When a 25 year old French guy dropped the Mercury a line and asked if we'd be interested in talking to him about his hitchhiking tour around the world, I thought he was lying. But Frenchman Jeremy Marie has an elaborate binder of maps and photos of himself on camels and boats and he has a website, too, so as far as I can tell he's telling the truth. In 2007 Jeremy embarked on a project to travel around the world while paying $0 for transportation. Two years later he's made it to Portland via Mexico, Central America, Cape Town, Ethiopia, the Middle East and Southern Europe (in reverse order). Here's a condensed and edited interview with the expert couchsurfer.
Were you ever surrounded by sharks?
No. Sea lions, dolphins but I was never lucky enough to see a shark.
Have you had any trouble getting rides in the U.S.?
When I cross the border from Mexico to Texas, I tried to get to San Antonio and it took three days. The area was grass and dry and I was tired. I found lifts, but it was only one mile, two mile. The thing of my project is to show that there are good people in every country. In Texas, the good people are more difficult to find.
Five more questions below the cut.
Have you gotten any trouble from the police?
It depends on the state and also on the police. I have been stopped 20 times [in the U.S.] but have not been arrested. Sometimes they tell you to get off the road right away, in Nevada they do not want to talk or be nice at all.
How do you get a ride?
The people who stop always tell me this is the first time they pick up a hitchhiker. I try to dress clean and look good. Many people here are very scared to pick up hitchhikers and they tell me it is dangerous.
What has surprised you about the U.S.?
What surprised me was the fear. I was coming from third world countries and then when I crossed from Mexico into the US, people suddenly don't look at you on the side of the road, like you don't exist. I also did not expect the streets and sidewalks to be so... big. And there are a lot of people begging.
Did you realize when you set out that you would be gone this long?
I thought it was supposed to take three years, but I have been two years and I am not half way through. Money wise I am good, I have not spent half of my budget and I am now on a $7 a day budget.
What have you left behind?
Not much, all the useful things that I need don't take up much space. I used two backpacks already. I am looking for winter clothes now, I pretty much need only a beanie. I don't carry a tent, but I use a website called Couchsurfing. I don't have many material things. If I have a shirt and a toothbrush, I am good. I am treating it more like a project than a road trip, I could not be doing it for so long without some aim. It was not like I was following the wind.