A group of four youngsters have accomplished their mission to hitchhike halfway across the country on an 18-day trip without ever spending a dollar. They returned on Saturday having spent much of their time carrying out voluntary tasks in exchange for free meals and accommodation.
Led by 26-year-old Lei Hsiao-na (雷小娜), who had cycled her way across Taiwan, penniless and with only a backpack in September 2010, three spirited young people — Po-ting (柏霆), Chih-yang (智陽) and Jou-yi (柔伊) — followed in her tracks and crossed the nation for free earlier this month.
The three travel mates decided to take on the challenge — which started with a trip from Greater Taichung to Siaoliouciou (小琉球), close to Pingtung County — after meeting Lei during one of her speeches where she was relating some of her experiences. They found her philosophy of life “cool and awesome,” and took up the challenge.
“Most young people harbor dreams, but never have the courage to fulfill them. That is why I have been sharing my stories and experiences with many young students, and telling them that frustration is an integral part of life,” said Lei, who, despite having lost both her parents at a young age, said she never ceased dreaming and always faces life with optimism.
Before setting off, the three newcomers were fully confident that their journey would pass without a hitch, but after having their offer to work for their lunch rejected 11 times, they felt despondent, until a noodle stand owner took them up on their offer, they said.
Their hunt for free accommodation was even more challenging and often they had to wander the streets in the middle of the night just to find a place where they could pass the night.
However, Lei’s encouraging words would often help lift their spirits, inspiring them how to embrace and rise above failure, they said.
The sense of frustration that they often encountered was difficult, but it also offered them the chance to communicate, as well as making them audacious enough to make requests and seek favors from strangers, while also installing the bravery needed to ask for a helping hand.
“When people travel with money, they are allowed the ‘privilege’ of remaining quiet and enjoying their solitude. However, when they travel with an empty pocket, they are forced to learn how to communicate with others, make demands and ask for help,” they said.
The group said that they felt a great sense of achievement after sorting out difficulties in addition to some friendly encounters they had with helpful strangers, who asked for nothing in return and often helped lift their collective spirits.
“On one occasion when we traveled to the mountainous areas in Greater Kaohsiung’s Gangshan District (岡山), a benevolent man surnamed Liu (劉) offered to drive us to downtown Kaohsiung over a distance of more than 20km. Not only did he not ask for any money, but he even made a donation to subsidize our trip,” they said, adding that Lei was so touched by the man’s generosity that she almost cried.
“There is no problem that cannot be solved,” they said while talking about their trip, which they said helped them to be more confident in themselves.
“As long as you have the courage to try, nothing in life is impossible,” they said.