Beginning the day
The morning started off with my alarm clock waking me up. I forced myself out of bed and jumped into the shower. Time really had flown by for me, it had already been two weeks that I was gone, yet it felt as if I had left the day before. This hitchhiking trip had gone really well and I hadn’t had any real expenses. Definitely something I will do again as it is also fairly easy to do. I sat down for breakfast, taken care by Dominique, and started planning my trip home. I decided it would be smartest to get to the Netherlands as fast as possible, as there probably won’t be many Germans going in the right direction for me. ‘Maastricht’ was what I first wrote down on my cardboard, I also added all the highways I needed to get on and signified I was going North.
On the road again
It started off with a 40 minute walk to a traffic light before the A4 freeway. A car stopped way before he could’ve seen me and my sign, yet it was for me. He was going to Aachen, a student returning due to financial issues. Once we got on the interstate, he admitted to already having passed me, but then changed his mind and went back to pick me up: “I mean, why not?”. We were flying past all the other cars, going on insane speed. The guy was not very interested nor interesting in honesty. Instead I kept myself busy looking out of the window. Music was playing in the background, the type my eardrums normally can’t stand, yet now for some odd reason it was soothing as I let my eyes rest on the horizon. I was tired, probably because of the lack of sleep I had, and the abnormally high speed actually made the ride better. However, it did not last long, as we got into a traffic jam. Since we had heard quite some sirens on the way, it was easy to guess that something had happened. The signs along the road confirmed our guesses, an accident had happened. The car was messed up badly with bits and pieces laying everywhere, but I think the passengers were alright, at least I hope so. The jam wasn’t too long and before I knew it, I was zoning off into the far distance again. He woke me out of it when we were nearing Aachen.
As I exited the car, I noticed a white substance on the ground. Very cold, like ice yet not as hard. To my confusion, it appeared to have snowed, something that now rarely happens around here, no matter how cold it gets. Seeing the snow made me smile like an idiot, I have missed the sight of it. Although the snow looks pretty and is super fun, the weather it comes in wasn’t as pleasing, so I quickly went back to hitchhiking in the hope to soon get into a nice and warm car. I was mistaken, not a car, but a truck stopped for me. This man, while speaking a language I did not recognize, explained to me that even though he was going the wrong direction, Liége, it would help me nonetheless. He could drive me just into Belgium from whereon I would find an easy ride to Maastricht on the right interstate. I climbed in his truck, where I got treated like a real guest. He was a man of age, a face worn out with many wrinkles, yet the the look of his eyes were lively and bright. Turkey, is his land from origin. With his truck he’s almost always on the road, repeatedly driving over 650 kilometres for his job. I felt that he enjoyed having some company, which made me glad.
My phone gave a short vibration, which was my indicator that I was back in Belgium. As I checked my phone to see if it was indeed, I noticed the day was already halfway through it’s afternoon, the cause of that being the maintenance on the road that lead to another traffic jam. I was hoping to arrive at home before midnight. At that point I still thought it to be an easy, reachable goal, especially since a car had just pulled over. A Dutch lady driving to Maastricht. I had actually hoped she would use the freeway to go there, so that she could drop me at a gas station there, giving me an easy way to the North. Unfortunately, I found out that she didn’t, instead she used a different road leading to the centrum of the city. In the centrum I wandered a few minutes past the market, yet the stands were already closing and therefore I decided it’d be smart to continue. I had been advised to cross the bridge, which would be quite a walk, as the place I was standing at was near to impossible for cars to stop. The friendly lad, seemed to be right, and I did as I was advised.
