Travelling to non touristy places: Bradford

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There’s something special about going to places where tourists usually don’t go and I discovered that while travelling to the snowy Bradford in mid-February. Before getting there, most of people I had met would tell me: “Why are you going there? There’s nothing to see, nothing to do.”. Well, they were wrong.

Snowy Bradford

Snowy Bradford

But I’ll be honest, there was something I wanted to see in Bradford. I am a football fan (not fanatic, at least not anymore) and I really wanted to visit the local team’s stadium. By that time, it’d be a fantastic opportunity as the usually terrible team (they are playing in the 4th division in England) were in an important final cup, had beaten first league teams on their way to the final. Ok, enough with the football fan bla bla bla, let’s get to the points.

Visiting Bradford

So I got there, I visited the store (couldn’t by a jersey due the “final cup” situation, the stock was gone) and then I tried to visit the stadium. I got to the reception and I was told that the “guide” wasn’t there, someone in his family was sick. But if I wanted, I could get inside by myself and see whatever I wanted to see. It was ok for me, not having to pay to get inside and no crowds annoying my experience. If someone had told me two years ago that one day I’d be there, I’d say they were crazy. But there I was, completely amazed.

Bradford Stadium

Bradford Stadium

When I was leaving, the guy asked me if I liked what I’d seen. Of course I had and we started to talk. He asked me where I was from and a really surprised “what are you doing here?” when I answered: Brazil. It was funny talking to the father of the president of the team. Very nice guy, he gave me one of the player’s internal magazine and showed me the original letter that Dalai Lama had sent them. He would ask all the staff who were passing through “You can’t imagine where this guy came from. So guess?”. Most would say Australian. Anyway, I spent almost an hour talking to him, and I think I could write a post just about it (remind me to do it one day).

Dalai Lama's letter

Dalai Lama’s letter

Meeting people

So now what? I had nothing to see. And that’s when things get more interesting. You’ve got no pressure when visiting a place like that. You don’t have to rush trying to think about the places you can’t miss, the places you’ve got to take a picture so to show to your friends and family, no need to buy little souvenirs (I never do it anyway). So I just wandered around, taking a few shots, enjoying the cool breeze, and slowly making my way to my couchsurfing host’s house. Getting a bit lost in a city like that is fun and I’d seen a couple of interesting things, and one was a book shop inside of a old church. Really nice.

Old church that became a book shop

Old church that became a book shop

But the coolest thing that happened in Bradford, was having met Nina, my couchsurfing host. When getting to her house I wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze anymore and just wanted to get into a warm place. Plus, I was looking forward to finally meet Nina after talking by messages. She seemed to be really nice. And she was. She welcomed me with a delicious cup of tea and introduced me to her flatmate. Then she told me that the central heating had just broken and that the landlord would send someone to get it fixed, but till then, we’d have to do it with a small electric heating. It was more than enough and the living room as so cosy and warm that I could have stayed there the whole day.

Park close to Nina's house

Park close to Nina’s house

Nina and her flatmate are probably the kindest people I’ve ever meet. Really. Was so nice to talk to them, and so easy (I’m not a native English speaker as you’ve probably realised so far, and it’s much easier to understand British than Irish speaking), specially her flatmate who would speak so slowly and gently.

Later on, Nina invited me to go to a “neighbourhood//friend’s party” which they organize every Monday. That one would be at the house next door, so we wouldn’t have to commute in the cold to get somewhere. I promptly accepted. There were about 20 people in the house, I guess, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place with so many kind people together. I was a strange there and everybody treated me so well. Got talking with a German guy who was studying in Bradford, with some of Nina’s friends and then with Lavinia. She heard me talking about hitchhiking and told me that she’d done it already. Very interesting girl, told me that she lived in France and I was amazed by what she’d done there. We kept talking and I couldn’t believe when she told me she once went to Tibet. By that time I had , and still have, this fixed idea about going to Tibet. If I had to do a “To-do list” this would be the first thing. I wish I had spent more time seating there on the floor talking to her.

