KATIE Callin from St John’s and once a pupil at Queen Elizabeth II High School is on her second studying ancient history at Edinburgh University.
On attending university she vowed to join more societies and to become involved in charity events.
Here the 19-year-old takes up the story of her amazing hitch-hiking trip to Eastern Europe.
A few months ago, a friend came over to our flat with a crazy idea. Now this was not unusual, as this particular friend has a weakness for crazy ideas, but this time was to be different. This time we would end up not only agreeing but actually following it through, inexplicably finding ourselves leaving our dingy flat in Edinburgh to embark on a journey.
The crazy idea was this: Hannah Hogan, Conor O’Neill and I would pack our rucksacks, buy a map (a task easier said than done), harass our family and friends for sponsorship and hitch-hike across Europe to raise money for charity.
This time the idea was not his own, but that of the charity Link Community Development, which in hindsight is what persuaded us to agree to it, because if a registered charity is behind it, it must be simple and well-organised with no chance of failure whatsoever, right?
On April 5, the three of us set off.
A friend provided us with our first lift to a B and B just outside of Edinburgh, waving us off with an amused look and the encouraging words ‘see you in two hours when you ring me crying to come get you’.
Then all of a sudden she was gone, and we were alone with the reality of our situation dawning on us.
In that first half an hour of tentative attempts at hitching in front of that B&B, nerves got the better of us and by the time our first proper lift arrived, we had already eaten all of our cereal bars under the pressure.
We travelled to Hull in the front of a raucous removals lorry, then in the car of a professional footballer turned pilot, and from Hull we took the overnight ferry to Belgium.
Whilst on the boat we desperately pestered our fellow passengers in the hope that one of them might be going in the direction of Croatia and had room for three humble hitchers and their oversized rucksacks.
After a shout-out from the DJ during the midnight disco, we found a lorry driver willing to bend the law for us, the price for which was being forced to listen to startlingly racist music for 10 hours as he drove us to the French-Swiss border, where we were picked up by a lovely woman who brought us to her house to sleep.
The next morning we bid Karin and her family adieu and arrived in Switzerland later that day, overjoyed at our progress going from Edinburgh to Bern in just three days.
Our joy at being in Switzerland soon turned sour as we were stuck in the Alps for another two days, and began to resent the stupid beautiful snowy mountains that encircled us. We hit our low point near the Italian-Swiss border, where we slept in the back of a lorry at a service station, waking at 5am and having a celebratory McDonald’s breakfast for not being murdered in the night.
We reached Milan later that morning and were on the home straight, passing through Verona and Venice to get to the stunning city of Trieste that night, a mere 7km from the Croatian border.
We were flooded with relief, mainly at almost reaching our goal in just six days, but also at having a real bed in the hostel instead of sharing a lorry with a giant vat of cooking oil. Two days later and we were on the plane back to the UK, elated that we had achieved the near impossible without becoming trapped in Eastern Europe forever, and grateful for all the support we received, having so far raised £920 for the charity with a goal of £1,200.
All the money we have raised is going to schemes in developing countries, providing assistance to the education system, working with communities, schools and governments in order to identify and remove the obstacles to quality education.