever asking if you wish so.

It was one of the personal lessons that our nice driver and Bulgarian business man Victor gave me when I told about the fact that TravelMakers gives all donations to a Syrian refugee project in Istanbul. He figured out that I did not really asked the responsible persons of Small Projects Istanbul if they really wanted these donations. They need them for sure, yet, I noticed that I never explicitly asked them if they were fine with our intentions. Because with such an offer there are also certain responsibilities coming along.

I first did not quite understand this when he repeated this statement and had to think over it for a while.

5.) The Flow Experience – what words cannot describe

This expression comes from the field of psychology. Those perfect days which come up really seldom in life where everything works perfectly together and you feel like being indestructible. When hitchhiking it is not unusual that you get into this sublime state of the flow of the world gaining the trust that the right things will come at the right time. Hitchhiking is literally made to have this experience because you have to give yourself to the flow to the world. The moment you let go of your tensions and fears you will get more than you can handle.

6.) Respect and dignity

I have to admit that these two words did not have a special meaning to me before I have started hitchhiking. And it is something everybody can give with very simple measures. Like for example taking a hitchhiker down the way that you are going anyway for example.
But also as mentioned above that hitchhiking is something that goes beyond our commerce and profitability saturated world makes it that these elements kick in. The fact that someone does something for you without expecting something is giving both parties to the drives as well as to the hitchhiker a feeling of deeper satisfaction.

7.) The appalling abyss between people and the politicians

We know these stereotypes: Germans don’t like Polish people, Serbians hate Croatians and vice versa, Turks can’t stand Greeks…… really? Because once being on the road you realize that the vast majority of the people are friendly, welcoming and peaceful. And that the direct contact and communication between different nations or cultures is the best way to overcome those stereotypes.
Yes, there are a few patriots, nationalists and other idiots that hopefully just pass by without stopping for you. But for all the rest, and they are more than the media and the society might dare to tell you, they are good-willing and friendly people. No matter which nationality, race or religion they belong to. On a political sphere though they make a fuss out of it. This is the platform where it is exclusively about power and resources, where at the expanse of the normal people some elites play their might games by paltering and haggling with the funds and working labor of their people. In fact, there are very few people who want those instrumentalized political tensions to push through their interested.
This huge gap between people and their politicians become obvious to me when being on the road.

8.) Have a story that you can tell

People might be already curious enough about you as a hitchhiker. Though having a story makes you even more interesting which can be very advantageous sometimes. I made this experience when making music on the street for getting our donations hat full for our project. We had several people in our group participating when having street art actions, so it was good for talking directly to passengers, having a nice sign summarizing quickly our story and stickers about our project that made people happy when we gave it to them. Yeah, we had indeed a story with our TravelMakers project other than just being a random lonely guy in the street playing some riffs on his guitar.
This is what happened to me when I once went out by myself along with my guitar and tried to make some money for myself. Same venue as where we did it every second day with the group. I didn’t even make 5% of what we gained with the cooperation of the group. Having a story is what makes you personable (plus a collaborating team)

9.) The life of the others

At which occasion would you experience firsthand what it means to be truck driver? Or how a self-employed business person sees the world? Or how a boss of a shoe company treats his workers?

Every car that you get in is a completely new world that you get immersed in. For a short while you take part in one of the million lives that for some reason you don’t live but someone else does. Being in real touch and exchanging with those persons makes it what turns down your prejudices and creates respect for the life of the others.

10.) Post hitchhiking syndrome

Yes, there is a life after hitchhiking, after being completely free on the road without any duties and commitments. An everyday life with the smaller and sometimes bigger problems around. Living in big city almost always automatically means that you need a certain amount of money for living and getting along. Especially in times of living at the breadline would mean for normal people that traveling would be impossible. Even I get sometimes to the conclusion that without money nothing is possible anymore which can bring me really down. Yet, having the experience of all my hitchhiking lets me know that there is another world which not totally money-driven. It is good to bring it to my mind in those moments.

 

Ölüme kadar – Until I will die

by Jorin Eichhorn

Truck drivers and the death – why am I combining these two elements when we talk about hitchhiking? Our explicit aim of this project is to not let the old cliches revive by putting these terms together. I want to see the death in this case as something neutral, which is inevitably part of our life but at the same time it is not a catastrophe.

