Taking public transportation isn't half as exciting as hitchhiking. If you let it, hitchhiking can bring you to amazing places that you had no idea even existed.
- Kinga Choszcz
Kinga 'Freespirit' Choszcz was born in 1973 in Poland. Her parents hitchhiked around the country with her when she was one year old. During summer school breaks she hitchhiked with friends to Nordcap, Norway (the most northern point in continental Europe), and south as far as Sicily, Italy. As an English language teacher she started hitchhiking alone at the age of 18, working her way through India and Nepal. She returned via the Karakorum Highway, through China, Kazakhstan and Russia before returning home to Poland.
All quotes in this Entry are Kinga's own words unless otherwise stated.
Expectations - why expect...? We might get disappointed. Just go and see what happens. And believe that whatever happens, it happens for a reason.
Hitchhiking Around the World
We are learning a lot along the way. Learned that the way and what you experience along it is often more important than the destination itself. But every person may learn a different thing. Everybody will learn what they need. For us hitchhiking is one of the best ways. Hitchhiking is not always easy. It's not for everybody either. You get stuck for hours or days in one place, you feel powerless, hopeless and frustrated... But it has its rewards and we feel it's worth it. If you really feel like this is what you want to do - just go and do it. Don't plan much. Just go and let the journey show you what it has in store for you - it may be well beyond your dreams.
Kinga and her partner Radoslaw 'Chopin' Siuda1 started hitchhiking around the world in 1999, because they believed that 'there is no better way to get to know the culture and the people of the places you're travelling through'. Inspired by Paolo Coelho's book Alchemist and Richard Bach's Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, they purchased two one-way tickets to New York, leaving them with just six hundred US dollars. Then they headed south and visited every country in South America, where they were robbed in Colombia and found 'the friendliest people in the world' living in Peru.
A Perfect Ride
Here's an example of a perfect, though unusual ride. Unusual because it happened when we changed the roads for the rivers. After three days of waiting by the riverside in Chicago, a boat we dreamt of materialized. A boat named Spirit with a lonely older man going back home to Florida. He happily took us on board and for almost four weeks we experienced America from a different perspective, from the water. Observing life, reading, eating, sleeping, helping steering the boat. A perfect ride.
- Kinga describing her 'perfect ride'.
The country which earned the best marks from a hitchhiking point of view was New Zealand, which they'd flown to from Argentina: Free tea and coffee at Auckland airport, free local phone call service and city maps, coin-operated Internet machines, left-hand driving, garbage separation, and extra virgin avocado oil.
We'd heard that everybody, without exception, who spent longer time in Australia and came for a short time to New Zealand, regretted they hadn't done the opposite. Which gave us an idea - why not get some place to stay, find some temporary work and experience living here for a while. We ended up on a farm in beautiful countryside not far from Auckland. We helped around the farm, just for a while. After two days' ride with a Canadian guy in a rented Land Rover through the beautiful North Island of New Zealand, we made it to the capital Wellington, where we visited the fantastic museum with its exhibits on Maori culture, and watched kids perform a Maori greeting song.
So, how exactly do you hitchhike over water to the next island? Kinga explains:
We went to a yacht club just north of Wellington and talked to everybody around and finally heard the words we were waiting for: South Island? Jump on board, we're leaving in five minutes. We had a spectacular ride on board a fast motorboat with Garry, Barbara, Carolyn, Wayne and John, who, after a full day of lobster-diving and beer-drinking, dropped us off in the wilderness of South Island. After a few walking days from Picton, the first town, we walked part of the way through scenic Queen Charlotte's Track, and then managed to hitch a ride to Blenheim. There was a lot of fruit growing in the area - we were offered a job apple-picking, and for three days we picked succulent apples in an organic orchard, drinking plenty of freshly-squeezed apple juice every day. We didn't make a fortune but at least made enough for travelling around New Zealand.
Learning New Languages
On their incredible journey around the planet they picked up on how to make themselves understood in Portuguese and learned to speak Spanish.
We've been travelling this world for over two years now. We found the world an interesting place, where one could spend a lifetime travelling and still not discovering all its wonders. We can see clearly that quality of the world is quality of people who live in it. And that material wealth doesn't have anything to do with it.
- Kinga and Chopin speaking in 2001.
Led By Destiny
Kinga and Chopin completed their amazing journey in five years. Together they wrote the book Led By Destiny: Hitchhiking Around The World, which won the 2004 'Kolos Award' - the highest accolade for travel writing in Poland. An interview with Kinga, along with a selection of her photographs, were published in the February 2004 Polish version of the National Geographic magazine.
Before realising her lifelong dream to tour Africa, Kinga created a website so she could post news and her own photographs, allowing her to share her experiences with countless others around the world.
Kinga was a very special woman. I never met her but I knew that she was out there somewhere. She used to belong to the Hospitality Club - and we 'almost' met once. Well, most of the people didn't meet her. Actually most of the people posting now at her website and at tribute threads in many places never met her. She has touched their lives though and that's a power very few people have.
- An h2g2 Researcher.