The tropical express
by Lucie Blondé, TMIH-student representative
As the end of our postgraduate course in Tropical Medicine and International Health (TMIH) came into sight, a few students were dreaming of a little ‘escapade’ together. To end our study activities in style. As a lot of us are also engaged in climate activism, we didn’t want to use the plane to reach our destination and we planned to book a train. During the gatherings of the organising committee - who call themselves the "Tropex machinists" - the idea of hitchhiking was raised. First, as an option to lower the costs. Then, as part of the adventure. Finally, we decided to turn the journey itself into a trip and organised The Tropical Express: a hitchhike from Antwerp to Barcelona in 5 days with 19 fellow students! Each day the participants had to cover a distance of approximately 200/250km. The first team that would arrive that day would win the highest amount of points. Along the way the teams could gather points while accomplishing challenges such as hitchhiking in a yellow car or singing a song with the driver. In the meantime the machinists were heading to the destination of that day, and preparing a warm welcome for the arriving teams. They also received the videos of the challenges and updated the ranking of the day.
The whole trip was a great adventure. Everyone was really enthusiastic and did their best in playing the game. Many of us never hitchhiked before and enjoyed this mode of travelling. They got to meet with different people and had a lot of new experiences. Once, a driver went to eat oysters with his team along the road, other drivers sang songs or went for a drink with their new passengers. We used our best French and Spanish to communicate with them, and shared our freshly learned tropical medical knowledge.
In the evenings we organised activities together, from night games to wine tastings to city tripping or hiking. Finally, after reaching the destinations of Tintigny/Beaune/Avignon and Nîmes, we arrived in Barcelona! Here we celebrated our winners, and spent a weekend together before returning back home. It was a trip that passed like a dream. We made friends forever.
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