That ONE Time I Became a Boat Hitchhiker

My stays in France and Chile during my studies at a young age helped me build up a new routine abroad and adapt to other cultures. After my studies in business psychology, I wanted to figure out how easy traveling actually is, I wanted to experience it again. After working nine months in my first permanent job in an agency for sustainable event management, I managed to earn the necessary money for the trip. That’s where it all started.

A year ago, I was in Tenerife on a workaway when a new volunteer from Belgium came; her name was Romane. She did not stay long, she told me that she wanted to go on a sailboat trip from Spain, but the season was already over, so she had to take the ferry.

From Romane, I learned for the first time what boat hitchhiking is. Previous to this, I had sailed twice before with friends and stated at that time that there was no better way to travel.

A year went by, and I knew that Romane was going to Belgium to work; then at the end of the year, she was going to cross the Atlantic by a sailboat. I quit my job in Berlin and wrote to Romane in the middle of December: “Hey, where are you right now?”

It turned out that Romane was in Gran Canaria with a friend looking for a boat to cross the Atlantic. Long story short, we met in early January in Las Palmas and slept at a very lovely Couchsurfer. We were keen on searching for a boat together — but did not discard finding something individually.

Hitchhiking was a concept I’ve already made several times by car. When doing it, I realized that asking people at gas stations or parking lots gave me a better feeling because you can check people out beforehand. It’s similar to boat hitchhiking. You see the people on the boat while you drink your coffee in the harbor bar and observe. When you select the person that seems sympathetic, you approach, and with a bit of luck, it hopefully works. Then you can ask the boats which anchor; you borrow a dinghy from people on the dock and drive laps from boat to boat.

Romane and I prepared some Crêpes to get attention from the people- a classic that got around.

Some bars I can really recommend for good sailors’ meeting:

— -> Las Palmas SAILOR BAR

— -> Mindelo: FLOATING BAR and various JAZZ bars: Livraria Nho Djunga and Jazzy Bird

Upon arriving at Las Palmas, we went directly near the port to accommodate, but the docks are all sealed off and only accessible with a card; not so nice to ask around.

It is much nicer in Mindelo on the Cape Verde Islands- the port is clear, after a time, you know many people, and the number of Boat hitchhikers is fewer. On Guadeloupe, I hopped on my third boat In Deshaies, I took a dinghy and drove around.

Now I want to give you some short impressions of the Green Island Santo Antão:

I have recommended to everyone! We noticed that people speak more creole here than on São Vicente (port), in Mindelo they speak more Portuguese and many understand French, Spanish and a little English too. São Antão is much more rural and supplies the other nine islands with necessary fruits and food. The agricultural economy is impressive with a widespread terracing techniques like Machu Picchu.

People walk down the stones in flip-flops, bags of bananas or papayas on their heads. I stayed one night at the Luz do Sol lodging with a local family, which offered such great comfort. The people here are lovely, honest, warm-hearted, and funny.

My takeaway is that searching at the port can be pretty energy-draining. Sleeping at the port, you are quickly involved in conversations: “Have you found a boat yet?” “Why didn’t you go on with your boat?” However, the atmosphere at the port is very relaxed, and everyone is friendly when you ask them if they have space on board.

Sometime after this trip, I learned about FOLO and what they do to connect people around them with similar interests and events that create community. I think this idea is fantastic, and as a person who has traveled on her own for some time, I can see invaluable worth to a platform such as FOLO. Looking back, it would have been easier for me to find people in the ports and cities I was hitchhiking towards. There is no doubt that I will be using FOLO for my future travels to save my favorite locations and meet new friends.

Liane Scholten



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