The first question 99% of people ask when we tell them about our trip is “Why are you doing it?”
It’s a valid question, granted, but one that doesn’t really have one straight answer. Because we’re a part of some big social experiment? Because we want to shed light on something? Because…we can? None of the above, wholly. There’s only two of us on the trip and even we don’t share the same answer. Instead, we’ve written our thoughts individually…
So this is my first blog entry of ALL TIME. Sarah gave me an order last night to write about why I am doing this trip (she included a policeman emoji in the order so I knew she was serious). As an expert blogger and Social Media Manager I thought I could get away with sitting back and letting Sarah tell our story. However, as we have our own reasons for doing this trip, I guess I’ll have to pull my finger out and get used to writing.
Something Sarah and I have in common is a love of pointless adventures. Adventure for adventure’s sake. Our hitch to Edinburgh last year couldn’t have been more ridiculous: let’s see if we can hitch to Edinburgh and buy two pints of beer for the total price of two beers in London. Whilst in Edinburgh we discussed what we could do to increase the ridiculousness of our trips; how about being dropped off somewhere blindfolded so we don’t know where we are and having to make our way home with two of our legs tied together like in a three-legged race?
For me, this hitch across America started out as a bit of a pointless adventure. “Let’s just see how many weirdos we can meet!” But really, I have lots of reasons for doing this trip and some of them underline what I want from life in general.
For me, working in an office is like climbing a mountain but without the great view. It is a mental struggle and every day I have to talk myself through it and remind myself why I’m doing it. It feels like I’m being forced into a box that isn’t right for me, it’s not my size or shape. We have to spend so much of our lives at work, and to me unless you love your job, that’s not living. I suppose the answer to that is to get a job I love, but that would involve getting a Masters and then completing around six unpaid internships. There is just too much competition and the rat race isn’t a competition I’m prepared to enter. A few of my friends suffer with depression and I know that the darkness has come for me on a few occasions. I think a lot of this has to do with not being able to cope in this society, not wanting to go to work and be told what to do, to be belittled by your boss, to sometimes not be able to even get out of bed or eat because you can’t cope in this life. I haven’t meant for this to take such a dark turn but for me travelling is about trying to find somewhere that I fit, that is my shape and size. It’s about research, about exploring how other people live, about finding a different way for me to exist in this world, without money and without ties and without the rat race.
“For me, working in an office is like climbing a mountain but without the great view.”
We live in constant fear of people, of strangers, but as soon as you talk to someone, show an interest in their life, they are no longer a stranger, and you can learn something from their life, from their stories. A positive bond is formed when you take that step to trust someone. The press insist on instilling fear in us, fear of the unknown, fear of an entire religion, so that we don’t leave our homes or our safe little lives. You can put me down and call me a fucking hippy and I’m sorry for trying to generate such love and positivity! But ultimately I believe “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”.
You could travel the whole country on a bus for cheap but you could also go that whole journey without really getting to know anyone. Hitchhiking, couchsurfing and volunteering for food throws you into situations where you really get to know people. You get a snippet of American stories, a window into the lives of the people that live in the country you’re visiting. You get to hear about people’s struggles and successes, and you get to share your own.
We’re not naïve, we are aware that there are dangers. Part of the appeal for me is the danger: I feel like I’m taking back responsibility for my life, getting out of my comfort zone, using my common sense and gut feelings to judge whether a situation is dangerous, judging people’s characters and ultimately if we do get in a pickle, getting out of it and feeling a sense of accomplishment in doing so. People jump out of planes to get an adrenaline rush. For me this is my rush, it makes me feel alive. Hitching has got such a bad rep and it doesn’t deserve it.
“When hitchhiking you feel grateful for everything, for every ride and for every crumb of food, for shelter and for kindness.”
I not only want to really meet the people of America, I want to really see the country, the landscape. When hitchhiking sometimes you are stood on the side of the road for hours, sometimes you have to walk for miles, in both of these scenarios you have the opportunity to really examine the landscape, time to look and appreciate the beauty of it, rather than just zipping through on a train or a bus. It is harsh sometimes but then you appreciate it more. The joy of a ride after hours of waiting is exhilarating and you feel like you’ve fucking earned it. When hitchhiking you feel grateful for everything, for every ride and for every crumb of food, for shelter and for kindness, you take nothing for granted and I love that.
