Many AEGEE mem­bers hitch­hike to events across Europe – some anten­nae are even orga­niz­ing hitch­hik­ing organ­i­sa­tions. Karoli­na Lapczyk, main organ­is­er of Ago­ra Kraków and for­mer Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Kraków, has many great sto­ries to tell. Karoli­na: “Hitch­hik­ing brings me back the faith in human­i­ty.”

GT: When and between which cities did you hitch­hike for the first time in your life?
Karoli­na: My first hitch­hik­ing trip was con­nect­ed with AEGEE. I decid­ed to do that because of the peo­ple whom I met at my first evening with AEGEE. I heard so many inspi­ra­tional sto­ries that it couldn’t have end­ed dif­fer­ent­ly! On 2nd Jan­u­ary 2015 I hitch­hiked for the first time — from Kraków to Brus­sels. My two friends Grze­siek Górzyńs­ki and Prze­mek Zając and I decid­ed to do to some­thing epic at the begin­ning of our career in AEGEE — we were all fresh mem­bers. We heard about the CD house and decid­ed to vis­it it before our Pres­i­dent at that time, Ela Krót­ka.

GT: Was it a good idea?
Karoli­na (laugh­ing): I don’t think soooo… It was win­ter, just after New Year’s Eve, three peo­ple with huge back­packs trav­el­ling to Bel­gium. But for sure it was unfor­get­table trip which will stay in my mind for­ev­er. In Kraków we stayed for eight hours from the ear­ly morn­ing to get to Katow­ice, which is 80 kilo­me­tres… But well, in the morn­ing we were safe and sound in Bel­gium where we called to the pre­vi­ous boss of Grze­gorz — yes he worked is Bel­gium for two years. We asked we could stay there for a night. They wel­come us with open arms, gave us a piz­za and let us sleep in a spe­cial vehi­cle for jock­eys. Next morn­ing we trav­elled to the CD house, nobody remem­berd that we would come so we were afraid to stay with­out a roof over head. No wor­ries, noth­ing like that hap­pend. We cooked some piero­gi for the CD mem­bers and were lucky to see the Fes­ti­val of Light in the cen­ter of Brus­sels.

GT: Amaz­ing! How was the trip home?
Karoli­na: Our next stop was Prague, where we took a flight to, because we had two days to get to Dres­den for an exchange. In Czech Repub­lic we didn’t have any accom­m­mo­da­tion, just before enter­ing the plane we got the answer on Couch­surf­ing that one guy can host us! Can you imag­ine how hap­py we were? From Prague we hitch­hiked to Dres­den where we spent a few great days with AEGEE poe­ple — Jorge was Pres­i­dent then. Of course we didn’t tell any­one from AEGEE-Kraków about our plan so you can imag­ine their faces when we met in Dres­den to tell what we did. After few days in Ger­many we came back to Kraków. How? Of course – hitch­hik­ing! In total our win­ter trip last­ed two weeks. If I sur­vived this, I can sur­vive a lot! :D

GT: How many times have you hitch­hiked so far with AEGEE?
Karoli­na: It’s dif­fi­cult to count, but I would say around 15 times.

GT: Did you also hitch­hike to inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences?
Karoli­na: Talk­ing about inter­na­tion­al events, I hitch­hiked from Kraków to Budapest for the con­fer­ence „Edu­ca­tion for the Present, Democ­ra­cy for the Future”, which took place at the end of April 2017. And guess what? It was snow­ing… I was trav­el­ling with Mag­da Bar­winek and we weren’t pre­pared for win­ter con­di­tions. Once a dri­ver left us in a real­ly small vil­lage, there was nobody… We start­ed to sing “Always look on the bright side of life” and took a bus to a big­ger town. Dur­ing this trip we also met a nice dri­ver from Ser­bia who let us sleep in his truck and a woman who offered us a job in a Hun­gar­i­an TV show!

GT: Why do you hitch­hike?
Karoli­na: For me hitch­hik­ing is a very spe­cial way of trav­el­ling, it’s not only about sav­ing the mon­ey but more about meet­ing peo­ple. Peo­ple with their own sto­ry to share, peo­ple who want to help you or just talk dur­ing their lone­ly, long trips. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing – you meet a total­ly stranger who in few min­utes can tell you the secret of his life just because you won’t meet again or a per­son who will lis­ten to the music so loud­ly just to not talk with you. Hitch­hik­ing brings back the faith in human­i­ty. I just enjoy the free­dom which I gain due to this way of trav­el­ling.

GT: What’s the most inter­est­ing, fun­ny or excit­ing sto­ry you can tell about your AEGEE hitch­hik­ing adven­tures?
Karoli­na: I have few sto­ries like that but I’ve cho­sen only two. After Ago­ra Cata­nia, Mag­da Bar­winek and I were hitch­hik­ing to Napoli. One guy left us at the petrol sta­tion just after the exit to Nao­pli so we had to get some­how to the oth­er side of the high­way. We asked some sales­men and they helped. On the oth­er side, we realised that nobody is trav­el­ling to Napoli any­more, it was 10 PM. So we checked od Google maps, the dis­tance was 24 kilo­me­tres. So what did we do? After an Ago­ra, ill and exhaust­ed, we walked all night to Napoli, slept two hours some­where under the tree, at 7 in the morn­ing ate a break­fast in McDonald’s… For­tu­nate­ly, Francesco — whom we had met in Cata­nia — promised to host us, thanks to him we were alive! Thank you, Francesco! So now you can under­stand our idea to walk to Budapest?

GT: Amaz­ing! What’s your sec­ond sto­ry?
Karoli­na: I was com­ing back with Grze­gorz from Budapest, we were sit­ting some­where in Slo­va­kia at the petrol sta­tion and eat­ing tra­di­tion­al pol­ish sand­wich­es when a new BMW drove up. I guy agreed to take us and dur­ing the trip, he bought us a full din­ner, some Kofo­la and cof­fee. Just after that we heard the sen­tence: „Sor­ry, today I don’t have time to take you to Kraków, but I called my chauf­feur and he will take you to your town”. We stopped a few min­utes lat­er, an old car drove up, inside was sit­ting a tall, big, bald guy who looked a bit as a crim­i­nal — but in a very kind way. The first dri­ver gave him 100 Euro and ordered him to take us to Kraków. When we reached the city we didn’t believe what hap­pened!

GT: Where you ever scared or did you feel uncom­fort­able dur­ing hitch­hik­ing?
Karoli­na: Well… no, even when I was hitch­hik­ing alone from Ham­burg to Kraków. Once with Mag­da we had a strange but rather fun­ny sit­u­a­tion. In Cata­nia, two guys took us and  they just kept say­ing one „sen­tence”: togeth­er, relax, home. After a few times of refusal they left us some­where a few kilo­me­tres fur­ther from the place they took us. It was fun­ny, because noth­ing bad hap­pend, those two guys weren’t dan­ger­ous, just a bit intru­sive.

GT: Do you have a favourite hitch­hik­ing part­ner?
Karoli­na: Yes, Mag­da Bar­winek! Why? We behave very sim­i­lar­ly and have the same atti­tude to life. „Always look on the bright side of the life”; work hard, par­ty hard­er; don’t wor­ry too much if some­thing is stu­pid, do it before you realise it’s stu­pid!