Belt 2015, Germany, our first night aimlessly wandering outside of a microscopic town having unsuccessfully tried to find accommodation for the night. We were starting to feel that desperate, degenerated, dismal homeless feeling that all Belters know to well. Until suddenly, on a empty country road a vintage American sports car slides into the lay-by in front of us.
Out gets the most iconic biker you’ve ever seen, shaved head, ripped leather jacket, more tattoos then skin. The type of person you’d probably switch to the opposite footpath to avoid walking beside. Out he gets anyway and gives us a quick look over and rattles off something in Germany, sheepishly we embarrassingly explain we don’t speak the native language and hand him our translated belt letter. He reads it, takes out a map and points to a field about 3km away from the town. Where he tells us he’ll “Sort us out”. Before hopping back into the car and driving off.
On reflection, I don’t think we really discussed the option of not going, we where hungry, tried and homeless and had just been offered “something”. All most on autopilot our legs carried us in silent down the country road. I do remember considering quietly to myself at what stage the sweep team would find our bodies…
Once we arrived at the field, it transpired to be a old slightly damaged clubhouse for the local biker gang. Our host greeted us and in quite broken English and proceeded to give us a tour of the facilities.
I don’t consider either myself or my partner to be nervous or anxious, but I was scared to bits. We where in a remote location with a man twice our size who you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark street. The photos of strippers on the wall, and the fact he kept talking about how his boyfriend would love to see us wasn’t helping matters to be honest.
But suddenly before me and my partner were going to politely excuse ourselves and get the hell out of there. He mentioned he was a police officer in the local area, in fact he worked on the police helicopter, having flown helicopters in the war.
At that moment, everything changed and the evening got much better. A dinner suddenly appeared from the car, beer was poured and the conversation started to flow. We discovered the reason he picked us up was because his own two children who where our age were deployed with the German air force overseas and he was missing them dearly. He had driven past us a few times that day and finally decided to stop and help us. In fact, we learnt a huge amount about German culture that night.
The following morning we met his wife for breakfast, and discovered that boyfriend was a mistranslation to best friend.
This man had no connection to scouting, in fact he didn’t even know what scouting was. (Having lived in east Germany) There was only two things that connected us that night.
- He had children our age, who where exploring the world in their own way just like we were and he missed them dearly. (We met several people on our belt in this situation)
- He wanted to support our journey and exploration, he didn’t know anything about the belt award or why we would do it. He did understand that this was a challenge for us and how important it is for young people today to experience other cultures and he wanted to support us in that.
It’s often said that first impression can be wrong, never before have I been more mistaken with a first impression. This was one of the nicest and caring men I ever met, and set our belt off to a fantastic start.
When else would you experience something like this? The explorer belt will challenge and push you in ways you can’t yet understand, but there will be experiences that truly stick with you and make all those hours of walking worth ever moment. If you’re looking for more stories, Cathal and I wrote a specific blog our belt, you can it here and the facebook page here.