A Strange Noise
There was a strange noise around my tent. Although I slept with earplugs, I still clearly heard it. It sounded like metal chinking but not exactly. ‘Never mind’, I tried to continue sleeping. However, the noise was becoming nearer and nearer.
I woke up and realized it was the noise of a lawnmower. I had a good look at the piece of grassland I tented on. All the grass around my tent were already trimmed, leaving the grass under my tent a lonely island. What a considerate gardener!
I wrapped up my tent and went on the road.
At a perfect spot I stood for two hours but nobody stopped. I tried with the sign ‘Toronto’, ‘looking for a ride’, ‘Just looking for a ride’, ‘not a serial killer’ and ‘really not a serial killer’, without any signs, with smiling face, with sad face and without any facial expressions.
Nope! None worked.
The situation became very baffling. Burlington was just about 50 km from Toronto and there was much traffic. I was 101% certain that every second at least one car going to Toronto would pass, but still no cars stopped.
Finally a car going to another direction stopped. Just when I was about to jump to the sky out of joy, a head with a cap and sunglasses popped out of the window and said: ‘hi dude! Why don’t you take the railway! I am not going to Toronto, otherwise would take you! Good luck!’
Yesterday I already heard from the border control officer that there was a light rail connecting Toronto and the fare was about 5 dollar.
‘But come on! I am a hitchhiker! We hitchhike! It’s lame and boring to take the railway! Totally takes the essence out the experience!’ I was about to shout these words to him when he disappeared into the thin air, which was pretty hot, as it was still proper summer.
I started to sweat. I had the urge to jump into the Ontario Lake, drink dirty water, eat raw fish and swim all the way to downtown Toronto like a little mermaid.
No, that was not applicable. I was male (and still am) and I was not a great swimmer (still am not).
You know, I established this religion called Nomadism, which worships the God of Traveling, the God of Couchsurfing and the Goddess of Hitchhiking. They have always helped me along my perilous journeys. Now they were my last resort! I took out my last bit of water from my dirty bottle which had already been continuously used for at least 3 months and washed my sweaty hands with great care. Then took off my cool sunglasses, I looked up the sky, stretching my sweaty arms and watery hands and at the moment when I was just about to utter my sincere prayer, I sneezed……
Then I prayed: The most beloved and almighty Goddess of Hitchhiking! Please deliver me out of my predicament within 15 minutes. I can accept any kind of vehicles, from 8-wheeled ones down to one-wheeled! As long it has wheel(s)! And by the way if you can not deliver me a vehicle, would you mind delivering me a rain, a small shower will do as your faithful worshiper here is getting grilled and I know you don’t accept human sacrifice!
Nope, no vehicles stopped within 15 minutes, no shower either. Did you know any other religion which might be mightier? I was ready to convert.
An Even Stranger Noise
I heard something! I looked around but did not see anything but moving cars. Pretty sure it sounded like human voice. Or…… since I was standing nearby the slaughterhouse, it was perhaps the screaming of slaughtered animals?! :O
That was a bleak inference.
I heard it again, this time I could distinguish the clear Doppler Effect with it. OK, judging from the frequency, it was emitted from a vehicle passing with high speed, at least 70 km/hour.
I was bewildered and looked at the sky: so, Goddess of Hitchhiking, you are playing a joke on me? I am not miserable enough yet?
Then I sneezed again.
A car stopped, a big SUV. The door opened and a big dude with middle eastern look stretched out his neck and said: ‘why don’t you take the train! Come on in! I can’t stop here for long!’
When I got into the car, I saw his wife Chelsey and their baby sitting behind. They had such lovely smiles. Even I looked totally bedraggled, the baby did not cry. I was sincerely moved and gave him a profound smile. He instantly started crying ……
Hamza: ‘We tried to tell you to take the train! but it’s so difficult to make the turn to your side. I shouted twice but the traffic was too fast!’
That explained the strange noise I heard.