I’m so fed up with money, with people’s greed and ungratefulness. Money destroys human relationships and ultimately it’s what is destroying this world. This trip is research for me, to see if it is possible to exist outside of this regimented medium of exchange. Rather than working to earn money to give to someone for food, what happens if we remove that middle step? Go straight to someone and ask for food in exchange for work – washing some plates, cutting someone’s lawn. Both parties then get something more; you get human interaction. Eventually I might settle somewhere but it will be a sustainable shack, off the grid and completely self-sufficient.
All of my reasons lead to one ultimate reason: Freedom. The freedom to go where I want, to not be told who I can or can’t talk to, what I should or should not think, what my fears should and shouldn’t be. To have no ties, no home, no job, that is ultimate freedom to me. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Filling my pot with people’s kindness and stories; that’s my treasure.
That’s honestly the last time I ask Lilly to write something before me. How do I match that?!
The reasons I want to do this trip are pretty straight in my head, but the moment I try to get them out on the page they jumble together and become a tangled mess of love and fear and wanting to understand more about the world we live in. There also doesn’t seem to be any way for me to get it written down without it sounding cheesy, so you’re just going to have to bear with me on that.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a big reason I want to do this trip is because I love a challenge, and it sounds like it’s going to be great fun.
The first time I ever hitchhiked it was an arranged charity trip – groups of two or three had to try and get to either Croatia or Morocco by hitching lifts, raising money in the process. At the time, this seemed like a huge challenge and something I really wanted to do, with the added safety net of having our every move watched and wearing snazzy matching hoodies for the journey. We even had pre-written explanations for what we were doing in every language we might come across. It was a thoroughly babysat trip…and I loved every second of it.
Where so many people loved the journey despite the hardships, I loved the journey because of them. Sure, when the rain was hammering down, you’d woken up with ice on the inside of your tent and a Slovenian policeman screaming at you and you’d already been waiting four hours for a lift it was no easy task to just keep going, but the absolute high of catching a ride was worth every single moment of patience. For that feeling of exhilaration, I’d wait days in the rain.
“I love hitchhiking, I love meeting people I would never otherwise meet in my allotted piece of life, and I love the satisfaction that comes from a great challenge.”
Hitchhiking led me later to Couchsurfing, and Couchsurfing led me to really believe in the power and brilliance of strangers. Lilly perfectly expressed the ignorance in the fear we’re made to feel by society, and the fact of the matter is that you’ll find far more love out in the world than hate. If through our challenge we get to meet a few hundred people we would never have otherwise met, and positively influence just one person to have a little more faith in strangers, I’ll be a very happy person.
Travelling is all about the people and the places for me – I’m a much bigger lover of the natural world and its inhabitants than I am of cities and temples and sky scrapers. Putting the journey first, and entrusting your progress to others makes you appreciate every little thing along the way. You find yourself in places you never would have thought to visit, meeting people so far outside your usual social circle you want to know every little detail about them, and with a new perspective on the little parts of life along the way. I love hitchhiking, I love meeting people I would never otherwise meet in my allotted piece of life, and I love the satisfaction that comes from a great challenge.
I am also extremely, undoubtedly, lucky. I was born healthy to a loving family, also healthy. I’ve been provided for and protected, educated and supported and I think it’s fair to say I don’t really have much of an idea of true hardship – I’m lucky to be able to say that is true for the vast majority of my friends and family too. I’m also lucky that my parents are great parents, who have always strived to ensure we are aware of our luck and grateful for all we have. No matter what though, there’s still a sense of personal naivity that comes from living in the luck bubble and I want to make sure I challenge that naivity as often as I can throughout my life. I am lucky that I haven’t experienced hardship, but that doesn’t mean I deserve to be blind to the hardships others face. Opening myself up to meeting others on the road will, just maybe, give me a glimpse into the different lives we all live.
“I shouldn’t be making choices based on the numbers on an ATM, when there are so many better reasons to make that same choice.”
I’m not as money averse as Lilly is – I feel it’s a way of creating some order out of chaos in a world too big to function in chaos – but I do believe our broken system puts money at the forefront of our lives, when it should be just part of the background. We rely so much on money that we assign a cost to every element of our existence. I appreciate business and success and being able to provide a relative reward for work done, but when I catch myself choosing to walk instead of taking the bus in London ‘because it will save me £1.50’ rather than because it’s healthier, kinder and brings me closer to the world around me then I feel like there’s a real problem. I shouldn’t be making choices based on the numbers on an ATM, when there are so many better reasons to make that same choice.
By removing money from the equation on this trip we’ll be forced to think outside of it, and hopefully able to share a little perspective on how easy, or downright difficult, it is along the way.
What do you think of our trip? Would you do it?