Interview with a hitchhiker: Globetrotting Frenchman makes Brooklyn pitstop

Frenchman Jeremy Marie is depending on the kindness of strangers to help him through a multi-year, global hitchhike that has taken him from the pyramids of Egypt to the tundra of Alaska — and he’s not even halfway through his journey yet. He began his trip in October 2007, and intends to keep going until some time in 2012. This week, he arrived in Brooklyn, which he said impressed him for its authenticity and diversity, and took some time to talk about his experiences.

I am a French man of 25 years old, not married and without children, which probably allowed me to take this journey. I have my both parents and a twin sister as well. So far, I traveled around 78,000 kilometers — 48,000 miles — in 39 different countries.

Is this a hobby for you, or a full time profession? Are you taking time off from work to do this? If so, what is your training?

I would say that this trip is more than a hobby because it became a full-time occupation. I couldn’t say that it is my profession as it doesn’t offer me any income.

Actually, I didn’t take the time to start a career and that is probably the second reason — the other one is to not have started a family — that helped me to start this trip. Indeed, I am not taking off my work. I studied tourism back in France…we can say I am not practicing!

I saved money for one year in France. I saved 9000 euros before [I left], which is around $12,000 dollars I guess. I also got some help from the ministry of youth and sport in France who gave me some funds in the beginning.

I have a little budget of $7.00 a day… that’s my secret!

$7 dollars allow me mostly to pay for my food in the United States. The good news are that I don’t pay for the transportation as I am hitchhiking and I also don’t spend money on accommodations, using the Web site couchsurfing.org.

After all, in most of the third world countries, $7 is more comfortable and I can afford to support myself in an easier way.

Indeed, eating for 7 dollars in New York means fast food!

Indeed, that was my first trip to Brooklyn. In my first trip in New York, the farthest I have been was the half of the Brooklyn Bridge!

To be honest, I found Brooklyn more filled with authentic New Yorkers than in Manhattan, which seems to be more touristy. I felt more like being in the part of the town which is more inhabited, and that I could witness a different daily life, more close from what I know.

I went from Borough Hall to the Brooklyn Bridge, passing by the promenade and then went back to the inside of Brooklyn. I loved the view of Manhattan from the promenade by the way.

Well, Brooklyn is pretty unique. It is very difficult to compare to other cities I have been. Even big cities have nothing compared to it to be honest! New York is more or less considered as the capital of the world and Brooklyn is a part of it. I also like the melting pot here: people from all over the world passing by me. I can remember different parts of my trip just by walking one block and trying to guess where the people [originated] from: Poland, Salvador, Kenya, England, Mexico.

What were the various modes of transportation that you’ve taken during your journey?

I can use any mean of transportation as long as I [can] hitchhike them. This way of doing led me to use 906 different vehicles from the beginning of the trip. I have mostly hitchhiked cars, trucks but also motorbikes, rickshaws, trains, tractors, feluccas (Egyptian boats), ferryboats, donkeys and even a catamaran across the Atlantic Ocean, from Cape Town in South Africa to Panama City.

Bathroom in Guatemala, petrol station in Sudan, and inside a crane in Montenegro.

Actually, I had the chance to never have found myself attacked or assaulted.

In this case, the most dangerous situation I found myself in were when I had to deal with the extreme weather — from 124 degrees Fahrenheit in Sudan to -8 Fahrenheit in the USA! I just respect some rules, like not going in bad reputation areas at night, and that kept me out of trouble so far.

One of the main reason why I am traveling is that I am looking for meeting people, to understand customs and ways of living. For this reason, my most breathtaking place will be Sudan, where the hospitality side of the Muslim culture welcomed me extremely well.

I would say that most of the people are living for the same issues: being in peace, having a family, enjoying their life. I don’t say that we are all succeeding in that, but at least it seems to me that most of the people are aiming in this direction. And we also have something in common: we are human, which means we all have to deal with the same needs: hunger, thirst and love. And that, I found it everywhere.

The sofa in front of the television, because the reality is not there, but in the real world! I would advise people to make their own opinion, to think [for] themselves, to go to see what is really happening with their own eyes.

-First one, the whole Mexican cuisine that I had in Mexico.

-Second, the Turkish cuisine and especially the meat of kebab.

-Third, the Middle-Eastern cuisine, especially the falafel in Syria.

There is something I would recommend to anyone, indeed. Maybe not to travel at this extent because this is my dream, and that helps me in the motivation. I would recommend people to be more curious, to try to know more, so they will become more open-minded and more tolerant.

I stayed one month in Tanzania. I spent this time in an orphanage in the city of Mwanza. That allowed me to understand a little bit better the life of AIDS orphans. I also noticed that there is a big difference of level of eduction between USA and Tanzania. In Tanzania, the children were 150 students in one class with one professor.

I think I will end this journey in late 2012. I intend to come back to France, in Normandy where I come from because this is where my family is living. After, I will see what the next plans will be when I will be there.

By finding new, exciting challenges. I can make my life useful by using my experience and so being useful to other people hopefully. I don’t [intend] to come back to be bored. I want to come back to start a new period of my life which will be as exciting hopefully, without needing to move around the globe non-stop.

Follow Jeremy Marie on Facebook, or on his Web site: http://www.tour-du-monde-autostop.fr/carnet_de_bord_en.php. Click on the English link, unless your French is good.

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