One thing is certain: they are both closer to us when hitting the road on such a trip as in our normal everyday city life. Truck drivers are an important part of the traffic on the road and going by hitchhiking always involves the danger of an accident, in the same way as when you drive by yourself or with your friends. What I don’t want to imply is that truck drivers are closer related to the death than other persons.

A ride in a truck – typical panoramic view from the inside

Getting a ride in a truck has always a special note. When do you drive in a truck in your normal life? Right, never I guess unless you have a trucker in your closer family circle. We are talking about big machines that roar along the roads, loud snuffling sometimes, a symbol for power. They bring the goods that we buy in the supermarket every day. Or they transport some parts for a car factory. Or maybe they even carry something mystical that the driver doesn’t want to tell you. And there is the truck driver itself of course.

Truck drivers are a folk of their own. They lead a lonely life; don’t see their families very often and due to their job they are having quite some responsibilities that you would have never thought of. And all this mostly for a fairly mediocre wage. They come from everywhere and go to everywhere. Some of them only speak their native language and there is no conversation possible. The whole ride keeps passing in silence then, with your only hope that the driver and you were talking about the same destination before you got in. Other truck drivers know more languages than the instruction label of your sleeping bag.

Getting a ride in the back of a truck – certainly an exception for hitchhikers and every adventurer’s dream

They come from Poland, Bulgaria, but sometimes also from the Middle East or Russia. Sitting in the truck’s cabin makes you feel a bit like being the king of the road. There is decent space for your stuff and your legs and sitting higher than in a normal car gives you a nice panoramic view. Normal cars appear all of a sudden small and vulnerable.

Since those trucks don’t go that fast normally there is plenty of time to ponder about many things. Maybe you imagine for a while how your life would be having the same job. Or about your family and the people that pick you up and ask you full of surprise why you hitchhike. They tell you that it is highly dangerous and you could die easily. The own mortality is something that you come across more often when having such an adventurous trip. Crazy drivers that let you doubt to reach your next stop in one piece, long waiting times for the next ride in remote places. Or the simple issue of an accident. You don’t know, maybe your time is coming.

Sleeping in the back of a truck for the night – hitchhiking makes it possible

It was somewhere in Romania, we got another ride with a Turkish truck driver. As I know Turkish, I could easily talk to him about the things that I normally talk with the other drivers; like where are they from, for how long they have been a truck driver, if they have family, and sometimes about politics. Some truck drivers are surprisingly educated and passionate about their life. Others don’t really enjoy their job and just do it because they have to.

So when we were with our Turkish truck driver and after holding the conversation for a while, I asked him how much longer he expects to work as a truck driver in his life. And after a second of processing this question, his simple answer was: ölüme kadar – until I will die.

Why jumping into cars with strangers restored my trust in people and why other women should do it too

by Tracy Sangillo

Columbus, Ohio, 2013: The first “big” city I hitch from. Likely one of my least favorite places in the US. I refer to it as the “pancake city.” Boring and barren, it’s not a good or safe place to hitchhike in or out of. I’m fearing the worst, but hell, I’ve gone this far. Besides…

 

What would life be like if we allowed our lives to be determined by worst case scenarios?

(What Patricia gave me…err forced upon me)

So I head to the nearest gas station and approach a woman who later becomes my touchstone for my hitchhiking adventure.

I walk up to her and ask if she’s headed in my direction. Feeling her unease, I start talking about the trip I’m taking across the country and she changes her mind, orders me to “get in” and takes me to the bus station I want to get to. What’s more, we have an instant connection and talk for over an hour, sitting in front of the Greyhound station. Patricia goes on about her college sweetheart who lured her to the southern beaches of California and her favorite place in the world, Sedona AZ. “Promise me, you’ll visit!” She says.

When I go to get out of the car she tells me to wait, fingers through a notepad filled with papers and hands me 2 gift cards. A Giant Eagle gas card and $100 visa gift card. But no, Patricia’s not done. She LITERALLY empties her wallet for me and gives me another $67.

I wish I had more to give. I’ve got window cleaner in the back!

This woman became the reason why I hitchhike.
In time, you will meet your own ‘Patricia.’

 

 

I’ve seen over 30 US states, 17 countries and traveled 25,500 kilometers. And through most of this I was traveling solo, a woman hitchhiking from the streets of New Orleans to the Romanian countryside.

