Travelling is expensive. It’s supposed to take the least amount of time as possible, to be quicker and comfortable. Most of the people think they can’t travel because they don’t have any money. Romain Niceron, a French painter that has been on the road for seven years shares his experiences and how travel hitchhiking has made him a better man by enriching his knowledge of society. Because of this, he’s much more able to understand what the world is about.
I am the guy on the road with his thumb in the air. It has been my main way of travelling for seven years now. I’ve done thousands of kilometers for free, meeting great people, enjoying amazing experiences. I grew up hitchhiking, and through this l learned about geography, history and most importantly about the people, their lives, their work, passion and beliefs.
When you hitchhike, the trip is in itself an adventure. You must be active, you don’t let yourself ride, you’re the own master of it and It can go in many different ways. I am not on holidays, I am travelling. The goal of your trip can be really minor, just enough to be able to have a good trip. Thoughts such as ‘I am going to eat mussels on the coast’ or ‘I’ll go enjoy the snow for one day’ suddenly become possible every day. Moreover, you know that you are going to have fun and enjoy the ride; perfect way of travelling.
You don’t have any boundaries. You meet people that are natives of the region most of the time and here you go, you have a private tourist guide. It’s important to learn everything about the numerous shitty little villages in the countryside that you go through. It makes you realise how people live and think. It’s having a friend for the time spent together on the road. Most of the time, you don’t know how you are going to sleep and eat but at least you’ve got a friend, and if it clicks, he or she will probably invite you for dinner, to spend the night on the coach or let you put your tent in their garden.
The first time I hitchhiked was a long time ago, it was for more than 500 kilometers, involving highways, national road and dirty little paths going through the country side, it was an amazing experience. I was with a friend at that time. Normally, the best is to be alone, it does not necessarily work better but that‘s the way to truly bond with people. My aim is always to trigger some new experience or thought in them, make them think for themselves. Show them how easy it can be to have a free life and make road your own. Make them wonder about difference and makes them accept it. Make them reflect on you, on themselves.
I love to learn from the stories of those factory workers, salesmen, fancy doctors and lawyers – you name it. Anyone can stop and everyone has stories. It’s the poetry of everybody. I am French and most of my time, I did it my country, having the language makes it easier to interact and correctly understand someone.
There are so many cities in which I could go and actually meet someone that took me on the road. One time I ended up drinking white wine at the birthday party of the guy that took me for a few kilometers. When you have time, like I do, you can take care of the people, I am one of too few that has time for others, to understand them, and how they think. That’s really important. It’s an exchange, a logical one, instead of spending your time alone you are getting smarter by accepting and talking to someone that is completely different from you.
The best thing is not having a goal and to be really free. One time with a friend, we hitchhiked with a sign “we go where you’re going”, lots of people laughed but no one picked us up. It made them afraid that we weren’t anything like them. You are supposed to have goals in life, otherwise you are perceived on the edge of society, as a marginal. I hitchhiked in Germany a little bit, and there it’s more normal, it’s not necessarily former or current hitchhikers that will take you, it’s much more like that in France, less normal, more like a band helping out each other when one of them happens to have a car. The most difficult place is Italy, a friend of mine, a girl kept on getting honked and insulted and no-body took her. Getting picked up depends on cultures but the interaction stays the same wherever you are.
But take this advice, I spent three days in this country, I waited four hours watching thousands of cars passing in front of me. From my experience, I guess it’s less in the culture in northern countries.
I used to go in France from north to south of the country on a monthly basis, always in one day and I only had to sleep in the streets once, next to the highway shop – shit happens. Hitchhiking can create the most wonderful experiences as well as deep snags. Of course you have to be careful but it’s worth it. Every time. I am so happy that I broke my car two years ago, I did not really need it. In France, most people that have a car are really young; they don’t realise how they don’t need it. When I tell my stories to people, they usually need persuading, saying it’s not possible or that I had lots of luck. It’s not true, there are just a good ways of doing it and the only way to make it is by trying. So be free and try. It’s a win-win all the time.