With only 300 euros in her pocket, a 21-year-old Taiwanese woman last year hitchhiked through 12 countries in Europe.
In her book May I hitch a ride? published this month, Venus Tsai (蔡慧蓉) talked about her experiences hitchhiking through Europe.
On one occasion, she hopped into a car only to discover that the driver could speak German, French and Italian, but no English.
“I can speak English and Chinese or just be quiet,” Tsai said. “He kept on talking and I did not understand a word he said. I replied in simple French with phrases like ‘I don’t know’ or just talked to him in Chinese. He then tried using body language to communicate with me.”
In Norway, Tsai said she hitched a ride with a helicopter pilot, who also gave her a tour of his company. To return the favor, she taught the company’s pilots some Chinese and made them a meal. Eventually, Tsai said they decided to fly her to the next town she was visiting in a helicopter.
During her time in Europe, Tsai hitchhiked about 300 times as she made her way to cities, historical sites, forests and glaciers. At night, she either slept in a tent or couch-surfed. She even had a business card printed that introduced her as a “professor of hitchhiking.”
Tsai met lawyers, doctors, -policemen and street people on her travels.
Prior to her adventures in Europe, she took a leave of absence from school to hitchhike around Taiwan, which she described as a gift she gave to herself upon becoming an adult. The experience emboldened her to spend a year in Australia on a work-holiday program and six months in Southeast Asia.
Tsai said many people have asked her if she was afraid of running into bad people on her travels, to which she responds that it was much harder to stick to her own values and resist the temptation to do bad things when traveling.
“It is so easy to trick people, but I chose not to,” she said. “I believe that one’s deeds and perseverance help win the respect of others.”
Tsai said her “most satisfying experience” so far has been -working and saving money and then spending it all in one go, though she recognizes that others might consider such behavior immature and irresponsible.
“When you have spent all your money, you just have to earn it back,” she said. “Once you get older, it is possible you might no longer have the energy or the nerve to travel anymore.”
Having recently obtained a tour guide license, Tsai vowed to keep pursuing her dream of traveling around the world.