A waiter and student in his native France, Jeremy Marie decided there was only one way he would ever tour the world: by hitchhiking.
Two and a half years and 39 countries later, the 25-year-old has blazed a trail through Africa and all of North America. He's now in Miami, puzzling over the little body of water known as the Caribbean Sea, which marks his journey's midway point.
Riptide met with him at Coconut Grove's Dinner Key Marina, where Marie spent a morning posting flyers and asking yacht captains for a ride south. "I'm looking for any boat heading out of the United States," the bald, soft-spoken nomad explained in his thick accent -- adding he'd even be eager for a lift to Cuba. But all he got were quizzical looks and cold shoulders from the marina's seafarers.
The Frenchman has overcome great obstacles during his journey. He has suffered on the side of the road in extreme temperatures ranging from -8 degrees (in upstate New York) to a heart-stopping 124 degrees (the Sudan desert). He has hitched 950 rides, ranging from lifts on a donkey to semi trucks, and used a couch-surfing website to crash in countless living rooms. Subsisting on a budget of only $7 a day, he has dined on fried caterpillars, turtle feet, and Las Vegas casino buffets.
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He has been robbed in Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Honduras. He has been interrogated by 35 cops since he began hitching in the United States, and persuaded each of them not to arrest him. He also has crossed an ocean, hitching a 58-day ride with a company delivering a catamaran across the Atlantic from Cape Town to Panama City.
All of that said, it remains to be seen whether the charismatic traveler can melt the heart of a Miami yacht owner, a contingent not exactly known to be the Dalai Lama of the seas. "I can work for the ride; I will do anything," Marie pitches, adding he was the official sandwich maker and night watchman on the trans-Atlantic trip. "My only rule is I can't pay."
So, Ponzi schemers fleeing to Venezuela or smugglers making the return trip to Colombia, come on. Have a heart.