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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Tuesday, 31 July 2001
Bedford --> Amersham (UK)

I had to walk a long way to the Bedford town centre, as it is not such a small city. I had to find myself a dentist, but strangely enough the dentist found me today, as he gave me a lift out of town.

Followed by a free dental visit I ended up with my host James Caroll in Amersham and the big family.

When I woke up this morning, I had a quick shower before I walked downstairs and found Nick playing his favorite computer game on his sisters computer in the dining room.

He made me some toast with strawberry jam toasts, ready to go on the road again.

After I had loaded my bag on my back again, I thanked Nick for letting me stay for a day and walked out of the front door.

I found myself in the north end of Bedford and I needed to go to Amersham today. Amersham is just north west of London and my host there would pick me up at Junction 8 near Hemel Hempstead.

But first I needed to find myself a place where I could leave this town hitchhiking, which was difficult as I was in a big residential area.

The only solution was to walk all the way to the town centre and find a way out to the west (toward the M1 motorway, 22 miles west of Bedford). The walk took me over an hour and was pretty tiring while the sky was clouded but the air very humid.

Sweat was flowing down my back and my t-shirt almost melted between my back and my rucksack.

But I made the whole end and got to a crossing with, strange enough, two roundabouts on it. I had never seen it, but it seems such a good solution.

In The Netherlands most crossings are straight and have traffic lights. You'll have to wait until the light goes green to drive again, while here you just have to wait until there is no car coming from the right.

At this crossing I saw the sign of the lane which would go towards the motorway so I settled along the side of the road with my sign '-> M1 South'.

It didn't take that long, just fifteen minutes, before a white BMW stopped for me.

The man had to go to Milton Keynes, just on the other side of the motorway, which was great for me and I got in.

I told him how I have been travelling through the UK and Ireland in the last two months and I was heading back down to London again.

After some 10 miles on the road towards the M1, my driver, Ali was his name, had to stop. We both smelled burning rubber and that was not good.

He parked in a parking slot along the road and we discovered he had a flat tyre. He had a spare tyre in the back, but unfortunately not the right tools to remove the flat (partly melted) tyre, because it was some sort of modified tyre.

He called the RAC, the British breakdown service, and we couldn't do anything then just wait.

In the car we talked a bit more and I found out he was a DENTIST and had a dental practice in Milton Keynes.

"Noway! You are a dentist?" which he confirmed. "You are just what I can need," and I explained him my tooth problem of last week. In the car I showed him my temporary filling and how I had to find another dentist who could finish the whole thing up, as some abscess was keeping the nerve too active at that time.

And in that car he told me he could take me to his dental practice and have a look at it. O yes, I was very delighted.

Almost one hour later, the RAC arrived and removed the tyre. Ali and I got on the road again and he took me to Milton Keynes.

On the way there he told me about the city Milton Keynes. Everything here existed not longer than 30 years. Because Milton Keynes is famous as a new city in the UK, and the local tourist board forgives visitors for assuming that it has no history - nothing could be further from the truth!

Milton Keynes was designated as a new town on Thursday 23 January 1967 and the name came from a nearby small village, soon the be taken in the building plans.

Some more interesting facts I found on the web about this place:

- The first human settlement in the area dates from around 2000 BC.

- Milton Keynes is the fastest growing urban area in Britain with three decades of rapid economic growth and success.

- In 1998 Milton Keynes Council was the first in the UK to hold a referendum to ask the people what level of taxation and services they wanted. Can you imagine that?


However it was Dr. Ali's free day at the practise, he prepared everything so he could do some surgery on me. He told me how he'd never meet anyone like me again and was very happy to help me out.

With me in the dentist chair (again...) he removed the temporary filling and made an x-ray shot of my teeth.

Of course he had to anaesthetise my mouth again, so as the needle came in I managed to make some photographs so you can join the party...

What do you mean, brrrrr?

It almost took one hour to sort things out and in a mirror I saw this big gap in my tooth. Scary!

Since that hour I now cary two pieces of rubber in the roots of my tooth (so nothing can get in there and mess things up again) which ended up nicely cover. Still with a temporary filling. A replacement can be done anytime in the future.

The complete bill of this operation would be claimed at the British government. That seems to be normal as I am a foreigner travelling the country and my own country was, just like the UK, part of the European Union. Don't ask me the details about that, but I was very happy to get this free treatment!

It was after six o'clock when Ali dropped me off at the promised spot at the motorway. He spent a couple of hours of his day off work working on me and I was very grateful.

With my face partly numbed again I hold up the other side of my cartboard sign, saying 'Junction 8'. That would be very easy for everybody going down south.

A car picked me up and dropped me off at the Junction 8, where I arrived around 7.30pm.

