The time had flown by for me, my sister moving to Canada, Christmas, my 19th birthday and all of a sudden it was already 2016. All this time had gone by and I still wasn’t on the road, because my plans didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to. But I really needed to get away, to see more outside of my country and get a break from my Dutch life without doing so much planning. I found a Hare Krishna community in Belgium called ‘Radhadesh’ where I could stay in exchange for my service. I didn’t know a thing about Hare Krishna, which in my opinion is a great reason to go, as I am eager to learn more about different cultures and religions. The guy that I had been writing with told me that I could come after the festivals, which was on the 2nd of February. I was fine with that. Seeing as I still wanted to save some money for my cycling trip, I didn’t want to spend anything on unnessecary costs. For this reason, and the fact that I prefer to travel more ‘adventurous’, I wanted to go hitchhiking. I think that this is a perfect way of travelling as it is free, it gives you a good opportunity to meet people and the journey is very unpredictable, which is something I like.
The festivals had ended and there was now room for me to go there. I rose up more early than normal, – not too early – had some breakfast, packed my backpack and then I quickly got a piece of cardboard where on I wrote “South-East Belgium” taking the marker with me for later adjusting. I also took a few screenshots of Google Maps and that was it for me. I was ready to leave, excited as can be. My father had agreed to drive me to a gasstation on the highway going to the South a few kilometres away, hating the thought of me travelling in this way. I must admit that I was somewhat nervous too, it was something new that I have never done before, but I couldn’t let my father know. Otherwise he would have never dropped me off.
There I stood, my father had returned home and I was along the highway with a cardboard sign pointing towards Belgium, nearly 350 kilometres away from my destination. I was hoping for a car to stop soon, as it is quite the distance to do in one day. Which it did about 20 minutes later, yet this lady would merely be of any help as she was already almost home. Nonetheless I joined her, seeing as it was my first ever. By now I no longer felt nervous, only excited for the rest of the trip. I found out her reason for stopping for me, she was worried about me and wondered if I chose to travel like this, or if bad luck in my life had brought me to having to travel in such a manner. She seemed happy and interested to hear that I chose it myself.
As soon as we got to another gas station, I immediately went up to a guy to ask him a question about the area and I am glad that I did so, as he was willing to drive me to his destination which was near Utrecht. This was easily 120 kilometres and a big help on my journey! In the meanwhile we had enough time to get to know each other and we had long conversations about our lives and our view on the world. He then dropped me off near a crossroad that would lead me more to the east again. Here I updated my cardboard and put Maastricht on there as well. Then I went to continue my lifting. It was raining pretty hard by now, which might have helped with finding a ride sooner. The next guy had done a lot of hitchhiking himself too and therefore was more eager to pick one up and he knew where I could stand best. Sadly he couldn’t get me too far, but at least I was at a dry spot now.
It really surprised me how good it had gone for me at the time, because within 15 minutes after I stood there I was again in someone’s car. This time it was of an older man around the age of 70 and despite the big age difference we were able to communicate with one another pretty well. We mostly talked about travelling experiences, the surroundings and he had plenty of stories he wanted to share. He went off track quite far to drive me to a “great spot” which did get me 80 kilometres closer. I trusted him with his opinion on whether it was a great spot, because he is a geographical genius and really knows the places in and around the Netherlands. And I really appreciate his input and detour for me, nonetheless it was a horrible place to continue, as it was close to the border of Belgium, where gas is cheaper meaning noone stops there. I found that the ones that did stop there were either truckers going for a sleep or people not too fond of accepting lifters. I ended up waiting 4 hours to get a ride from that point. Because of this I got to meet the ‘bad’ times of this mode of transport. The waiting didn’t actually bother me that much, which is why I used apostrophes there. Thanks to that I also met a fellow hitchhiker. We swapped stories, where he told me about his hitchhiking history and giving me some advice. He has been through many countries, Lithuania being in his opinion the best for hitchhikers.
I didn’t expect anyone to stop anymore by now and even if they did they probably wouldn’t take me, so I figured I would have to spend my night there. But then a little past 8, when the shop had already started closing, another car came by. The guy heading to the shop and I walked towards him with my sign up and a grand smile. He apologised and explained he was only going so far and that I would have no use to it. Now I knew I wouldn’t find anything tonight. But then he came back outside and asked me if I needed to go to Liége. I was so happy! Liége is on the right track for me! I sat on the back seat next to a small child that wanted me to play with his toys. In the front seats was the guy with his mother. Both very interested in my travels, the guy translating everything I said so the woman understood and vice versa. He spoke Dutch like me and the woman only French. They too went off their course to get me to a great location. From Liége it should be more easy to get to Durbuy they said. It did take me three cars to get there, yet it never took me too long to get a ride anymore. It was 11 when I arrived in Durbuy. I was amazed by this beautiful little town. I went to search for some WiFi so that I could comfort my worried family and let them know that I was safe and close to Radhadesh. I still had to walk an hour to the castle on a road I did not feel very safe on, especially with the crazy speed of some cars. There isn’t any room for pedestrians when walking the way I did ( I later found out that there is another way to get there which is more pedestrian-friendly ).
My legs were sore, my feet freezing and I was ready to fall asleep now. Then when I could finally see the gate that was the entrance to the castle after a long, steep walk, I was relieved. It spelled out: “Radhadesh”. I made it! My first hitchhiking trip was successful! I went into the lobby of the guest house, which logically was completely empty at this time. I took a look at the time and I didn’t feel like bothering anyone at midnight, so I decided to crash on the bench for the night. The next morning I would try and find someone, but right now all I wanted was to sleep.