In 2005, Juan Pablo Villarino embarked on a journey with the purpose of getting to know the world’s hospitality and generosity; for this reason he moved from one place to the next by depending solely on people that offered him free shelter.
Juan Pablo Villarino has hitchhiked around the world /
Some years ago ―never mind how long precisely― having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.
Melville, Moby Dick
First and foremost, travelling is a decision. Beyond preparations and requirements, no one sets out on a journey without first taking a moment to decide to leave their usual home, and instead embark towards unknown and undiscovered territories. In this sense, the money that has been saved, the packed bags, the weather appropriate clothes, etcetera, are important elements that come into play when making a decision, but which are actually secondary, and perhaps even unnecessary —we could take trip this very moment, take off with the clothes on our backs and, who knows, make it around the world.
Juan Pablo Villarino has made this dream possible, with more or less this same degree of romanticism. The contemporary Argentinian globetrotter has been travelling since 2005, almost exclusively, by hitchhiking, standing beside the road with an extended thumb in the air, while the rest of the fingers form a closed fist. He lets passing drivers know that, at least for some of the journey, he shares their path, and that perhaps they could save him time and resources by stopping and taking him along, in exchange for an interesting conversation or anecdote, or maybe a memorable joke.
Villarino defines his travels as ‘a crusade to document hospitality in the world’, nomadism as a testimony of everyday life according to the different peoples of the world, their particularities and differences, the similarities that relate one to the other, and the specific circumstances that distinguish these customs.
Living on a strict five dollar budget a day and carrying his backpack, nicknamed ‘The Magician’, stuffed with ‘clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent, water, a laptop and a photographic camera,’ Villarino began his expedition to Belfast, Northern Ireland, since then he has travelled to almost ‘sixty countries and lands, strategically hitchhiking through over 132, 000 kilometres and riding over 1200 different vehicles.’
I spoke to beggars and vice-presidents in subways and parliaments but, above all, I never stopped desiring that each horizon would reincarnate in new tracks.
This is how this ‘acrobat of the road’ describes his adventure, with words that somehow remind us of ‘The Immortal’ by Borges:
I wandered through new realms, new empires. In the autumn of 1066 I fought at Stamford Bridge, though I no longer recall whether I stood in the ranks of Harold, soon to meet his fate, or in the ranks of that ill-fated Harald Hardrada who conquered only six feet or a little more of English soil. In the seventh century of the Hegira, on the outskirts of Bulaq, I transcribed with deliberate calligraphy, in a language I have forgotten, in an alphabet I know not, the seven voyages of Sindbad and the story of the City of Brass. In a courtyard of the prison in Samarkand I often played chess. In Bikanir I have taught astrology, as I have in Bohemia. In 1638 I was in Kolzsvar, and later in Leipzig. In Aberdeen, in 1714, I subscribed to the six volumes of Pope's Iliad; I know I often perused them with delight.
Perhaps this comparison isn’t coincidental. In a way, travelling and sharing our journeys with others, as Villarino does through the path of hospitality, brings us closer to immortality, to the type of immortality that is possible through the actions we do for others.Tagged: Juan Pablo Villarino, trips and travelers, travelers