“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”- Charles Swindoll
The rule of thumb
I recently set myself a huge challenge.
A challenge that would become the biggest test of character I’ve experienced, and one that would change my whole perspective on humanity.
Days of Firsts
A day with a first is always a big day, and today was a big day for me.
A day that will stick in my mind forever.
I’ve found myself walking in the rain down an alarmingly quiet Greek road with a 15 kg backpack strapped to my back.
Sticking out my thumb to traffic that was few and far between, while fiercely lacking conviction and asking myself if I’ve turned insane.
Who the hell picks up hitchhikers in this modern world?
Surely hitchhiking is only used in times of desperation or by serial killers, right?
My first hitchhiking experience didn’t go smoothly.
So at this point my concerns seemed fully justified.
Delphi to Galaxidi was the mission, starting in a heavy downpour in typical British style.
A 25 km walk or a 30-minute drive. Even though the views down the valley to Galaxidi were stunning, I know which one I was hoping for.
With the ever-positive Dan strolling next to me it seemed inevitable we would be picked up in minutes by a kind hearted Greek who would be more than happy to drive 2 complete strangers down the mountain.
Fast forward 3 hours, and yes you guessed it, we were still walking towards Galaxidi.
Alarm bells are ringing loudly in my ears.
How on earth are we going to hitchhike all the way to Berlin 6,000 km away if we can’t even get a hitch 25 km down a mountain?
So 15 km down the mountain, with growing blisters making every step excruciatingly painful, I really started to struggle. Another 10 km walk seemed near impossible.
Was it too late to turn around, head back to Athens and fly home to London?
But in an unexpected turn of events we finally got a ride, my very first hitchhike…
A car stopped to rescue us!
Ask any hitchhiker, and they will tell you that there’s nothing better than the glowing red brake light’s of a stopping car. For me, it’s kind of like a symbol for human kindness now.
Marianna was my new favourite person in my world. She was a half Greek, half English tour operator, who had her lovely young daughter, Nelly, in the car.
Marianna told us she was only heading a few kilometers down the road but at this point any kind of ride felt euphoric and was gladly accepted by 2 tired backpackers.
Marianna lived just 2km down the road in the town of Itea. We were heading quite a bit further. This is when I got to experience my first true act of kindness from a complete stranger.
Not only did Marianna pick up two strangers, but she also went out of her way to take us 15km out of her way to get us to our final destination of Galaxidi.
Marianna you are amazing! Thank you for helping me gain more confidence in humanity
Since my first hitchhike in Greece, I have covered over 1,200 km via 49 hitchhikes and now find myself in the beautiful Albanian capital, Tirana.
And guess what… it wasn’t actually that hard.
I now can see that through human kindness that I can hitchhike all the way to Berlin, while eliminating one of the biggest costs for travellers. You also get to meet really interesting people who will, inevitably, shift your reality.
As crazy as it sounds you get a real buzz from hitchhiking. I wouldn’t choose another type of transport and I now understand why people do it.
To add to this, don’t they say that all the best things in life are free J
And the biggest lesson learned…
Not only have these open-minded people driven us to our destinations asking for nothing in return but they’ve also kept us rehydrated and well nourished by buying us coffee, fruit and chocolate along the way.
This experience has made me reflect on my own behaviour towards strangers.
You never know whom you could meet and where it could lead.
Where I’ve instinctively avoided strangers, I’m now learning that being open-minded and making the effort to interact with new people creates exciting new opportunities for becoming a better person.
So here’s my advice… Go with the flow, embrace new opportunities and never close the door on anybody. There’s something to learn from every single person in this world but only if you’re willing to look J
It’s over to you.
Jason Pocock on behalf of Team Podstel, 3rd March 2015.