In July of 2011, I decided to join my future brother-in-law Gary for his ‘stag do’/’bachelor party’ in Tallinn, Estonia.
I was a little short on money at that time – being in the midst of my recording career as Deep Impakt Recordings (I’ll go on to talk about my business adventures in my 20s soon).
So in the spirit of adventure, I decided….
I would hitchhike there.
And in case you don’t know – it’s a pretty long way:
It was only after I told everyone I’d do this that I Googled it.
And then great nervousness struck when I realised how bloody far away it was.
(I have a habit of saying yes to almost anything and then figuring things out as I go along – this is a perfect example of that)
Hitchhiking (for the uninformed) means travelling without paying and doing so by any means necessary to get from point A (West Drayton) to point B (Tallinn).
The other 16 troops would be flying there and flying back
This email then represents a brief story of my journey of hitchhiking – why I did it, how it was and what I learned.
(I’ve actually got a whole blog dedicated to this you can read more about here)
The biggest reason for this trip was to do something I’d never done before.
And hitchhiking of any kind certainly qualified.
And having a set target – as well as a timeline (I needed to be there within 3 nights) made it all the more challenging.
So then came the question of – ‘how the frick am I going to actually get there over land?’.
Let some rampant Googling commence!
I don’t recall the site now (but as with anything pretty much) – you’ll be impressed by what you can discover just via that phrase ‘rampant Googling’
And so I soon discovered there are sites where you can hitch a ride by putting in your pick up and drop off destination.
And so this is how my journey from London-Cologne (or so it was meant to be) – began.
The adventure itself once I got on the road – started from my mum’s place with a German surfer chap called Paul who lived in Wales – who was driving with a surfboard in tow to Mill Hill to go and pick up a stud rabbit.
What I’ve written is exactly how it sounds – I met a chap living in Aberystwyth, Wales – where he gave surfing lessons, built surfing boards (he was a carpenter by training) and lived out happily near the sea so he could surf.
In a place that apparently wasn’t as cold as you think it is.
(I think it’s colder)
Crazy to think that this had all happened in the space of just a couple of days.
The lesson here is that – even the act of making quick decisions (I’d decided I’d make this trip maybe a couple of days before I left) will usually serve you well.
Success loves speed
Not necessarily because the decisions are smart ones – but it does lead to quick-fire actions.
And it’s the hundreds of different actions that compound over time that allow you to execute things that much more competently.
In this instance – I was with Paul and we journeyed to pick up the stud rabbit and then onto Dover.
Getting picked up by him outside of my parent’s place was both nervewracking and a relief. To be honest I don’t really know if this even counts as true hitchhiking as it was an organised trip I put together online.
It wasn’t “Deepak sticking his thumb out and trying to hitch a ride”
This was definitely a halfway house.
But nonetheless, I was worried that Paul would not turn up (then what would I do?) and then immediately relieved because I didn’t need to worry until I at least got to the border; Dover.
So the journey, and getting to hear more about Paul and his trip home (he was from Cologne) as compared to his life in Wales was pretty good.
Picking up the stud rabbit was definitely something both of us were amused by.
As we pulled up to Dover – it made sense perhaps to find a different ride to get me to Tallinn.
Paul was heading to Berlin – and that was a direction that would take me away from my ultimate end destination.
And so my worries began again. We even sat and went through the same hitch-a-ride site but found no such luck in Dover.
It was better to simply wander around asking the big truckers – as well as family cars all queued up waiting to board a ship as they looked onward from inside their vehicles..
What I’d have given to have been blonde hair and blue-eyed just in that moment – because wow would it have helped me (I’ll at some point talk about the positives of racism in my life).
But I wasn’t.
And no one was interested in taking me in their car.
So we decided to journey onwards to Cologne bus station. This is where the ship docked so it made sense that Paul could just drop me off at the station.
As we said our goodbyes at the central train station – it was there I had to figure out how I was going to get to Tallinn.
As I jumped back onto the hitchhiking site it turned out there WAS someone who was going all the way to Tallinn. But from Berlin.
I slapped my head as I realised I’d missed an opportunity here. Had I checked this before we got to Cologne and Paul had left – I could have still been in the car with him.
But 30/45 minutes had passed and Paul was now long gone – and I believed he had some things to do in Cologne anyway.
But that had now happened and I needed to scramble to make sure that I could get to Berlin to continue my journey.
So after asking around at the station – trying to ‘sleep’ whilst I lay in on a cold bench in a semi-exposed part of the railway station; I half wondered how I’d make this happen.
This isn’t withstanding all the weirdos that come out to play overnight in a central railway station – Paul had dropped me off around 1130pm.
Ultimately – I had to buy a bus ticket to make sure that I got to Berlin in time (i.e within my timeline – if time wasn’t of the issue then it’d be very different).
So for that portion of the trip, I definitely didn’t hitchhike – I got on a paid-for bus ride.
The bus was a regional one that was complicated for me to buy – it involved asking around, calling a number – asking if there was space on the bus (whilst the lady responded totally in German) – and crossing my fingers and waiting.
There didn’t really appear to be a bus stand anywhere and the bus that was coming to pick me up was a small one with less than 20 people on it.
To ensure it didn’t miss me – I scrawled out a sign handwritten with the words ‘BERLIN’. It probably looked ridiculous given it was a very common destination from Cologne.
But my plan worked!
I was seen, picked up and ultimately set off on my journey towards Berlin whilst I watched a movie on the iPhone of the German girl sitting next to me on the bus – who DID speak English.
And so I was to successfully meet Pavel once I got to Berlin – and then started another equally strange segment of my journey.
First of all, there is Pavel himself with his background in classical music, his belief that aliens put humans on planet Earth, and his own homemade bio-oil that could take a car hundreds of miles further than regular oil could….
Alongside many other conspiracy theories as well as other interesting beliefs that became my commentary for the trip.
This is the main man himself (not my photo) – it’s the only one I could find online. But it definitely epitomises his enigmatic way of looking at life.
And this is to not even mention the array of characters that became our company for the trip.
This picture probably sums it up best:
Between us, we have a British Indian, a German, a Turk, a Russian and a Latvian. All headed our respective ways across Eastern Europe.
I’ve still never really had an experience like this.
From the all-night long conversations (mostly me listening) to Pavel’s tales of the world to having a 6ft 9-inch former Turkish pro basketball player in the back, to us strolling into a Mcdonalds into a German border town looking like the most eclectic band of campers ever.
It definitely was an absolute adventure, and correspondingly as I found bedrest upon a mattress in one of the stag rooms in Tallinn.
The stage itself was as stags are lol:
One of the colourfully named places we walked past in Tallinn.
But all in all, hitchhiking is and was an adventure of resourcefulness, decisiveness, and self-confidence.
I.e if you don’t start with those qualities – I’m almost confident you’ll end with those qualities.
I hope you enjoyed this little adventure – catch you on the next one, where I’ll be diving back into the world of business!