A Visit to the Hitchhikers Museum in Koper Slovenia, and Thoughts About Valuing Your Life and Traveling as a Profession
In the small town of Koper on the Adriatic Sea, we happened to meet Miran Ipavec.
Miran Ipavec is a life long hitchhiker.
He is quite famous in Slovenia, having been featured in many newspapers and on TV as a hitchhiker who traversed all of Europe multiple times, by hitching rides with thousands of drivers over the past 33 years of his life.
Miran told us that he is thinking of retiring from his hitchhiking career, after he sets a few more world hitchhiking records, as a suitable farewell.
He has had other jobs, like a long stint as mayor of a large town in Slovenia, but his real job and passion is hitchhiking.
Between hitchhiking trips, he runs a small museum in the old town part of Koper, in which he displays some of the many mementos he’s collected during his travels.
He has kept a meticulous record of all that he did and saw.
He has kept all the paper signs that he once held to hitch a ride, all of the flags of the countries he visited, all the hats he wore when he traveled.
He has a colorful collection of sugar packets from the cafes he’s visited, mugs, concert ticket stubs, postcards, ice cream spoons, mascot toys and more.
Miran told us that recently, he hitchhiked through 31 European countries in 10 days.
His next goal is to hitchhike through 5 European capitals in 3 days, but the capitals must start with the letter B.
That means Bucharest, Budapest, Berlin, Bern and Brussels.
When we asked where he usually sleeps on his travels, he said he prefers the best hotels with the most stars, thus he sleeps in a ‘hotel’ with a thousand stars, meaning he camps under the night stars.
While visiting his museum and laughing at his jokes, I couldn’t help but being immensely charmed by this man.
To me, he symbolizes a very good affirmation of life.
While most of us do not think that we count, here is a man who makes everything count.
He values his journey through life, and naturally he assumes that others will find it interesting as well.
When his hat gets old, he doesn’t just toss it away, he knows that this hat has been with him through many journeys, and so he hangs it in his museum and notes how many kilometers the hat has traveled.
When he eats an ice cream cone on his travels, he doesn’t just toss the colorful spoon away, it becomes a memento for his museum.
I thought of all the people I know who make extraordinary journeys and do not think they are doing anything special.
Here is a man who instinctively knows that we all matter.
That our journey on this earth is precious and wonderful and worth noting.
It is as if he were saying: “I am here and my life matters! I matter! As child of Life I am important and my journey through life is significant and full of purpose!”
These thoughts are the opposite of thoughts that lead to depression and suicide.
These are life affirming thoughts and they are true.
I often hear ideas about suicide prevention and what to do to reduce the high rate of juvenile suicide.
Children observe their families and the society around them and draw conclusions from what they observe.
If they saw more adults affirming that their lives matter and that we are all important and worthwhile, they would grow up believing it too.
The truth is, that I also love reading books about people’s childhoods, their personal stories, travels, journeys and observations and insights.
I must’ve read hundreds of books detailing personal accounts, ranging from a funny account of a teenager summer at sleep away camp, to people who bicycled the world, walked pilgrimages, wrote simple personal memoirs and autobiographies, or just slept with many partners on their trips.
It is all good.
I simply enjoy reading such personal stories and seeing the world through their eyes.
I find it fascinating and I urge you to believe that your own life matters.
What you paint, draw, do, see, the people you sit to share tea with, it all matters!
I am not suggesting that we have to keep physical mementos like old hats, old walking shoes, flags of sugar packets from our trips in order to value our journeys.
I am suggesting that we need not ask for validation from others, in order to see value in our own life’s journey.
After meeting Miran, we sat and read.
In my book, the writer talked about his passion for traveling.
He said that whenever he meets old friends and they ask him what he has done with his life, he always feels slightly embarrassed.
He has not achieved much in terms of career accomplishments, has not given birth to children or raised a family, nor has he wielded much political power.
He has traveled the world, mostly on foot.
On reflection, he realized that the word ‘Travel’ comes from the root word ”Travail,” which means “Laborious Effort” or “Painful Labor.”
Finally, he found his life’s work- he is a traveler!
I am a traveling artist and my journey through life matters!
So does yours….
From the Slovenian Riviera, I am sending you lots of love,