everything except for shoe polish

After I mere twelve days back in Florida, I set off to Washington state. State, not DC. An important clarification, I’ve found; because everyone assumes the latter. Why Washington? I am hoping that my days of residing in Florida are forever over. I’ve always thought I’d like the Pacific northwest (kinda like I always thought I’d like France and Ireland…and look how that turned out. True. So, so true.), so I jumped when the opportunity to go arose. A housesitting proposition on couchsurfing. So the deal, after much communication, is that I would help the couple organize their house, as well as take care of their house and animals while they go to South America for several months. In exchange I get several months of free accommodation, and a few months of cheap rent. My goal for the months of September through March are primarily to save money for The Road Trip. So I said ‘yes, please’.


*excluding Alaska and Hawaii.

At 2am on the 17th of September, Kristin drove me to Orlando International airport. I wondered, aloud, if it was even open. Nobody was in sight. But, I walked timidly in and took a seat. There was one other girl sitting there with her luggage. But mostly I just hung out with the janitors and cockroaches. Because yes, there are tons of cockroaches scampering around having a good old time there.

My flight to Washington turned out to be one of those unpleasant sort of deals. As in, my Houston/Seattle flight was fully loaded and ready to take off, when the pilot announced there was an issue with the fuel valve. Sure enough, the friendly guy to my left said to the not-so-outgoing guy on my right, ‘Dave, look!’ Dave and I both looked, to find fuel just gushing out of the plane. The pilot gave periodic updates, until finally, apologetically, he asked us to debark. We had to wait until United found us another plane. We finally took off over two hours after we were meant to. But, overall it wasn’t too miserable.

Seth and Leslie are a great older couple. Really cool and interesting, and the type of people I am proud to label as Americans. Leslie runs an Etsy shop of steampunk jewelry, Seth has a whole history of interesting occupations, and they both are very knowledgeable and cultured. Their house, aka the reason I’m here, resembles what I would imagine a magpie’s nest would look like. It is filled with stuff. I’ve never seen the show Hoarders, but I suspect Leslie and Seth’s place is a prime candidate. They have things from their world travels, things from Leslie’s life as a crafter, things from Seth’s life as a music connoisseur, and a lot of other odds and ends. It just amounts to a lot. It’s a bit much for my minimalist-inclined self to comprehend, but most things have a story from China, or a decade ago, or whatever. A story from their life. What doesn’t have a story has a use, and what has neither a story nor a use is what goes to freecycle. Slowly but surely, we’ll work through it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve moved into the library. It was an instant decision. I’ve lived in a dining room before, so living in a library seemed appropriate. It took two full days to dispense of all of the clutter and transform it into a clean, spacious, and livable room. But now I am proud of and happy with it. Now if only I could get a bed and a door…
I have hopes of the rest of the house being transformed as smoothly, but sadly I suspect that won’t be the case.

There is another woman living here, Thorn. I imagined a willowy hippie-ish girl, but not so much. She in fact calls herself the antithesis of a hippie. With purple, pink, and platinum hair, tattoos, and a black saturated wardrobe, you’d be more prone to call her goth. My friend Olivia, whom I met Wwoofing in Ireland this Spring, joined the ranks a few days after I did. Rounded off by Lexi the dog and Tigerlily the cat – it’s an interesting troop.

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birthright backpacking breakdown

I find statistics fascinating. Therefore:

DISTANCE
17,490 kilometers
-or-
10,868 miles

DESTINATIONS

16 countries

Ireland
Northern Ireland
Scotland
England
The Netherlands
Belgium
Luxembourg
Germany
Poland
Czech Republic
Austria
Switzerland
France
Denmark
Sweden
Norway

