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Published on May 1st, 2014

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A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe

By Melissa Davies

I was on exchange at a university in the north of England when my friend Courtney and I stumbled across a competition run by the students. It was called Jail Break. It was for charity (because we are such charitable people, we just HAD to get involved).

Countries: six or seven. Money spent: $0

Aim of the game: Get as far away from the university as possible in 36 hours without spending any money on transportation. The winner would be the team who travelled the furthest.

At first, we had the usual fears. We will likely be murdered, raped, stabbed, robbed, sold into prostitution, go missing, abducted, run over, wolf-creeked etc. However, we decided YOLO and just do it.

The competition started at 6pm. It was England, which means it was pitch black, freezing and drizzling with rain. There were 30 teams who all gathered in the courtyard in the middle of the university, eager to begin. My partner and I were dressed as superheroes (don’t ask) in long-sleeved tops, t-shirts over the top, pants, undies on the outside, socks and boots. We took only a backpack which contained our passports, emergency cash, phones and spare jumpers. We obviously didn’t think it through. It was the middle of winter in Europe. IDIOTS. When we arrived at the start line, we were handed a ‘rape alarm’ each. The rule was one rape alarm per team. However, we were informed we were the only all girl team and were kindly handed two. (How generous.) After the countdown, everyone bolted. Courtney and I were left at the start line not having a clue what to do next. Disorganised would be an understatement.

Ride 1: A random guy on campus felt sorry for us and gave us a lift to the nearest city. We were dropped off at a petrol station.

Ride 2: We held up homemade cardboard signs, which said ‘south’ and ‘lift for charity?’ Soon after, a lovely woman with a really thick northern accent offered us a lift.

Lady: ‘I’m going to Chelsea, do you want a lift?’

Us: (Realised then we forgot to bring a map. We were the only international team in the competition. Again. IDIOTS.) ‘Is that south?’

She ended up driving us south-ish (at least we think she did) for an hour and dropped us off at another petrol station.

Ride 3: We got picked up by a lorry driver. It wasn’t just any lorry, it was the biggest lorry we had ever seen. Once we were on the road, he informed us it was in fact illegal for him to have two of us in his lorry, as he only had one spare seat. Courtney and I paper, scissor, rocked. I won. Courtney had to lay on the bed in the back for the whole journey. He gave us chocolate. Great guy. I’m glad we didn’t get deported.

Ride 4: Again, we were dropped off at a petrol station, somewhere in the middle of England. A youngish lad gave us a lift. We were in his car for about an hour before we noticed he had a gash mark across his face. Turns out he had done some time in prison for being involved in a fight. He picked up his friend on the way. On the opposite side of the road to where his friend lived, there were police cars applying caution tape to what we worked out to be a murder scene. At this stage, we thought we wouldn’t make it home alive. He actually turned out to be a nice guy, although his advice was not the best. He told us that because we were girls, the best way to get places in the world was to cry when we wanted things. He dropped us off at a petrol station. We thanked him before leaving him and his advice in the car.

Ride 5: We were stuck at this petrol station for three hours. It was midnight. No one was around. A Top Deck tour offered us a lift but then realised they only had one spare seat. (Can you imagine?!) Finally a group of guys offered us a lift. They told us they were a band and had just played a gig. We later added them on

Facebook at which point we discovered they were quite a famous band and their gig was called ‘hitchhike’. Coincidental or what?! At this point, my dad was so concerned; he kept sending me messages threatening to disown me if I kept hitchhiking. This proved to be an empty threat.

Ride 6: We were dropped off at Dover. It was 3am. We needed to get in someone’s car and then onto the ferry. Car owners paid per car, not per person, so it was the only way. There would have been 50 trucks that drove past. We didn’t get offered one lift. We were only offered sleazy kisses blown by the European bus drivers. (Rape alarms were ready.) FINALLY, we noticed a car parked on the side of the road. We approached. It was a man in his mid 30s named David. He was from Slovakia and was travelling from the UK back home for a holiday. He could barely speak any English but allowed us in his car. (Who knows why?) He took us onto the ferry! We barely made it through customs. Security looked us up and down and asked us what our motivation for going to France was. Needless to say, it took a long time to convince them we weren’t homeless/drug dealers/prostitutes/ terrorists. I have never been as cold as I was that night on the ferry. My toes were frozen. David even offered to buy us both hot chocolates to warm us up. Once we were in France, David decided to drive us non-stop for the remainder of the competition. (What a lad.) He had a nap for an hour once while Courtney and I bought coffee at a petrol station. We didn’t sleep for 36 hours.

Arrival: At 4am Sunday morning (two hours before the competition ended), we arrived in Budapest. David dropped us off in the middle of the city. He told us he couldn’t take us to Slovakia because his fiancée wouldn’t be very happy. We had no idea where we were, what the currency was or where the nearest hostel was.

Thank God for Google Maps. We ended up finding ‘Retox Party Hostel’ who welcomed us with open arms. We took a photo of ourselves in Budapest, with a clock and a local newspaper in hand and sent it back to the University headquarters. The results of the competition would not be revealed for another week, so Courtney and I decided to stay at Retox Hostel in Budapest during that time. It was crazy. Due to our evident lack of organisation, we had to buy clothes from the local op shop which had become trendy thanks to Macklemore. To all the thrift shop lovers out there, Budapest definitely has the best ones!

Results: We came third. We travelled the furthest on the road; however, we were beaten by some Southern English boys who got their daddies to organise free flights for them to Tenerife. Obviously that doesn’t count. We also won the best video blog.

Morals of the story: Give to charity. Try not to get wolf-creeked.

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