I was not about to be governed by other people’s fears. I wanted to redefine “reckless.” In fact, I learned:

This collective fear of hitchhiking has largely been a campaign on the part of the FBI, during the late 60’s.

While male hitchhikers became an object of aversion, women were told that they would be “asking for it” by thumbing for a ride. Current crime statistics FAIL to show that hitchhiking increases the murder rate and can’t demonstrate that it’s more reckless for women than for men. Yet to assume hitchhiking isn’t dangerous at all would be facile. This takes me to my next point:

But where to start!? How is hitchhiking different for women?

(Kreuzberg Pride in Berlin)

 

Less IS more

Travel blurs gender binaries. You wear less makeup, dress more casual and start to act in a more amorphous manner. Less like an amoeba and more like a tom-boy. Typical girl/ guy items are less necessary. In fact, it’s wise to dress down and wear more masculine clothing.

 

The one object that helped me more than anything was my smartphone:

Holy sheep balls, this was probably the most helpful item I carried. I had an app that listed different amenities and gas stations at nearby exits, my Google Maps and my Couchsurfing.com app. I used these often. Don’t underestimate the power of digital technology!

If you’re hitching with truckers a lot, use the “Truckerpath” app, which lists all the truck stops and exit numbers and The Pocket Truck Stop Guide – essentially the same thing in paper form. Take note: This only applies to truck stops in the US.

Don’t be afraid of truckers. They usually buy you food on the road (at least in the US) and they are some of the most wonderful and colorful people on the road: For instance, In New Mexico I found a ride at a Love’s with a trucker and his girlfriend…

 

I just want you to know we live a 24/7 BDSM slave/master lifestyle. I hope you’re OK with that, she admits

 

Not only did I get a single 600 mile ride to Oklahoma City, I got to share it with more awesome interesting people. And the stories! The stories!

 

(My very first hosts, ever)

I don’t worry too much about sleeping arrangements. The fun is in the uncertainty.

But a few free options are:

Couchsurfing.org

– Guerilla camping & boondocking

– Getting accommodations from rides – I haven’t tried this much, Couchsurfing was way too much fun.

 

 

 

KNOW YOUR LINES

  • They are there for a reason! I can generally get a good read on someone within a minute of talking to them. Have a conversation with the driver before you get a ride.
  • Ask him where he’s going before you say where you’re headed to.
  • Get a feel for his demeanor: Is he leering at you? Does he call you ‘baby’ or ‘sweetie?’ Do you feel uneasy?

 

I wouldn’t always advise accepting rides from two or more men. Truthfully, though, I’ve done it many times and often with good experiences

The first time I was stranded in central California at an empty truck stop and got a ride with a “gun rights activist” and his sons…

 

They all wore “We don’t call 911” t-shirts with an AK-47 plastered on the front

It ended uneventfully, thank god! And I discovered even the most terrifying people can be genuine.

————–

But more often than not, I have a blast: Whilst shooting blanks in bad hitchhiking spots in Chiasso, Switzerland, two twenty-something men with a car packed full of camping gear pull over near me. “You’re going to Basel? We’re going to Berne. Get in!”

Despite my protests about space, they made me fit and convinced me to go with them to Berne instead of Basel for the night. There, they offered me a bed, dinner, wine and after discovering that one of the boys and I shared a recent birthday, a bunt cake with a beer in the center. What more could a girl ask for?

 

What would I be doing if I took a bus, stayed in a hostel and avoided strangers? Not eating a cake with a beer sitting inside it, that’s what.

 

(My birthday cake)

The number of good times for me have vastly outweighed the bad, making the risks worth it. That being said, KNOW YOUR LINES. Ask the driver where he’s going first, if you feel uncomfortable tell him you want a car going farther than that or that you left something in the last town. Men don’t like being told they make you uneasy.

 

Text out their license plate number

This is what I’ve found to be the most important thing to do before getting into a vehicle. Text or take a photo of the car’s license plate number and the state. Send it to a friend, or better yet, two. This actually helps drivers feel more comfortable around you and provides an immediate way to relate to you as a person.

With commercial trucks the license plate is useless. Take down the DOT and truck numbers found on the side of the cab. However, this only applies to trucks in the US, Europe and other countries have differing regulations.

It’s important to ASK them if you can send out their numbers, thus ensuring them that you have their personal information if anything happens to you.