32 cities
Clara, Ireland
Loughrea, Ireland
Dungloe, Ireland
Gortin, Northern Ireland
Glasgow, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Felixkirk, England
London, England
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Utrecht, Netherlands
Brussels, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Gent, Belgium
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Berlin, Germany
Warsaw, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Prague, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Salzburg, Austria
Überlingen, Germany
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Bern, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Paris, France
Hamburg, Germany
Copenhagen, Denmark
Charlottenberg, Sweden
Ås, Norway
Bergen, Norway
Dublin, Ireland

DURATION
May 16, 2012 – September 5, 2012
16 weeks -or- 112 days

EXPENSES
total: $1,650

TRANSPORTATION

hitchhiking lifts
125 total
91 men
23 women
5 couples
2 police (ha!)
2 forgotten

planes
Orlando – Dublin
Bergen – London
Dublin – Orlando

trains
Amsterdam – Utrecht
Brno – Prague
Arna – Bergen
London – Dublin

ferries
Northern Ireland – Scotland
Germany – Denmark
somewhere in Norway – somewhere else in Norway
England – Ireland

buses
London – Amsterdam
Gortin – Omagh

rideshare
Paris – Utrecht


ACCOMMODATION

couchsurfing hosts
23 total
18 male
4 female
1 couple

helpx host
Charlottenberg, Sweden

friends
Glasgow, Scotland
London, England
Utrecht, Netherlands
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Ås, Norway

hitchhiking lift
Felixkirk, England

ferry port
Larne, Northern Ireland

Burger King
Cologne, Germany

camping
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Bruges, Belgium
Udevalla(ish), Sweden

 

tusen takk

Here concludes three and a half months, sixteen weeks, or one hundred and twelve days of backpacking through sixteen countries, or thirty four cities in Europe. The birthrighters were driven across the continent by one hundred and twenty five wonderful lifts. We stayed with twenty three couchsurfing hosts, one HelpX host, eight friends, and one hitchhiking lift.

I am so grateful to all of the amazingly generous and phenomenal people who made our trip possible. To every person who stopped to offer us a ride, everyone who drove us any distance, even anyone who smiled or waved at us as they passed, and especially to the many who drove us out of their way. To all of the people who opened their doors to us and made us feel at home, those who fed us wonderful and nutritious (…or otherwise) food (and loads of tea!), and to everyone who filled their cities with life and spectacular experiences. I am so grateful for every thing that was shared with, given to, and taught to me by the extraordinary individuals populating this incredible planet.

Sadly I can never pay it back. But I am convinced my impression of the vast kindness of people will affect me for the rest of my life. I aspire to live as generously as I have been treated in these past months. I hope that my simple interactions, even with people I’ll never meet again, will be of a significance that inspires others to live with vivacity. I have been absolutely filled with wonder at this strange and beautiful life.

And to my amazing co-travelers – it’s been birthrighteous*. Our journey has been pretty damn epic. Crossing borders by foot; hitchhiking for months without being raped, killed, molested, or sex-trafficked (take that, Bembridge scholars!); dancing on Polish highways; climbing (every) mountain; stealth camping in Bruges; and loads of other legendary situations. Way to be awesome. Really. I cherish all of our adventures together, and I love you two immensely. Thanks for the memories.

I’d also like to thank the continent of Europe for providing our itinerary; the UK and Ireland for not being part of the Schengen agreement; the campers, taxi, coach, bus, 1930s-1950s cars, semi trucks, most-of-the-rainbow-excluding-purple cars, and Tim: provider of puppies, specifically, for giving us lifts; Ikea for providing cheap food, free wi-fi, and free bathrooms; Lidl for being our go-to grocery store; Vinze for being completely awesome, British Airways for being the best airline ever; God for creating a beautiful world and incredible people, Eddie Rabbitt for ‘I Love a Rainy Night’; Doc Martens for designing exceptional boots for all occasions; couchsurfing and hitchhiking for making this trip financially possible and experientially awesome; and Tidna for inspiring us. And finally to our ancestors, without whom we wouldn’t have had this adventure.

*’birthrighteous’ ™ JMK 2012

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”