Hitch? Now I’m not talking about getting married, or that Will Smith film from the noughties, I’m talking about the wonderful crazy experience that is hitch-hiking.
Bummit is the world’s largest student led charity hitch-hike, unique to the University of Sheffield, with an annual hitch-hike in one day within the UK and another annual hitch-hike in nine days across Europe. Bummit comes from “to bum a lift”, hence bum-it.
If you’re thinking it sounds insane then you’re correct! Getting into strangers’ cars and buses and on trains across countries where you don’t speak their language and getting rejected from those lifts at times definitely isn’t your everyday occurrence. In fact, it took me until my third year at Sheffield to pluck up the courage to do it. In my first year, my flatmates and myself went down to the Activities Fair ready and eager to accept anything, join societies at random and not hold back. One flatmate told me that we must go down to the Bummit stall and I thought why not, that name sounds weird, exactly the kind of thing I should join at University. However, upon realising what it was I freaked out – I’d just travelled almost 150 miles from home to Sheffield in the safety of my mum’s car, I wasn’t about get in strangers’ cars to get to Edinburgh. I’d never even been to Scotland!
However, after more of my friends went to Cardiff then Bucharest in Romania in my second year, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was the only one left out of all my friends who hadn’t done it. The last straw came when one of my friends became a member of the committee organising the two events, and I knew I had to do it!
The “Baby” event to Glasgow, which is the inter-UK event, was an absolute breeze, and the generosity of the British public really blew me away. I was even more surprised by how much easier it was to hitch-hike once we had crossed over to mainland Europe in the “Big” event to Ljubljana. It only took us a few lifts down to Maidstone, Kent, from where we got a lift straight through to Bruges in Belgium and from there we managed to get across via various kind citizens and willing train conductors. We met some really lovely people who went out of their way to get us further, and a lot of people gave us coffee and chocolates and fundraising money on top of apologising for not being able to give us lifts. Being able to speak adequate French and some German definitely helped my team to communicate where we wanted to be dropped off or in fact what we were actually doing, but it’s not a problem if you are solely English speaking.
Fortunately, you are fully prepared and equipped for all possible scenarios. The “Bummit Bible” contains tips for hitching and hostels to sleep in, as well as a letter explaining what you are doing in a wide variety of languages, and common helpful phrases in those languages too! You are also insured for the duration of the trip, and you have to check in with a safety phone everyday and that phone is available to call whenever you are in any trouble, even in the dead of night. Don’t worry about solo travel, you have to travel in teams with a of maximum three people with at least one male in the group, and the male has to get in a car first and leave the car last. I never felt uncomfortable in a lift though, and I even felt safer at times than I have in some Sheffield taxis bombing it through the city at night!
On top of everything, both events raise money for charity, with the Baby event requiring participants to raise a minimum of £75, and the Big event requiring participants to raise a minimum of £250. The money raised goes towards a total of 11 local Sheffield charities over the year, which touches local citizens when you are fundraising in town asking for donations. Virgin Money Giving pages online are incredibly useful, and easy to send to relatives and friends back home so they don’t have excuses! There are also prizes for those fundraising the highest amount and in the most interesting ways, for a further incentive.
You do have to buy tickets (£75) for the Big event which includes accommodation and club night entry at the secret half-way point and accommodation, dinner and club night entry to the end point in Riga (this year’s destination). It also includes your insurance, free t-shirt and goody bag including the Bible which you receive on the day. It’s up to you to organise travel back as a lot of people decide to do a bit of travel afterwards, and a hoody is optional to buy on the morning.
It is definitely the most interesting and exciting experience I have done at University, and I would 100% recommend it, if you are not sure then speak to anyone who has done it and they will change your mind in a heartbeat! Tickets are available online and at the Box Office at the union, so get them whilst they last and I’ll see you in Riga!