A Chat With Ludovic
Recently I posted about arrival of French traveler who is hitchhiking around the world. I had a chance to chat with him for a while, and it was an interesting meet up.
I reached his place on time as agreed by us on the previous day. I rang the door bell and a soft spoken voice with French accent replied, “I will be right there”. I had earlier looked at pictures of Ludovic on the web, but I was still curious about what he would look like in real life. A few moments later, the door opened and a 6′-4″ figure was standing infront of me. He had grown slight beard, probably out of respect to local customs and cultures (that was confirmed later as well). We walked through the car porch, and into a room which had a table at the center. Ludovic left the room for a while and returned with his laptop and documents. We immediately got down to business.
So how it did fall upon you to hitch hike around the world?
When I was a small kid, probably around 6-7 years of age, I was very much interested in the maps of the world and I used to spend hours staring at them. I sometimes discussed the idea of one day travelling around the world with my parents. My mother was very protective of me and she would discourage me from bringing any such thoughts in my mind. My father on the other hand was quite an open-minded person and he used to shun my mom from being overprotective of me. As a matter of fact he always encouraged me to take new initiatives and risks in life. So when I was around 16, I started off by travelling throughout my country first and then expanded my journey around Europe. Hitchhiking is quite common in Europe and many young people use it to travel around. During my hitchhiking around Europe, I realized that is a very good way to interact with different people and learning about different cultures. When I was about to finish my MBA, I thought that probably I should try hitch hiking around the world, not spending one Franc on transport and lodging. And in a few years time I was all set in mind and spirit to start the journey. When I discussed the idea with my peers, family and friends, everyone said I was crazy. They all advised me to take the regular path in finding a good job and settle down in life. But I had other plans.
How do you ensure that some one actually gives you a lift?
It’s tough. Very tough. Sometimes I have to wait for hours and hundreds of vehicles until someone agrees to give me ride. The technique I use is that I usually stand at gas stations. I move from gas station to gas station. When a car comes in for a fill, I walk up to them and explain myself, and ask if they can take me with them to my next stop. Mostly I get a no, but I have to keep trying with other vehicles.
And how do you manage your journey, the threats and the risks involved in travelling with unknown people?
(Laughs) Well I have travelled with all sorts of people, drunk, sleepy, loud, depressed, happy all, of them. Even with people carrying drugs in their trunk. The key is your attitude. Inside the car you need to have the capacity to adapt, you should have tolerance, open mindedness and diplomacy. As a general attitude you should be persistent, have patience, a positive outlook, you should be resourceful. Other than that, I did thorough research about the route I had to follow, and read many books from the authors how had travelled to those places earlier. So I was also prepared to my best capacity when I started this journey. I choose this specific route because mostly the winds follow this route and it helped me especially during sea journey.
But you have to remain flexible right?
Yes of course, I tried to be flexible and adaptable to the local conditions during my travelling.I remember at one time I could not find a ship out of US to Australia. No one would give me a lift. I waited for 6 weeks. So I had to travel back to South America, and find a boat out of there heading to New Zealand.
Tell me more about what was it like in the middle of it all.
Well it has been pretty challenging. I can, and have virtually slept anywhere, everywhere. Inside barns, under oil tankers. I carry a maximum supply of 8 days of clothing and minimal food. I try to stay under 10 USD a day on the average in terms of expenses. Which are mostly on food, visas, and internet. I started on personal savings. I have very little support from sponsors. I have worked as waiter for a few months as well. So I have to earn along my journey as well. I had to work for 6 weeks on a boat to earn my way through the seas. I cooked, cleaned the decks, and fished, all to earn my way through the sea voyage. I have also been an ambassador of peace. I have been involved in public speaking about different subjects ranging from global warming to cancer. I am the big brother of many kids suffering from cancer. I spent a year in the US-Canada giving lectures and presentations. I also spent around 6 months in China working with NGOs to raise awareness about infectious diseases and global warming.
What advice do you have for people who want to follow suite?
Well first of all connect with the right people who can manage your stay. A couple of websites are really handy where you can find people willing to help travelers to stay around for example Hospitality Club , and Couch Surfing etc. Go from gas station to gas station, that’s the most likely place where you will be able to find a lift. Have something to show, and present to interesting items to people like photos, articles, maps etc. that can explain what you are really trying to do. Be presentable, polite. Smile. Mix with local culture and respect their customs. Keep a positive spirit always, keep persistent, and never give in. Use your intuition and gut feeling wisely.
How did you manage your finances?
Well I only need money for food, internet, clothes, and visas. I average it out on 10 dollars a day. I had to make my own money on the trip. I had some personal savings. I work for a French newspaper, and report news and updates to them. I have done programs on radio. I have given many lectures, especially in the US, Canada and Australia from where I was able to gather some donations. I have a small sponsor, so you know it all adds up. I don’t travel lavishly with much spending. I keep it simple.
What are your general comments of the world you have seen so far ?
I believe we are one people, no matter what race, religion or culture. And I have found most of the world to be very peaceful, frankly the stereotypical views that we have about people from different part of the world is plain nonsense. In general, all mankind is peace loving and caring. When you travel the world you get a view of it, as if you are looking at it from the moon. From a very higher ground, and hence get a big picture.
A world without borders, with no visas, where everyone,anyone is free to travel.
Any regrets and things that made you sad?
I am particularly touched by the poverty and disease issues world wide. You can’t really imagine how privileged and fortunate some of us are.
So when does it end?
I hope to reach France by January 1, 2008