Hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa for three years. Map No. 1. Brussels to Andorra
From New York, I flew to Brussels on a super-promo ticket of $220 round trip. I was apprehensive. It was fear of the unknown. But I was lucky. It took a lovely French Belgian stewardess on a rickety Citroen to break the ice in my hitching caper, my very first ride. From then on, I became the albatross, fearless and with the stratosphere as my domain.
Map No. 2. Andorra to Marseille
I worked as a construction hand in Andorra, the tiny freeport nation in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, a tourism destination. It was colder than Baguio City. I wanted to feel how it was to be a laborer, at the same time augment my money. Seeing how frail I was, the Catalan workers made sure I did not carry 50-kilo cement bags. They were extremely warm people.
In Spanish Sahara, when I crossed the border from Morocco, the border guards looked down on drifters as nothing but dirty bums. We were 14 backpackers at that time, French, American, Swedes, Canadian, Japanese, Australian, etc., and me, the lone Filipino. They searched our bags, and asked for proof of travel money. My American friend, a former NASA ballistic missile engineer (so he said), did not have money because his remittance was delayed. He could not pass through. When they saw from my passport that I was a Filipino, they got excited. I had a chance to use my pig Spanish. They let me through without inspection. I pointed at the American as my friend, so they let him through. It is nice to feel like a messiah. They became very friendly because the Philippines was once a Spanish colony. I told them without flinching, “Me voy para Islas Canarias, amigos.”
Map No. 3. Marseille to Amsterdam
Skopje in Yugoslavia, and Athens were highpoints. In a decade or so, the serene landscape I hitched through in this first-ever Eastern European country would become a bloodbath in the Serbian Wars. I stayed in the home of a Yugoslav girl, classmate in art school of my friend in Rome, Jimmy Hidalgo Resurrection, the artist. I had a violent argument with her dad who said religion was the opium of the people. He did not kick me out. Athens was my berth for the cold winter, singing in subways with an American flute player, more for fun than for money. I was extremely lonely on Christmas day without a family.
Map No. 4 Amsterdam to Amsterdam
Running out of money, I settled in Amsterdam and, after a short bout as a janitor in a restaurant, I had to endure in my old profession as a systems analyst, earning big bucks. I was doing FORTRAN programs crunching brain-wave arrays using a mathematical formula called Fourier Transform. Sorry for name dropping. It was a research on effects of new drugs on the brain. There were no PCs or laptops then, only IBM S/360s whose 100kb memory is a huge cabinet. I hated the job and lasted only about six months of torture, in spite of the good pay. My albatross wings grew back instantly. Sweden was memorable for hitching in sub-zero winter in the blinding snow, not to mention the lovely Swedish women who took care of me.