Monday, October 24, 2016

Will Hitchhike for Yoga

 A yoga teacher (Yoga with Adriene) I have been following online for almost 2 years was teaching a class in Amsterdam. Having thoroughly enjoyed her online classes for so long, I was very excited about participating in one of her live classes. A friend of mine, N, came along for the journey. She had the idea that we should hitch hike there and back, as a means of cutting costs, along with the current plan of couchsurfing the night. For both of us it was our first proper hitch hiking adventure – I had done it once with T to get to the top of the ski slopes in New Zealand, but that was it. This is the story of our adventure.

The evening before I lay awake, conjuring up images of everything terrible that could happen to us. I awoke, after 3 hours of sleep, with large knots in my stomach. I was terrified. I lay in bed breathing deeply, trying to work my way through the fear. I took the bus into Aachen to meet up with N, unlike me she was happy and excited, looking forward to the adventure. 
Amsterdam was beautiful
in Autumn colours.  

After some debate about where to find our first ride, we decided to follow the advice of the local Hitchwiki page and took the bus out to the ‘Aachener Land’ shell station in Eschweiler, it was in the opposite direction to where we were going, but right on the Autobahn. Our first challenge was to walk 1.1km each way through the grass on the side of the road, to make a safe bridge crossing over the autobahn, to the shell on the other side – so that we were facing in the right direction.

With wet feet, but finally at a good starting spot we tried to get started. My stomach pains had upgraded to feeling like I was being punched with every bad thought. N, was feeling bubbly and enthusiastic. Neither of us knew where to start. Finally we puckered up some courage and asked a girl travelling alone, filling up her car. She couldn’t help us but the friendly encounter filled us with hope. One couple we asked soon after felt bad that they couldn’t offer us a lift, so they invited us to drink a coffee with them. The kindness of them washed away my fears and I was ready to hitch our first lift. Soon after the coffee break we found a lift to the next petrol station over the border into the Netherlands, with a friendly young couple, having their first holiday without their kids in 3 years.

This petrol station, Essolangveld, was quiet. Very quiet. We found some shop rebate vouchers from the toilets (50 cents each) and used them to buy snack foods for 20cents. While hanging out at the station we met fellow Australians from the band Dub FX, who are currently touring around Europe, really nice guys. At this station we were also joined by 2 experienced hitch hikers who were on the way to Utrecht. We were happy to meet other hitch hikers and ask about their experiences. With time and the kindness (and finding many people on the way to Belgium) of a retired Belgian man, the 4 of us found a lift to the Esso ‘De Groote Bleek’, he had gone out of his way to take us there and we were very thankful to him.

Our next lift came almost instantly with a young Dutch man, driving an Audi, who works in football player management. He was funny and introduced us to a great Dutch band. He dropped us in the Total Tankstation just under Utrecht. Here a lady who couldn’t give us a lift, flagged down a leaving customer to see if he could help, which he did! Our last ride was with a lovely old Dutch man, who told us he used to hitch hike with his wife when they were younger. He took us to his hometown in Amstelveen, where we took a local tram into Amsterdam centre.

Time taken: 5hrs
Money spent: 8,05 euros (buses around Aachen, tram into Amsterdam) 

We spent the evening at the home of a kind couchsurfing host. We cooked dinner for him and ate together, talking like old friends. He offered us a comfortable bed in a private room and we slept well, excited and exhausted from the days adventures.

My sign.
The next morning we breakfasted together and bid farewell to our kind host. We set off in the direction of the Sporthalle Zuid, so I could participate in the Yoga with Adriene masterclass. The room was filled, mat to mat, with 500 people, all eager to do yoga with Adriene in person. Everyone was friendly and chatty, a nervous excitement fluttered in the room. When she appeared everyone clapped and cheered, this woman has touched so many lives without even knowing the people. The yoga class was moving, honest and sometimes very funny. Trying to secure a lift home, I tied a note to my bag saying “Driving to Aachen/Maastricht/Heerlen area with 2 spare seats? We have cookies!” I saw many people looking, but no one had so far said anything. After the class and Q & A, I asked permission to ask the class. I stood with the microphone, hands shaking, asking if anyone was driving in our direction. Before I’d even finished, and without hesitation, a wonderful Belgian woman offered us a lift to Maastricht. We gathered our belongings, glowing from the class and shared a wonderful, heartfelt conversation.

At Maastricht we hugged our new friend goodbye, and set out to take the bus the last leg home. The bus, naturally, burst a tire 5 minutes into the journey, however this was soon sorted and we made our way home.

This weekend was a welcome reminder for me about the goodness of people. Thank you to each of the drivers for giving us a lift, sharing your conversation on the journey. Thank you to N for helping me challenge myself. Thank you to each kind person we spoke to. Thank you to P, our couch surfing host. And thank you to Adriene, for bringing such a wonderful group of people together - you touch so many peoples lives and I was amazed by how much energy and enthusiasm you brought to your last class. Also thank you for allowing me to make an announcement to find a lift home.

I am so very happy to have faced this fear, and come out on the other side feeling richer and happier for the experience.

For pictures taken at the event see here. See if you can spot a fairy looking for a lift!

A banner created by one of the attendants =)