As a traveler, you meet plenty of girls that travel alone despite the major fears that most girls have when thinking of traveling alone. I am not a girl but know many female travelers. I reached out to a longtime friend and fellow Delco defector now turned Aussie Kim C. She shared this story of her hitchhiking in Albania a few years back and how it’s OK for girls to Guy Around. Give it a read and check out her website, by clicking this link.
Haydn and Aaron were pulling cherries off the tree we were sitting under while having breakfast at the hostel in Berat, Albania. I was sitting and chatting with a French woman who worked at the hostel about Morocco. She was telling me how crazy I was for planning to go there as a solo female, especially with my blonde hair. I listened politely then asked her for a piece of cardboard and a marker so I could make a hitchhiking sign. She looked even more worried for me but eventually found a piece of broken wood. I took the marker and began to write Sarande on it. Aaron warned that I was starting the letters too big. I ignored him, he was right. It still managed to work. After hearing how easy hitchhiking in Albania was, we decided to give it a go all the way south to Sarande, on the Albanian Riviera. With our backpacks on and sign in tow, we started walking through town.
It was already boiling and the sun was blinding. We were meant to get up earlier but took our time waking instead. After a few minutes walking, already dripping with sweat, we all looked at each other and agreed it was time to stop for beers. Some beers and lunch later, we were finally off. We took a taxi to the bus station and set ourselves up on the corner to wait. Within five minutes a silver Mercedes pulled over. The driver agreed to take us part way after Aaron said he was from Australia. We hopped in, the boys going off about how amazing the car was while I sat in silent horror waiting for the moment we’d be killed, kidnapped or sold into slavery. A few minutes later, the driver pulled over to a station to have his tires checked. Shortly after that, he stopped into a shop to say hello to his mother. My stomach was in my throat thinking he was laying out the plans for our kidnapping. Episodes of Criminal Minds played in my head as I strained to keep my composure. The boys were in great spirits thinking nothing of the sort. We drove on, exchanging a few words with him about where we were from and where we had been traveling. He played Albanian club music. I took a quick glance at his ID card, his name was Kledio. Haydn could see I was uneasy so he put his hand on top of mine to try to ease my worry. I finally let up and gave in to it; the car accelerated and the ride was smooth. Between the subtle vibration felt from the speed and the views out the window, I drifted off to sleep.
We pulled over at a petrol station with an outdoor cafe. The boys ordered a beer. Kledio wouldn’t let us pay for them. After another hour or so, we ended up at a hotel in Vlore where Kledio was to meet his girlfriend. We took out our bags and sat down on the sidewalk. This was where we were meant to find another ride. Kledio spoke briefly with his girlfriend. She told him she wanted to go to Sarande for the night. Kledio then agreed to take us the full way, another 3 hours. She grabbed her things and jumped in the front seat while the three of us squeezed in the back. She argued with him for a while in Albanian. He took her hand as she calmed down and chain smoked. Getting to Sarande meant driving up and around a mountain. The changing scenery was beautiful; images we would never get from a bus ride. Kledio’s girlfriend turned the music up. We all danced in our seats to Danza Kudoro. My worries evaporated and I began to feel free and happy on the open road, swerving around the bends and slowing up to let the cows pass.
Kledio pulled off the road to a lodge where he said his brother was married. There were deer walking around just a few feet in front of us. We jumped back in the car. After making our way up the mountain, we stopped off for dinner since, by that point, we had been driving for 5 or 6 hours. The restaurant was surrounded by waterfalls and wandering goats. They had no menu. Kledio ordered for us. Aaron said that he and I were vegetarian. They ordered us pasta with meat sauce. We shrugged our shoulders, smiled and obliged. After dinner, Kledio got the bill. He wouldn’t let us pay regardless of how many times we insisted. In the final driving stretch, we could see the Ionian sea. The smell of the air changed to sweet salt. Kledio dropped us at the hotel he was planning to stay at and said farewell as we made our way to our hostel. We were his first hitchhikers.
We had arrived in Sarande just before sunset, in one piece, full and open to the beauty of Albania and it’s people; only possible through the unknowingness of hitchhiking and our trusting in the goodness of strangers.
Please check out and support Kim’s website, www.etrelibretravel.com. Comment below!