Ed, the homeless man
Crossing the bridge, I noticed the sun was setting. I stopped and stared over the bridge, gazing at the small movement of the water with the bright sun and sky in the background. Whilst I was zoning out, a man that had just passed me walked back to me and asked me a question. He had a weary face, with big eye bags, yet he seemed happy. His clothes were worn down to rags and his hair was messy. I could hear from his voice that he had been influenced by some alcohol. Because I was zoned out, I only heard the last part of the question, something about food. That morning I had actually forgotten to bring food with me for the journey, so sadly I had to tell him that I didn’t have anything for him. It came to me as a surprise, when after he repeated the question, I realized he wasn’t asking, but offering me food. The man had a pack of gingerbread and offered me a few slices. We sat down next to each other, he introduced himself to me, the name was Ed. A beer was offered and stories were shared. It was amazing, that a man living on the street with not that much, goes out of his way to give something to a complete stranger. Usually it is though, the ones that know a life of suffer, will be the ones more eager to help others. Ed has already spent many years living on the streets, and while he was telling me his story, I saw certain looks on the faces of people passing by which made me think; we often have preconceptions about certain people and that makes us distance ourselves from these people although we don’t even know a person. We sat there for awhile, until it was time to go again. My mind went through my backpack to see if I could give him anything in return for his kindness, yet most things I offered were turned down. Maybe he just wanted someone to talk to, or maybe he wanted to help me, a stranger, by brightening my day, possible both. I truly felt touched by the man’s kindness, as we both went our own direction again.
Finding a place to eat
Maintenance on the roads prevented me from finding a good spot, especially since there were fences everywhere. After a long time wandering around seeking, a lady pointed me to a street which is quite busy and I would have a good chance finding a ride there. It was indeed a good place to continue. The people wouldn’t drive fast, as there was a queue waiting for the traffic light, one that didn’t stay on green very long. I was also standing right for a parking place; I was positive. A middle-aged man, after waving me off, stops and opens the door. Peter, the guy driving the car, started asking many questions, curious to why I would be standing out there. He explained, that he went through police academy, worked as a policeman for 20 years and that he is the manager of a security company now, then seeing me, someone around the age of his sons, made him worried about the reason behind it, thinking I was running away from something. The two of us had a long conversation where I explained him everything. I am glad I was able to tell him that I have a good, healthy relationship with both my parents and all my siblings and that I convinced my parents to let me travel, not that I had run away. Of course shit has happened and I haven’t always been happy, but I know that travelling the world isn’t just to leave the mess that sometimes reaches my mind. It might be an extra push, but seeing the beautiful nature, meeting all kinds of people, experiencing more, learning things and plain out living more is the real reason for my travels; the world is so much bigger than my backyard and I want to see it.
As we were getting closer to his destination, Peter decided he wanted to invite me to join him and his family for dinner. A call to the wife; she confirmed it and not much later I would be eating spaghetti. Delicious! Arriving at the house I got welcomed by the family dog Billy, very excited. I then got to meet the rest of the family, the lady of the house Alexandra, a teacher for refugees and asylum seekers, and the three sons aged between 13 to 19. All of them seemed very interested in me and my story and they were truly friendly. It felt amazing how events had gone and how I met this man, to only a little later be enjoying dinner with his whole family. When the very well-made meal was finished, they even drove me quite a distance further, but not after giving me their number, so I could let them know I arrived safely. It made me happy, to have many strangers give you so much care and interest.
I thought I had found a perfect place, yet only after a short time, traffic department had stopped by to close off the highway entrance temporarily. This made it less easy to get a ride and it was also getting late. Luckily it was my return and I was able to give my dad a call, and he was happy to pick me up for the last part – which was still A LOT -. I am very grateful to him for picking me up, as I would’ve spent the night on the street if necessary, but thanks to my dad I didn’t have to. When we arrived home, half past twelve, my dogs were still in the living room. The dogs were very excited to see me, with lots of tail wagging and wheezing they ran up to me and I was incredibly happy to see them again. I had been gone for a nice two weeks, starting from the 2nd of February. It was my first time hitchhiking and I have to say, meeting all these lovely and interesting people was absolutely amazing! Definitely a recommended way of travelling! Now all I have to do is prepare for my next trip, which is starting very soon.