The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Travelling alone, on foot, by bike, by bus, by train, in a community spirit. It's a project I've had in mind since I was 15, at least. But there are a few problems, the main one being that I am a girl.
Hitchhiking, which for me is the perfect way to do this kind of project, is out of the question. I would always encourage a girl, a woman, to go for it, if she knows the risks and is willing to try. I am against the culture of fear. But unfortunately, for me, I'm in the middle of it. I can't prepare for my first road trip.
A homestay would also be ideal, which I am looking for. To meet, even by chance, people who are ready to welcome travellers into their homes, for an evening, for a night. The dream. But the same problem. Security. I can't help but have the statistics and testimonies of my relatives come back to my mind, despite my desire to trust. So I forget about the dream. I compromise.
For the first time I dare to go on foot for 5 days at 18, and with a friend. We sleep in tents and occasionally hitchhike. The journey is there, without pollution, with the community on the road, but still, paradoxically, more solitary than the journey alone I dreamed of. But at least I can see that I am able to make the effort for a trip where the goal is the journey, not just the destination. It's a start. I've been keeping this first road trip project in the back of my mind all this time, telling myself that maybe, in a few years, I'll be able to try it, when I'll have more contacts in different cities, distant acquaintances that I'll get to know better by creating a network of hosts where each one of them can vouch for the other.
And then, the year I turned 19, I came across an article shared by a friend of mine who has been living through this system all the time for years, moving around the globe, meeting all sorts of people, creating projects, carrying them out, and then leaving. He is aware that the majority of women who want to travel don't dare attempt even a tenth of what he does because of the risks involved in just being women. He never judges anyone for this, on the contrary. He thus makes known, to all his contacts, SisterHome.
This is a revelation for me. Yes, it sounds a bit dramatic, but it really had that effect on me. For a while, I had been imagining something more specific than just a vague idea, a first road trip dream.
After a more than complicated school year, I had started to plan a trip to the South of France, relying on my contacts in the music world, who live all over France. I figure I can look into staying with them, as I would for them, that it's better than nothing, that it's closer to my original plan, and that it might be different from the host meeting, but still great. But many moved away, things got complicated, and the project started to fall apart. Until I discovered this article. And then it was all hell broke loose.
Summer was already fast approaching, with not much time left for this first road trip. I'm trying to travel as much as possible by bike, as hitchhiking is not possible and buses and trains are very impersonal. If I'm going to be alone, I might as well enjoy a nicer route, and without polluting. I also like the idea of cycling along the Canal du Midi.
I still like the idea that the journey should be an activity, an event in its own right. But time is short, and I'm organising it alone, a bit panicked at the idea of finding myself alone one night, with nowhere to sleep, and temporarily, the deep desire to meet people is masked by this feeling of needing security and assurance.
I register on the website, look at the cities, and the profiles of the hosts, fascinated. I am eager to meet them. But the panic remains strong. All these years of anxiety about the idea of never being able to do these trips, or just about the different problematic situations I could encounter, make my search for accommodation feverish; I make my calculations of dates, kilometres, and hours to cycle. For each of the people I write to, I know I really want to meet them and I really choose this solution for the community spirit you have. But I soon realise that I'm so keen to make sure I'm under a roof every night that this desire to meet people doesn't seem to be a big part of my approach, and the messages follow one another to cover all the dates, even though I only write to one person per night or even two at the most for isolated areas. I don't know if this is normal.
What I do know is that I've been living this dream for a long, long time, that the values associated with a first road trip are ingrained in me, and yet the need for safety, fuelled by the sense of urgency and the constraints of part of the bike ride, and the rental of it, has managed to tint my approach with a note of impersonality, at least on the surface.
So if you feel like this is your case, know that you are not alone. Correct yourself afterwards if you feel you need to, and try to remember the original reasons why you are here. I haven't finished planning this trip yet, but as I finish writing this article, I feel at least a little more serene, because my thought process is clear: I dreamed of something, I want it, I can do it, it's all new, I'm afraid. And I try to fill this fear. But fear does not change the dream. And even before I leave, I know that I still want to thank SisterHome for existing, and the hosts for being there. I look forward to meeting you.