TR-advent calendar #23


#23: Stefan

Shit. The sun is already setting. And nobody is stopping. Really nobody stops at this damn spot. Motorway-ramp Leipzig Nord-Ost towards Dresden. I am standing here for several hours. It is cold. Smelly fumes fill the air. Loud and annoying cars drive past me. I am frustrated. No love for me. What is this hitchhiking supposed to be?

I decide to go back home. This shit makes no sense. Hitchhiking doesn’t work! I have to go all the way back to the city center. How embarrassing. I stay a little while just to be annoyed. Losing all my motivation to do anything. Why am I doing this again? I should have taken… zzzzzziiiippp. Did the car really just stop? Yes it did. Run you fool! It really stopped for me. Incredible….

A fellow student motivated me two weeks before to jump into this adventure. “Hitchhiking is so cool, you should do it!” Made sense for me. He just told me, how he hitchhiked from Hamburg to Leipzig in a suit and how well it worked. Appearance matters. Especially when hitchhiking, I should internalize that pretty soon. This was ten years ago. Ten years ago, when I almost turned around and went home. Ten years ago something happened, that changed my life completely. This woman stopped on the roadside and took me.

I can’t remember her name. It was a small, old car. Maybe a Renault in red. The woman had family roots in Angola, worked as a hairstylist and was on her way to Pirna. Passing Dresden. Exactly where I wanted to go. Directlift in the dusk. How lucky. If you, my dear driver, may read this, I want to say ‚Thank you‘ again! I am so glad you took me and gave me the opportunity to make hitchhiking become an important part of my life.

The journey was pretty nice, we talked about this and that. I really can’t remember the details but the feeling. And this feeling was good. I probably was just happy that it really worked. This hitchhiking-thing really worked. Who would have thought that. I had to enter the city center of Dresden. The highway is not close to the city. Of course I didn’t care about such an unimportance at that time. I was a greenhorn. And there was no need to do that as well.

The driver did an extra detour just for me and drove all the way to the main-station. She was so nice! And on top of that something happened that I would experience more often in my life and recall it as an act of pure kindness. The woman asked me if I had some money for the tram. I said without thinking about it, that I had no cash, but that wouldn’t be a problem since I could withdraw some at an ATM. We arrived at the main station. I thanked the driver and was almost out of the car when she pulled a 10 euro bill out of her pocket. “Here!” I was seriously surprised and denied instantly: “Oh, no thank you, that’s not necessary, I can get some money at the ATM” “Come on, I would have given it to my son as well.” What a lovely response. No way to keep up resistance. So I took the 10 euros and left the car.

The ten Euros were not really important. Just a symbol. It does not matter if people give me money, food, a ticket for the bus, selfie-sticks or a hug. It’s about something different: It makes people happy to help. And I want to enable them this pleasure. This relationship between two strangers evolved in a short time. And she treated me like her son already. This was very touching. And, for me, that is the beauty of hitchhiking. The random encounter with strangers, that leads to this wonderful connections.

I hitchhiked with a lot of people in the last ten years, who came out of different backgrounds and with whom I probably would have never gotten the chance to talk in normal life. And I love it. I am curious about all those strange minds that I get in touch with. I want them to surprise me. Because everybody is interesting and everybody has something to be loved for. My first time hitchhiking definitely formed this attitude. And because my first driver showed this unconditional love to me, I am always grateful when someone picks me up and feel deepest respect for their help.

I am not just hitchhiking out of joy. Or to have those lovely experiences. Hitchhiking was a lifestyle for me. My basic principle of moving is hitchhiking. I even owned a car for a while and still I had to hitchhike. Every time and everywhere. I never thought about becoming a hitchhiker, I just did it. And it deeply changed the way I look on people and the world. It made so much happening for me. We founded the competetive-autostop-club in Western Europe and racing around for 5 years now. In Oktober 2014 I went out to circumnavigate the world with hitchhiking. After 22 months, 58 countries and 109.000 km I just got back home. And now writing about my first ride. I have no idea how this escalated. But I know why that started: Because this wonderful, kind person stopped on a summerday in 2006 at the on-ramp Leipzig Nord-Ost and to pick up this stranger. Sharing is caring. And small gestures may have a big effect in the lives of others!

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