French hitchhiker has travelled 50,000km across the world in the passenger seats of strangers’ cars

French hitchhiker has travelled 50,000km across the world in the passenger seats of strangers’ cars

A tall, young Frenchman stands at the side of the road with a familiar weight held across his shoulders — and he hooks his thumb out in a universal language of the hitchhiker asking for a lift. 

When a kind-hearted driver pulls over, Lucas Venner speaks with them about their destination. He isn’t picky about where he goes — his holiday sights are dictated by the whims of the road. 

In 2022, after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, he took on a common ambition: to travel the world. But he did so with an added stipulation of hitchhiking the entire way. 

A raised thumb and a fist has been the only ticket Lucas has needed to travel. (Supplied: Lucas Venner)

Lucas’s tour of the world started in Liverdun, in north-eastern France, in February 2023.

Since then, the 23-year-old has travelled across the world in the passenger seat of strangers’ cars — with the one exception when he had no choice but to purchase a plane ticket from Timor Leste to Darwin.

The matter of money 

France was one of the nations hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and the lockdowns were commensurate with the situation. It inspired Lucas to travel. 

“I’d never been outside of Europe before. So when I first arrived in Turkey, it was a different world, and the same again with India and China. 

“After university it was the perfect timing, [with] no job, no house, it is easier to travel and to undertake such a big trip.” 

While some travellers choose to work odd jobs on the road to make ends meet, Lucas earns extra money through his travelling via a sponsorship with a candy company and a couple of schools back home. 

A man smiles in front of a landscape with temples.

Lucas says Australia is much more expensive to live and travel in compared to other parts of the world.(Supplied: Lucas Venner)

“I take pictures of their candy in front of famous places: the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China, and in exchange the company provides me with some money,” he said. 

“And I also have some schools in France, I call the children every two weeks and present them with the countries I’m in.The animals, the landscape and the everyday life of the local children.

“Because in some countries I have been to, eight-year-old boys are not going to school, they don’t have the opportunity to do so.”

See anything, meet anyone

Lucas had a goal of meeting as many different people as he could from a range of different cultures, nationalities and regions.

After spending time with more than 1,000 drivers across 25 countries, and travelling more than 50,000km, he might have achieved it.

“You’re putting your faith in the hands of other people, and I have been really surprised by it; in some countries they have nothing but they want to share it with you regardless,” he said. 

“They would say, ‘Come to my house, come to see my family’, and they don’t have a lot of food, they don’t even have meat and they want to give it to you — it is really mind-blowing, the kindness.”

A Caucasian young man smiling and clapping surrounded by his hosts in Timor Leste

Human kindness has allowed Lucas to experience many different cultures. (Supplied: Lucas Venner)

Over the course of his travels, Lucas went through a range of countries, from high to low-income nations, and was touched by the generosity of people.

“They are so poor, but they would try to help you, they want to give you the best they can,” the traveller said. 

“It is really affirming and touching. It is really, really special. Before my trip I would not have thought that people could be so generous with a complete stranger.

“But in so many countries, they would open their homes to me.”

A man fist pumps in front of the Sydney Opera House.

Australia is one of the final legs of Lucas’ 15-month journey across the world.(Supplied: Lucas Veneer)

Journey’s end

Coming to the final leg of his long hike across continents, Lucas touched down in the Northern Territory in April this year and has since made his way through South Australia and on to the east coast.

“One of the things I like with hitchhiking is there’s no defined plan or fixed destination, so I will ask people, ‘What do you like in your country?’ What should I go and see?’ and that is how I ended up in Renmark,” Lucas said.

“Those people told me to visit the Riverland, that it is beautiful.”

He said he would continue across the country throughout May.

“After Australia I will go to New Zealand and more precisely Chatham Island because that’s the exact opposite of France on the globe,” he said.

“I would like to be back in France for the end of June to attend the Olympic Games in Paris.” 

Get our local newsletter, delivered free each Tuesday

Related Articles