French film director hitchhikes 700 miles across Europe from Paris to Glasgow for new short film

Sebastien Urbain travelled over 700 miles from Paris to Glasgow - relying entirely on the kindness of strangers, and documenting his experiences along the way

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A French film director hitchhiked over 700 miles from Paris to Glasgow, armed with little more than a camera and laptop, he created a short film documenting his travels and interactions with the people he met along the way.

Sébastien Urbain is a film director from Compiègne in France - he had never been to Glasgow before this trip - and decided on the destination on a whim while he planned his route on a map.

His plan was to travel as far north as he could, arriving in a city where he could stay for a while and find a theatre to showcase the short film. He thought Glasgow would be the perfect destination.

The documentary, called Paris-Glasgow,  is 24 minutes long - and follows Sebastien on his five day long journey from Paris to Glasgow. In those five days he lived a lifetime, from despair as he struggles to get picked up on the road, to great joy as he meets new people, experiences genuine human compassion, and makes lifelong friends along the way.

“I decided on Glasgow as it’s a city very far north from Paris - and the city is very interested in film and cinema - which made it perfect for me. I wanted to interview people along the way, and get a window into their life and find out about their own dreams.

“It was certainly difficult, but it was a real adventure, you really don’t know what will happen. I used to travel by hitchhiking a lot when I was younger, but I haven’t had the chance to in years.

“When I was travelling originally, I didn’t have any money - so it’s a bit bizarre to travel by hitchhiking when I could afford a bus or a train now - so at times it felt a bit like ‘why am I doing this?’

“But I just had to remember, hitchhiking for me is the absolute best way to travel, you meet people in a very short window in both of your lives - people you wouldn’t normally meet - it’s very intense.”

Sébastien’s trip began in the north of Paris - where he is sceptical about the trip, and if he’s going to be able to make it all the way to Glasgow. He spent over two and a half hours at an interchange in Paris waiting for his first lift to Lille, before taking the bus to Charles de Gaulles airport and hitching from there.

Eventually a man passed by and picked the young film director up - taking him to Lille, a city in France just near the country’s border with Belgium. From here he hitched a ride to Calais on the northern border of France - just a short jaunt across the channel from the UK.

Successful in hitching a ride to Calais, Sébastien gets a life lesson from his new driver - Urbain sat in the passenger seat and listened to the man speak about travelling, and the introspection and understanding of oneself and other people it can bring.

Sébastien continued:“A person’s car is a very personal space - it’s like their bedroom - it’s very very private. So for someone to share that with is very special, and it makes for a really unique and special experience you can’t find anywhere else.

“The trip made me remember why I love travelling so much. It was the first time I ever filmed such a trip, it was difficult to manage between filming and remaining present in the moment with the people who picked me up.”

The film director at the side of a road in the UK - holding his thumb out waiting for a lift.The film director at the side of a road in the UK - holding his thumb out waiting for a lift.
The film director at the side of a road in the UK - holding his thumb out waiting for a lift.

It was in Calais that Sébastien met a busker named Auguste who carried a Saxophone. He spent the night drinking with Auguste and interviewing him about his dreams and aspirations.

Speaking about his encounter with Auguste, the director said:”I think the best moment was when I met this guy in France, he was from Argentina and we spent the night together drinking.

“It was great, sometimes when you meet someone for the first time and it feels like you’ve known this person forever -it was like that. It was definitely one of the happiest moments of the trip.”

After getting the ferry from Calais to Dover - he arrives in England on the third day of his trip, and hitches another ride, holding a cardboard sign that simply reads ‘North’.

Making it further north, Urbain hitches to Leeds next - getting a lift off a man called Ausman, who drops him off at a tiny petrol station near Birdwell, a small village between Sheffield and Leeds.

He’s stuck there for a while, as the trip stretches from its fourth day into its fourth night, it’s starting to look like he will have to sleep outside. As Sébastien prepares for a rough sleep, the petrol station attendant offers him a place to sleep in the back of her car while she works, which he graciously accepts.

The kind woman greets Sébastien warmly when he awakes - offering him coffee and use of the facilities - as he prepares to leave and thanks the woman for her kindness.

“I had a few security concerns of course - but about halfway through I just learned to accept the risk - if I lose my equipment I lose my equipment, it’s a real risk, but I think it was worth it.

“When I got to England I abandoned those concerns, the kindness of people along the way was amazing to me.

“The whole journey people were telling me how friendly Glasgow was - so I had an idea of what to expect despite never having been there before - and I wasn’t disappointed, the people here are so welcoming and kind.”

Sebastien Urbain on the first leg of his journey, as he solemnly waits for a lift from Paris to Lille.Sebastien Urbain on the first leg of his journey, as he solemnly waits for a lift from Paris to Lille.
Sebastien Urbain on the first leg of his journey, as he solemnly waits for a lift from Paris to Lille.

It was the morning after, on day five of his journey, that Sebastien finally arrived in Glasgow - thanks to the help of two commuting Glaswegians.

After arriving in Glasgow, he got to work editing it all together, and finding a film to show his fresh new short film. This was easier said than done - as the French director knew absolutely no one in the city, and nothing about the city’s independent film scene.

It didn’t take him long however, as after just a week, the film debuted in the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sunday, November 6.

Urbain shared his thoughts on the city, he said:”I think Glasgow has a very special atmosphere - the atmosphere is completely different from the rest of the UK.

“The city has some real culture to it, and it was so welcoming to me despite the face I knew nothing about Glasgow or anyone here.”

The short documentary serves as a trial run for Urbain’s dream film - a journey of epic proportions as he hopes to hitchhike from New York to Peru, arriving in the Amazon Rainforest - a wonder he has always dreamed of visiting.

Sébastien hopes to complete this journey next year - filming, editing, and going about the adventure in the same way he shot his journey from Paris to Glasgow. You can keep up with the new project here:

You can also follow Sébastien behind the scenes on Instagram, as he prepares for his next big journey.