A guide to hitch-hiking
A true account of hitch-hiking solo
‘Hitch-hiking (also known as thumbing, hitching, or autostop) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other vehicle. A ride is usually, but not always, free.’ - some dictionary on the world wide web.
“What do you mean hitch-hike?!
There are many perceptions of hitch-hiking. The first reaction from others is surprise, fear and constant warning of the dangers of solo travelling (before we even get to the point of hitch-hiking). Before I set off on any solo trip, friends and family are confounded by the idea of travelling alone much less hitch-hiking and most don’t even understand what it means.
How do you know you will be able to get where you want to?
You don’t. Isn’t that the whole point of travelling and exploring? It’s about getting lost in the moment and learning, discovering.
Isn’t it dangerous?!
In this day and age, what isn’t dangerous. Just be cautious and calculated to a certain extent.
Where will you stay if you don’t get a ride?
Good ol’ tent and sleeping bag saves the day so make sure you carry them (at least a sleeping bag). If you don’t have these, be resourceful. Ask a stranger is they have some floorspace. People are nicer than you think.
Aren’t you afraid?
This one usually has a long answer and a short one.
Short answer: No.
Long (More truthful) answer: I am terrified.
Travelling solo in a foreign land where you’ve never been and don’t know anyone is daunting. That being said, fear is good, it keeps you on your toes and makes you wander further from your comfort zone. That is why everyone yearns to leave the comfort of their homes. To explore new things and grow.
Hitch-hiking is one of those things which was practiced commonly decades ago. With modern advances in technology and current geo/socio political circumstances, everyone has a fear of strangers. Hitch-hiking is one of the purest forms of relying entirely on the kindness of strangers. You really learn to trust people and realise that humanity still has hope.
Hitch-hiking on almost every continent (except Antarctica, there aren’t exactly any roads there), I have experienced extreme acts of kindness from strangers.
From being welcomed into their homes to attending weddings, staying the night, to fleeting romances, hitch-hiking solo anywhere is bound to renew your belief in humanity and open your mind. This is how society should be.
Here are some basics to hitchhiking anywhere in the world:
- Appearances matter- Look decent. Beards are fine but don’t appear frightening especially as a male. Women tend to get picked up quicker but there are other inherent dangers there.
- Be aware - As a male/female solo traveller, you need to be switched on all the time. There are no excuses to this. It is vital to be quick at evaluating situations and reacting appropriately. Hitchhiking does require a bit more street smart.
- Trust - You need to have some trust. People are nice. That is the perception you should have. (Pro-tip - DON’T Judge. Different countries have different cultural values which may be different to yours. Embrace it.)
- Location, location, location - Where you decide to stick up your thumb is VERY important. I have waited 6 hours for a ride in a spot where 2 cars would pass by every hour in contrast to being picked up in 10 minutes at a spot where cars are common. Petrol stations and big junctions are great spots.
- Conversation - The only reason someone would pick up a complete stranger is to indulge in unique conversations. Share your life and make an effort. Everyone has their own path and we are always learning new things. Pro-Tip - Speaking the local language (as much or little as possible) helps
- Ask away - Don’t be shy to ask someone for a ride. This might be scary at first but there is no shame or crime with asking someone for a ride. There is a higher chance of someone giving you a ride if you were to ask them. That being said, i have had experiences where i was yelled at for asking. Mind you that was near a metropolitan city, which brings me to the next point.
- People in cities SUCK - Broad statement and definitely a generalisation. Don’t take my word for it but give it a shot!
If attempting to hitch a ride from a big city, hop on a train/bus and get to the outskirts of the city to a major highway junction or petrol station. hitch-hiking near cities are harder, people are busier and in most countries, cities are more crime-ridden - as I discovered when attempting to hitch a ride in Mexico city.
- Be prepared - When thinking about travelling like this, be prepared to walk long distances and having to put up with situations you might have never been in before. Sleeping in a tent and freezing yourself with 100 km/h winds in the desert is not fun but is definitely an experience worth cherishing. Pro-tip - strategize where would be best to set up camp.
- Get a Sign - A sign does wonders for your ride. Just a short line saying the direction you are going in is enough. Adding a little interesting blurb like where you are from or what you do definitely would help a driver decide whether they want to pick up this complete stranger from the other side of the world. Pro-tip - Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, just don’t make it soppy.
Hitchhiking solo is a solitary endeavour where you will be with your own thoughts, so a certain mental strength is necessary. There are people around you, but you have only yourself to depend on no matter the situation. Making decisions and caring for yourself comes down to you and is a useful skill that will help you for the rest of your life.
So get out there, hit the road and let sweet serendipity show you the way!
Ciao Fin Del Mundo!
We love this awesome honest blog post from Indranil Roy all about the ups and downs of his solo hitch-hiking trip across Argentina. We know it's not for everyone and obviously it's safer to be with someone else but if you do, please take these tips and hitch-hike educated! Check out his blog Indranil Roy for more travel stories or follow him on Instagram at buzzneilpotato.
If you need any tips and advice about hitch-hiking or have a story to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org