I woke up this morning with my chest feeling a bit tighter than the day before, but still wanted to keep my morning routine alive so I walked over to the river near the road ryan and I slept by to spend a few minutes gathering myself before starting the day. Our plan was to get to Ghent, Belgium today, but we had no idea what would happen. Thankfully, it was another day of joy and laughter finding our way deeper into the continent and further from anything either of us know.
There wasn’t a coffee shop open nearby so I made myself a cup of our delightful instant coffee before we started to hitch into a bigger town called Arras. Within a few minutes we had a ride from a delightful old man who drove us into the heart of the town and let us out. We found a small coffee shop and ordered the only thing on the menu, which was a huge creamy omelet with fries. We spent about an hour in this cafe before continuing on with hopes of getting into Belgium.
- Only in Europe.
The highway system around the city of Lille and going east into Belgium is incredibly complex and I had a bit of anxiety in wondering how the hell we would get through the spider web of highways, but a miracle happened and in one hitch we made our way through the worst of the tangled roads to a more direct route into Belgium.
We took a small break in the day to eat at a supermarket and take some time relaxing. It’s amazing how exhausting hitching can actually be. It is potentially all mental exhaustion trying to stay positive when no one is picking you up, but it definitely gets to wear you down after a while.
Eventually we got up and continued east and found an amazing hitch all the way to Ghent with an amazing woman who takes the trip daily for work. We were dropped off at the tram station and rode into the city center where we began to feel the impact of being in a new place. I began experiencing a little anxiety being so far from anything that felt normal with every sign and sounds being in Dutch. Ryan felt the shock a bit too with not being able to communicate in a language we shared with the people around us. We decided to find a place to buy a Belgium beer to check that off this list and maybe calm down a bit.
I had a dark beer, rich with intense thick flavor and ryan had a beer called a Geuze Boon. Sitting in the pub underground felt so surreal. I began feeling the joy and excitement of being in a foreign country experiencing something so incredibly new. We looked for places to stay for a while and filled out a few couch surfing requests but nothing stuck so we left to go explore the city before the rain hit.
Ghent proved to be one of the most beautiful cities we have been to yet. A gorgeous river system runs through along the streets in the city center while buildings stay low enough to allow you to breathe and feel almost wild in an urban setting. Green wooded areas were dispersed throughout the city keeping the energy alive and fresh. Unfortunately the rain began again and it started to get cold when night came, but amazingly we were given a match on Couchsurfing and a dude said we could stay with him. The problem was he never got back to us after three hours of waiting around getting dinner and having another beer. So we had to improvise and find a place to sleep in a new rainy city with me having a cold. So obviously we went to a parking garage.
Our parking garage had lights that were motioned censored so we snuck our way to the top and waited for the lights to turn off before we found our spot tucked under a concrete slab out of sight from cars driving around. It was almost midnight by this point so there were hardly any cars moving around so we found our spot quickly and laid down to pass out exhausted from our travels.
My cough is pretty aggravating and I spent a bit too much time today in the cold rain to feel like it’ll get better by tomorrow, but tonight I lay under our concrete slab feeling safe and excited for the new day to come bringing new experiences and adventures. I’ll wake up in the morning with the sun and continue this path of healing and trusting the wind to take us into more exciting and healthy atmospheres. Belgium is stunning!