 

Defusing dangerous situations

Even after traveling solo for thousands of miles, I’ve yet to find myself in a situation hitchhiking where I feel legitimately threatened. However, it can happen. The most important thing to do in these situations is to first try to defuse them verbally. I was only once propositioned by a driver:

He asked me, “Do you like hugging’ and kissin’?” “Do you like to hug and kiss men?”

Awkward right? He seemed to think that I’d do this as payment for a ride. I asserted that I wouldn’t and told him to drop me off at the next truck stop. It all transpired without incident. Although he wanted something I wasn’t willing to give, at no time did I feel threatened, so I remained calm and removed myself from the situation.

If you can, keep the driver calm and at ease, thus allowing you to get out of the car without incident.

(Messing around in Pamplona with a new hitchhiking friend)

If you’re still nervous about going it alone travel partners are great, but the more people you are already hitching with, the less room there is for new friends to interject into your life.

 

Traveling solo and avoiding the typical circle-of-friends-tour-group experience allowed me to meet other travelers on the road, many of which I’ve hitchhiked with. Not only have I traveled 5,000 km with two Danish boys I met on the road, but I wouldn’t have become a part of the TravelMakers project if I hadn’t been hitchhiking alone.

During a long discussion about sustainability, activism and avoiding looking like a tourist, my couchsurfing host in Amsterdam mentioned the project to me. I checked out the website, watched the documentary and found that my travel dates were flexible enough to line up with the proposed hitchhiking route. Ecstatic and energized I jumped on board. Thus, here I am, writing to you about how spontaneity and expanding one’s comfort zone – traveling alone – can lead you to uncovering the most invaluable life experiences. And oh, the places you will go and the people you will meet….

 

(4 Bosnian boys I hitched a ride from and subsequently had a blast with)

 

I have made friends with people from all walks of life:

 

  • I’ve met an ex-Mexican drug smuggler who has admitted to seeing people killed, bought me lunch and showed me photos of his 10 year-old son, the reason he got out of “the business.”

 

  • After walking a mile down the interstate I got a ride with possibly the friendliest guy in West Virginia. He trusted me enough to leave his keys in the ignition when he stopped to run an errand.

 

  • I’ve talked with a homeless man in San Diego for 4 hours who’s a yogi, knows Ram Dass and has a house in India where he’s lived for the past 40 years. He taught me to speak a little Italian and I now have a place to stay in India for as long as I like!

 

  • I’ve gotten a terrifying and awesome ride in a drift car in Spain by a man who’d just started learning to drive it. Possibly the most dangerous and thrilling car ride I’ve taken.

 

  • I’ve partied with 4 Bosnian boys, shared beer, coffee and explored small towns whilst blasting Black Eyed Peas on the car stereo.

 

This has all happened because I put myself out there, snubbing the naysayers and challenging what was defined as ‘reckless’. For me, hitchhiking is a radically humanistic way of reconnecting with people.

 

 

 

 

When East meets West. But where?

by Jorin Eichhorn

What is Western Europe, what is Eastern Europe? It is the question that I have in mind since a while. I don’t want to get into political spheres nor to exaggerate it in terms of social sciences. Rather I am wondering about myself when I have these kind of thoughts –oh yeah, this really looks like Eastern Europe now – or –yeah this is definitely not Western Europe anymore- But what is it exactly? How does this come up?

Pic Romania 01

Typical image of a Romanian village passing the main road

I wake up after a freaky cold night in my tent. Our group made it until the shallows of Transylvania in Romania now and has a great time hitchhiking. But damn it, I thought we would have a warm summer trip but apparently summer is not all the same in Europe. We have stayed for a couple of days on a farm, away from the mainstream life in order to experience a more basic lifestyle than we are used to have in our everyday city life. It’s time for hitchhiking again; time to leave the place behind with which we just started to get a bit more familiar. Yeah that’s how it always goes when being on the road.

After a while my hitchhiking partner and I find ourselves on a dusty parking lot again from where we want to continue our way towards our final destination of today. It doesn’t take long until a somewhat crazy Turkish truck driver is more than happy to give us a ride. And now the adventure in my mind starts off.

