Hitchhiking

First steps in Auxerre

(français dans les jours à venir)

First of all, allow me to tell you that I’m alive, safe and sound ! The beginning of my trip went pretty well. Hitchhiking from Paris to Auxerre was fairly easy, thanks to the great spot suggested in the very handy hitchwiki : the gas station of Lisses, in the southern surburb. Directly asking people if they were going to Auxerre was something new for me, as I’m mostly used to the basic thumbing technique – put yourself on the side of the road, raise your thumb and wait for somebody to stop. I discovered that asking people is more effective, often safer and actually more fun as you are proactive.

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Reaching the station was almost more difficult...

The city of Auxerre is also nice. The center is full of big churches, including the gorgeous Saint Étienne cathedral and the Saint Germain abbaye, and is on the left side of the Yonne river, which is always a good thing for a city. Also, you can see a lot of planks on the front side of the house, giving the city a taste of good old fashion.

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The fine Saint Nicolas plaza

But hey, I’m not travelling for tourism purposes, right ? The first workshop took place in the local board games shop, Cartes sur table. Apart from Nicolas, and Elise, the very friendly shopkeepers (and fellow players), 3 people were there, which was a good number as a group of 3 is better than 2 groups of 2 in my opinion.

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The stage is ready

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The workshop lasted 2h30. The mechanicards picked by the attendees were “Dice”, “Material positioning” and “Narration”. My epic hand crafted theme was “Potato”. In the end, the game prototype involved potato plantations with crops buying, potatoes selling and market flux (at least the idea of stocks was there !).

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The plantation of a player

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Potatoes factory and random events list

What now ?

I’m currently in Besançon to present the trip to local people before the incoming workshops ! I shall write something after those workshops, in something like 1 week. Meanwhile, if you want me to write about something specific about the trip, feel free to send me an email !

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Egotrip : some info about my precedent trips

Ludi Vojago isn’t some sort of silly whim coming out of nowhere : it is a way to combine several fields of interest. Among them : Game Design; Sharing things; Connecting people (no Nokia pun intended, honest). But above all : Travelling.

This concept is quite messy. What IS travelling anyway ? I’m quite sure if you ask this to 10 people, you will have 10 different answers. Travelling may involve driving, tourism, sleeping outside, fishing, struggling, paddling, meeting people, whatever.

I have my own “travelling philosophy”. For me, the destination isn’t as important as the actual trip. “Travelling” means “discovering”, opening my mind to people or situations I may encounter. Travelling also means “destroying” : I will use some means of transportation, use some specific material such as bags and shoes, use Internet to show some parts of my trip and countless things I wouldn’t have done by staying home. This won’t stop me from travelling, but I keep it in mind every time just in case I would ask myself if something is really worthy.

Back to the topic : my travelling experience is guiding me through the preparation of Ludi Vojago. It is not as big as some bigtime travellers walking, biking, hitchhiking and so on all around the world, but I have some interesting stories to share.

Here are some “highlighted” travelling experiences.

2009 – Walking from Paris to Rouen

The first “biggie” is also the one with the most information. If you can read French, you can find some pictures & description on my old travelling blog : HERE and HERE.

Long story short : we were 3 people (Hélène, Amaia and me) walking for about 150km in France, near the Seine river, from the south-suburbs of Paris to Rouen (Normandy). The trip was 1 week long and we slept outside under our tents – hopefully, the weather was absolutely stunning.

We could expect that, so “close” from Paris, the landscapes would be quite urbain. We were wrong. We passed through stunning areas, little villages and a lot of little roads.

We also discovered that people are great. We crossed the road of really interesting people, just by walking around. We were offered to stay in some places, and we even ended up asking for hospitality to a priest in a very rainy evening. He wasn’t even shocked or anything. He just opened up the community hall and left us the key.

Also, we met the grand children of one of our junior high school teachers. 80km from the school. In the middle of a tiny village. Yeah, that happens a lot.

