Our Phone is Gone
We wave at the car until he drives out of our sight, looking at each other and smiling, grateful for this nice ride. We are enjoying the Greek climate somewhere out in nowhere. I see him touching his pockets nervously.
“Flow…do you have it?”
“I’ve got my wallet, yes, but… fuck! Where is my phone?”
We check everywhere in our backpacks, our jackets, our pants, our bags and again in our backpacks, our jackets, our pants and our bags… but nothing. I ring Flow’s phone obsessively, without any answer.
“It must have fallen somewhere under the back seat of the car. Shit.”
It is not like the day has been any good so far. Just hours ago, we were hitchhiking on the highway when the police arrived. It costs us 100 Euro and a lot of nerves. We argued that we did not actually do it on the highway, but on the parking lot and that this would be legal, to no avail. At least we got to drive in a police car to the next abandoned exit. We saw how professional they were while sitting in there without any seatbelt or mask… Well, at least their professionality makes us hope the fine will never arrive in our home country, Switzerland.
Silence follows the initial shock. Thinking about all our pictures still unsaved, our notes, our e-banking, offline contacts and the Covid-Certificate. Our Internet connection too, all gone. I feel his struggle. We are in this together. It is not just a phone, no, but half of our life is on there with all the travelling log-ins and apps.
Flow right after losing the phone
“Let’s wait here. He was such a nice guy, once he gets home and finds the phone, he is gonna drive back.”
We agree and wait.
“He was really messy, though. I am not so confident he is going to find the phone so soon. His car was such a mess. Tomatoes, swimming suits and lots of hiking clothes were spread everywhere in the car.”
It has been over 45 minutes waiting. We knew he was driving to his mother and sister, two villages before Stratos, the place where we are sitting now. So he must have arrived by now, checked the back of his car to remove the wet towel, and noticed our phone with my Facebook messages popping out.
Hey, we are the couple who just hitchhiked with you. We forgot our phone in your car. We wait for you at the spot you dropped us off.
Okay, I think. If he doesn’t come back here, we are going towards him. I am pretty confident Flow would love the idea of going for an adventure. So I take courage, knowing he is struggling more than I do and suggest:
“Dear (Amore)…he was such a nice person, right? One of the kindest we met so far… I am pretty confident that once he notices our phone he is going to contact me. But what if instead of continuing north towards Thessaloniki as planned, we say yes to a new adventure and try to find him?”
“You know what Amore? I love it, let’s do that. We have nothing to lose.”
Smiling at each other we start having productive positive thoughts. We start to collect all the information we remember about him:
“Ahm… What was his name again? no idea… Okay, let’s go on… He is around 30 and has white hair… He is going to his family now, who lives somewhere close by. Exactly two villages after some other village. When we were driving together at some point he mentioned that if we take a left here, we would arrive at his little village… The car was low, a limousine model. Whitish-yellowish and kinda dirty…”
We check the map and look at the possibilities we have around. With some calculations based on the information we have, we figure out that the starting village should be Gouriotissa.
All the information we have
We take our backpacks and move to the other side of the street. Let’s hitchhike back there. An elderly couple stops for us. He doesn’t speak a word of English, so she translates for him. They look very thoughtful and a bit worried… Why would two tourists want to go to Gouriotissa?
“Thank you (Efharistò), bye bye.”
Arrival in Gouriotissa
We hike up the last few meters to the little village of Gouriotissa. A place which seems to have stopped in time. On the way we meet an old lady all dressed in black. She talks to us as if we could understand her. Smile and nod. Keep walking. In the middle of the village, a central square. All the elderly people around come close to smile and wave at us. Wondering how it happens that two foreigners are in town.
We say while smiling back and having fun.
We feel like authentic travelers, carrying our heavy backpacks crossing abandoned villages while other tourists are just enjoying a typical summer island destination in Greece. When later on we find out that we are the first international visitors ever in Gouriotissa, we feel even more proud of ourselves. Well… at least until the point they mention:
“You are the first tourists!”
It makes us realize that in the eyes of the locals, we are all just tourists. The distinction between traveller and tourist is more one that we like to define in order to make ourselves feel less consumerist.
We slowly start appreciating this bizarre day. Walking around the village, creepily staring inside every car that slightly matches our blurred memories of the car. I don’t even know anymore if we are here to search for our phone or more for the sake of the adventure.
We decide to stop at a little café on the side of the street. I wait here with our heavy backpacks while Flow keeps wandering. This is the turning point of our story. Later, we will find out that Gouriotissa will always stay as a special place in our hearts.
The owners of the bar greet us and offer some fresh sodas. Looking at us happily curious.
“We are here because we have a problem!”
Flow attempts to explain.
All of a sudden they look scared and concerned. With the precious help of Google Translate we explain to them that we lost his phone. It is almost 7 pm. More and more elderly men start arriving at the bar to watch a soccer match together on the TV of the café. We still have to find a spot to pitch our tent for the night. And something to eat. It has been an extremely eventful day, but the best part is yet to come…
We spend the following hours talking with more than 15 different people, who carefully sit there around us examining our situation and asking us to portray the guy and his car. All while trying to invent Greek words.
