Ten Reasons To Go Hitchhiking (no it ain’t suicide)
It seems like the new-age hitchhikers would stick their thumb out and wish for the best for reasons drastically different to those hitchhiking in the olden days. Back then the fundamental purposes of hitchhiking mostly revolve around getting from location to destination at minimal expenses – for financial reasons of course. Yet modern hitchhiking enthusiasts, often defying the odds of restricting laws and scaremongering remarks, are after so much more than cost-free transport – acquiring an adventure with a philosophical and empathetic approach has become what many of us hitchhikers actively pursue.
And finding a pilgrimage of enlightenment is only one of the many perks of embarking on a hitchhiking journey – here are ten of my personal favourite reasons that I’d like to share with you and motivate you to give hitchhiking a try yourself.
Spiritual following and deeper meanings aside, I risk stating the obvious by reasserting that hitchhiking is – as intended by its inventors – free. No better way can anyone traverse country to country squandering little more than the energy to maintain a raised thumbs-up, for it is the ultimate method of travelling whilst empty-pocketed. A word of caution: in some countries you’re expected to pay the driver as dictated by their local culture – for your research purposes Wikitravel has a rough guide of hitchhiking-related country profiles.
Hitchhiking is, naturally, a game of meet-the-locals roulette. Chances are, you’ll equally be as likely to be picked up by someone who lives two miles down in a farm as a city dweller crossing the country on a long-haul business trip. Regardless, striking up a conversation with any of these insiders of local customs, habits, attractions and life in general simply won’t provide you with a more genuine insight into the place you’re visiting. If you display a sincere interest in their cultures your drivers will probably oblige by divulging some of their most well-kept secrets.
To establish a hitchhiker-driver relationship is commendable, but to reach beyond this bond and forge a friendship is something truly magical. There are few better encounters I can boast serendipitously-found friendships than those occurring during my hitchhikes. And as mates they’ll be more willing to go an extra mile to help you out: buy you food and drinks, give you a couch to crash on, take you out on excursions and show you around their neighbourhood – just make sure to have decency of inviting them to visit you and repay their hospitality with your own.
From the glorious countryside to magnificent metropolis, from snowcapped mountain passes to sea-bound coastal routes – hitchhiking will bring you into much closer contact with sceneries and sensation fests that are the embodiment of your chosen nation’s psyche. There may be far more effective means of transportation, but nothing allows you to observe your surroundings than when you’re hitchhiking: whilst you remain vigilant to potential hazards, you are also diligently absorbing into your perception and understanding every happening around you.
Hurling yourself into the hands of fate and, as we Brits say, wing it – it’s a school-of-thought that a lot of travellers like myself are disciples of. Hitchhiking may well epitomise this ultimate travel style of improvisation: if you give yourself a destination and let luck determine the rest the unpredictability of hitchhiking shall reward you with unexpected, yet gratifying, encounters that no package holiday or intricately-designed schedules can give you. Which is why you may save yourself a heck of a lot of hassle planning your journey but still have a desirable trip.
Philanthropy may manifest in no better form when you are in the direst of needs – that we all know. To endure hours of futile waiting, watching in vain as your patience trickle away and tears welling in your eyes as you cast away your optimism by the drop, only to be rescued by the most unlikely of individuals offering a hand: it might sound like a rough ride, draining you both physically and mentally, though the sheer exhilaration that result from the emotion roller coaster is kind of addictive. Hitchhiking is a testimony that human kindness does exist out there.
When the difference is comfort of sanctuary and getting frostbite on your testicles or baked beneath the sun, there’s plenty at stake – and you better hope your tongue waggle in the right ways. Negotiation skills are essential in our every day lives, so why not submit yourself to one of the most gruelling of trials and see if you’re able to talk yourself out of a situation? What I may testify to is that hitchhiking grants you a sizeable ego boost when you manage to negotiate your way into someone’s vehicle: any lack of confidence can be remedied by putting your charisma to the test.
Parlez-vous français? Sprechen sie Deutsch? ¿Hablas español? Whatever language you practise or even utilise in your normal-day life, you’ll go to great lengths to improve it when you’re hitchhiking. You’ll appear infinitely more earnest and unpretentious if you make an attempt to breach the language barrier or, better still, if you succeed in breaking it down – that will only increase your chances of getting as well as staying in a ride. Every pick-up is a unique opportunity to practise your language skills – especially considering the level of intimacy complete strangers are placed in.
For us urban habitants the opportunity to flee the city grind and rediscover our instinctive affection for nature is relatively rare. Quite often a rural escape requires elaborate effort in foresighted planning and coffer spillage. Hitchhiking can take you on an excursion within a heartbeat: get yourself dropped off and soon you’ll be pacing along pastures and dirt tracks, listening intently to leaves rustling to the breeze, birds whispering amongst each other and stellar spectacles unfolding before your eyes. Waiting time may well be your chance to reclaim your place in nature.
You can only tell complete strangers your personal story so many times, yet you cannot defy the urge to reflect on your own life. I began as a mere hopeful of a mode of travelling that would transport me from location A to B with minimal expenses; but as I uttered the words that depict my existence and subjected myself to self-evaluation, as I incorporate experiences, ideals, philosophies and beliefs of those I’ve encountered into my own, the realisation struck me – that hitchhiking is so much more. My understanding of it evolved into what I now perceive as a journey of self-discovery. Every single one of us embark on a lifelong quest of finding our sense of fulfilment: we may well never obtain it before we’re laid to rest but, through hitchhiking, at least I’m a step ahead.
Which is where my personal motto – constantly travelling, constantly editing (your own life) – spawns from.
Next: Vancouver to Banff