We’ve all seen that seemingly crazy guy standing at the edge of the road with little more than a backpack (maybe with a guitar or a sleeping bag too) and a sign that asks for a ride to anywhere.
That’s probably me on any given trip, living life adventurously by hitchhiking. The only way I know how to travel.
I began hitchhiking when I first began getting serious about traveling and, ever since then, it’s become an integral part of my travels. Hitchhiking can be a very pleasant experience, and doing it fundamentally changed the way I move around.
I’ve had so much fun and had such great experiences while hitching a ride that I wanted to do a series of posts on it to try and convince you (did someone say preach?) about the joys of hitchhiking. Read on!
So, what is hitchhiking?
Basically, hitchhiking (which is also known as thumbing, hitching or doing autostop) is a way of traveling that involves securing or soliciting (usually) free rides from passing vehicles or any other form of transportation, such as boats.
This is regularly done as a way to move around between different cities or in rural/country areas where public transportation is more irregular.
Or just for kicks. That works too.
What does hitchhiking involve?
Technically, the only thing you need for hitchhiking your way across the world is an upturned thumb and a smile or a sign… really anything that you can use to flag down passing vehicles. Remember to bring along your common sense too!
Hitchhiking involves some planning and precautions (into which we’ll get later), as well as a great amount of self-confidence and patience, and an openness to the universe that adds to the magic of travel.
Why hitchhike at all?
Quite frankly, as an adventure traveler, hitchhiking around a country I’m just getting to know adds to the overall experience and general sense of excitement in my travels. It adds immersion to my experience of the places I visit.
Furthermore, hitchhiking has quite a few advantages for a traveler!
Hitchhiking is not a strange activity. In fact, in many areas of the world, it’s one of the primary ways that locals use to move around. I can tell you that hitching a ride is one of the only ways of moving around in some rural areas of Mexico and Guatemala, for example.
Is hitchhiking safe?
Hitchhiking gets a bad rep. Many things, from horror movies (seriously, who thinks these things are representative of real life?) to the news media that constantly bombards us about how dangerous the world is, have contributed to influencing negative public opinion and perspective on hitchhiking.
As in everything, there are inherent risks to hitchhiking. Depending on where you’re hitchhiking, and how you’re doing it, will determine the severity of many of these risks. Even so, it’s hard to find statistics on hitchhiking, but it appears that hitchhiking can be a safe activity, if certain precautions are taken.
However, just like in any other activity (scuba diving and mountain climbing come to mind), the inherent risks of hitchhiking can be managed or lessened by taking special precautions and following certain guidelines. Most of these are common sense suggestions to minimize the risks of traveling this way.
Is it legal to hitchhike?
Laws and regulations change depending on the jurisdiction that you are (the territory where certain laws apply). Most countries allow hitchhiking, but certain laws and regulations might restrict how and if you hitchhike.
In general, there may be certain local rules regarding where hitchhiking can be done. This includes roads and areas where it would be dangerous for a driver to stop to pick you up.
Be sure to ask locally if hitchhiking is allowed. Locals are the best sources of information for any given place. In some places, hitchhiking is even encouraged!
Hitchhiking is more than a cheap means of transportation! It’s a way of life and of traveling that reflects what an adventurous and open traveler you are. It’s worth trying and ―who knows?― your travels just might take you somewhere magical.
Remember! If there’s a road, there’s a way!
Have you ever hitchhiked? Have a great story to tell? Share your experiences and thoughts 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! Check out the rest of the posts in the series: