And to prove this, in 2011 I wanted to try an experiment. I wanted to travel within Europe without spending any money. I proposed my partner Roberto to join me in this crazy adventure. She was very enthusiastic about the whole idea so we did it. We didn’t have any plans, any schedules, any deadlines, we just knew that we wanted to reach the Atlantic ocean. That was our only goal, without spending money.
So how did we manage it? Well, to get around from place to place we learned from our parents the way they used to travel when they were younger: we hitchhiked. Hitchhiking is cheap, it’s ecological because instead of taking 4 cars we use just one, which means less pollution. But more importantly: it’s social. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for hitchhiking because it’s the way my mother and father met and fell in love. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is your idea of hitchhiking. This is probably your idea of hitchhiking. Well it doesn’t surprise me that people don’t trust each other anymore the way they used to. This is because we are constantly exposed to mass media pressures, bad stories on television, horror movies, so we don’t trust each other.
However, if we really want to build a better society, we need to give trust. We need to rely on one another. And hitchhiking is a very good exercise in having faith in humanity. After all I’ve discovered that it’s safe, as safe as traveling on a plane. Statistically speaking, the most dangerous place is our home. And the most dangerous people are the ones closest to us.
Now some of you may question the morality of asking something free of charge. I’m asking for a free lift. But if we stop and think about it we get many things for free today. Education, many good values that we learn from family and friends, they are free. Most knowledge and information is free. There are many activists, volunteers trying to improve this society they do with no profit. Many discoveries and technologies that we inherited from the past and that improved the quality of our life we have them for free. If we have an accident on the road there is people willing to help us without asking anything in return. So we get many things for free today.
But if we are against this way of thinking, then we shouldn’t accept anything that is giving us for free. I believe that our life would be so much harder and it would be so much difficult to get our goals without the help of other people. It would be naive of me saying that hitchhiking is heaven. Because sometimes you have to wait for many hours before somebody pick you up. But when you meet these people, you know these guys, they give you a lift, sometimes they share food with you, they give you shelter, they invite you at their places, they treat you like a member of their family. So, when this happens I never regret waiting for so long.
Also, it is their decision to give you a help. You can keep them company, you can laugh with them, you can have interesting conversation. Sometimes you become friends, this is why I don’t feel bad when I ask for a lift. I’m actually ready to do the same when my help will be needed.
Now how did we get food and accommodation without money? Well, we knew that many people in the world need help in many activities such as farming or social works. But they may not have enough cash to pay for workers. So we thought, why not lend to these people a helping hand in exchange for food and accommodation. So we did it, and it worked. We washed dishes, we watered plants, we cooked, we helped gardening, harvesting, weeding. We did a variety of jobs, it was labor in exchange for staying there. Many of these jobs, they were physically demanding but it was a good way to keep ourselves fit instead of paying for a gym. And it was only for a few hours a day because we were not working for money.
But more importantly, this is the best way to feel part of a family, of a local family. This is the best way to have a cultural exchange. This is the best way to live a different lifestyle, to learn new skills, to learn a new language.
Now I can tell you, you can get whatever you want without money. As long as you’re flexible, as long as you adapt to different situations, as long as you rely on yourself and on the people, then you can get whatever you want. Money is just one way to get the things you need. There are many ways. And when you travel with a light backpack, when you don’t care too much about material things, then you can get a sense of freedom never experienced before.
Nobody can buy a beautiful shiny day away from you. Now, if you want it you could practically live in an endless dream vacation. I have friends asking me how do I feel about traveling with no money. I feel rich! I feel rich because of the many experiences I have, because of the many people I meet. “Poor” to me is a person that needs too much. It’s a person that always wants to have more because if we need too much, then we’ll be never satisfied. After all, freedom is about having time, not money. I could have all the money in the world, but what’s the point if I don’t have time to do the things I like, to stay with the people I love?