2010 – Biking from Reims to Utrecht

The plan was to bike from Reims to Antwerp with a friend (Amaia, one of the Paris -> Rouen walkers !) then to finish the trip from Antwerp to Utrecht alone, then reach Scherpenzeel to meet up some friends. It ended up pretty well. The trip was something (very roughly… )like this.

The whole trip was a whole different story from the walking tour. Biking is fun and interesting, but also have some drawbacks from walking (I wrote something about it). So, we ended up travelling huge distances while still enjoying the landscape and meeting people during our stops, but had more trouble to find acceptable ways to bike, where we could climb small hills easily while walking.

During my first day alone, I slept in some grassy area. A boy was quite curious about that little tent in the middle of nowhere, and came to say hello. Problem is, he wasn’t speaking English very well, and I didn’t know a word in Dutch, so we had trouble to understand each other. Still, he went away then came back several time to ask me some things, like “Do you need things ?” or “Do you want shower tomorrow ?”, then “My parents are OK if you want come tomorrow shower”. I was, of course, incredibly moved by the infinite kindness of this boy… but I couldn’t manage to find his house the next morning. So I left some little message around the grass, which was a bit pointless I guess.

Little boy, would you read this one day, I want you to know that you lightened up my trip and I can’t thank you enough. Next time, I will write an adress somewhere !!

2011 – Hitchhiking to Finland

I was living in Finland for one semester in 2010. I deeply felt in love with this country and promised myself to come back one day. I kept my promise the year after by hitchhiking there with my best friend Thibault, and a friend of us, Elyse, for the first part of the trip, from Paris to Hamburg.

The trip last 3 weeks – we wend back from Finland to France by plane, as I had some emergency to take care of. We traveled through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. This time, we were hosted during most of the trip, either via Couchsurfing or friends/family (in Hanover & Stockholm).

I don’t even know where to start with this one. We had so many intense times, we met so many incredible people during the whole trip. So, I’ll rather give some “key advices” from what I’ve seen.

– Hitchhiking in Finland is all right, but very hard in South-Sweden. We may had bad luck, but I’m still wondering why…

– Christiania, in Copenhagen, is a very interesting place. It is also a very bad sign to see armored cops there – my lungs may still have some tear gas somewhere.

– Frankfurt am main is a terrible place to stay during a night only with sleeping bags.

– It is unadvised to hitchhike too close to a Finnish metal festival, because wild, drunk Finnish guys pissing on the road seems to be quite unappealing (but still very friendly).

2012 – The Nowhere event and car-sharing to Hungary

Those two trips were, at the same time, very intense and very conventionnal.

Conventionnal because very organized, involving only car-sharing and quite “comfy” (at least for my standards). Intense because they involved the Nowhere event – the “”European Burning Man””  (the shortcut is a bit rough) – and one day in the Sziget festival in Budapest, one of the largest musical festival in Europe – as well as the magnificent Budapest itself.

The Nowhere is a very enlightning event where a lot of crazy things happen.  We set up a “Tea, Tales & Games” camp with some friends, filled up with board games and, well, tea and tales. We enjoyed being part of this strange community and discover a lot of things, mostly on ourselves. Organizing this trip in the desert was an interesting task and taught me some tricks… mostly about delays :-).

Our trip in Hungary – with Thibault, again – was made interesting by the people travelling with us. We found a car-sharing opportunity on the French website Blablacar, which was uncalled for, and spent some days with four fun and easy-going people.

I stayed one single day in the Sziget festival itself, but it was once again an interesting discovery. Its size is unreal, as well as the amount of people there. The amount of alcohol drunk is also really high and convinced me I was getting fonder of small communities and wild nature, not tremendous parties like this. I went forward in my “travel philosophy building” mission.

2014 – Ludi Vojago

More and more, I wanted to travel for something, to share experiences, bring a little “something” to the numerous people I would meet. And I also spent some years to study Game Design I couldn’t use to travel.

So… here we go. 🙂


PS : You should take a look at http://travelwithamission.org. This community/website is meant to gather travellers willing to share something or even building a better world, and people willing to offer them a public to interact with.

