You never quite know what to expect in the adventures of travel and we keep on getting surprised. As if the adventures of the previous week in Brussels had not been enough (more on that later), we were in for a bit more. Our recent cross land trek by car from the Netherlands to Austria have brought us some much needed insight on both preparations and caution that must be taken.
Planning is essential. Not just the act of setting out an itinerary and details, but the actual art of being prepared for the unexpected is crucial. I cannot stress this enough. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, "An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure,". How wise he was in so many ways. We'll miss you quotable ole soul.*
Our recent experiences showed us not just the wisdom of our planning, but some small areas where we can improve. Since we are steadfast budget travelers, we prefer the wild west of online ride share sights. This lawless nether region of the internet is a fine place to exercise your right to engage in the free market, while at the same time throwing in your lot with the ever pleasant teaming masses. "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one your going to get." (or something to that effect) -Mr. Gump
We enjoyed a fine car trip. Long, but relaxing and carefree with pleasant company. Than along came the long arm of the German Schengan Enforcement law. Maybe it is the new license plate scaning video surveillance software they have. Or maybe they know when two Americans, a German, an ex-pat Belgian and a Bosnian were traversing 5 countries. Either way as luck would have it we were stopped and searched.
This is where our preparation came in. As they went through all of our bags, clothes and personal possessions, dirty underwear and all they came across several empty baggies. These same baggies several weeks ago contained certain substances that are legal only in the Netherlands. We had the foresight to not carry any over the border, double checking before we left. I have heard to many stories of unfortunate travelers who either forgot their illegal contents or tried to get the best of the law. They certainly went all out since they brought in the drug sniffing dog. I personally got satisfying suspicion that they couldn't believe that not one of us had anything illegal. While it appeared that there was no contraband I can't say the same for all our travel companions law abiding reputation.
While you are on the road traveling, literally or just figuratively caution must always be exercised. This came to myself as an afterthought, soon after our Bosnian ride share buddy ceased to occupy the passenger seat after our encounter. It could have been a simple Visa overstay or this individual could have been wanted for running dirty Cocaine in the belly of burros from Morocco to Istanbul. Never the less who knows.
Our travel plans along this leg of the trip had been rushed. Perhaps if we had taken more time to check with our stupendous Ride share host who was coming along, we could have avoided this potentially dangerous situation. If we had been in better condition for the 13 hour ride, perhaps we would have been alert enough to pick up on subtle character hints as to the dubious nature of this individual (none was noted, and if they were there I was fooled by this funny fellow). Perhaps another choice of passage if earlier planning had prevailed.
Leaving you with the softer side of the War on Drugs and Visa regulations is a great conversation with the enforcement agents. German police officer searching everything I have: "So you smoked some Pot in Amsterdam huh" Me: "Yes. Why yes I did." Him: "Got any in here?" Me: "No, but that is my dirty underwear in your hands."
* An interesting aside. Benjamin Franklin was an entrepreneur, inventor, scientist, writer and among many other things had a compassion for the common man. Thus combining all these interests he started the nations first library, the first fire company in Philadelphia, wrote Poor Richard's Almanac based on sayings of the commoner heard at the time, started several newspapers and later in life involved himself in the politics, fate and security of an emerging nation and its populace. Franklin also suffered great personal losses while supporting a cause he believed in. William his son, the Royal Governor of New Jersey did not support his father's belief in American Independence, remaining a loyal Englishman. I think Mr. Franklin would support the cause for the common people.