Who is Sven de Hondt?
Well on his website (www.hetjaarvandehond.be) he describes himself in this way;-
“I’m a freelance-journalist for the Belgian magazines P-magazine & Che-magazine, a bartender in a Belgian beer bar, a movie aficionado, a self declared pop culture critic, a past time date show participant, a storyteller and an alternative traveller”.
Sven embarked on a massive adventure, where he hitch hiked from his home town of Leuven in Belgian to Sydney Australia. A life changing experience to say the least, Sven is now back and working at the Rock N Bowl hostel in Bristol, brimming with stories to tell.
What inspired you to hitch hike to Australia?
I like to think that I made the blueprint for my Hitch hiking trip to Australia 4 years ago. I was 22 at that time and I hitch hiked around Europe for 6 months. It was on that trip that I first fell madly in love with the road and that I started to enjoy travelling without a plan.
Waking up and not knowing where I would end up by nightfall was exciting and frightening at the same time. I said that before I was about to settle I would make one massive hitch hiking trip, as if it was the ultimate testament of my youth.
I left on the 10th of June, the exact day of my 25th birthday, which was quite symbolic. “I’ve done One quarter of a century; let this adventure be the beginning of the next one.” and so I left. On a highway in Belgium. With a sign that said Sydney.
Did you come across any problems along the way?
I always tend to laugh when people tell me about their travel-preparations. Where do you start planning and where do you end. I did enquire a couple of visas (Pakistan, India), but against my expectations everything went really smoothly.
I did not really have practical problems, although when I was in Iran I heard about the passing of my father. He was 50 and he passed away in a car accident. I went home from Iran and picked up my travels 3 weeks later in Pakistan. It made me think about the course, the urgency and the meaning of my travels and I felt he was living his lost dreams through me. It didn’t make my trip easier, but it definitely changed how I looked at the world.
What was the easiest and hardest country to hitch hike through?
Germany is always quite easy to hitch, because cars are allowed to make high speeds. The easiest country to hitch hike in, is actually Turkey and the middle east (not what most people would think).
Over there, the people were so generous and hospitable which really amazed me. On the other hand… I thought hitch hiking in Australia was quite hard…It’s the same as in the UK. People are living in their bubble of indulgence and a pressure created by society that they don’t tend to stop for hitch hikers. Or… the less people have… the more they are willing to give away. I learned a lot about the human condition on my trip.
What tips and advice would you offer to people thinking about hitch hiking a long distance?
Surround yourself with a partner. ‘Happiness is not real unless it’s shared’ is kind of a cliché… but it’s a cliché because it’s true. I hitched on my own and I hitched with others; but I definitely prefer to hitch hike with others.
On a more practical level: never give up! One of the unwritten rules of hitch hiking: just when you are about to give up an amazing ride will show up: a BMW, a porche, a person who goes straight to your destination, a car full of bikini clad girls or a hot Alexander Skarsgard look-a-like.
I have a lot of practical advice: where colours (purple, pink and orange. don’t think you look ridiculous, people tend to trust orange and purple and are more likely to give you a ride) and never ever wear sunglasses or hats; even if it’s blistering hot.
What modes of transport did you use to get to your destination?
Automobiles, bikes, boats, canoes, trains, buses, riksja’s, Jeepney’s; Becaks and TukTuks. And eventually I took one plane.
What is one of your favourite memories of the trip?
Jeez… do you have a minute… I met my girlfriend on the bus in Malaysia. She’s English , which is why I moved to the UK after my trip. (the end of my trip, the beginning of a new adventure). I was invited at weddings in Vietnam and Iran. I taught school kids in Iran, I was an extra in a Bollywood movie, I went in for meditation, I learned how to dive, how to climb and how to ride a motorbike. The list is endless.
“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” – Ira Glass: 21stCentury Journalist/Storyteller