A First-Hand Guide To Hitchhiking
Joe’s favourite way to get around is hitching a lift. Read his top tips for really immersing yourself in the process
Travelling is a popular choice for young millennials. A generation coming to terms with its ambiguous future has found intrinsic value in the life lessons learned outside its comfort zone. However, there is a need to address the elephant in the room. Is a three months stint getting drunk with other backpackers (guilty) a truly cultural experience? Probably not. I’m writing this article to tell millennials what I’ve learned from hitchhiking and how it enables a more enriching form of travel.
Disclaimer:When you hitchhike you must accept that you are putting yourself in a vulnerable and dangerous situation. Never go alone and never get into a stranger’s car if this is something you don’t feel comfortable with.
- Surrendering to the road
Young people feel pressured to have everything planned out ahead of them: careers, life goals, relationships…and this is often extended to our travel plans. First-time travellers are conned into buying bus tours, pre-planned trips or expensive excursions, and this is exactly the opposite of what a trip is supposed to be about. Surrendering yourself to the road can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It just requires that first step beyond the pale of social norms.
When you begin your hitchhike, you often start with a specific destination in mind, however, an essential part of this mode of transport is that, unlike a train or bus, you are unlikely to get there in one ride (unless you’re really lucky). This means you could end up in several other locations beforehand, or you arrive earlier than expected, or potentially not even arrive at all. You could end up somewhere you never expected to see on your trip, maybe somewhere more beautiful – though of course, it also opens up the possibility of finding yourself in a location or situation you perhaps weren’t so happy with But that’s part of the game! Surrendering yourself to the road is not only mentally liberating, but opens your mind to a multiplicity of opportunities that travelling presents.
TIP: Patience is key to hitching a ride. Sometimes you’ll only need to wait 10 minutes, for others you may well be standing on the roadside for an hour. The road can be a cruel mistress. Know when to admit defeat and move on to another spot, or else, just use public transport if you feel stuck.
- The generosity of strangers
My personal experiences hitchhiking have led me to the most remarkably kind and generous people and restored my faith in humanity in difficult times. It’s just logical: people that make the effort to stop for a couple of bewildered looking travellers on the side of a motorway are most likely compassionate, if a little curious, folk. My own personal experience has included people driving hours extra to make sure you get to your destination safely, people that have bought me lunch, people that have offered for me to stay at their homes, pay for public transport, and more. It’s certain that none of those things would have happened sitting on a 12 hour, overly booked, sweaty coach. You also get the opportunity to gain some essential knowledge from locals that is potentially unknown to most tourists!
TIP: It’s always good to come prepared with a few stock phrases in the local language. More great ways to break an awkward language barrier include smiling, overly enthusiastic gesturing, and sharing snacks.
- Living economically
As rewarding as travelling is, it can certainly leave you with a hole in your pocket. One major aspect of that is transportation costs. Taxis, tour companies and local buses see backpackers coming from a mile away. They’ll often charge higher prices specifically for foreigners for a service that can be unreliable and uncomfortable (and here’s you thinking public transport was bad enough at home). Hitchhiking can often remedy this situation. For me, the experience of learning I could travel far distances efficiently and cheaply opened up new doors. Travelling can be a minefield of tourist scams, rip-offs and expense, but by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and being prepared to say no to immediate convenience, you can save a lot of money and carry the satisfaction of knowing you did it your own way.
TIP: I’ve never had to pay for a ride hitchhiking and generally speaking, people don’t expect you to. If you’re confused then it might be best to clear that up beforehand. If they ask, don’t feel obliged to say yes, politely say no and ask to be let out at the next availability.
All images c/o Joe
Have you been hitchhiking? Would you ever try it? Let us know in the comments.