I called my host in Amersham and he would pick me up within 20 minutes.

Things are just going to easy, sometimes, but you don't hear me complain about it.

At 8 o'clock that night I arrived at the big house of James Caroll, whose family lives together with another family in one house.

They had to explain it to me again, but eventually James is married with Karin and they live in the house together with Karin's sister Jane and her husband Marcus, who is also James' best friend. And not to forget the totality of four children.

They have been living with each other since they all started up. All at the beginning of their lives and pretty broke, they assumed it would be very economical to share apartments together. And after all of them got married, they just stayed together.

James works at Thor, a company that manufacturers low laser therapy equipment for professionals and used for laser therapies.

The idea of laser therapies is pretty new on this planet, so they are one of the first companies manufacturing the laser equipment, which could heal open wounds within weeks, leaving no scars or something like that.

Their website promotes it as the medicin of the future. At his home office James showed me a powerpoint presentation starting of with a clip from Star Trek, where wounded people had their wounds healed within seconds by this magic laser.

Of course that is a bit overdone, but it shows an example how life can become in the future with these lasers.

I imagine everybody having his own laserpen in your pocket. Hospitals won't be needed anymore, we just work on ourselves.

Together with all the adults gathering in the kitchen, I joined Karin's Mexican dinner in the kitchen.

One of the kids had hurt himself on his foot and asked James if he could use the laser for a second. When James agreed the kid took out this equipment bag and pointed the laser on the hurting spot on his foot as he sat on the kitchen floor.

Someway the blinks of the laser wakes up all the cells on that position of your body, having them work hard to resolve any problems. It's a very genius thing, I must say.

After dinner I got the big tour through the house and was appointed my own bedroom.

I joined James in his office to work on my reports, while James did some more working. Currently he is working on the approval of the laser equipment in the USA, which would mean a big breakthrough for the manufacturer.

Slowly the kids went to bed and I said goodnight to most of the people in the house as they let me use their computer until I got to bed myself.

Good night Amersham!

Ramon






"Traveler hitches a ride on the World Wide Web"

Blame it on Jenny Jones. It was the talk-show host's program on Internet entrepreneurs last December that persuaded Dutch journalism student Ramon Stoppelenburg to bring the world-travel-on-$10-a-day concept into the Internet age. More directly, blame it on the creator of SendMeADollar.com, a Web site that encourages people to do just that.


When he claimed on Jenny Jones that he had reaped more than $3,000 from his online project, Stoppelenburg was inspired. "I was thinking," Stoppelenburg says, "if you can beg for money on the Internet, you can also beg for a place to stay."

So Stoppelenburg launched Let-Me-Stay-For-A-Day.com on March 12. On the site, people can volunteer to put him up for a day or two as he prepares to hitchhike around the globe this month. More than 1800 people from 66 countries have pledged to put a roof over his head, from Buenos Aires to Belgrade.

Companies also are chipping in clothing, digital cameras and other items in exchange for exposure on his Web site, Stoppelenburg says. With the money he's saving, he can afford "a sandwich on the road or a plane ticket to cross the ocean."

Experts say it's not a bad idea.

"It harnesses what's so great about travel," says Don George, travel editor for guidebook publisher Lonely Planet. "Meeting locals, learning about the place you're in through their eyes. .. it's a serendipitous way to meet people."

Travelers occasionally arrange to meet with residents of foreign countries they plan to visit through the Lonely Planet Web site's "Thorn Tree" bulletin board. But George says he has never seen anything to match the scale of Let-Me-Stay-For-A-Day.

One aspect of the project that caught his eye was Stoppelenburg's pledge to regularly update the travel diary on his Web site throughout his journey, including information about his experiences on the road and the people he stays with.

"You better make something really good (to eat) for this guy," George says.

Mat Honan, an associate editor at Macworld magazine, says he offered to put Stoppelenburg up at his San Francisco home because the whole concept reminded him of the community attitude Internet users displayed in the mid-1990s.

"Although it's got a dot-com at the end of it, Let-Me-Stay-For-A-Day is really no different than an e-mail that might have gone out circa '93 saying, 'Hey, I'm going to be in the area and need a couch to crash on,' " says Honan, 28.

Though Margaret Monty of Churchville, Md., also offered the roving Dutchman a place to stay, she doubts that he's going to make it to her part of the world.

"I can't imagine anyone easily hitchhiking across the U.S. anymore, much less many of the other countries on his now-lengthy list," she says.

Eric Iverson of St. Paul, UK, who also volunteered to put a roof over Stoppelenburg's head, says "There is a downside to all this. Everyone Stoppelenburg stays with is bound to ask him about his experiences over and over again. "When you have a host, you sort of have to sing for your supper."




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