Hitchhiking conjures this image in our collective memory of a young twenty-something with his thumb outstretched, caution thrown to the wind with a ragged threadbare pack slung over one shoulder on an open dirt road sometime in the 1940’s. Maybe this images stems from reading too many Keurac novels. Maybe it’s from the antiquated notion that hitchhiking is dangerous and therefore a thing of the past. But what I’ve discovered over the course of my travels is that hitchhiking isn’t something to be feared or looked down upon. In fact, hitchhiking has lead to some of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Whether it was hitching a ride home in a pickup truck from the beach, barefoot with pool floats, a surfboard, and six other girls in tow. Or floating through the jungle in the back of a truck, building materials knocking our heads, and Mayan ruins enveloped by lush plants spinning past us. Nothing in this world quite compares to hitching a ride, letting the wind rush through your hair, and the kindness of a complete stranger guide you home, or wherever happens to be the next stop.
It’s not just the hitching, but also the waiting that makes hitchhiking so charming. Backpackers are along for the ride, making the most of what is at hand. We often find ourselves on deserted roads playing in the orange groves, dancing a Texas two-step, or indulging in a road beer while waiting. Sometimes it takes a few seconds to get picked up, other times it could take hours. So be prepared to entertain yourself with the simple pleasures around you and you’ll never have a dull moment. Great advice for life in general too.
Have I convinced you of hitchhiking magical powers? It’s like the old saying goes, don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it!
1. Start on a road, freeway, dirt path, anywhere a vehicle might be passing through.
2. Stick your thumb out. You can be walking, sitting on your pack, or goofing off with friends on the side of the road. As long as they can see that universal sign of a thumb pointed that way, you’re good.
3. Hop in! In my experience, people who pull over are cut from the same cloth as backpackers- seasoned travelers with a flare for enjoying life. However, you should always exercise caution before getting into just anyone’s vehicle. Ask them where they are headed, if they make you feel at all uncomfortable, say you’re going in a different direction and leave it at that. Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to wait a little longer for a safer ride.
4. Enjoy the Ride! Like I said, hitchhiking has given me some of my fondest memories. Take a look around, laugh at yourself, and really absorb the moment, it’s really kind of amazing.
5. Be grateful! You just received a free ride, the least you can do is be thankful! If you have something to offer, go for it. Anything from a beer to a handshake is always appreciated and your soul will smile at the chance crossing of paths.