It was his childhood dream, to travel the world. So in 2003, at the age of 25, Ludovic Hubler started. To meet local people, he chose to hitch hike and never spent a cent on traveling. Exactly five years later, he ended his journey after having visited 59 countries, sat in 1300 cars and trucks, given 300 presentations. To end his journey, he writes: "The two words that I most want to say today are: Never Again." Ludovic shares nine Never Again's as lessons learned along the way:
Before saying anything else, I want to thank all of you who’ve made it possible for me to realize my childhood dream, starting with my close family and friends who have always given me moral support, and all the people who picked me up while hitchhiking, or gave me a night’s accommodation in exchange for a few stories. I also want to give a special mention to Claudio, my "coach," who helped me so much throughout these years of travel, and to all the children in the Strasbourg-Hautepierre Hospital who have followed my journey from the beginning.
5 years around the world, that changes a person. The Ludovic Hubler who left to realize his childhood dream in 2003 is no longer the same Ludovic Hubler who is now returning.
I have often considered the achievement of this world tour as a necessary step in my life between the end of my studies and the beginning of my professional life, in the same sense as a Doctorate or Masters degree would be for other people, in different domains. However, this step did not happen in a classroom but in full contact with the realities of the terrain, at the sides of drivers and people the world over. This world tour was, at the beginning, supposed to take only 2 years, but in the end it took 5 because it seemed necessary to me to gain a deeper understanding of our planet.
In order to meet the local people around the world, I chose to use hitchhiking in all its forms to get around (car hitchhiking, boat hitchhiking, etc.) and tried to realize the challenge of "closing the circle" without spending a cent on transport (except urban travels). No expression can better summarize my vision of hitchhiking than that used in the Diario del fin del mundo, an Argentinean daily newspaper based in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego that, on November 28, 2003, titled an article about my adventure, "Asistiendo a la mejor escuela de vida " ("Attending the Best School of Life").
The best school of life. Hitchhiking permits, in effect, 2 individuals who know absolutely nothing about each other at the start, to get to know each other rather well in the space of a few minutes, hours, or sometimes even days. To my taste, travels are only interesting if they are punctuated with meetings with the local population. Hitchhiking allows these encounters to happen. I have often considered that each one of the some 1,300 drivers who picked me up during my 5 years of hitchhiking around the world (plus the more than 100 who picked me up during my previous tour of Europe ) had something to teach me. By hitchhiking, I was able to compare my point of view with that of people with very different pasts from mine. Further, I was able to learn many things about the countries I crossed and see them through the eyes of the locals.
But beyond hitchhiking and after 5 years of touring the world, the 2 words that I most want to say today are : NEVER AGAIN.
Never again, will I act without thinking of the consequences of my actions for the environment, and never again will I allow my government to ignore the challenges of preserving this planet. From the sight of deforestation in Honduras, Brazil or Indonesia to the sight of the glaciers melting in Antarctica or the great Canadian North, I realized during my journey to what extent human beings are in the process of destroying this beautiful planet. The English weekly "The Economist" recently wrote in one of its columns, "Will individual ignorance and selfishness lead to collective doom ?" That’s a question that I frequently ask myself today... Every one of us has a role to play to avoid this collective failure. To this end, one of the greatest priorities, which will at the same time help with other sensitive subjects, is the promotion of alternative energies.
Never again, will I complain about what I don’t have. This tour of the world allowed me to meet with people who have nothing (neither drinking water nor electricity, etc.) and who nonetheless kept smiling, offered me hospitality, and never complained about their lot in life. I will ensure that, from now on, I will never forget these people who brought me so much and helped me gain perspective on my personal problems.
Never again, will I forget the fabulous achievements of all the people working in the shadows (often on a voluntary basis) trying to make the world a better place. Before leaving, I didn’t even know what the words "NGO" meant. After visiting around a hundred of them, meeting formidable individuals trying the change the destiny of the underprivileged, I have but one single desire : Make my modest contribution to their efforts and encourage each one of you to do the same.
Never again, will I forget the luck I had to be born in France. Thank you, Papa, thank you, Mama. How many people have reminded me during these 5 years how lucky I am to have had access to a quality education, to have a passport which permits me to move freely throughout the world, and to have a strong currency which makes such a trip possible. I would like it if, in the not too far future, there could be some reciprocity in travel opportunities for the people of the world. It’s not the case today and I hope we will soon understand that lots of the world’s problems could be solved by fostering more equality between the different countries of the world.
Never again, will I judge anyone based simply on physical appearance, nationality, religious beliefs, or on stereotypes. If my tour of the world taught me one thing, it’s that we are all the same, regardless of the colour of our skin, our religion, our race, or the football team we support. Every one of the 6 and a half billion citizens of this world (or the vast majority anyway) share the same basic needs and desires. Every one of us is searching for happiness, security, love, the ability to have children, and the will to allow them to live the best future possible. Diversity is enriching, and we should all learn about each other.
Never again, will I let myself be brainwashed by sensationalism and bad reporting in the media. My recent stays in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, or in Colombia, showed me to what point the perception I had of the inhabitants of these countries was totally biased on the insistence of the media that the activities of several national characters represented the majority of the population. It’s simply not true.
Never again, will I refuse to offer hospitality to a traveller passing through, or to a friend in need. Apart from the fact that I am indebted for a while to everyone who has offered me hospitality during these 5 years of travelling, I can see at what point the western world has to learn from Latin America or the Middle East in this regard. Thank you, by the way, to www.hospitalityclub.org and www.couchsurfing.com that made my tour of the world much easier and much more interesting.
Never again, will I buy products without thinking of the consequences of my act of buying. During the presentations that I gave in various schools and organizations, I often tried to promote fair trade and explained how to be a responsible consumer. "To buy is to vote." From now on, every time I buy a product, whatever it may be, I will ask myself the question ,"what kind of enterprise am I supporting ?"
Never again, will I fear starting out on a big project. The quote from Oscar Wilde, "Wisdom means to have sufficiently big dreams so as not to lose sight of them while pursuing them," is what pushed me to start out on this adventure, and it has proven itself to be the leitmotiv for me all along the way. Similarly, the quote from Dominique Glocheux, "Life is not a restaurant but a buffet, get up and serve yourself" always stayed with me, etched in my memory.
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