Do you want to travel, study, or work abroad? I've done all three...and quite possibly it was the best time of my life.
Me and Mitfahrgelegenheit
February 27, 2011
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Me and ...what? 

Mitfahrgelegenheit - the ride-sharing genius known in Germany and across Europe. Basically, people who will be driving from one city to another will post their trip up on the website (which is available in other languages besides German) and offer to share spaces in their cars for a fee. It's a great idea, saves everyone money, and saves the environment from another car's trip. Moreover, it is fairly safe and common.

I first heard about this strange, long German word from my dear college friend who fled to France upon graduation, met her Hungarian mathematician beau, and has followed him about Europe ever since (she's currently in Poland, quite a romantic story!). 

I had taken a stop in Europe following my stint in Beijing before heading back home in the summer of 2010. After all, when was the next time I'd have such an opportune time to go? I wasn't married, didn't have kids, and didn't have a job I needed to take a vacation from. Plus, I was (and am) young and wanted to see some friends.

Of course, I didn't quite have the funds to splurge on quality, high-class travel (why would you need to, anyway?). My accommodations consisted graciously of the homes of friends, kind CouchSurfers, and hostels.

I didn't buy any sort of travel pass for flights or trains - so I had to resort to buses ... and...I figured I'd give Mitfahrgelegenheit a shot!

My first step was getting on the website and navigating to see who was driving from Berlin to Dresden. I texted the numbers which were posted. I introduced myself to one man named Sebastien, mentioning that I was a kind American who wondered if he had room for me. I got a prompt and flat "no" without any sort of explanation as a reply. Slightly disheartened, I kept searching. I eventually talked to a man named Holger's wife as Holger didn't speak much English and they agreed to take me.

Alas, I must advise you to never be late. This is a necessary lesson. The next morning, with my heavy bags, I rushed onto the S-bahn (surface train/subway) to get to Ostbahnof. But I was woefully unfamiliar with the surroundings of the train station, running around with my bag and trying to find this pick-up spot. I tried to ask for help, but came up empty-handed. Soon, I got a message saying that Holger had already taken off and I would have to find another way to Dresden.

Luckily, my kind Couchsurfing host Christian let me stop back at his place to recalculate my strategy. I tried Mitfahrgelgenheit again. This time I found Lars. Christian helped me chat with him a bit in German, explaining who I was.

And so, just a few hours later - I was on my way to Dresden in Lars's company's BMW. Travelling in style!

Lars hadn't used his English in a while - but he didn't mind the practice. He said it was a lot better to have an interesting travel mate rather than one who just slept or didn't say a word. We chatted about various things - about how he didn't quite like America or how he didn't get along with the Turks while growing up. It was interesting, to say the least. I also enjoyed learning a few German phrases here and there. I always have found German to be a funny language (not in a bad way, but an endearing one) - I mean...just look at the word "Mitfahrgelegenheit"!

So, it was pretty cool - I only paid 10 euros to get from Berlin and Dresden - saving me at least 20 if I had taken the train instead.

Satisfied, I tried it once more, this time bringing me from Dresden to Prague. A female Monrovian doctor was the driver this time - with two Korean passengers as well. I randomly bumped into the Koreans a few days later while sight-seeing. See? New friends!

So all in all, I had a positive experience using Mitfahrgelegenheit. Not only will you save some euros, but you'll also get to meet some interesting people (knock on wood)! If I, a single Asian American female traveler, can do probably can, too. Hitchhiking would be a different story, though. And next week, I'll be back to blogging about Asia, so don't fret! :]
Posted by Felicia Hom on Sunday, February 27, 2011
Tags: travel


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About Felicia Hom

My name is Felicia Hom. I'm a UCLA alumnus who vaguely believes in following her dreams. I've also spent two years of my life abroad - one year in Korea, another in China...and several months of just travelling through Europe and other parts of Asia.
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