A beginners guide to hitchhiking
Do you nurse a secret dream of going hitchhiking, to meet new people and discover new places at no cost at all? This is a beginners guide with 5 simple rules to get your wheels rolling.
- Have you always dreamed about it? Or just got curious when a friend told you his/her stories?
- Rule number 1: Smile!
- Rule number 2: have fun waiting!
- Rule number 3: don't let them get to you!
- Rule number 4: pick a good spot!
- Rule number 5: be grateful!
- Try to be a Labrador!
Have you always dreamed about it? Or just got curious when a friend told you his/her stories?
So you have heard all these stories about hitch-hikers and "alternative travelers" but never dared to try yourself? Well, do it! It is really much easier than you might think.
Hitchhiking can be done over long distances or just around your hometown. I have traveled well over a 1000 km in a single day and crossed entire continents for free, but usually the best rides are the 5 km into town late a friday evening where you find out that the guy that picked you up actually lives in the same neighbourhood as you and went to school with your older brother!
It is not as dangerous as you might think, because only helpful people stop (the psychopaths are all locked up in institutions or busy at home facebooking). After literary 1000's of people picking me up i still have not found myself in a single threatening situation. Of course a little bit of common sense is useful (do the mental-handshake-test: if you would shake his hand, you probably are going to feel safe sitting next to him), and remember you can always say no and NOT get into the car. And it's not a men-only-club, I know many hitchhiking girls who have had loads of fun experiences, also while hiking alone.
But as with most activities, it is only easy if you know how to do it, so here are a few basic rules that should get you going (literary!).
Rule number 1: Smile!
This should be a general rule in your everyday life as well. Apart from making the person seeing you happy, it also signals that you are not a dangerous guy, and this is exactly what you want when hitchhiking. You want the person in the car thinking "oh this is a nice person that i would like to get to know".
And smile with your eyes, not just with your mouth! This is the difference between a Desperate-Housewife-Smile ("yeah, you are my best friend so when you turn around I stab you") and a Dalai-Lama-Smile ("I sincerely wish you a happy life"), and people DO notice the difference (at least subconciously).
Rule number 2: have fun waiting!
Yes, you WILL be waiting alot (although not as long as you may think, my normal waiting time is around 15-20 minutes).
But time waiting is not time wasted. If you are hitchhiking with a friend; play, sing, and have fun! People will see this, and some guys singing are gonna make them laugh and stop to pick you up, if nothing else only to satisfy their curiousity as to why some guys are standing singing in the middle of nowhere (or tell jokes, riddles, discuss lifes great mysteries, or try to stand on each others shoulders).
If you are alone you can try to solve a world problem, write a letter to a friend (in your head, so later you can just write it down), or repeat those spanish glossary you never do otherwise. Or just enjoy the scenery. See it as chance to get out of the stressy hours and minutes of the day, and just enjoy the flowers (and the ride of course!)
Rule number 3: don't let them get to you!
Yes, it will be disapointing to see car after car going by and not picking you up. Some people will stare at you like you are trash, some will even make gestures, and sooner or later the thought will strike you "why don't they like me?"
But don't let it get to you, and do NOT get pissed at people (if you really want to annoy them, jump and wave and smile really big, to let them know "i see you and i am still happy while you are grumpy!")
Sometimes the face you thought was angry was only surprised, and I can't tell you how many times cars have passed me by, only to pass again 2 minutes later to pick me up. Sometimes they turned on purpose, "because I saw you too late and was not prepared to stop", and sometimes they just come back after stopping at the grocery store. Then you don't want to flick the finger the first time they drive by.
And remember, even if you stood there for an hour you must treat every car as your first! Hey, it's not THEIR fault that you have been waiting. So keep that smile up, for every car passing there is always a next one that might take you.
Rule number 4: pick a good spot!
This is a very important point, very often 5 minutes of walking will save you 30 minutes of waiting. If you stand next to a spot where there is no safe possibility to stop, a 100 guys could drive by thinking "damn, I would have taken him if there was a place to stop.."
You should be visible from far away, so the driver has a chance to recognize you as a hitchhiker, decide that you look friendly, and prepare to stop his vehicle. No one does this in 25 meters, so give them a fair chance.
You should have a good place to stop, for example a bus stop or a widening in the road. Stand in FRONT of it so that the driver get a chance to see you up close before making his call (this is an important psychological factor), but not so far that you can not run there in 10 seconds (don't let the driver wait if he stops).
And don't choose a dangerous place. If you stand in a curve, next to an important street sign, or on a highway, the police WILL come because of traffic safety (and they always just tell you to leave, they never take you along... sigh).
It is always easier hitching INTO cities than OUT of them. Try to find a logical place where cars drive slow and almost everyone is going the same way as you, for example traffic lights or before highway runways.
Rule number 5: be grateful!
Hey, they ARE doing you a big favour, so let them know about it! A good start is to stick out a hand and say "hey, my name is Erik, it's really nice that you stopped! You mind if tag along a short while?"
And say thanks again when you leave the car.
Remember that there's always something positive to say, and people like a little (honest) flattering. "This is really a nice country, I love it here! This car is awesome, I like the combo of quiet and powerful and it even smells good! Hey, cool glasses!"
Try to be a Labrador!
The bottom line is: be a nice guy, and people are going to want to help you! Try to think like a Labrador ("hello, i just met you and you are my best friend!") and you will get rides all the time!
So now go out and try your luck!