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Tales of a female hitchhiker

I was sitting in an excessively hip bar in Kreuzberg, Berlin when I turned to my neighbor for conversation. Another American woman. Over our glasses of spritz(white wine and seltzer), we exchanged the usual remarks -- where we were going, where we’d been. I told her I was on a year-long sabbatical from college and spending the final months of my “world tour” in Europe.

“You’re traveling by train?” It was more statement than question.

“Well, since Croatia I’ve been hitchhiking.”

“Alone?”

“Yes.” I cringed, accustomed to the response by now, since it was the same one I’d gotten with friends I stayed with across Europe. She shook her head in disbelief, or disapproval, I was never sure which.

“You are either very brave or very stupid,” she said. “Or crazy.”

I smiled. “We’re all a bit crazy,” I told her.

I love adventures. Over the course of my year-long journey, they became my raison d’être. I had always wanted to be fearless, and now I had begun to actively seek out and defeat the things that scared me. I got in motorcycle accidents in India. I accepted invitations to strangers’ homes in Nepal. I started eating meat again so I could try anything. I hopped buses on an impulse and boats on a whim. I ate street food throughout Asia. I became a “yes woman.” I tried to shake free of the platitude that, as a young woman, I must always travel with fear and caution.

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