MISSING British man, Harry Stagg, has finally been found after he vanished in Spain two months ago.
The 23-year-old spoke exclusively to the Olive Press about his journey from his native Isle of Wight to the southern region of Andalucia.
The East Cowes man who used to work at Tonino’s, an Italian restaurant on the island decided he wanted to hitchhike from Paris all the way down to Malaga province.
He was due to meet his grandfather Bryan Frewing, who lives outside the tiny town of Alora.
Stagg saw a post on Reddit by a Swedish man named Kim Muca about hitchhiking through France.
“I messaged him and told him that I was planning to hitchhike down to the south of Spain and that he’s welcome to tag along,” Stagg told the Olive Press.
The young man’s journey started on September 5 and he met Muca in the French capital a day later.
That is when their hitchhiking journey began.
After a few months of travelling through France, they had made it to Bordeaux sometime in November.
“I don’t know the exact date, I wasn’t keeping track of the days. To be honest I haven’t worried about the date for months, it didn’t matter, it was lovely.”
They arranged to meet up in the city of Bordeaux one evening but Muca never showed up.
“We had an understanding that we were independent of each other and if for whatever reason we wanted to stop travelling together, we could.
“So when he didn’t come to the meeting point in Bordeaux, I just headed south towards Spain.”
When he arrived in Huesca – his first big stop in Spain – he contacted his family and also contacted Muca who said he would meet him there.
“I waited in Huesca for a few days for Kim, but he never arrived so I left.”
The date was November 29 and that was the last time anyone had heard from him.
From then on, Stagg lived on a diet of tinned food and was forced to sleep under bridges to evade the recent storms in Spain that left 13 people dead.
“The scariest bit was probably when I had pitched a tent of sorts on a cliff and then the storm hit and the wind nearly blew me over.”
Stagg was never a fan of mobile phones, as he grew up without one his whole life and only purchased one at 18.
“I didn’t need it as a teenager, I would get the same bus as my mates and we would just arrange meet ups in person or over the landline. I had Facebook but again I didn’t really use that. I eventually got a phone for work.”
According to his grandfather, this all came from his mum who didn’t have a television growing up.
“I got rid of the television when his mother was quite young so she grew up without one and that probably influenced her when raising Harry and never got him a phone,” said Frewing.
He did have a phone with him, but it broke very early on in the trip and then they just used Muca’s if they needed to check Google Maps.
“I never felt like I was in any danger, I was enjoying the experience and making memories.”
Stagg didn’t speak any Spanish and soon realised that hitchhiking in the Iberian country is not as common as in France.
He therefore walked more than expected, which meant it took him longer to get to Andalucia than he’d hoped.
“I would walk on average about 20 kilometres a day.
“I had hoped to make it to my grandad’s for Christmas but I just lost track of the days and it didn’t cross my mind to call my family, as we hadn’t set an exact date of when I was going to arrive.”
He also didn’t know his grandfather’s exact address, so when he arrived in Mijas, he went to the police station to call him.
His uncle Simon Morris came to pick him up and that’s when he found out he was ‘missing’.
“Oh shit!” was Stagg’s reply when he was told that there was a search ongoing for him.
“I immediately called my mum to apologise for getting her worried. Her reply was to tell my grandad not to be too harsh on me, ‘it was just Harry being Harry’, she said”.
Stagg also said the possible sightings of him in Almeria, Antequera and Gibraltar were false as he hadn’t visited those places.
“I probably look a bit more homeless than I should, with the beard and scruffy clothes. I’ve also changed my backpack. So it’s understandable that people and the police couldn’t recognise me.”
When asked how he felt about the reaction his disappearance caused, he said he feels ‘flattered’ that people were worried, but equally hopes he doesn’t become ‘famous’ back home.
Just like his hitchhiking journey didn’t have any concrete plan, neither do his next steps in life.
“I don’t have any future plans as of now, I tend to live each day as it comes.”
The young Brit is due to fly back to the UK on Wednesday February 5.