Flow telling his story to the locals
Black & White Crime Movie
Out of nowhere, a pickup parks in front of us.
“Hello my friends, how are you?”
We meet Nikos. Wow, there is someone speaking English here. He is the son of the cafè owners. We start telling him our story, our travel, our desperation in trying to find this damn phone. Finally a proper conversation in a familiar language. We repeat once more. A young guy with white hair and a very low whitish-yellowish car, visiting his mother and sister. Our memories are now very blurred… we start thinking he might be 40, maybe even 50. Who knows anymore.
The locals around get the translation from Nikos and nod silently, in a very focused reflecting way. Everyone makes up their own theory, everyone thinks about who among their acquaintances has a similar car. Everyone becomes a detective and it feels like an old black & white crime movie.
The investigation goes on
We are very amused by this comic situation. But above all, we are grateful for their kindness and effort. A German-speaking guy arrives at the bar and he starts talking to us. He looks like the chief of police in our imaginary movie. He starts to call dozens of people to show us he knows people around.
“I know everyone here (Jeden!). I will describe the car to different people and we will find your phone.”
Nikos reassures us too:
“If anybody finds it, they will bring it back to you, for sure! We are all nice people here.”
From what we have seen so far, there is no reason to doubt his words.
Then help arrives from another side. We are able through our Google accounts to detect the area where the phone is. Thanks to my tech-skilled brother who suggested that. Wow, the phone is still on, still somewhere close by! The area indicated is pretty big and includes three little villages. Tomorrow we will embark on a new adventure and try to hitchhike them all!
Our phone is somewhere here
A Great Night with New Friends
It starts to get night, we pitch our tent in the backyard of the bar. Nikos offers us neverending beers, cheese, sausages, bread and greek salad. He is excited to help us and spend the night in our company at the bar. We drink some Ouzo together, and he recommends that we drink consciously, because:
”If you drink too fast, you feel like you are in a fighter jet Phantom, you just take off!”
The delicious food from Nikos
At this point, the German detective sends Special Agents to look for the car during the night. Two teenagers on a little scooter wave and smile at us, ready to start their tour around the surrounding villages with the mission to help the tourists! I think everybody here wants to get the pride of being the one who found our phone.
“Isn’t it funny Amore? This is a great day! Half of the village is sitting here around us. We can’t understand each other but we feel at home. Where are we again? I don’t even remember the name of this village. I just always hear the word phone (Tilèfono) or Elvetìa. Everybody is talking about us.”
Flow looks more serene and relaxed, I am happy to see him this way. It is just a phone after all, and we got so much more by coming here.
We go to sleep at 2 am. It has been a crazy beautiful long day. The encounter with the police in the morning seems so far now. We had deep conversations about life with our new friend Nikos. These are exactly the type of experiences we crave while traveling.
New Day, New Adventure
Today we are going to hitchhike all the way through the different villages around to find the car and the phone. Dennis, the brother of Nikos, offers us some coffee and breakfast.
“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
This is awesome, we feel so good around these genuine people.
Prodromos, Chrisovitsa and Agrampela. These are the villages we are going to check out. It is going to be a circular adventure to end up again in Gouriotissa. We leave our tent and goods here and embark on this new journey.
Shortly after the start, we begin to realise that it is difficult to hitchhike in the middle of nowhere. There is about one car per hour, if we are lucky. It is very hot, we hike and sweat, play games to stay entertained and look around hoping to find what we are looking for.
After one and a half hours walking, we get a ride with a light blue pickup. We arrive in Prodromos, talk to some people and walk around the village. So far no luck. Let’s keep walking.
We are very confident that we are going to have more chances with the next village, Chrisovitsa. It is much bigger than the others, so it is more likely that the young man lives there. While leaving this village, an old couple waves at us and I am not sure if I really heard this or not.
“Pijate ‘n caffè”, which in Southern Italy is the equivalent of “Stop for a coffee”. Am I getting crazy or is it just too hot?
One of the pickup rides
Another ninety minutes walking up and down the hills and then a new pickup stops when he sees our thumb out. This time it is green. In every new village we start telling our story from the beginning.
“We are here because we have a problem. Have you seen a guy with a whitish-yellowish car?”
Again and again. Also in Chrisovitsa we don’t have any luck. From here, we see the top of the steep hill in front of us.
“Amore, we have to get there next. Agrampela, it is gonna be at least two hours of hiking. Are you in?” he asks me.
“Of course I am.”
He smiles at me and kisses me, I can see how grateful he is.
It is a beautiful sunny day but definitely too warm to embark on such an adventure. Obviously, during the most difficult stretch of road between Chrisovitsa and Agrampela, we don’t see a single car…
Hiking towards Agrampela
We hike all the way up to one of the most abandoned and small villages we have ever seen in our life. Exhausted from the hike, thirsty and tired we slowly start to lose the little hope left to find the phone. Once we arrive in Agrampela, we don’t find a single person around. We don’t hear a single word spoken, only empty-looking cars and houses. So we go on.
