That was it.
I had finished my year of volunteering in Het Voedselbos, the permaculture farm in Belgium. During that year I met my boyfriend and when he told me he would be free after my program to come for a couple of months to Portugal and that he planned to go hitch hiking, even if he was going alone, I thought "Uau, so nice for him, he's going to have a great adventure!". And then I started getting very jealous of that adventure but...I had to take back all my luggage...and my laptop. My dearest-I-totally-depend-on-it-for-my-freelance-work-laptop. I had hitch hiked before and I was sure a computer wasn't going to be a part of any of it - the long hours in the sun, packing and unpacking the backpack everyday, camping, bumping, etc. But but but....couldn't there be another way? How could I miss this?
Of course there's always another way and the day after I finished my program we were setting off on our biggest hitch hiking adventure so far. His parents were our first hitch and, after 45 other cars and around 3000km, my parents were the number 47 and the last.
To answer the question we get all the time when we tell this story: it took us 11 days, but we didn't take the shortest route. We first aimed to Gorges du Verdon, a river canyon in southeastern France for some much needed Sun and where we stayed for 3 nights. Then we made the whole French south border and we stayed for 2 other nights at Mel and Luis' home in Burgos before we set off to Portugal through Badajoz, very close to Évora - my hometown and final destination.
Nothing bad happened. Nothing bad at all. Every day we were overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity we found in everyone we met. We even had two guys that felt bad they couldn't take us and so offered us 2 bags of food to make it up. Or the one that took us and in the end also gifted us with a meal coupon. Most of the people who took us had hitch hiked before but we also had people who had never done it or who had never picked someone before, which made us feel a bit like ambassadors of a (very old) movement and even idealize that we made a very small but powerful change in the World close to us.
So many people are travelling or commuting every day, so why not take advantage of it and take our time (since we had it) to reach our destination? The journey is so worth it and it really restores the feeling that we are all the same under this skin. So many people went out of their way just to leave us in a good spot, and that was not the exception, it was what happened most of the times. We had a couple drive around an extra hour with us in Bilbao just so we wouldn't be in a completely wrong direction for the rest of the day.
We met a chef, a movie director, an acrobat, team building instructors, a couple who had just started, people with live fishes in the trunk and we saw a guy driving like a maniac that had a parrot in his passenger seat (free, not in a cage). But we were relieved he was going in another direction and we didn't take that ride. We were escorted by the French police to get out of some toll booths, the squatter friends of one of our drivers let us camp in their garden for one night and Folke even had the chance to drive the car of another driver!
We travelled by car, auto caravan and, for the first time, we managed to hop on a truck! The experience that I will most likely never forget was the one of the car that took us to Burgos after that truck driver had to drop us off. It was extremely hot even though we were already in October and we were in the middle of a very empty road about 10 km from Burgos. A small car stopped and a Moroccan guy immediately came out and started rearranging the whole car. His wife was on the back seat with a baby but that didn't stop him from taking the security shade out of the trunk so that I could sit there with both our backpacks, their luggage was moved to I don't even know where and Folke sat in the front with him. He didn't rest while he didn't leave us right in the center of Burgos, at least the one marked as center on his GPS and only during the course of the short trip I learned that the baby was merely 10 days old! He changed EVERYTHING in his car for us, complete strangers, while his newborn was there sleeping quietly and I realised that even me, as a hitch hiker, would probably not go through all that trouble in such a situation. What a lesson in altruism, true kindness and respect for fellow human beings.
Feeling so free every day, waking up in a place with zero clue of where you will sleep that night is so thrilling and so addictive. Especially if you find a nice camping in a good location, if you're lucky enough to check the local market in the morning for some tasty supplies for the day ahead and if you can treat yourself to a local beer by the end of the day to celebrate another GREAT day.
Because that's how it felt every day. A GREAT day, in the best company I could ever hope for.