That’s the number of rides I hitched since last year September. One-hundred-fifty-eight vehicles. One-hundred-fifty-eight adventures. One-hundred-fifty-eight stories. And so many questions. Ever since I got addicted with this mode of transportation, people look at me skeptically, sometimes even horrified, and usually ask me one of the following questions.
1. Why don’t you just use public transportation?
First of all, as a traveller you are always looking for ways to save money. And since transportation is usually very expensive, this certainly is a brilliant way of saving money. But second of all, as a traveller you are also in constant search of adventures and want to meet interesting people.
The journey is its own reward.
Having this well-known proverb in mind, I can only highly recommend hitchhiking as it’s one of the most adventurous ways to reach your destination. You often get inspired and amazed by the friendliness of strangers you meet along the way.
2. Isn’t it dangeorous to hitchhike solo as a woman?
This is probably the most common question that I get asked. Well, of course there is always a certain risk for both parties involved. On the one hand you never know who you will be driving with and on the other hand the driver never knows who they just let into their car.
I would say you just have to trust your instincts and also be willing to say ‘no’ when the people don’t seem trustworthy to you. As for me, I usually only hitchhike during daylight hours, always let someone know before I’m going somewhere, try not to give any wrong signals to men and carry around my little pepperspray (just in case). Also, if possible, I prefer driving with women, couples or families. But all in all I haven’t made any bad experiences so far. And as we all know:
No risk, no fun!
3. Who would stop for a stranger on the side of the road?
I often get asked what kind of people would actually be crazy enough to stop for hitchhikers. The answer to this question is easy.
It can be anyone.
From old to young, from poor to wealthy, from talkative to quiet, from outgoing to introverted. In the last few months I hitched rides with people from all different kinds of professions.
So imagine you could, just as I did, get a lift by a police officer, a skyding instructor, a man who sells earth in Italy, an ingeneur, a professor, a housewife, a man who lived in the wilderness of Alaska for six months, a gas station owner, a retiree, a journalist, an urban planer, a social worker or a military man.
Given the fact that people are so diverse and unique, so are their stories. By offering you a ride, they often give you insight into their personal life and are willing to share something with you. They may tell you about their job, share a travel story, recommend a good book, show you new music, inspire you or give you a piece of advice for life.
But one thing is for sure, you can learn something from every single person you meet in life and also leave an impression behind on them – so better make sure it’s a positive one.
4. How do you actually get a lift?
When picturing a typical hitchhiking situation most of you probably have a lonesome street in mind with a person standing next to it, pointing thumbs up and waiting for one of the fast passing cars to stop. Well, that’s at least one method how to do it. But if you want to increase your chances of success, it certainly helps if you have prepared a sign showing the direction you are going to. Drivers are more likely to stop if they know your destination.
Moreover, it’s important to make sure that you are positioned at a location where cars can actually stop for you. Therefore, it’s always a good idea standing before an emergency lane, parking spot or driveway so that vehicles can pull over. Also roundabouts can be recommended since people are driving more slowly and have time to decide whether or whether not to stop for you.
However, my favourite hitchhiking method is the direct approach of potential drivers at gas stations, motorway stations or any other locations of interest. First of all, this gives you the chance to “pick” trustworthy people and second of all this gives these “trustworthy people” a chance to get a first impression of you. With this method you have the opportunity to convince drivers to give you a ride and I must say I’m usually quite good at that.
Last but not least, a smile and a positive attitude always works miracles.