I think many people haven’t tried hitchhiking because they’re not familiar with the many advantages that come with sticking your thumb out while you stand next to the road and smile like you really mean it.
Nevertheless, there is a myriad of reasons for why people hitchhike (and enjoy it). Maybe oneof these advantages will encourage you to get out there and have a good conversation with a new friend as you both speed down the highway to your next great adventure.
Without further ado, here are some of the reasons you should be hitchhiking while traveling!
- Hitchhiking is a cheap way to move around
One of the obvious advantages of hitchhiking is that it’s a really cheap way to move around. In most countries, people will give you a ride for free. Frankly, I think most people start to get into hitchhiking for the savings it provides your travel budget. It’s what initially draws the most people.
Only in certain countries is it customary to pool expenses with the driver for tolls or gas money. You should check what the custom is in different countries as different cultures have different views on the matter.
- Hitchhiking is a great way to meet locals
Not only hobos and travelers use hitchhiking as a means of transportation. It’s actually pretty common, especially in third world countries, for locals to move around by hitchhiking. It’s a part of many people’s daily routine.
If you hitchhike, you put yourself in a situation where it’s likely
You never know if the person you hitchhike with will end up offering you a free traditional meal or even lodging with his or her family, turning what appeared to be only a cheap way of moving around a place into an adventure all in itself!
- Hitchhiking can help you get places for public transportation is not available
Once, while traveling around the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, I was going to a small village in the middle of the jungle to stay with the Maya. The village was so remote and there was so little traffic that there was no public transportation there, I had the choice to hike close to 30 kilometers in 50°c heat through a lonely jungle backroad… or I could hitch a ride with one of the local villagers on their return trip. For obvious reasons, I chose the latter.
Public transportation and transportation infrastructure is great for moving around in and between cities. However, many of the real jewels that you’ll find while traveling won’t be necessarily be found in cities. Therefore, hitchhiking is a great way to get to those places where buses, trains, and other forms of transportation are not available.
This is common in rural areas or around places that don’t see a lot of traffic. Sometimes, hitchhiking might be the only way you can get to a certain place.
- Hitchhiking is a social activity
Hitchhiking is intrinsically a social activity. You’ll need to interact and communicate with the people who could give you a ride. Striking up a conversation with the driver who picks you up makes for an entertaining way of moving around. Definitely better than taking the bus.
During those long hours on the road, many drivers will open up (since they know they’ll likely never see you again) and share their life experiences and stories. While hitchhiking, you become a sort of confessor, with a unique and very authentic glimpse into the life of locals.
You meet all sorts of interesting people while hitchhiking. Someone who will pick up a lonely stranger is sure to be open-minded or kind-hearted. You never know what colorful character is going to pick you up next.
- Hitchhiking is a spiritual experience
There is something about trusting in the universe and opening ourselves to new experiences that makes for a deeply spiritual experience while hitchhiking.
By being trusting and open we attract good people to our lives, people who can share and add something of value. Somehow, you always feel that you found the right person to pick you up. It’s an ineffable feeling, but it’s true.
Hitchhiking can be magical if we open ourselves to the experience.
- Learn more about the places you travel through
Hitchhiking is a way for you to immerse yourself deeper into your travels and experience the places you travel through more profoundly.
In addition, it’s very likely that the people who are going to pick you up are locals, who can provide you with insight into the places you pass by that you won’t find in any guidebook. You’ll see these places as the people who live there do and will be all the richer for it.
Locals will also give you sound advice for moving around a given region, and will likely prevent you from doing something dumb like going into a dangerous part of town. People instinctually protect each other.
Be sure you don’t miss out on what can be extremely valuable glimpses into local life.
- Hitchhiking helps you build up your character
Hitchhiking isn’t always easy. Sometimes you get a ride as soon as you stick your thumb out. Sometimes it takes a while. The waiting can make minutes seem like hours, especially if you’re hitchhiking in weather extremes such as heat or cold.
Nevertheless, facing these trials and coming out victorious can build character. Waiting for a ride becomes an opportunity to practice patience. Getting around with little to no money helps you cultivate resourcefulness and independence. Planning and making the best of what a driver can offer you will teach you to be flexible and adaptable.
Hitchhiking can make you a better person if you have the right mindset.
- Being humbled by kindness
When someone picks you up, they are essentially showing you kindness. It gives you a fuzzy feeling to realize that there are still people who will go out of their way to help a stranger.
It’s very common to be at the receiving end of generosity when we hitchhike. Whether it’s a genuine offer of a place to stay somewhere, some food or many other things, when someone who doesn’t know you at all showers you with kindness, I can guarantee that your faith in mankind will be restored.
After stepping out of the car, I usually feel a need to repay that kindness given to me to other people I meet during my journey. It’s a good debt to have, and an even better debt to pay further on. You’ll be a better person for it.
- Environmentally sound way of traveling
Hitchhiking is a way that can help curb the degradation of the environment. When you hitchhike you’re basically carpooling with a stranger who was already going that way instead of renting a car or using your own to move around.
Although quantifying precisely how hitchhiking reduces your carbon footprint is hard, it does help out by being more efficient with existing resources. Hey, every little bit helps, doesn’t it?
- Learning or practicing a foreign language
If you’re traveling through a certain part of the world in the hope of brushing up on your language skills, then hitchhiking is a great way to do it, as you’ll very likely be picked up by locals.
Since there’s little you can do during the long hours in the car with a stranger but talk, this will push both of you to communicate and converse as well as you can. You’re sure to have a fun experience.
- It’s adventurous and makes for great stories!
Hitchhiking is an experience and an adventure in itself. I’ve made many people laugh or look at me incredulously with the many anecdotes of travel on the road. Hitchhiking has a way of creating lasting memories and anecdotes that you’ll remember fondly in the aftermath of your travels.
If you ask me, I could tell you about the time I was picked up by a car full of partying Couchsurfers and we ended up having a camping and having a bonfire on the beach. Maybe you’ll enjoy hearing about the time I hitched a ride in the desert with a Yaqui tribal leader through drug cartel territory in the middle of the night. How about the time I found a ride from Mexico all the way to Belize on the first try? Maybe you’ll laugh when you hear the story of the time I hitched a ride with an orchestra.
Hitchhiking will definitely give you something to talk about. It makes for great bar stories, no doubt about it.
Think of any other advantages or benefits of hitchhiking? Have some great stories to tell? Let us know in the comments!
This is part of a series of articles that I will be writing on hitchhiking, including some tips on how to do it, safety and much more! Be sure to read the other parts in the series: