While some people dream of hitch hiking the world, William A. Stoever actually did.
Inspired by his sense of adventure, Stoever hitchhiked about 50,000 miles in America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. His journey began after he graduated from college at age 22 in the 1960s. Not quite ready for graduate school, Stoever decided to try teaching in East Africa and when his three-year contract was up, he hitchhiked home.
Stoever shares his many adventures in his new book “Hitchhike the World.” The Maplewood resident will be giving readings and book signing on Thursday, May 16, 7-9 PM at the Maplewood Main Library, 51 Baker Street, and on Sunday, May 19, 4 PM at Words Bookstore, 179 Maplewood Avenue.
Of course traveling to such spectacular countries, one can only imagine the sights Stoever witnessed. Yet he was most impressed by the interesting conversations he had with folks he met in bars. In Somalia he was so taken with the local women he ended up moving in with one of them. “She spoke good English. I remember her,” Stoever remembered fondly. “I used a toothbrush. She had a twig she chewed to soften it up.”
The same woman was also superstitious about Jinn – an evil being that dwells in the mirror. So she would cover the mirror when leaving the house so Jinn couldn’t get out. Stoever said, “[She believed] if you could turn around suddenly you can catch a glimpse of Jinn. That was wild!”
One of the challenges Stoever had in his travels was the fact that he did have to plan his money. “A couple times I had to write a check and try to cash it in a bank,” he said.
Another challenge was trekking in the mud through the Congo – then called Zaire – and spending the night in a mud hut made of grass. “[Listening to the] screeching and calling sounds of the jungle … bird calls and monkey calls … a very spectacular night in terms of new experiences,” said Stoever. “Very memorable.”
And of course sailing on the ocean to Zanzibar was a thrill, especially 5 or 6 PM when the ocean got rougher. “You could get sea sick,” Stoever said. “There was nothing really dangerous … kind of exciting.”
Stoever’s sense of adventure dates back to when he was a toddler. His parents told him that when he was 2 or 3 years old, he’d take off in the neighborhood and the police had to search for him. After several times of this happening the police blew it off as not a big deal. Stoever shared, “The police officers would say, ‘Oh, him again, don’t worry.’”
When Stoever returned from his journey he earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an MBA and Ph.D. from New York University Graduate School of Business. He worked as a college professor for 33 years at Rutgers University, Princeton, National University of Singapore and Seton Hall.
While Stoever enjoyed teaching and said he was “very happy as a college professor,” one of the reasons he retired was that he wanted to write. Stoever has many ideas about books he wants to write, but says he’s a slow writer, noting, “It takes me two or three years to write a book.”