Eco-travel With Stop & Go

Stop & Go is a student association at Sciences Po that is bringing hitchhiking back into fashion. Trips, weekends away, or a hitchhiking festival - so many fun activities carrying an ecological message. Interview with the President of Stop & Go, Apolline Tarbé de Saint-Hardouin. 

Where did the idea to create a hitchhiking association come from?

Hitchhiking is an economical and climate-friendly way to travel. The association was created in 2012 because Sciences Po students wanted to use this mode of travel for their trips away. Today the main goal of the association is to show that alternative means of transport allow us to avoid travelling by plane or one’s own car, and thus reducing our carbon footprint. But it also a way to push oneself, to gain autonomy, and develop teamwork skills or even dealing with the unknown!

What do you organise throughout the year?

We organise 4 weekends away per year, one 2-week trip in winter and a month-long trip in summer. Of course we go everywhere hitchhiking! For the longer trips there are about 30 of us. We split up into mixed pairs - one boy and one girl - when we hitchhike. Then every three days we meet up at a fixed meeting point to regroup and we stay overnight in a youth hostel. It is up to each pair to make it to the meeting place. After regrouping, we change the pairings before we head off once again towards our new destination three days later. The main idea is to share the experience with everyone but also to be open-minded, to meet new people, and enjoy these exchanges! Our philosophy remains the same for the music festival which we organise. 

A hitchhiking festival?

What is special about the festival is that everyone hitchhikes their way there; we change location each year, and this year it is going to be in Normandy. The festival is open to everybody - student or not! The idea is to raise as much awareness as we can about responsible and alternative modes of travel, but also on subjects like ecology. Around 400 people attend each year and they all hitchhike there. But we also try to reduce the impact we have on the environment on the festival site itself by using dry toilets, showers etc. We prepare all the food ourselves using local, vegetarian produce to make the most of our partnerships with local farms. During the festival, in the daytime, there are environmental awareness workshops and talks, before the concerts in the evening. This year, for example, the Mayor of Malaunay, a town known for being particularly eco-friendly, is going to give a talk. Sciences Po’s collectif Villes et décroissance will also be coming for a round-table discussion on renewable energy.

Do you ever travel by plane or train?

In France, I try to hitchhike by myself outside of the association. To begin with I just saw Stop & Go as a “fun” association that organised trips, but I soon realised as time went by that I really liked the idea of raising awareness around the fact that it is really easy to use alternative modes of travel. If every year we manage to get this message across to 400 people, that’s already making a difference. The environmental side of the association is becoming increasingly important - this year we joined REFED, for example, which is a student network for sustainable development. These are student associations which work hard to raise awareness about environmental issues.

What is your favourite thing about hitchhiking?

I really like the human side of it - you share a car with people who are very different and it always makes for an interesting exchange. It is a very special way of travelling; if you fly to Barcelona for example, the journey starts once you leave the airport. When you hitchhike, you start travelling from the very second that you leave your home because the whole journey is an adventure! Sometimes, a driver tells us that they have taken someone from our association before or that they have heard about our festival and that is really nice to hear - it makes us feel like we are giving a new lease of life to hitchhiking in France! 

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