Bleak – a befitting depiction of the evening. Indeed, as every shedding of leaf coincides with a drop of temperature, as the days grows darker by every pulse, as summer clothing crept deeper and deeper into the wardrobe, autumn has truly befallen upon us.
I craved escape. It had been several months since I returned from New Zealand; having commenced the next chapter of my life – that of becoming a university student – and growing well-accustomed to my new studious venture, my new accommodation and new companionship I was ready for change. For a drifter who had previously spent the last five years enjoying the wonders of instability, a boarding-school education and parents living on the other side of the world, it is normality that I find the hardest to come to terms with and climatise.
But it was no ordinary evening, as I discovered when I entered the student halls’ communal kitchen.
The usual array of hall mates were congregating in the enclosed space; though as oppose to the formation of individuals scattered across the room, I found them clustered in a tight spot, surrounding and regarding what seemed to be an opened parcel. At the centre of such hype of curiosity and bewilderment was Miles.
“Ah Dylan, you like travelling don’t you?” Hand wedged into the cardboard box, the mystery content unveiled itself as he hauled the deck of leaflets, presented me with one which instantly awoke my adventurous spirit.
To be fostered in a sterile, over-protective environment that was Hong Kong did sow in my younger self a repulsion towards travelling – as of hitchhiking, for such an whimsical act to pass through my wimped-out mentality would bring me whimpering and trembling to the core. Indeed, a hitchhiking culture in Hong Kong is virtually unheard of – so uncommon that Wikitravel has allocated Hong Kong’s hitchhiking popularity rating to ‘almost non-existent’.
Yet despite its unpopularity it isn’t contempt that hitchhiking as a concept has been met with. The romanticism most certainly prevailed, and though I had not even remotely contemplated thumbing my way to a fatal condemnation, I did shove the idea into the ‘cool’ category. Especially when the emergence of a Chinese reality TV show in the late 90s, which saw the two presenters scrambling across Japan with virtually no money and frequently resorting to hitchhiking, did gave rise to a zealous – yet not so practical – hype that propelled much of the chinwagging at the time of the programme’s broadcast.
So the moment the brochure made contact with the skin of my fingertips the opportunity was bestowed upon me. This was it.
Even as a reformed traveller revolutionised by previous backpacking experiences I feel the clutches of horror itself slithering across every fragment of my skin whenever I embark on a hitchhike – more gripping still as I was pacing around my room awaiting the arrival of Anna, my hitchhiking partner-in-crime. I had adopted a blase attitude days prior to the departure date, but whatever composure I had managed to salvage was crumbling and derezzed before the face of inevitability.
As I soon discovered, the task, daunting may it be, was no cause for panic.
The relief that settled on our arrival at Algeciras – the port whereupon we took the ferry and crossed over to Tangier – was fleeting compared to my comprehension of hitchhiking’s wonders. The way I perceived hitchhiking throughout my journey was that of a means to reach my destination, though the perception was thoroughly recast and manifested as that of a philosophical, spiritual pilgrimage. The philanthropist ways of people giving us lifts and treating us to hospitality and aid were not forgotten. The endeavour and lessons from the road were not rendered undigested and disposed of. For every mile we traversed across the European continent I grew to becoming more and more a pious believer of hitchhiking – I was moulded into the hitchhiker I take pride in being today.
But it wasn’t solely my perspective of hitchhiking that altered. I had undertaken the mantle of travel editor of Felix just months before the Link Community Development Morocco Hitch; for the three weeks I was away my travel writing truly matured, since the revelations had set me upon the pursuit of insightful travel. No longer would I merely pay attention to the façade – close observations, analysis on the deeper workings of the tourism and travel industry now form the basis of my written literature.
Since the Morocco Hitch my appetite and addiction for hitchhiking ceased to be encased in their former limitations. Not long after I was plotting to hitchhike around Germany during the Christmas holiday whilst visiting my friends; having accepted the position of London rep for Link Community Development I was swayed into doing the Morocco Hitch for the second time in 2010. While I was visiting my parents in New Zealand I was tempted into hitchhiking from Auckland to Queenstown – a deservedly unforgettable 22nd birthday ensued.
The proposition of hitchhiking across Canada was prompted when I purchased a ticket to TBEX’11, to be hosted in Vancouver. Reminded that a travel companion of mine in Fiji, Matt, lives in Toronto I was immediately enticed into formulating travel plans to visit him – empowered by my then-freshly accomplished trip to Queenstown, I was once again lured into committing, once again, to my life’s passion.
There will be no stopping of inevitability once more. There will be no shunning of unpredictability. For the Grand Canadian Hitchhike has begun the moment the decision – one of the biggest I shall make for the entirety of my existence – was made, yet what remaining of it can only be anticipated as history in the making.
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