Oh, and it was one of Nina’s friends birthday, so after a delicious vegetarian dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to him, plus, a really funny dance that they do when is someone’s birthday. (I can’t remember the “lyrics” but I’m messaging her and will ask about it haha).

It was so nice and when I finally went back home, the central heating was fixed and I slept like a baby in one of the best “couches” ever. The couchsurfing experience was amazing and the couch was really comfortable (maybe better than my bed.).

Yeah, things happen for a reason, I don’t think I was lucky to have chosen Nina (and Nina chosen me) among other people to stay with. And then not only Nina but also her friends. I’m so glad I went to Bradford and remember clearly not wanting to leave and wishing I could be in situation like that one more often.

What about you? Have you ever been in a situation like this, being a strange in a small/non touristy place?

SOCIAL MEDIA

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Hitchhiking for the first time

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I know what most people think about hitchhiking: “I don’t wanna give a lift to a total stranger, they might try to rob or even kill me!!!” or “I would never get into a stranger’s car. Maybe they’ll rob me or drive me to a strange place and kill me.” Yeah, I don’t blame you if you have the same thoughts, we live in a society that tries to scare the hell out of us. But I’d rather think that not everybody out there is a dangerous person. I like to think that there are good people out there and that they are the vast majority.

So I started reading about hitchhiking and talking with people who had already done it. The more I read and talked, the more I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to get chained to buses/trains/flights timetables, I needed the freedom to decide wherever and whenever I’d go next, I wanted to have stories to tell, I wanted to hear someone else’s stories and hitchhiking would allow me that. Imagine that, you’ll get into a car and you have only a couple of hours, maybe less than this and you might never see this person again. So you wonder: why did they pick me up? Why are they going there? Where did they come from? …

Hitchhiking in the UK

When I was about to go to the UK I thought that I could start giving it a chance there. Unfortunately it was a short trip so I planned to hitchhike only one day, in order to see how things would go. There was a really good spot in Sheffield, where I could get only drivers going to Manchester and I thought this would be the perfect place to start.

I was couchsurfing in Sheffield and my host surprised me by telling that the good spot I’d seen on hitchwiki, was located within a walking distance from her place. Coincidence? A hell of a good start. Ellie walked with me to the spot and there I was, sign ready, thumbs up, all excited to be doing it for the first time, and a bit scared, of course.

After a few minutes, some cars passed by and most of the drivers would wave to me or return the thumb up. Especially when waiting too long, it really helps when drivers interact with you, it makes you wonder which one will be the one who will communicate and actually stop.

Thankfully, I didn’t wait long this day and after exactly 9 minutes a car stopped. Will was driving a blue Volkswagen and told me that he wasn’t going to Manchester but he could drop me quite close from there. Born in Gales, Will had spent a few days with his girlfriend in Sheffield and was now heading back home. While he drove us through the Snake Pass, completely painted on white by the snow, he told me that he used to hitchhike when he was young and now he tries to help hitchhikers whenever he’s able to. We talked a lot and after a while we found out that we both were software developers once (by that time I was working as a kitchen-porter and he was working in different jobs, studying HTML5 in order to get back to IT.).

Snake Pass, from Sheffield to Manchester

Snake Pass, from Sheffield to Manchester

He dropped me even closer to Manchester than I expected ( I had to walk only 15 minutes and was in the city centre) and went back to his original route. I was very happy that my first attempt had worked just fine and started looking forward to doing it again. That lead me to a hitchhiking experience throughout Ireland and later on, around Europe. I am now trying to get back to it here in Brazil and have already done it once with my brothers.

Are you still unsure whether or not you should hitchhike? Read this post from Hitch-Hikers’s handbook

What about you? Would you pick up someone as a driver? Or would you rather be a hitchhiker?

SOCIAL MEDIA

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