My name is Malte Stolpe. I was born in 1995 in Germany, where I still live. I did an apprenticeship to become a media designer for print products and now I’m doing Media Studies. I’m fluent in English and German, I have three years of French lessons, I learned some Portuguese and I’m trying to learn some Norwegian at the moment. I used to travel with my parents and my brother, mostly in a caravan. Right now I want to focus on studying, photography, drawing, learning Norwegian and doing sports (at least while I’m not on the road).
Form of travelling?
I travel mostly by hitchhiking. I started with a sign, but right now I often end up just thumbing. I also prefer to walk instead of waiting.
A roadtrip in my own car/vehicle sounds tempting, but I don’t like driving by myself, so I won’t do it alone.
Why did you start travelling this way?
By accident, I guess.
I was in Tampere, Finland, with a friend. We missed the shuttle bus at the airport and decided to try hitchhiking. it worked so well that I got hooked and did several thousands of kilometres more.
Do you travel mostly solo or do you road dog with someone?
I travelled with friends, my brother, girlfriends, random people and also alone. I can say that I definetly prefer company on a trip.
Of course travelling alone has its perks. You’re free, you’re the only one who makes choices, it may be easier to get a ride, but when you’re stuck in a lame place, for example, it’s boring. With a buddy even this can be funny. Also it’s easier to discuss the best route, to share the stuff you have to carry and it’s safer.
I think in most of my cases I just convinced people to try it and follow me, and eventually they liked it.
Any places stand out in particular?
If I had to name a place that I want to visit again in the near future, it would be the Lofoten islands in Norway. You have the sea, beaches, mountains, forests, lakes, fjords, small villages, traditional drying racks and the polar lights. It’s magical.
Do you think the love of adventure and freedom is addictive?
I don’t think so, I know so.
Do you travel just for the love of travel, or to get somewhere?
I learned that you’ll never know where you’ll end up, so I try not make plans of where I’m going.
While hitching, do you find it exhausting trying to communicate in foreign languages?
I have troubles communicating in my mother tongue after a trip! I don’t see languages as a barrier, it’s more like a chance.
When you’re hitchhiking you have to spend a lot of time (sometimes several hours) with one or more unknown people. Personally, I don’t force people to have a conversation, so either it’s calm (which I enjoy), or the people are really interested in my story so I’ll have fun as well while telling it. Then again, most of the people have incredible stories, so I often end up listening istead of talking.
Could you (or would you) travel as a lifestyle?
I don’t know yet.
When I travel, I never spend more than three days in one spot. I definetly don’t want this as a lifestyle. So far I’d like to travel around and after university live/work in different countries for some time then move on to the next place or country.
While travelling, how do you make money? What about hygiene, food, where to sleep?
I try to not spend that much money, but I never had a money problem. Most of the time I had the chance to crash at Couchsurfers’ places, or people I met via Trustroots [similar to Couchsurfing]. Since I also hosted a lot of people and know a great many people, I often have a friend to ask for accomadation or advice. In Scandinavia I used my tent and sleeping bag a lot which worked out great.
Hygiene is also quite interesting. You don’t need to shower every day to stay clean. I reckon it’s bad treatment for your skin.
Usually I used my hosts’ places for washing myself and my clothers. I also visited some saunas in Scandinavia, which were awesome.
Do you think travelling kids sometimes get a bad name?
This may be true, but whenever I spoke with people, they were overall really friendly and cared about me. A lot of people probably believe in certain stereotypes, but usually people are nice so after a while they start to like you anyways.
Do you think travel is a form of education?
It is. You learn a lot of hard skills/knowledge, like geographical, cultural, political or some words in a foreign language. But even more important is what travelling will do to your way of thinking, how your mind works or your personality.
You become more open and you adapt to certain situations which leads to improvisation or creativity. Communication in general is one of the most useful things to learn. Travelling also provides a lot of impressions which are good to keep your brain active. You’re forced to leave your comfort zone.
Do you carry weapons?
No, I carry a swiss army knife but it’s for cooking or carving only. If there was a situation where I had to defend myself I’d use my fists anyway. I don’t trust knives.
Has travelling changed your views on people? How about on your own life?
I like to think that people are kind. I think (and hope) that people would say the same about me.
Travelling taught me a lot about myself: where my priorities are, what I value, how I want to live, how thankful I should be and to enjoy nearly every moment I experience.
Does it give you faith in humanity?
It does, yes. Usually, while watching the news, you’ll feel down because of all the bad and terrible things you’ll see.
But during my travels I barely look at any kind of news, so I just enjoy the face-to-face interaction. Since most people are helping me in some kind of way, it gives me faith in humanity. Humanity doesn’t shine if you look at the news.
Do you prefer cities or the countryside, or a healthy mix of either?
If I have to decide between city or countryside, I’d chose the countryside right away! But I also like to meet interesting people, and you usually find more people in cities. The answer is probably a good mix of both.
Since hitchhiking works best on busy roads, I often travel form city to city and use the time on the road to appreciate the nature and countryside.
Do you find it difficult coming home after being on the road and settling down?
I don’t think I settled down in a conservative way. You can explore and discover places everywhere, even in your own neighbourhood. You just have to change your perspective.
Actually, my first thought when I came back to Germany after five weeks was something like “Oh man, this is boring. I understand everything, I know how this country works, I know the culture, this is my comfort zone, there’s no challenge, nothing to discover”. Now I’m in another town and studying, so I have things to do, things to keep me active.
Are there any universal characteristics about travellers that you have noticed?
Let’s quote some top points from Couchsurfing profiles: open minded, likes to travel, likes Into The Wild, likes to meet new people…
It sounds stereotypical, but it’s true and you can say the same things about me.
Do you have a favourite book on travel, or one you like to bring with you as you journey?
I only travelled with a book once because I didn’t finish it the day I started. Maybe I’d take The Little Prince with me…
How about films or magazines? Do you think they represent travelling properly as you see it?
I’m sure that you can find very inspiring pieces in movies or magazines, but I don’t watch or read them on a regular basis. Usually I just rely on recommendations. Since travelling can relate to more or less the whole world, it’s probably too much to ask for an accurate representation.
Have you a favourite travelling song?
Every once in a while it’s nice to sit down in a nice location, with nice company, share your stories and listen to the soundtrack of Into The Wild, espcially “Society” by Eddie Vedder. It’s not the song I listened to most while travelling, but when I did I really felt I was on the road.
What’s your dream in life?
Big question. I want to be happy and be in a happy environment.
What’s your dream for everyone in the world?
World peace. Dream big or go home 😀
Has anyone you’ve met along the way changed your life in any way?
Hell yeah, a Finnish guy who was my first hitchhiking driver. He was so incredibly kind to myself and my friend. He’s definetly an idol for both of us. Pay it forward.
Do you ‘believe’ in the road when times get a little tough?
Of course I do. Though I’d say that I believe more in people.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from travelling?
Stay positive, smile and be kind.
What is your most prized possession that you travel with?
I guess my sleeping bag, it adds a lot of independence and can save you at night.
Do you believe in love on the road?
If you follow a passion, you’re more likely to meet like minded people, which can result in a very strong relationship, let it be friendships or couples.
What’s your next trip?
Well, I want to visit every country in Europe at least once. I want to see more polar lights and visit some people I met. If I had to list places, I’d say Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Denmark or Austria.
What’s next for you? At the end of travelling (if there is an end), do you have a plan?
I refuse to have plans. I have a lot of ideas.