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Authored by Danielle Ditzian

The sun blazes down on me, as I desperately look around in the hopes of finding a spot in the shade to stand. I am forced to accept, with a high level of dismay, that I will be having no such luck. And so I continue to wait on the side of the road with my thumb in the air, hoping that next ride will come along before I succumb to heatstroke in Middle-of-Nowhere-Town, Mexico. Despite the beads of sweat trickling down my face, my smile never fades.

I’m a hitchhiker. A female one, to be exact. How to hitchhike

I could regale you with tales of how I first started hitchhiking in Australia, and tell you about the day I gleefully hopped in a truck with one of Australia’s most notorious motorcycle gangs. I could brag about the year I hitchhiked over 24,000 kilometres across Canada, through the United States, and down to the southern tip of Mexico. How to hitchhike around the world

Or I could simply tell you why all of your perceptions about hitchhiking are just plain wrong. Is it safe to hitchhike in?

Once upon a time, hitchhiking was nothing to be feared, and was actually quite common practice. The world must have gotten a lot more evil since then, right?

…wrong. What are the myths about hitchhiking?

Tales of Abduction and Murder

Unfortunately for both hitchhikers as well as those adventurers who don’t dare stick their thumbs out, the media has corrupted us with tales of abduction and murder. Plainly put: shit happens. Is hitchhiking safe?

When you hear of a deadly head-on collision, do you resolve to never drive nor enter a vehicle again? Of course you don’t, because that would be insane. For every time a horrible car crash occurs, thousands upon thousands of people have successfully hopped in their cars, and driven to work. But why would the media announce, “Julia just drove home without getting into a single accident! Congratulations, Julia!” Should I hitchhike around the world?

Whether you’re hitchhiking in Iran, or in the outback of Australia, hitchhiking is about trusting strangers in a world where we’re taught to fear the unknown. Yet it seems counterintuitive that so many adventure travelers remain petrified of the thought of hopping into an unfamiliar vehicle.

Here’s the thing: people are actually pretty awesome, and 99.9% of them have absolutely zero desire to rob, rape, or murder you. My journey from the west to east coast of Canada – a journey of over 7,000 kilometres – was done on precisely $40. I’d love to tell you some extra awesome tips on how to be an extreme budget traveller, but I have to confess that this journey was only made possible by the kind people who picked me up.

Time after time we’d pull into a roadside restaurant, and my ride would offer me a meal. “I’m fine, thank you,” I would say as my belly rumbled. But when they would insist, I would happily chow down on as much food as I could stuff in my mouth at once. Can I hitchhike internationally?

Your complete guide to an unplugged vacation in Olympic National Park.

Are Hitchhikers Freeloaders?

So now you’re thinking I’m a freeloader, right? Again, totally wrong. Oftentimes I get picked up by truck drivers, who are bored to death of the monotonous journey taking hours upon hours, without a soul to chat with. They are beyond excited to have someone to share the ride with.

Other times I hop into a car, and we begin swapping stories, laughing, and loving life. And once in a blue moon, something truly beautiful happens: I get to inspire someone by simply being me. We all have different ways of helping each other out, and the most impactful ones are seldom financial.

Hitchhike for the Freedom

I am someone who has always craved freedom. Hitchhiking partnered with wild camping grants me the freedom to roam to whatever far off lands I desire, regardless of the current state of my bank account.

Many people, travellers or not, crave this liberty they feel they cannot obtain. Merely by living my life, I am able to show others that anything is possible, if only you cease conforming to the predetermined life that society demands.

Wild Camping in Scotland

The World is Filled With Amazing Human Beings

From being taken in by the woman who saw me on the side of the road at dusk, to the man who invited me in to use his shower, to the countless people who have invited me in for a cup of coffee, and right around to those who fed me along my way, the world is filled with amazing human beings.

While it is essential to have your wits about you and to be assertive, hitchhiking is far from a dangerous game. It is the way to connect with communities from around the world, and to see places you would never see from the seat of a bus. Do people hitchhike when they travel?

More than anything, it is a much needed reminder that we are all part of the same earth, no matter how different we may be, and that we should always be willing to help a stranger in whatever way we are able.

After all, we are all in this together. Is it safe to hitchhike?

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Danielle is a crazy nomad, wandering through life in a seemingly confident way, while usually totally unsure of her next step. She’s been on the road for nearly three years straight, finding new homes as she goes. Her biggest dream is to one day cuddle a platypus.

