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A charity hitchhike through Europe is the best thing I’ve ever done. Here’s why…

I’d always wanted one extraordinary travel story to come out of my adventure abroad, and while I was on exchange in Birmingham, the perfect opportunity arose. The event was Escape and Evade, a charity competition where teams attempted to get as far away from Birmingham as they could in sixty hours.

The catch? You couldn’t use any of your own money to travel....

So, despite my Mum’s best efforts to stop me, my partner and I embarked from Birmingham with no cash, and a game plan to ‘just wing it.’ Here’s why it was one of my best things I’ve ever done. 

I GOT TO EXPLORE PLACES I’D NEVER HEARD OF

Sure, everyone wants to travel to Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt – but have you ever been to Bad Honnef? It’s a tiny spa town that my teammate and I detoured through in our bid to get as far away from Birmingham as we could.

Our time in Bad Honnef was short but sweet, and we left with a great experience of an interesting town that not many people will ever get to visit. When people travel, they often carefully plan and organise which cities and towns they’re going to. The best part of doing Escape and Evade was the freedom to travel anywhere a free ride would take us; no itineraries, no commitments, and no worries.

PSSTLIKE NOT HAVING AN ITINERARY WHEN YOU TRAVEL? THEN YOU’LL LOVE INDEPENDENT INSIDER

Hitchhiking map

I LEARNED TO APPRECIATE THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The people that we met along our hitchhiking adventure were the highlight of the entire experience. They were all colourful characters, ranging from two German grandmothers, a father and a daughter who could only say the word ‘Brussels’ in English, and a honeymooning couple who drove us all the way into Cologne, despite the fact they were changing their own plans to get us there. Escape and Evade relies on generous and helpful strangers for the event to work. However, what my partner and I weren’t expecting to learn was just how easily kindness transcends language barriers.

RELATED: 7 LESSONS YOU’LL LEARN WHEN YOU TRAVEL WITH PEOPLE FROM OTHER CULTURES

I GAINED THE CONFIDENCE TO BE MYSELF

One of the incredible things about travelling abroad is that nobody knows who you are which often gives you the freedom to be yourself. Participating in Escape and Evade exemplified that feeling. At one point in our adventure, I was dressed in a tiger onesie to try and attract a ride out of the middle of Birmingham. However, knowing that I was doing all of this for charity freed me of caring what strangers thought.

Being in a new city and participating in an event I knew would do a lot of good for other people gave me the confidence to be myself in any circumstance; a skill which is better than any souvenir I’ve brought home with me.

I WORKED ON MY STREET SMARTS

There’s something extremely satisfying about having to rely on only yourself to get things done. While my partner and I were trying to hitch rides, we relied on our knowledge and street smarts to avoid hitching with dodgy rides, navigate new cities and get donations for charity. I mean sure, Google Maps may have helped a little – but ultimately, we relied on ourselves for motivation, good decisions and to have fun. Learning that you can do anything you put your mind to is a lesson I’ll always cherish.

girl waiting to be picked up

I BECAME GRATEFUL FOR EVERY OPPORTUNITY

The whole point of doing Escape and Evade was to raise money for charity, but while my teammate and I were out there having an adventure of a lifetime, we had to sit back and appreciate that not everybody is given the chance to experience something so unique. Whether it be due to health or circumstance, those we were raising money for could not be given the same opportunity that we had. This reflection really put the whole experience into perspective and taught me to grab every opportunity I was offered, while I was fortunate enough to be offered them. That is something I aim to carry with me for the rest of my life.

The final stop of our exciting journey was Cologne, Germany, which we got to from Birmingham, England, in sixty hours with no money, and with countless rides from strangers. And our next stop? New adventures.

Have you recently done something for charity whilst abroad? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and done something you never thought you could do? Share you stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…