Jeremy Marie, 25, a French national from Caen is hitchhiking across the globe, getting a free ride 717 times covering over 57,000 kilometers. He reached Santa Monica Monday and plans to stay until today he heads to Malibu. (photo by Kevin Herrera)

CITYWIDE — Forget dining in a city for $40 a day, Frenchman Jeremy Marie is traveling the world on just $7.

Since October 2007, Marie has been hitchhiking his way from continent to continent, grabbing free rides and staying with strangers, fulfilling a life-long globetrotting dream all while spending the cost of a fast food extra value meal every day.

“My goal when traveling is to meet people and to know their civilizations,” he told the Daily Press in an interview Tuesday. “Hitchhiking is the best way to go.”

His most recent stop was in Santa Monica where he stayed with a stranger whom he met through CouchSurfing.org, a nonprofit that hooks up travelers with willing hosts. He plans to leave this morning for Malibu.

The journey started in his hometown of Caen, which is located about 124 miles outside of Paris from where he hitchhiked to Switzerland and to Italy before heading into the former Soviet Union. He then hitchhiked to the Middle East, headed south down Africa to Capetown where he convinced the owner of a Catamaran to give him a free ride to Central America in exchange for a helping hand, keeping lookout during the evenings.

It took 58 days to get from Capetown to Panama from where he migrated north, entering the United States via Texas about seven weeks ago.

The 25-year-old traveler has hitchhiked a total of 717 times and covered more than 57,500 kilometers.

Standing on the side of the road, sticking out his thumb to flag down drivers, hasn’t always been easy.

In France it would take him on average an hour before a car would stop. But in the United States, Marie would often wait for about four hours. There were also times when he was stopped by the police.

The most difficult country by far was Italy.

“Maybe its a cultural thing, being more individualistic,” Marie said.

With a thick French accent and an approachable disposition, the diminutive Marie has even managed to convince random strangers to allow him to stay overnight, knocking on doors to try and secure lodging when there was little other options available. He found that citizens of Sudan were the most willing.

When CouchSurfing wasn’t available, he would stay in cheap motels or sleep outside with his sleeping bag, dozing off outside of a gas station or inside a public bathroom.

The language barrier proved to be only a slight issue. Upon arriving in a country where the tongue was foreign, Marie, who can also speak English and Spanish, immediately located an English speaker, asking them to write on a piece of paper a statement explaining his mission, which he would show to drivers when hitchhiking.

He arrived on the Westside on Saturday, staying with a host in Westwood. On Monday night, that host gave him a ride to Santa Monica.

“Inside the city, it’s a little difficult to hitchhike,” he said.

Marie carries with him a journal and notebook filled with newspaper clippings from previous interviews and a map outlining his travels. He plans to write a book based on his experiences upon returning to France.

But that might not happen until 2012. Marie said that he still needs to travel to South America, Australia and then Asia before going back home.

“It’s a dream to travel the world,” he said.

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