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!