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Tomorrow I’ll be In India
For the last four weeks I’ve been hitchhiking across Europe bearing a precious cargo of craft beer. My mission: to transport IPA from Scotland to India to commemorate the origins of the world’s favourite brew. Now I’m about to enter the last leg of this epic journey. But let me take you back in time for a minute…
When Innis & Gunn approached me to partner with them in this project, I think it’s fair to say they thought this was going to be plain sailing all the way. The thing about hitchhiking is; it’s very hard for people who haven’t done it to imagine how it works. Or doesn’t.
We were sitting in a cozy meeting room in London. There was me, Julian, and the rest of the Innis & Gunn team sitting in the conference room. We had a map of the world on the table in front of us and a couple of six packs of beer.
Julian traced his finger across the map.
“So, you’ll start here in Edinburgh. From there, you’ll hitchhike all the way across to India. Obviously you can’t carry very much beer at a time, so we’ll set up places for you to collect cartons of beer along the way.”
“That’s an epic journey” I said enthusiastically. “Should keep me busy for a while. I’m glad I’ll have plenty of refreshment along the way. Cheers!”
I raised my can and took a slug of beer.
Julian continued. “We’ve got something big happening in November, so we’d like the whole trip to take about five to six weeks if possible.”
I hate to waste good beer, so it was with a sense of sadness as well as discomfort that I choked and ejected a mouthful of ale onto the conference table.
“Five weeks? To hitchhike from Scotland to India? Are you serious?” I spluttered.
“Five to six weeks, yes. Is that too optimistic?” Julian asked me innocently.
“That’s halfway around the planet” I reminded him.
“Yes. It is quite a long way. But you’re an experienced hitchhiker. You’re practically a professional. I’m sure you will move quickly.”
I realised I was woefully out of my depth. Planning has never been my strong suit, and now I was working with people who had integrated calendars, uber accounts and kept track of their footsteps with electronic wrist bands.
I wiped my chin and tried to figure out how to explain the subtle and complex mathematics of hitchhiking to a room full of beer geeks.
“Here’s the thing. Nothing ever goes to plan with hitchhiking. Actually, scratch that, there is no plan. You set out, you keep moving and if you’re lucky you get somewhere, but hardly ever where you intended to be. The weather can turn bad and hold you up for days. Sometimes it’s just hard to get a ride and you waste hours or days even, waiting for someone to stop for you. This journey is going to take me across the Middle East as well. There are places there where I could be thrown in the nick for drinking beer. Bottom line is, I have no idea how long this trip will take. But I do know, with a pretty high degree of certainty that it will take significantly longer than six weeks. Six months would be a better estimate, and frankly that’s optimistic.”
I looked around the room as I concluded my speech and saw matching looks of alarm and consternation on every face.
Julian cleared his throat and swiped pages in his Google calendar.
“OK. Well, clearly we underestimated the time line on this a bit, but… I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”
“Maybe I can hitch a ride on Donald Trump’s jet?” I quipped lamely.
Julian called me the next day.
“I think we’ve figured out a solution to our little scheduling glitch” he told me.
“You’re getting me a jetpack?” I asked.
Julian laughed politely.
“I’m afraid the budget won’t stretch to that. No. We must connect Scotland and India, that’s the whole point. But we also do need to make sure you arrive in India in late October. So, what we’re proposing to do is find a way to skip the trouble spots in the Middle East.”
“Now we’re talking” I said.
“OK. Aside from enlightening us about the er, logistical inexactitude of hitchhiking, yesterday’s meeting also forced us to consider what you mentioned about possible… complications you might face carrying beer across the Middle East. Obviously we don’t want you getting thrown in jail in Iran or something, because of a couple of cans of IPA.”
“I’m not wild about that happening either” I agreed with him.
“Quite. It’s not a great look. We must avoid any such eventuality. So: we’re short on time and we want to avoid areas with conflicts. The best solution we feel is to fly you from Athens to India. You hitchhike your way across Europe and then we’ll pop you in a plane, skip over all the literal hotspots and finish up with a triumphant trek across India.”
So here I am in Athens. About to board a plane for Mumbai.
Quite a shortcut.
I can’t say I feel well prepared for India, but I have been getting some good advice about how to survive there. With a bit of luck and a few pairs of spare undies to cope with the inevitable Delhi Belly I should prevail.
Sadly I didn’t end up getting a ride from Donald Trump in his private jet but I can’t honestly say I really expected that to happen. I sent his people an email, but they told me he had a full schedule this week.
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