Neda Boin (22), Sierd van der Bij (23) and Christiaan Triebert (21) are the lucky Dutch trio who began on 1 October a three-month-long hitchhiking trip from Groningen in the Netherlands to Cape Town, South Africa. They are part of the Thumbs Up Africa project, which aims at raising global awareness about sustainability. Today Sierd kicks off a weekly blog that the hitchhikers are writing for Radio Netherlands Worldwide as they go along.
I am going to Africa. Yes, I am going to Africa and I take a huge bag of expectations with me, right? Maybe.
On Saturday, I was strolling down the lanes of Google Earth and showed some of my friends where I will be going. I will see The Nile, the sands of Sudan, the mud of North Kenya, the savannah of Botswana and the beaches of Namibia. I will be overlooking the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls, joining rangers on a Zambian safari and wandering around Tanzania.
Looking at our planet on Google Earth gives us an impression of how small our little Europe is, at least that is what those friends of mine and I concluded. My friends had never heard of Dodoma, Gaborone or Swakopmund. To be frank, neither had I before I got in touch with Thumbs Up Africa.
Rabat to Cape Town
Africa was never really on my shortlist of future travels. Northern Africa, yes: in combination with the Middle East. I’d do South America, Central Asia and maybe even Route 66 in The States. Africa only crossed my mind when I was 12 and cycling 10 kilometres every day to school. I thought it would be possible to step on a bike and go from Rabat in Morocco to Cape Town in South Africa... Well, today I feel lucky, because after a three-month-long hitchhiking journey alongside my two travel buddies, Neda and Christiaan, I will hopefully be in the very same Cape Town I dreamed of.
I also somehow feel privileged to be Dutch after I saw, the other day, a pertinent question on the RNW Facebook page. William Bayiha, from Cameroon asked: "Would it be possible for an African to hitchhike from Africa to the Netherlands?" He didn’t think so and neither can I.
With a Dutch passport, or any passport from any Western country for that matter, it is fairly easy to obtain visas to cross the African continent. Sadly enough, the other way round would be virtually impossible. A concrete example: our South African cameraman, who will be following us on the trip, could not obtain a visa for Serbia. So, we are bypassing that country.
Dreams and expectations
I will feel my luck again today as we catch our first ride on this amazing journey. I will get to see the beauty of Africa and meet the people who may also share my dreams and expectations.
I have never been to Africa and I do have my strong expectations and prejudices. But, fortunately, today there are not many. Now, I am more open and I believe in what I see for myself.
This realization came to me in 2010 when I went to the Middle East for the time. Before I left, people told me I would meet a lot of terrorists and exorbitant washouts of religion. I feel sad for these people, because what I saw there was many talented people who were more dedicated to their work than I could ever be.
The fact is, I don’t think there’s much difference between people from all corners of the world. So, it is with that same spirit that I am heading towards Africa. For me, it is a rich continent, rich in culture and with a strong will for change, which by the way, I think Europe has always envied.
What can I do there? What changes can I bring? I have no idea, but I do know that I could share my stories as everybody else is doing on this planet. This way we can maybe make this world a smaller place by talking about our similarities and make it much richer by simply appreciating our differences. We all have our own little Utopia, right?
Read more Thumbs Up Africa blog entries here.