My name is Raef Cains and I’m a 19-year-old male. I was born in London, England, but grew up in the south living in the same house for as long as I can remember. I just finished college and decided to go on a big trip across Canada, and I’m currently with a friend who joined me after a month and a half. I’ve been away for nearly 4 months and don’t see myself going home anytime soon.
Form of travelling?
I hitchhike, and I’d love to hop trains but have yet to try. My first hitchhiking experience was in France when I ran out of money to get a train with two friends. I initially decided to hitchhike on this trip as I wouldn’t be able to see much on my budget if I had to pay for travel. Now though, I would hitchhike even if I had more money, simply because of the great experiences I’ve had.
Do you travel mostly solo or do you road dog with someone?
At the moment I’m travelling with my friend from back home who flew out to join me, but initially I set off on my own. I think it’s easier to hitchhike as an individual but it’s way more fun travelling with someone else. We’re currently on a ranch working for a month in British Columbia, Canada. We hitchhiked from the east coast, about 2,500km, and stopped off in every city along the way.
Any places stand out in particular?
Niagara Falls was amazing, simply because of the scale of the falls. I also really enjoyed Prince Edward Island as the weather was perfect and we went to the beach almost every day.
Did you think it would be easier or harder than it is now before you set out?
I thought it would be harder. I expected waiting for longer than we have, the maximum time was about 3 hours. We carry a flag with us and dance on the side of the road so people see we are fun travellers, and people often give us a lift even if they don’t normally pick up hitchhikers.
Do you think the love of adventure and freedom is addictive?
Absolutely. My first experience of travel was when I was 17 going around Europe for the summer, and since then I have always wanted to go again. Right now I don’t want to stop and would love to see more and more of the world.
Do you travel just for the love of travel or to get somewhere?
A bit of both. The plan is to get to the west coast, but that’s only so I could say I’ve hitchhiked across a continent. I’ve stopped in cities along the way and really it’s just for the fun of it. I can stay for as long as I want if I like somewhere.
While hitching, do you find it exhausting trying to communicate in foreign languages or telling the same stories over and over?
The only foreign language I’ve had to communicate in is French, both in France and Quebec. However, with enough hand gestures and basic French I managed to get by. I enjoy telling my stories to everyone, and I also get to hear theirs.
Could you (or would you) travel as a lifestyle?
It would be awesome. I found you don’t need much money, if any, to travel. There are ways to get around without having to pay, so travelling as a lifestyle is a possibility. Whether I would want to do it forever or not, I don’t know. Only time will tell.
While travelling, how do you make money? What about food and accommodation?
I saved up money while working part time around college so I use that to buy myself food or extras if needed. I use Couchsurfing for accommodation, which offers people a place to stay in exchange for sharing their culture and experiences. We also carried a tent for a bit but it’s too cold now to camp.
We often go into pizza places/other small shops and restaurants and explain our story before asking if they are throwing any food away. Often they give us a slice of pizza or even cook some fresh food, so we eat for free a lot.
Do you think travelling kids sometimes get a bad name? Why?
I think some do. Those who look like bums will find it much harder to get picked up while hitching. However, if you keep clean (which really isn’t that hard), shave and don’t dress dirty, it’s easy to get a place to stay and get rides. Also, being foreign really helps your reputation.
Do you think travel is a form of education?
For sure. I’m not at university and this is essentially the first time I’ve ever left home for an extended period of time, so I’ve had to learn life skills while on the road (like how to use a washing machine and that). I’ve also met a huge variety of people, including some I wouldn’t have normally met, so it’s been very useful in opening my eyes to different views.
Do you carry weapons?
We each have a 4-inch knife that’s easy to reach. However, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt I may have needed to use it.
Has travelling changed your views on people? How about changing your views on your own life?
Not really, to be honest. It’s more that I’ve had a great time and it’s been a really fun experience. I’ve always believed that people are nice, but I always like it when people with kids pick us up, because it really shows they have trust in strangers.
Does it give you faith in humanity?
I guess so, but you always have to be weary of who you get a lift with.
Do you prefer cities or the countryside, or a healthy mix of either?
A mix of both. Cities are nice to see, and you can have a lot of fun in them. But generally speaking, they are more expensive and are way harder to hitchhike out of. Also, in the countryside people seem to be more willing to take you in, as you can easily get stranded.
Do you find it difficult coming home after being on the road and settling down?
I found it very hard coming back after travelling Europe because I had to go back to college, which I found a bit boring. But as for a trip of this magnitude, I can’t say how I will find coming home.
I guess I miss the Britishness of Britain, but I’ve always been appreciative.
Are there any universal characteristics about travellers that you have noticed?
Most people seem to not want to start ‘real life’. I think a lot of people want to try and see things before they settle down and have commitments, which is fair enough, and I guess I also fall into that category.
Do you have a favourite book on travel, or one you like to bring with you as you journey?
I don’t have one, but my friend carries a book called The Book of Stuff. He was given it in Saskatoon and it’s about how the environment is being destroyed.
Have you a favourite travelling song?
I would say I have three. Life is a Highway, because I listened to it all the time in Europe, Free Bird, because I feel the lyrics represented me before I left, and Blowing in the Wind, because I am currently learning it on harmonica.
What’s your dream in life?
To have fun? I don’t really have one, I just enjoy it as it comes.
Has anyone you’ve met along the way changed your life in any way?
There’s been people I’ve met who I will remember for life. In terms of a life changing meeting, I can’t say.
Do you ‘believe’ in the road when times get a little tough?
I think the toughest moment has been waiting on the side of the road in the heat, when both my friend and I weren’t feeling up to it. With enough dedication though the right ride will always come along. You just have to be patient and wait for your time to come.
What’s your most prized possession that you travel with?
It sounds bad but my iPod, simply because it’s how I stay in contact with my family. Aside from that, my harmonica, because I really want to get good at playing it.
What’s your next trip?
Right now I’m going to get to the west coast. After that I would like to drop down into America and go from west to east, that would be cool.
At the end of travelling (if there is an end), do you have a plan?
The plan is to join the royal marines as an officer. I’ve done all the fitness and medical tests, and only have one thing left to do before I can start basic training. I have until I’m 25 to join though so there really isn’t any rush to get back. Right now I just want to see the world and have a good time.
You can check more of Raefel’s photos over at https://www.instagram.com/raven_laven/
Life is a Highway:
Blowing in the Wind: