Each year, students participating in the original St Andrews Charity Hitchhike, Race2, venture out of the Bubble in teams of two or three, and using as little money as possible, hitchhike their way to the final destination. This year’s destination is Barcelona, and signups to participate will take place this Thursday.
In the race to their to finish, teams are bound by a few key rules: there must be at least one male team member for safety reasons; teams cannot plan anything in advance, spend money, or travel illegally; and everyone must send text updates every four hours to reassure coordinators of their safety.
After being bussed out of St Andrews, racers rely upon traditional hitchhiking and “blagging” (the art of employing rhetoric to obtain free rides on commercial transport) to reach their destination within a given time frame – 5 days for Barcelona! Upon arrival, they are greeted with a party at the hostel and time to enjoy their final destination!
To give potential racers an idea of what hitchhiking throughout Europe is like, Bear Hutchison, a Race2Prague 2017 racer, talks about her experience:
As most people who know me would say, I am not the most adventurous of people, nor am I sporty, good with extremely cold weather, or happy to sleep without a bed. So, as I travelled back to St Andrews 10 days early last Winter Break, I admit that I found myself questioning what I had got myself into. Perhaps this would be the same as my shameful Duke of Edinburgh experience, for which I signed up with great excitement and no thought at all, and which ended with me coming home from the expedition with an idea of what hell truly feels like and a “very painful knee injury”. My team comprised of myself and my two medic friends Jess and Andrew, both of whom I was sure were 100% more adventurous than I was, which half encouraged me to throw myself into the journey and half convinced me that I was going to be forced to do something extremely terrifying.
Waking up to a snowstorm the morning that we were due to set off across Europe did not particularly help with the sinking feeling in my stomach, nor did being dropped at a tiny service station on the outskirts of Livingstone with absolutely no traffic at all. After being chucked out of the service station, because apparently hitchhiking was not allowed (where was the charity spirit), we took to harassing people at the local Premier Inn. Finally, we found a woman who was driving to work in Edinburgh and who gave us a lift, telling us about how her husband was a pilot – we came so close to asking for a quick lift to Prague, but something tells me that the request wouldn’t have been able to be fulfilled. Our bad luck continued when we realised that IKEA outside Edinburgh was probably not the best place to find people on long haul journeys. However, all this turned around when we happened upon Gary, one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met in my life. He came from Leeds and told us about his life experiences, which included going from being a dedicated drug dealer to a dedicated Christian youth pastor, as well as trekking through Spanish mountains to find his birth father. Needless to say, it was a fascinating ride!
After parting with a prayer for our journey from Gary, we saw a smart looking businessman seated in the Greggs at the Leeds service station we’d been dropped at. Andrew saw this as his opportunity to put on his waistcoat that he’d (inexplicably) brought along on this hitchhiking trip – our skepticism however, proved to be wrong when Steve the businessman seemed very impressed with this young gentleman and agreed to give us a lift down to Northampton. Again, it was a fascinating journey, learning from Steve about his previous experiences as a policeman for the royal family (Never cross Princess Anne on a horse).
After spending a lovely night in St Albans with my aunt and uncle (is that cheating? nah), we were optimistic for what the new day would bring. Our optimism proved to be misplaced when we waited for hours at a service station with many other unlucky teams until we finally got a lift from a couple who ended up dropping us at the side of the motorway… Considering that it’s illegal in England to hitchhike on the side of the motorway we had to negotiate this carefully, but eventually got a lift from Dan, who was just driving ten minutes back home with lots of IKEA flat pack furniture that crushed Jess and Andrew in the back. However, when Dan learned that there was another team of our good friends travelling to Prague who we wanted to beat to the finish line, he told us that his competitive side had come out and he was going to drive us all the way to Dover! Never have I been more grateful for the competitiveness of a stranger.
We finally managed to board a ferry at 9pm, at which point we realised that there were 5 teams on the same ferry and a total of 4 cars, 3 of which were already full. After the ferry was delayed for an extra hour and we had an extremely concerned truck driver come down to tell us that we shouldn’t be leaving the terminal at night on foot, we decided that our best option was to sleep in the terminal. A couple of hours of uncomfortable sleep later, we managed to hitch a lift at 2am with a man who gave us a lift to Belgium! Little did we know that the 2am start was about to result in a 23-hour day, which included a lift with Belgian police who we originally thought had stopped to arrest us, a U-turn in the Netherlands to pick up a glove that I’d dropped on the side of the motorway, and many, many people who seemed absolutely delighted to see hitchhikers on the side of the road and waved/shouted, but didn’t think stopping to pick us up was part of the deal. It was good that these people didn’t pick us up though, since we met our guardian angel in the form of a German woman who gave us a lift to Dusseldorf and then paid for a train for all three of us to Leipzig! At this point we were delirious and during the 8-hour train journey we ate our McDonald’s and cried with laughter at terribly written free kindle books. Our arrival in Leipzig at a hostel with actual beds to sleep in seemed too good to be true, and after what seemed like a never-ending day, we managed to fall asleep straight away.
The next morning, we awoke early to a beautiful and snow-covered Leipzig, and the prospect of perhaps finally getting to Prague that day filled us with a newfound drive, which lasted for approximately two hours while we waited in the snow without joy for a lift into the Czech Republic. Feeling dejected, we trudged back into the town centre towards the bus station, where we sadly decided that we might have to just end up buying a bus ticket. However, Andrew was determined not to give up and surprised us both with a hidden talent for card tricks, which he used on members of the German public to raise enough money for a bus to Prague! A 2-hour bus ride later we arrived in Prague and walked to the hostel, feeling unbelievably accomplished, happy, and tired! The next few days were so much fun exploring the city, and experiencing the famous Karlovy club with the rest of the racers. 8 cars, 4 trains and a bus later, this unadventurous girl managed to hitchhike from Scotland to Prague, and unlike Duke of Edinburgh, it was a success!
Things I learned:
- • Don’t bother calling airlines/bus companies, they already have charities that they sponsor and you will be very surprised with your phone bill at the end of the month (thank you Ryanair)
- • Man can survive on Soreen alone
- • Never underestimate the kindness of strangers
- • Germany has amazing train deals
- • Truck drivers cannot give a lift to three people at once
- • (According to Steve) the average survivability time on the hard shoulder of the motorway is 12 minutes
- • A waistcoat can be used in all situations
- • Mainland Europe does not have huge service stations like the ones in the UK
- • You’ll probably have more luck getting a lift through the euro-tunnel than on the ferry
- • You’re more adventurous than you think!
- – Bear Hutchison
To sign up for Race2Barcelona 2018 come to our ticket sales THIS THURSDAY at 6:30pm in the 601 foyer! For more information go to our event page https://www.facebook.com/events/281401935689424/, our message us on Facebook at the Race2 page!