This pandemic has paused many projects. For now, traveling around is but a mirage. So much more it is to do it in unconventional ways, such as hitchhiking. Ride a thumb is based on trust, and with all this uncertainties that's gold dust.
We have good memories related to hitchhiking. Our relation started when Anna hitched her way back from Poland to Portugal just to meet Andrea again. Then, we thumbed together a bit through Europe, but the real adventure started with our journey around the world. We hitchhiked most of our way through Balkans, Turkey, Caucasus and South America. We tried a lot in South East Asia, where many people don't even know why would you stand along the road with your thumb out.
Time will come when we can be on the road again. Getting ready for those times, we want to share with you why we love hitchhiking:
- it adds a pinch of spice
Actually our love story wouldn't even have started if it had not been for hitchhiking... If Anna had a ticket to Poland, with a fix date, at the end of her erasmus, we would not have the time to get to know each other better. Those five days her hitchhiking plan allowed for made the difference. And that's much of the point, thumb a ride is a good start for an adventure. We experienced all sorts of craziness: waiting hours for any car in the middle of Patagonia, hours communicating only via a dull google translator on a Thai road finishing up sleeping in a police station, going around in the middle of Ramadan with a food-and-drink fasting truck driver just about to fall asleep on the steering wheel, and soooo many more. We travelled with private cars, police cars, trucks (up to 5 people inside the cabin), in pick ups, on pick ups, on motorbikes, with a political campaign van, we got invited for many coffees, lunches, we visited our drivers homes and shops, we were welcomed to stay with them for the night.
In other words, you never know what's gonna happen. Or when. Here, though, we have to be honest - it is one big source of stress – we often make the mistake to fit hitchhiking into a bigger plan or on a tight schedule (for example reaching a host we plan to stay with at a specific hour). That drives us (especially Anna) really mad.
- it trains our trust
Many of you may find it dangerous. For some it is difficult to understand how can we enter the car of a person we know nothing about, especially somewhere in the other side of the planet, where we don't even speak the same language. Aren't we scared?
Well, we do. But as we mentioned in previous posts about fear, here and here, we listen what fear tries to tell us but we don't allow it to shape our decisions. So, even if our minds go through the most horrible trips, we still stand on with our thumbs up. We had a lot of crazy adventures, one anecdote after another, but it never happened that somebody tried to attack us, hurt us or steal anything. If any danger at all, it was rather from bad driving skills of the person who took us on or him/her focusing too much on us instead of minding the road. Trust in the others is something that needs to be practised and trained, just like a muscle. We realized that when we stop with hitchhiking for a while, fear comes back and starting again is harder.
- it allows to meet all kinds of people
As mentioned before, we experienced lots of hospitality and, most important for us, we could meet all sorts of people and discuss with them about their country, culture, and daily life. Platforms that are based on previous agreement (such as couchsurfing or workaway), as you can read here, are intrinsically biased, they are used from people who speak English, who are open-minded and trust strangers enough to open the door of their house. The kind of people who stop for hitchhikers is much more diverse, they stop for different reasons – to help, because their religion call them to, to leave a good impression of their country or themselves, to have company along the journey, to understand why actually somebody would hitchhike, because they hitchhiked themselves when they were young, etc. Sometimes we don't even speak a common language, but through gesture and a bit of imagination even in that situation we can have interesting conversations.
- it saves money and CO2 emissions
Yep, saving money is not the main reason, yet it deserves a fair place on the list. A bus fee in places like Laos or Thailand is not a big issue for us, but it is in Europe, and keeping the budget low allows us to travel further. People sometimes ask us to pay for the ride, especially in countries where hitchhiking is not very common, like Vietnam, or it is a very common mean of transport, like Romania. We try to avoid this situations because we realized (and here we speak also about our experiences with BlablaCar) when money gets on the table the relation is not quit the same. On top of it, we lower the impact of our journey in terms of CO2 emissions, and that's not bad at all.
Sooner or later it will be possible to come back to circulate safely and happily. Waiting for that moment, we wanna share a few practical tips:
It's good to write where you go on a cardboard, there is a higher probability that people, seeing the name of the city they are going to, will stop.
If you want to do more than, say, 100 km and there are other main centers on the way, it's good to write the closest destination, instead of the final one, again – bigger chance for people to stop.
Many people stop because they want to have somebody to talk to, try to keep the conversation going unless you see the driver is really not up to it.
If you don't feel safe, don't enter the car. It's ok to say no even if a car stopped for you. You can also remember or write down the car number, if that helps you to feel safe.
If there is two of us we try to avoid a situation in which we are both outside the car and the driver is inside with our bags, just in case.
We usually keep our documents and debit cards somewhere in the pocket – again, just in case. So far we never had troubles.
Try and avoid as much as you can to get stuck in the city center. That is the most time consuming and annoying part, so check well where to start. Better to go out of the city and only then start to hitchhike.. A good source of information is https://hitchwiki.org/, which will tell you not only how to go out of big cities but also what is the situation with hitchhiking in the country. It really helped us a lot in our journey!
But also avoid being dropped in the middle of a highway (in most countries it's illegal to walk and stop there, so next car may not be that willing to help), in a gas station middle of nowhere, in front of a bus station. Sometimes it's good to check on the map which point would be best for you to wait for next car and ask the driver to leave you specifically there. If he or she is local they may have some good advice, but they may also not have a clue about what hitchhikers need. And they need a place where they have the biggest chance to meet next car – a place where is safe to stand, cars can stop and there are a lot of them passing. :)
Good luck and let us know if you have any questions!