In other words, TWAM is another wonderful use of the Internet and could lead to great partnerships between great people.

Means of transport : Bike vs Not-bike

The main goal of Ludi Vojago is definitely to create board games with folks around Europe. While the whole “creating board games” concept is as clear as it’s hard to properly set up, the “around Europe” part shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Among the numerous things I still have to clarify, one of my main question is the way I’ll travel. Using a car or a van is out of question for three main reasons :

1) I’m an apprentice driver, so the driving insurance for a van would be ridiculously high;

2) It’s obviously not eco-friendly, and this bothers me a lot;

3) I kind of hate driving.

I therefore have two main possibilities to travel : walking/hitchhiking or biking.  Both have pros and cons, and I’m still hesitating. By the way, feel free to help me by leaving a comment, an e-mail or something.

So, let’s analyse this “bike” thingie…

Pros !

Extra carriage room : Without any bike, I’m basically limited to what my travelling bag can contain, which means around 80L max. With a bike however, I can still carry this bag (yeah, not exactly comfortable, but manageable), plus two extra bike bags, plus a little basket in front of the bike.

Blasting cute.

Apart from the extreme sex appeal provided by the basket, the storage room is quite a big deal for this project. I need to carry some games to provide some references and because, well, playing is the core concept of the project. I also need to have some specific material, such as pawns, dices, hourglasses… things which can’t be found easily, unlike scissors, cardboard and so on, which I’ll manage to find somehow.

Way faster than walking : That’s the other main point of a bike. I think my average walking speed would be about 25kms a day (carrying a big bag never helps) versus 75kms a day with a bike, maybe more in flat areas.

I generally won’t be in a hurry, as I see no real point at rushing my way during a trip, but it would be easier to reach important deadlines which might occur, like attending a board game event, catching a plane etc… Plus, the project is focused on creating games, not strolling on the roads – even if I personally enjoy this :-).

I still can take some trains : Fortunately, I can put my bike in some trains. Not every of them of course, but I assume taking the train despite having a bike means I would be in some sort of dire situation where I really need to take a train, so I would be ready to wait for the right one.

Cons…

Wrong time, wrong place : I already own a trusty bike. I used it to bike my way from Reims to Utrecht to Scherpenzeel some years ago, which was a great experience. However, there’s some slight differences between biking near the Netherlands during summer, and biking not so far away from the Alpes during winter.

Price : Even if I have the bike, several expenses will be inevitable, such as extra air chambers, oil and possible mechanical failures. No bike, no extra charges.

Makes hitchhiking almost impossible : Obviously. This considerably offsets the speed gain provided by the bike, and makes some mountain crossing even more worrisome, as I won’t have any real back-up plan between 2 railway stations. Except of course if I cross the road of a truck driver able to open his truck, but it still lower the odds dramatically…

I can’t take every train : Taking trains would require extra attention. I’m rather familiar with French trains and which ones allow bikes, but I can’t say the same thing for other countries. So, I may find myself in a situation where I would struggle to understand if I actually can take one specific train. Shucks.

Parking : Let’s suppose I have to take a plane to spend Christmas in France with my mum. Or let’s say I have a day off and I wanna hit this beautiful grotto I can only access by walking. I can take my bag with me, but where should I park my bike ? Shall I put it in a street and somehow lock up my bike bags ? The bike can end up being a deadweight, which would be counterproductive.

So. Even if lots of cons could be smoothed with some help of people I would meet (people owning a van to give me a lift, people able to stock my bike for several days…), the scale seems to be tipping in favor of NOT taking a bike.

If I go this way, my main objective would be to offset the pros a bike could bring me, namely storage and speed. While speed is not a real issue as I can hitchhike my way to places without any railway stations, storage will be a problem I have to solve.

I have some ideas in mind, but I’m pretty sure you, dear reader, have some trick up your sleeve you would be eager to share with me… 🙂

Cheers,

Aurélien