A big part of our trip was originally dedicated to hitchhiking, but due to the tight schedule we were on, we decided to get on a train from Brussels to Paris. We had a long lay-over in Paris. Since I had just been to Paris a few weekends ago with my Impressionism class, S. and I decided to pass the time in a cafe, while the others explored the beautiful sights.
When I first went to Paris a couple of weekends ago, I was afraid that every person was going to be rude. I’ve heard from so many people that the French are rude, especially to Americans. And I didn’t think my three years of high school French would really help. But I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the Parisians were and fell into an even deeper infatuation with Paris. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. It was magical.
After hours of waiting, we finally made our way down to Toulouse, where I refused to get on another train. We agreed to split up, and S. and I were paired up. The general rule of thumb is to always hitchhike with a male just to be safe. It probably wasn’t the best idea (as the movie Taken clearly illustrates), but we felt confident enough to get out of it safely.
“I have an ice axe in my backpack,” I said to S. “It came with the backpack…I’m not sure why. But I can ice axe his head from the back seat if anything terrible happens.”
“Or you could…you know, just break a window so we could escape,” S said.
“Oh…yeah, that too.”
With our cardboard signs ready, we trekked to the edge of Toulouse and got on the highway that led to Barcelona (according to the articles we read on HitchWiki).
When we first put up our signs and thumbs, we were really nervous, especially with all the disapproving glances and shaking heads. But after a couple of minutes, people started honking and some truckers motioned us to walk closer to the toll road, where they could pick us up. So S. and I picked up our bags and walked toward the toll booths, where one trucker heading toward the border of Spain picked us up.
He put our bags in the back of the cargo and motioned us to get in. We were both really excited that hitchhiking was actually working, until we opened the door to find his dashboard covered in pornographic pictures.
“Well,” I said. “That’s…something.”
“Wait, do you think this is a good idea?” S asked me quietly.
Hitchhiking articles always tell you to go with your gut instincts. And at that moment, my gut was telling me he was a genuine person who just really liked looking at naked women as he drove. Plus, he had some pictures of his family, so he couldn’t have been that bad. We decided he was trustworthy, so we got in. Another good thing to note about hitchhiking is that it’s better to go with truckers since they have trackers on their cars.
For the most part, we sat in silence, but he let us pick CDs to listen to. And along the way, he would tell us to take pictures of the beautiful scenery of southern France. When we reached the border of Spain, he began explaining to S., who spoke some Spanish, about the town we were passing by — he described it as the Spanish frontier, filled with great parties. I looked out the window, when S explained this to me. The town looked dead, and I half-expected a tumble weed to roll by for dramatic effect. I gave S. an inquisitive look, and she shrugged.
I looked back at our driver, who had began staring at a group of women outside. Then I realized there were more scantily clad women on the corners of the streets. It started to become clear why he thought this was the Spanish frontier. But despite his questionable morals, he did drive us four hours from France to Spain. By the time he dropped us off, we were only 50 kilometers away from Barcelona.
We got our second ride within two minutes of putting up a sign. This time, it was a nice couple from Barcelona, who drove us right to our hostel. The others in our group had just arrived 15 minutes before us — their ride drove them the entire way from Toulouse to Barcelona.
Our first time hitchhiking was an amazing success. It was actually one of the best experiences of my life!