Hitchhiking with a caravan

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Hitchhiking with a caravan seems slightly insane, but apparently it's very well possible, as has been proven by Utrecht musician Tjerk Ridder, who traveled through Europe, hitchhiking with a caravan, but without a car.


Birth of the idea in 2008

The concept of caravan hitchhiking was invented by Utrecht cultural entrepreneur Dennis Nolte, who regularly uses his own caravan for creative projects. He wondered if adventure ends when luxury begins. To get an answer to this question, he hitchhiked to the theatre festival Oerol at the Dutch island Terschelling with an old caravan. It took him and his girlfriend 3 long (but sunny) days to cover the 200 kilometer distance, including a ferry-trip from the mainland to the Island of Terschelling.

Going international

In September 2008, Berlin-based cultural entrepreneur Peter Bijl took the idea across the border, hitchhiking from Utrecht to Berlin, using a theatre caravan which would be used as a promotion tool for the first Flachlandfest in Berlin, a Dutch-Flemish cultural festival Peter initiated. It took him, and a friend, three days to cover the approximate 650 kilometers. Along the way, where they didn't leave the German motorway, they learned that on their particular route a Polish-language cardboard sign works even better than a German-language text: out of the seven drivers three were Polish, only one was German. During the festival the caravan was used both as a stage and as a symbol. The first ride, which took off at Utrecht based pop festival deBeschaving, was given by Dennis Nolte, the inventor of the idea.

The Caravan Hitchhiking Project from 2010

File:TrekhaakGezocht Pecs2010.jpg
Tjerk Ridder upon arrival in Pecs

In 2010 Dennis Nolte, Peter Bijl, Tjerk Ridder and a few others took the basic principle of caravan hitchhiking and created the 'Caravan Hitchhiking Project' AKA 'Trekhaak Gezocht!'(Dutch) and 'Anhängerkupplung Gesucht' (German). This journey was an art project, a symbolic journey to show that 'You need others to keep you going'. So many people in life have dreams, but who is living them? Taking the step, that's the key. And in that, people are willing to help. Also to get a caravan without a car from Utrecht , Netherlands to Istanbul, Turkey.

Along the way, Tjerk Ridder, who started the journey, and Peter Bijl, who joined him in Essen in Germany, asked their drivers to the dreams that they had. After the ride, they talked about this in the caravan. Tjerk and Peter put the dream into a tin can, which they gave the driver not only as a present, but also as a daily reminder to their dreams. The driver had to write on the label the ingredient of the dream can (the dream) and the date of expiry.

The first stage of the project, going from Utrecht via Essen/Ruhr area to Pecs in Hungary, a distance of over 1600 kilometers, was covered in January and February 2010 by Tjerk Ridder, his little dog Dachs and Peter Bijl. The hitchhiking trip required 33 different rides through 4 countries. Important lesson learned: It can get cold in central Europe in January! And the lower the temperature, the more difficult to find people willing to take the caravan over slippery and snowy roads. But the project was succesful, and got loads of media attention: in five countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary) the project got national television reports.

In the mean time the multimedia music program that Tjerk Ridder made out of his journey, had its world premiere at the Shanghai World Expo. In June 2010 the second stage of The Caravan Hitchhiking Project took off, taking Tjerk Ridder and Peter Bijl from Pecs in Hungary, through Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria to Istanbul in Turkey. In three weeks they crosses a distance of about 1500 kilometers, through a less well travelled and potentially less-towbar-dense part of Europe. Being towed by amongst others an old Renault 4 and a truck, Tjerk, Dachs and Peter arrived in Istanbul, having their caravan being towed by twenty different vehicles. Reports were being broadcast by national television in Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Book, DVD, tour

After their trip Tjerk and Peter found several creative ways to process their experiences and encounters on the road. Tjerk Ridder wrote songs and a theatre programme out of his experience. 'Tow Bar Needed: A Theatrical Road Movie', an inspiring mix of live music, storytelling and film, premiered at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 and has been performed at some of the major Dutch festivals (De Parade, Noorderzon, Lowlands, Crossing Border). Peter recorded road movie footage on the road, and edited his material afterwards. Out of the songs and film footage from on the road, Tjerk and Peter made a DVD. Also they wrote a book about their experiences, which the DVD belongs to. The book 'You need others to keep you going' (international title) is bilingual (Dutch-English) and has been launched at August, 19th, 2011 during A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, the foremost festival of the Netherlands. One of the copies was officially handed to mr. Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. On an official visit to the caravan, he called this project 'truly inspiring'

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