P1110600

An old woman sitting in front of a door in some random village

Sitting in a truck makes me feel like being the king of the road. The view is great and I have enough time to pay attention to a lot of things. Our way leads us through many smaller, sometimes bigger Romanian villages. The roads are pretty narrow; nonetheless some cars stop at the verge of the road for whatever reasons. Suddenly we see a big cluster of shops that sell some somewhat cheap tourist stuff. Baskets, wooden tools, garden decoration, souvenirs, too much stuff which makes me wonder who would really stop for it. Yeah, many tourists are around, I can see it on the number plates. What puzzles me is that I can see quite some German temporary number plates. Why is there always only one guy in the car, why do five of these cars pass us in the row? Who is traveling with a temporary number plate at all?
We get out of the village, going up a road winding around the hill. Wherever there is a bit more space than just this narrow lane that we are on, there are people standing to the left or to the right selling fruits or vegetables; onions, mushrooms, garlic, grapes. I am having a more precise look, our driver nods –all gypsies, everywhere gypsies-
Yeah, this is Eastern Europe I am thinking by myself. A few kilometers later we are passing a valley which is covered by smoke. Somewhere there must be a fire around and heaven knows why someone lit this. Is it on purpose? Well, this is definitely not happening in Western Europe. Yes, I am reassuring myself.

Pic Romania 02

Especially in rural areas it is quite common to see carriages on the road

The next village that we enter starts off with a massive car cemetery. Completely destroyed cars, and a truck where half of its parts are missing. Most of these parts are sold as replacement units. I can see many cars that are obviously from Germany but of a bit older age: the bus has the inscription “Stadtwerke Oberhausen GmbH” (public services Oberhausen cooperation), the old ambulance says “Red Cross Germany”.

Our driver has to make a somewhat dangerous maneuver because of an old man who is riding his crappy bike on the road. He doesn’t have any space to go somewhere else. The horse carriage which is coming across at the same time gets a bit in danger and needs to find a quick solution. Our driver is yelling and honks on both of them. I am not sure if this is positive for the whole situation. Only a few seconds later there is suddenly a police car popping up and I have to hide quickly behind the passenger seat where my hitchhiking partner sits. Yeah, it is a bit problematic to be three persons in the truck for legal reasons. So in order to not bring our driver into difficulties I have to keep an open eye on the road for the police that often stands at the road.

P1110546

They are waiting quite often at the verge of the road

The truck driver tells us that he was cool to take us. We are obvious foreigners, not one of these gypsy guys. He reassures that he is not racist at all. But he would never give a ride not even in his worst dreams to one of the gypsies that we can see all over in every village that we enter. Women with colorful clothing, dark skin, many kids around them, guys looking alike standing at their car drinking out of a big pepsi bottle and listening to loud music. Sometimes they wave to us in the truck; our driver doesn’t care about them. Who are these people actually?
We are in a rural area again. Our driver tells us that most of the bears living in Europe happen to live here in Romania. And most possibly, at the forest that we are crossing just now. We have to slow down because a random shepherd decided to block the road with his goat herd.

Much later we finish the ride in the same way as we began it: our driver stops in a spot that would have never occurred to me to pull over. Well, we are in Eastern Europe and it is simply different here. But why am I actually looking for this distinction between east and west? Why do I try to draw this border? Am I not the organizer of this project which says “Through the borders”?
I don’t want to draw these borders but neither have I wanted to deny differences. I rather accept the last one.

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.

 

eurotrip (125)

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.

 

eurotrip (124)

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

Photo gallery of Alex’s painting in 2012

Dear friends,

As you might know, we did a very similar project like the TravelMakers Project in 2012. It was the Euroadtrip2012 Project and can be found here. Our street artist and painter Signori Alex created with the help of the whole team a painting in every place where we’ve stayed. Here we go with all his creations.

Enjoy it and join us if you haven’t send us your application yet!

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Have a look how street art is done

The new hitchhiking project

The Travel Makers project concept is not new but has a new name and this new website. The former project which is very similar to the Travel Makers Project is the Euroadtrip2012 Project. This was a first trial of two exchange students trying to see if the combination of hitchhiking in a big group, doing street arts and raising funds for social projects in Europe at the same time is feasible at all. To see the result of the former project click here.

The creator of the Euroadtrip2012 project decided to launch this kind of trip for another time this year – welcome to the Travel Makers Project. Check out the schedule and the travel route, make up your own project that you want to realize during the trip and join us!

Travel Makers – Through the borders