By Tanita Matthews

 

MEET THE COUPLE who have HITCHHIKED almost SIX THOUSAND MILES across the globe in a bid to change misconceptions about getting into cars with STRANGERS.

Creators of ‘The Art Of Hitchhiking’ project, Jente Jacobs (23), from Dworp, Belgium and Alessia Capraro (22), from Turin, Italy met and fell in love during a year-long foreign exchange programme that brought them both to the Dominican republic in 2014.

After their programme finished, Jente returned to Belgium while Alessia returned to Italy. The couple were in a long-distance relationship for three years that saw them travel 895 miles to see each other once a month.

Alessia (top) and Jente (bottom). MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

The couple’s love of travelling prompted them to decide that they would see the world together. With funds limited, the pair decided that they would make their way from city to city hitchhiking.

Thanks to the generosity of other drivers, the couple have travelled approximately 5,800 miles (9350 km) spanning 13 different countries: Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy – all on a budget of less than £25 a day.

Their friends and family had mixed reactions to their plans to put their jet setting plans in the hands of complete strangers.

Alessia (left) and Jente (middle) started ‘The Art Of Hitchhiking’ to show how kind people can be in helping one another fulfill their dreams. MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

“When you travel in this way, you cannot really prepare yourself for it. Every decision is taken at the very last minute. Before leaving we can just plan the first two/three days, and then we need to let everything just go as it needs to go,” Alessia said.

“To travel as long as possible, we live on a budget of €15 (£12.85) per day, per person. We don’t use any money for transportation, so all our money goes to food and accommodation.

“We use couch surfing a lot, but it isn’t always easy to find a host in every city. If nobody can give us a place to sleep, we choose the cheapest hostel/hotel we can find. We also have a tent if there is a camping place available.

Alessia (left) and Jente (back right) hitchhiking with a stranger. MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

“I think the most difficult thing to accept for them [family] was the fact that we travel by hitchhiking. But, in the end everything went well. They accepted it, maybe also the fact that Jente is travelling with me and I am not a girl travelling alone.

“We don’t hitchhike when it is dark outside. In the dark you can’t see the drivers very well who stop. As this is very important to get a good feeling about the driver, we prefer to not take the risk to step in a car with the wrong person. Never get in a car with someone who you don’t trust.”

Between trips, the couple live in Belgium and take on any job they can to save up for their next adventure. In 2019 the pair decided to begin a social media page dedicated to their travels.

Hitchhiking couple Alessia (left) and Jente (right) met on a foreign exchange programme in 2014. MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

Their adventures have seen them share some amazing experiences, from visiting Portugal’s Quinta da Regaleira to the Ancient Greek temple of Poseidon in Athens.

As exciting as the pair have found travelling the globe and hitchhiking, they are aware of the dangers, and are stringent about personal safety and the importance of carefully vetting who they share a ride with. Jente shares his experiences.

“In the summer of 2016 we hitchhiked the North of Spain and one year later the South of Spain. This is when we discovered our passion of hitchhiking,” Jente said.

Alessia (left) and Jente (right) survive on a budget of just twenty five pounds a day on their travels. MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

“We just make our backpack, depending on the region we are heading to, and decide a route we want to follow more or less. No fixed dates or destinations. Because as a hitchhiker, I want to be open for every opportunity which comes along.

“Some friends called me crazy before starting this adventure. But a lot of them came to me, after following our first trips, and said that it looks awesome and they want to try it themselves one day. So, I concluded it isn’t such a crazy idea.

“One of the best experiences was definitely Albania. Thinking about the prejudices people have about the country and their inhabitants and what we really encountered – the difference couldn’t be bigger. We were never welcomed in such a friendly way.

Alessia hitchhiking a ride to Faro, Portugal. MDWfeatures / The Art of Hitchhiking

“The aim of our social media project is to break down the wrong prejudices about a country/culture and show the kindness, generosity and hospitality in the world. Attract people who also want to rebuild their own image of the world. Also, we want to show that hitchhiking isn’t dangerous at all.”

You can follow Alessia and Jente’s journey on: www.instagram.com/theartofhitchhiking  or find then on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/theartofhitchhiking