What just happened is not an isolated event. Things like this happen on a beautifully regular basis in my life. They are why I turned from someone who thought the world was completely doomed, to believing that the world is filled with beautiful, kind, caring souls.
I’d been hanging out outside a gas station in Austria for about five hours. It was a beautiful spot in the mountains, there was internet and beer, and I had four hours to hitchhike in a day and a half (which is nothing). So I was taking it easy. Night was about to fall, so I figured I should find somewhere to pitch my tent. There was wilderness all around, but as I went to locate a good spot I realized there was a very steep hill to descend to get to said wilderness. I looked around some more, and found an enclosed area with picnic tables and cement. I walked back into the gas station to ask if it was okay to camp there. The lovely man working the till told me no one at the gas station would bother me, and the police rarely came around. Perfect.
As I pitched my tent, a man sitting in a group at a picnic table near me called over, asking if I’d like some soup. “Oh, that would be lovely, but I’m a vegetarian! Thanks anyways!”
A couple of minutes later the man called down again. “How about some tomato salad?” This lovely group of ten Polish people traveling around proceeded to give me a bowl of delicious salad, a bun, two tomatoes, and a beer. They even gave me some butter and spices. Then they drove off into the night after asking me some questions about my life, and me saying thank you with a giant smile to each of them.
This isn’t a rare thing, but I appreciate it with every bit of my being every single time. These people saw me alone setting up my tent, and they thought, “Hey, I bet she’d like some food.” And I really did.
A couple of hours after pitching my tent, I was finally ready to sleep. But as I turned the corner of the gas station, I saw a police car. Fuck. If I walked down to the cement patch on which my tent was resting they would surely see me. I lingered for a moment at a picnic bench, but soon realized the cops weren’t going anywhere. Fuck it, I thought. I’m going to go sleep. If they say anything I’ll be nice, and explain my situation. I’m in the middle of nowhere, so the worst they could do is drive me to a campground.
But the police never came for me.
I was reminded of my brief time hitchhiking in Idaho. According to hitchwiki – a great source of information on hitchhiking all over the world – Florida and Idaho are the only states in which hitchhiking is 100% illegal.
We were hitchhiking at an on ramp to the highway in Idaho. There was plenty of room for a car to pull over, traffic was slow, and we were easily seen, thus causing no traffic risks at all.
As our thumbs were out I saw not one, not two, but three cop cars drive by us during the couple of hours we waited for a ride.
None of them pulled over.
And this is how it should be. The police should be there to protect the citizens, rather than condemn those who are causing no harm. I am very thankful and relieved to see those police drive by us in Idaho without a second glance, and the cop car at the gas station not be remotely bothered by my camping spot.
When I awoke in the morning, I glanced into this little separate area of the gas station. It had just a table and a coffee machine, and there were two travelers sleeping in there. No one kicked them out or bothered them.
I went in, and offered them a chocolate bar and a cracker with some tomato (given to me the previous night). Before long we were chatting away, swapping travel stories, and they’d invited me to stay with them in Vienna.
After a while the pair went to hitchhike from the road, but before long the heat got the best of them, and they joined me in asking people for rides in the shade of the gas station.
In a final act of karmic beauty, they scored me a ride out of the gas station I had been at for the last 18 hours. On the road again!
A couple of hours later I arrived at another mega gas station, and just as I strolled in the door I saw my hitchhiking friends from earlier, who had arrived at the same time as me. We chatted again for a while, until a woman approached me to give me a lift towards Vienna, which was on my way to Bratislava.
Monica was absolutely lovely and well traveled, while also acting very much like a mom. She was concerned about my solo travels, and my plan to camp out that night so as to avoid paying for a hostel two nights in a row. She made a quick phone call and caught me a ride with her ex husband, who was headed to Hungary and didn’t mind a little detour up to Slovakia afterwards. Before we parted, Monica gave me her info, told me I’m more than welcome to stay with her near Vienna if I pass back through, and we had a big hug. She had also given me a little bit of money to make staying in a hostel two nights rather than the one I had intended affordable. I kinda loved her.
There are some pretty amazing people out there, and I am so grateful to have them in my life, even for only a fleeting moment.