Hitchhiking to the start of our Camino de Santiago – St Jean Pied de Port

I just found this unpublished post on my draft folder… Will write a new post soon. Also, below my post is my traveling partner Giraud’s post in French. We are now doing the Camino de Santiago and he will be regularly writing with me in French. We are writing from a small smartphone using the WordPress app so there might be some spelling mistakes. 🙂

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I have met some people who have hitchhiked from Toronto/Montreal in 1 week. That’s over 4, 000 kms in about 7 days! It took us 2 nights in a tent, 1 night couch surfing and another night in a hostel with just a little over 1, 000 kms to hitchhike from Belgium to France. That is 5 days of hitch hiking!
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While there were a lot of times that were disappointing and frustrating, we were still so lucky and grateful to the people who gave us a lift – even how short the ride, they helped us advanced to or destination: St Jean Pied de Port – the city where we start walking for over a month for the Camino Del Santiago.

Yes, hitchhiking is not as common anymore. Many people these days are afraid and distrustful of other people. I guess there is a reason for that. Violence is everywhere, says the media, our families and friends… our society.

Never talk to strangers. Never give a lift to hitchhikers. They will rob you, hurt you. Or kill you.
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I often wonder how much of this fear and distrust of each other is really making us loose the essence of our humanity. To me, being human means to be kind, to feel, to share and to be nice to each other. But these days, we are such disconnected from each other. We dehumanize each other by ignoring each other’s presence, by not feeling empathy, not sharing.

In Paris, I have experienced being ignored while I try to ask for directions. I know people heard me asking for help but they refused to acknowledge my presence – perhaps for fear or perhaps they didn’t have time. But anyway, they chose to ignore and not to talk. Even when you say a friendly “Bonjour.” Many times I don’t get a response. Not even a nod or a smile.

On our first day of hitchhiking, we got stuck in a small village somewhere in France, some few kilometers away from Belgium. My traveling partner, Giraud and I started to knock on people’s houses to kindly and politely explain our situation and ask if we could put our tents in their backyards. We even offered our passports for security.

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The first house had a big empty backyard. The guy inside said that it was the house of their friend and that they can’t let us in. 🙂 Perhaps that was true. Who knows.

But we spent 2 hours trying to look for a place, asking people and in the end, we stayed at an empty lot somewhere. The next morning, a couple of big dogs came barking loudly outside our tent to wake us up.

We saw the owner of the land a few minutes later after we packed and she apologized (half-heartedly it seems) and said she didn’t know that we were there in our tent.

To be fair, hitchhiking in France wasn’t the worst experience. I have hitchhiked in Canada as well and talked about the many experiences that were not so pleasant and easy.
Nevertheless, I am here. In St. Jean Pied de Port. Thanks to the people whos kindness and generosity brought me and Giraud here.

We are on our way to walk our first kilometers tomorrow. We are relieved and excited. The past 5 days have been tough on our confidence but very enriching to our experience.

At least we have more stories to tell to our family and friends.
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Bonjour tout le monde,

Je me présente, je m’appelle Giraud, j’ai 25 ans et je viens de finir mes études. J’ai été diplômé infirmier en 2013 et  j’ai continué avec une spécialisation d’un an pour les urgences et les soins intensifs (réanimation) que j’ai fini en juin. Peu après, j’ai rencontré Hurly à Paris chez des amis. Malgré la barrière de la langue (mon anglais était très mauvais et Hurly parle peu français), on a beaucoup discuté de voyages et des chemins de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle qu’on a tout les deux déjà fait. On a ensuite décidé de partir ensemble jusqu’à Compostelle.

Le mercredi 10 septembre, nous sommes partit en auto-stop de Bruxelles en direction de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port dans les Pyrénées, proche de la frontière franco-espagnole. Après deux nuits sous tente dans le nord de la France, une nuit en CouchSurfing à Poitiers et une nuit à Bordeaux, nous sommes enfin arrivés le dimanche 14 pour commencer à marcher le lendemain. Le voyage à été long et parfois décourageant, mais nous avons rencontrés des gens formidables et nous les remercions milles fois pour leur aide et leur sympathie.

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