We keep walking circularly towards Prodromos, or Village Pomodoro as Flow started to call it. Exhausted by the heat, we keep moving. We start to get paranoid and hear car noises in the distance… distant mirages of a remote possibility of getting a lift. But…
“this time I hear it for real, there’s a car coming our way”, I scream.
Thumb out and the third pickup of the day stops. This time it is dark blue. He gives us a ride to Pomodoro and stops in front of his house. Here we meet his lovely daughter, Christina, the only remaining young woman in this village. She can speak some English, we can’t believe it. Once again we repeat our story.
Then, finally, the response we were waiting for:
“Oh, you are the guys from Switzerland. My father knows the guy that has your phone.”
I turned towards Flow and I couldn’t describe the intensity of the glam in his eyes.
“What? Do you know where my phone is?”
We could barely believe them. How could it be that we found the phone in a village we already crossed? After all the explaining, the hiking, the translating, finally it will be back.
Unfortunately, this moment of inexplicable happiness lasts very little.
We find out in the following minutes that the girl’s English is not the best. She simply wanted to tell us that her father received a call from a friend asking if he had heard anything from a lost phone. She is excited to finally get to know us, she has heard so much about us the night before. We believe that probably the call to her father came from our chief of police in Gouriotissa, the German speaking guy. Trying our best to hide our disappointment, we ask her if there is at least a place open to eat something. Our bellies are empty.
In this village there are almost more cafés than people. But not a single restaurant. Christina spontaneously decides to cook for us and once again we get proof of the generosity of strangers. Some strangers occupy a considerable place in your memories and travel stories. She tells us that during this time of the afternoon the people around these villages sleep to deal with the heat.
“You crossed the villages during Siesta time… so you might have missed the person you are looking for because everybody is close inside.”
We just think, whatever… It was a great adventure.
After another two hours of walking, zero cars and more and more mirages, totally drained we arrive at the starting point of Gouriotissa. At the village we find the inhabitants in suspense:
“So, did you find it?”
For a second we forget about the phone and can’t understand what they are talking about.
Wow, I think. We came here to find our phone, spent two unforgettable days with lovely strangers and now we are leaving, almost forgetting the main reason why we are here. This is the power of people’s connections, of genuineness and kindness.
It is time to say goodbye. It is 6 pm. Dennis gives us a couple of drinks and snacks on the way. Nikos hugs us tightly and gives each of us a popping kiss on the cheek: Smack! Backpacks on, we are off!
Up for new adventures, we try again to hitchhike towards Thessaloniki, our initial plan. It does not take a minute until we get picked up. We still can’t believe how much life we experienced in the last days.
“Efharistò! We are from Elvetìa!”
To our surprise, she answers:
“I know, everybody here knows about the two travelers from Elvetìa. You are looking for a phone, right?”
We arrive at a Hostel in Amfilochia. Flow takes a dearly needed shower while I fall on the bed and wait for my turn.
Then my phone vibrates and I read a Facebook message:
Hello, I am Lazaros, the man who took you in my car, from Rigani to Stratos. I found a phone today in the back seat. It is locked, but from the external screen my sister managed to find this name in Messenger and from your photo, I found you.
I am in shock and I can’t believe it.
I want to surprise Flow and keep the secret until the next day, but I can’t hold it for myself. He’s over the moon. Everything will be back, all our pictures still unsaved, our notes, our e-banking, offline contacts and the Covid-Certificate. Our Internet connection too, all back.
Yes, this message has made our following days much more relaxed. But if I am honest, it is only the cherry on top of the cake that was the whole experience. Out of a small, thoughtless act, we have had an incredible adventure that we will forever remember.
The following day, Lazaros kindly drives to our hostel and brings back the phone. We are surprised to see that after all, our descriptions were not that accurate.
He arrives in a silver car and while he does have a couple of gray hairs, it most definitely is not white… He tells us that he visited his family in Agrampela, the smallest village where we found not a single person around.
The not so whitish-yellowish car
Serendipity of Hitchhiking
Ten different drives in two days, and so many adventures. It is just magic the way people in rural villages just pick you up without even asking where you are going to.
Technology gave us back our phone. People filled our journey with memories and stories to share. That is why we love hitchhiking. The sake of the unpredictable and the openness to adventures.
We can’t help but wonder “what if…”
…the police would not have dropped us off at this weird highway exit… Lazaros would not have picked us up… We would have remembered the name of Lazaros… We would have entered a different café… There would have been no match on the TV that night… Nikos would not have spoken English…
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We are Gisi&Flow, a swiss couple traveling the world by hitchhiking.
On a mission to ask 99 humans on the road a simple question:
“What is your Happy Place?”
99 People, 99 Stories, 99 Happy Places.
The stories of the people we meet is the story of our journey around the world!
We love to travel because of the people. Strangers who become friends.
Hitchhiking for us is a great way to travel slowly and to hear stories, to meet people and cultures, to experience life to the fullest by embarking on adventures with every ride.
Don’t miss the Happy Place of our favorite human met on the road so far, Nikos !