Press Release #1 - April 2011
In 2011, the gathering for the European Hitchhiking Week will take place in Bulgaria. This annual "Hitchgathering" is organized now for the fourth time, by its participants and for them. The gathering aims to promote hitchhiking in Europe.
The Hitchgathering brings together people from different countries and gives them life changing experiences. It portrays an alternative way of travelling that saves our planet's resourses, a Latvian hitchhiker, Arta, describes.
Marco Polo, and other travelers of the past, would have never made their epic journeys without the help of friendly strangers. Voyagers travel the roads for a multitude of reasons. Yet, when it comes to hitchhiking, getting from A to B for free by raising your thumb is not the only motivation. Some seek personal growth, others yearn for adventure and others still, appreciate the profound cultural experiences to be had while enjoying their discussions with the drivers that stop for them.
For the past couple of decades, however, the popularity of hitchhiking has been in steady decline. People have put more emphasis on ownership of possessions and feel ever more isolated from the communities they live in. Fear in our contemporary society is much more prevalent than it used to be. Generally people don't want to jeopardize their wealth and health by taking unnecessary risks, such as sharing a ride with an unfamiliar traveler.
But is this really the case? Through hitching I have come to accept my faults, ignore those of others and realise that there is a whole lot more compassion, mercy, love and humanity out there than we are led to believe, a South African hitchhiker, Tam, sums up. I have become more patient and talkative than I expected. I have realized that most people are willing to help each other despite what is said in the news. People are just afraid of what they don't know, says Anaïs from France.
Each year, new generations of hitchhikers emerge. And now they are equipped with modern day technology! People can plan and prepare their trips with knowledge-bases such as Hitchwiki.org and Digihitch.com. Accommodation can be found through online platforms like CouchSurfing, Hospitality Club and BeWelcome. Internet has enabled organized action between hitchhikers around the world. One example of this new open collaboration is the European Hitchgathering that started as, and still is, a grass-roots initiative to ensure that hitchhiking culture prevails and develops.
It is a family where you can share 'the essence' of travelling, says Max who is coming to the Hitchgathering all the way from New Zealand.
Previous hitchgatherings took place in France, Ukraine and Portugal. This year The Hitchgathering is going to be organized on the beautiful Kara Dere beach near Byala, Bulgaria. The event starts on 5 August 2011 and lasts at least a few days, or as long as people wish to stay. But for most participants, the adventure starts many days earlier as they set off for their journey. Smaller scale gatherings will be organized for them in all major stopover city, so they can rest and meet the others on their way to Bulgaria. The program of the event is made by the participants, on the spot. Anyone can hold a workshop, facilitate team games or whatever they think might contribute to the success of the event. Workshop that need preparation will be organized by the participants themselves through the website.
Go for it! You won't regret it. It's a way to get out of your comfort zone, to challenge yourself, but also to witness that there still are nice people on this planet that are willing to share, says Ron from Guatemala. It's a great festival where you can meet other hitchhikers, share stories and knowledge, and have a freaking good time! But you really have to want to hitch, as there will be hard moments when you have to see the adventure in it, Zsolt, a Hungarian hitchhiker, adds.
Hopefully the reason why you don't see that many hitchhikers on the road is that they already got a ride, a Finnish hitchhiker, Tomi, states and continues, We wish that this event contributes to a creation of a more open, trust-filled and sustainable society... and proves the drivers that we don't bite!
April 2011 Newsletter (sent out)
Here in Magdeburg the summer hitchhiking season started just in time while the Magdeburg (Pre-)Meeting took place. Hopefully the sun shines on your face as well!
The day before, on thursday, the poll for the location voting was closed and the clear winner is Kara Dere, a huge remote beach at Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. The beach borders with a marvelous forest, where it's cool all day long and in the night it's not windy and sandy and which offers shadow as well. Water supply is covered by a natural spring with drinking water. And there will be 72 virgins for every virtuous hitchhiker. (And obviously also a number of very sexist male pigs!)
In Magdeburg our group consisted of Julien, Elsy, Benjamin, Patryk and Jona - less people than expected, but the advantage was that discussions quickly lead to results. We're almost missing the endless discussions of last year :D .
We talked about the issues and topics that had been put down as an agenda and tried to evaluate the feedback from last year, but also discussed different random topics.
You'll have access to the detailled minutes. But, of all the things we talked about, these are the most important points:
- make the website easier to use and understand (especially for new visitors)
- have volunteers to check if things in need to be done are actually being done
- We didn't hatch a detailed program, but we have quite a list of suggestions on how to make the gathering more eventful. To be fulfilled spontaneously as open space at the Gathering
- Plans for promotion and social media
- having an early (maybe partially organisational) pre-meeting end of June or beginning of July in Berlin, way before the actual gathering.
If you have any respect for those that got their ass on the road (for 2 days for some), and spend a whole sunny week-end hunched down on laptops, you'd better read the minutes. Most of it is unimportant chitchat, so we bolded out the relevant stuff. Scroll directly to them. Comment inline.
So, that's a LOT of work, and we have good hope that ALL of it can be accomplished over the months before the gathering, thanks to a new organizational trick. And we can start with the traditional slogan suggestion page. Holy Kurrywurst! We don't have a slogan for 2011! Hitchhiker! To your keyboard:
Another thing that needs to be done right now: Some of the lines in the minutes have a "TODO" tag. All those lines need to be copy-pasted to the main orga page at the relevant place. Please do that and, for each item that you copypaste, delete the "TODO" tag.
We hope that many people will participate in taking over jobs on the to do list :)
Lets make this a great gathering,
Happy thumbing till then!
March 2011 Newsletter (sent out)
Better than s... chocolate?
"Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're gonna get." said Forrest Gump's mum. Well, for a hitchhiker life on the road is like a full-blown chocolate factory: you never know if Charlie is going to pick you up and what kind of Oompa Loompas you make friends with along the way. When you let the destiny decide where you go next, every day is as sweet as the best (vegan) chocolate.
Last year some 80-90 unique individuals from all over the world were having fun, connecting with each other and sharing more than mere travel stories in Sines, Portugal. That was the third European Hitchgathering.
Now the Fourth Hitchgathering, infamously referred to as 5-8-11, is organized by the hitchhikers for the hitchhikers. As the name states, the event starts on 5 August 2011 and takes place somewhere in Europe. Where? That's for us to decide! Go on, vote for your favorite location right now!
You can choose between cities such as Bristol, Berlin and Lyon and far off places like Nordics or Turkey. Some of these spots have well defined locations while other proposals are still less clear. By the time of writing "The Black Sea, Kara Dere in Bulgaria" is leading with a whopping 40% of the votes!
And you know what's so great about the gathering? You don't have to be bold and beautiful or have thousands of kilometers of thumbing experience to attend. Hitchgathering calls for all wacky road warriors, former couch potatoes and other amazing travelers who won't shy away from a little bit of adventure.
Come and join us 1st of April in the pre-meeting in Magdeburg, Germany to reach consensus about the location and to contribute what you can to our common success. Or if your hitch-itch is not yet fully developed you can just keep your eyes open at our website http://hitchgathering.org and sign up to let us all know you are coming to 5-8-11 in August.
May your travels be as sweet as chocolate!