Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed December 09 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | December 9, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Leaping Out of My Comfort Zone: A Hitchhiking Race Across Europe

    Leaping Out of My Comfort Zone: A Hitchhiking Race Across Europe

    PHOTO: A small glimpse into life on the road from Istanbul to Berlin. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    I have laughed, cried, screamed and cheered. Eaten incredible food and drank my weight in beer. It’s nine in the morning and I have already hitched a ride on a bus and I am standing beneath the statue at Taksim Square ready to embark on my next adventure (though, admittedly slightly hungover) and today marks the first day of hitchhiking across Europe with a stranger!

    It all started after Jonathan, a 24-year-old photographer from Berlin, messaged me on a travel forum about Tramprennen, an annual two-week hitchhiking race from Germany to Omare, Albania with more than 160 participants this year. Not only did it sound like a hell of a lot of fun, it was also for a great cause: a fundraising initiative with Viva Con Agua to improve worldwide access to drinkable water, sanitation and hygiene as well as Pro Asyl, an NGO working for refugee rights in Germany and Europe.

    It sounded right up my alley. The thought of jumping out of my comfort zone yet again to experience a new aspect of living gave me chills of excitement, as Jonathan and I agreed to meet in Istanbul before hitching back to Germany together to participate in the race.

    Our team name was called “No Money, No Problem” in response to capitalism and excess waste. We decided from day one of our voyage that we would travel without money for transit, food or accommodation as a social experiment the whole way through.

    After meeting in Istanbul and being fairly certain that neither one of us were serial killers, we celebrated the night before over a few too many beers and shots of tequila and embarked on what I’d like to call our five-day pre-trial of “No Money, No Problem” on the way to Berlin.

    PHOTO: The day that Jonathan and I officially met over pints of beers and tequila shots.

    We hitchhiked over 3,124 km (almost 2,000 miles), wild camped in a one-man tent along with all our bags in parking lots, petrol stations, fields, parks and beside the Black Sea where we woke up with each day being a surprise. We bathed in low-lying rivers, outdoor showers and sometimes even sinks.

    In our five-day stint hitchhiking without a dime, we caught over fifteen rides in various vehicles driven by every kind of human imaginable: university professors, engineers, flight attendants, truck drivers, gypsies, students and older vacationers who offered us (almost always) a break to drink tea along the way. Sometimes we caught lifts in seconds and sometimes after eight consecutive hours exhausted, in the rain.

    Growing up, my mother always warned me, “Don’t talk to strangers,” “Don’t get in unmarked white vans.” Well, Mama — I know I act a fool but even on my first day I broke all the rules. I spoke to strangers, hopped in a white truck with an older man who bought us ice cream, with a 25-year-old taxi driver who “accidently” grabbed my ass and with a family of Romanian gypsies who broke the stereotypical mold and treated us like gold.

    We had such high-highs and tired-eyed lows. It rained, it shined and in five days I could already detect internal growth coupled with the toughened blisters on my feet. 

    Realizing that this will be my life for the next month and a half should scare me, but if I’m going to be honest, I only felt free.

    PHOTO: The first day on the road we had everything we need: a paper map, our bags, signs and rakia.

More Europe


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
Sandals Resorts: The 5-Star Luxury Included Resorts

Hotels & Resorts