Hamza was a Pakistani Canadian while his wife Chelsey had a mixture of African, Asian and European blood, even including some percentage of Chinese DNA.
Chelsey: ‘so our baby is everything! with all the possible blood in the world!’
What a beautiful family! They run a vlog on Youtube called the Encyclopedia of Us. Feel free to check it out.
I briefly told them of my story and they were sorry that they were not driving to Toronto on that day but they would pay for a train ticket for me. Although they were in a hurry, we still managed to talk a bit and exchange contacts. Hamza and I rushed to the train station. Understanding the situation simply by looking at it, the good-natured ticket seller said with a big smile to Hamza: ‘You are a great man!’ Before I ran for the train, the ticket seller said:’Wait!’ and handed me a bottle of cooled water. I ran.
I LOVE Canada. Did I tell you that?
I was and still and will always be thankful to them. I am grateful for every bit of help I receive along the way, even just a drop of water or a simple smile or encouragement words from a stranger. After all, they are not obligated to help me but they choose to. To help a human being is to help the whole humanity.
I have also encountered many other travelers, most of whom share the same philosophy. However, I have also made less pleasant encounters with travelers who get spoiled by help from strangers. Not even strangers from rich countries, but strangers from third world countries. For example, I met this German Chinese girl from Berlin who was traveling in Turkey at that time. We had the same Couchsurfing host. When we had a meal together in a beautiful town near Izmir, our host insisted that he would pay for all of us and that was his treat. I told him he did not need to do that. He insisted. I thanked him profusely while this girl said nothing. When he went to pay, she said to me casually:’Oh, they always do that. I am used to it.’ She did not even utter a simple thanks.
Instead of making one better, traveling has made some people worse. When hitchhiking in Europe, I noticed so many girls who thought they deserved to be treated as a queen and became rather bitchy. That is the saddest end of one’s journey, returning home from a 2-year world journey to become a ungrateful lazy bitch.
There are surely also male travelers who get worse along the way and stop being thankful but I simply have met much less of them. It definitely has much to do with how our society perceives different genders but being grateful is a basic human quality.
Are You Hitchhiking?
I got on the almost empty train. I put my green backpack and my hitchhiking sign in the corner. The moment I sat down, a tall dude with blond long hair like a viking stared at me curiously. I thought: ‘so…… not just Americans, Canadians are also not used to backpackers?’ Seriously, when I was in New York City metro, people all stared at me and my backpack and some even shyly ventured to ask for a photo with me……
I stared back and smiled.
He pointed to my sign and asked hesitatingly: ‘You? are you….. hitchhiking?’
Within half a second I realized that this was a fellow (ex)hitchhiker! Yes, I had finally found a fellow traveler in North America!
This energetic young dude was from Poland, a country I had so connected with. I even seriously took courses to learn Polish. How did it go? Basically speaking, it is the most difficult language I have ever attempted to learn.
He: You know what? I hitchhiked with my brother from Poland to Ukraine, to Czech, even to Spain! I miss that man! Here, things are different. People do not travel that much. I’ve always wanted to meet other hitchhikers but I have been working in Toronto for four years and you are the second hitchhiker I’ve met here!
Me: Seriously? So rare?
He: Absolutely! So when I saw your sign. I was happily shocked! OK, do you need anything? food, water, money. Do you need a place to stay? You can stay in my place if you want! I understand what it is like to be traveling for such a long time! In Spain it’s so difficult to get a ride that we had to walk for such a long time. You know, the Spanish sun was so torrid! I felt I was dying! Anyway, let’s go for food! My treat! You are not in a hurry, are you?
It was high noon and I was to meet my friend Arif that evening, so I had ample time. We went to pick up some marijuana before lunching in a Jamaican restaurant. After the meal, we were sitting in the terrace of a beer bar, enjoying the sun and talking about our travels.
That was the best part of traveling, the most lovely surprise when you least expect it. God (God of Traveling I mean) I love traveling!
To be continued