You can check out her blog (where she delights in oversharing) at Like Riding a Bicycle, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Girl with guitar on side of the road (in feature photo collage) by Ted Sali.

    41 Comments

  1. Amazing article. Although I don’t hitchike myself but I use couchsurfing a lot which means staying at stranger’s people houses so in that way I identify myself with you. Thanks for writing it. It added to my inspiration.

    • So glad you enjoyed Danie’s article Carmen. Yes, definitely similar stereotypes between couch surfing and hitchhiking, both require that trust of strangers, and I find when I talk about couch surfing many people apply the same misconceptions.

      Travel safe!

  2. This is a great blog post. It goes right up there with ‘travelling is dangerous’. I’ve personally never tried hitch hiking but I do get asked a lot about safety and talking with people who use safety as a reason or excuse to not travel. I’m not saying to be carefree, Trust your gut, if it ain’t right it probably isn’t. Stay alert but have fun. Thanks for demystify the hitch hiker.

    • The amount of times we’ve all heard that!! I’ve been told I’ll end up murdered and raped just from traveling the world in general! And usually it’s always coming from those who haven’t traveled and don’t have first hand experience. Always lol!

      Sad that those kind of misconceptions are so widespread throughout society. I’m a big believer in common sense being key to staying safe while abroad, though granted I guess common sense is not so common anymore!!

      Totally agree that far too many people use safety as a blanket excuse not to travel. When really, it’s just as likely that something could happen to you in your home country than it could abroad.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hey I’m Hyper Gypsy, a newbie travel blogger and honesty, I am inspired to read your story of hitch hiking. Trusting strangers and hitch hiking in exchange for laughter, joy and stories makes all the sense to me! I want to interview you, whats the best way to reach you?

    • Hey Hyper Gypsy! I’m Danielle, the author of this post – you can reach me at danie_ditz@hotmail.com to chat 🙂 Very glad you liked the post!

  4. We fail to realize that this world is in fact filled with amazing people – because we ONLY hear the stories about the horrific few in the world!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Fishing For Healthier Fish & ChipsMy Profile

    • Absolutely – I guess “Jenny had a wonderful holiday in Myanmar and was blown away by the generous hospitality of the local people” doesn’t really cut it as a news story. Sadly!

  5. Great read and I guess most would say great courage in today’s world. Great way to save a few dollars though. I used to hitch hike when i was younger only short distances i must say never from one side of a country to another
    cheers

    • Glad you enjoyed it Mark – It’s sad that we question the generosity of strangers in today’s age. The world isn’t as evil as it’s made out to be.

  6. While we love to hear stories of people breaking out of the mold and seeing the world, we know from hitchhiking ourselves and spending time in the police force, just how dangerous it can be.Yes the world is filled with some amazing human beings, but we also have our fair share of lunatics, psychopaths and molesters who long to meet people like this alone on the road. While we would never tell others what to do, we would always advise them to be very careful and don’t take ANY unnecessary risks.
    Trevor Barre recently posted…LiveEachAdventure.com become Brand Ambassadors for ‘RateTheTrainers’My Profile

    • I absolutely agree that there are some bad eggs out there, which is why I think the most important thing when hitching is to trust your instincts; I would rather be stuck in the hot sun in the middle of nowhere for hours on end than get into a car that I get a bad vibe from, and I’ll always get out of cars I feel uncomfortable in. There are risks in everything we do in life, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them – we just need to be aware. 🙂
      Danielle recently posted…27 More Things the Road Has Taught MeMy Profile

  7. Rarely do I read a blog post and feel moved or give anything a second thought. This was really wonderful to read. Hitchhiking is just another way of seeing the world and, while there is danger in mystery, it’s an incredible to share stories and make new ones. I really connected with the thought of being picked up, hungry, but not wanted to accept help. People ARE good and do often just want to help others. 🙂
    Rob Taylor recently posted…Why Biking St Simons Island is the Best Idea in the SouthMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Rob – so glad to hear that you connected with Danie’s story. I think we’re all so entrenched in this notion of an automatic distrust for others, and to consider is suspicious when someone offers generosity or help, when really, we’re one of the very few cultures in the world who acts like this.

      Cultures all across the globe take pleasure in inviting people into their homes, offering meals, giving travelers lifts, offering gifts etc, and it’s sad that we have lost this kindness from Western cultures, and that we’ve grown to view it with suspicion.

      As you said, people ARE good!

  8. Great post Danielle! I totally agree with you. I would love to hear your extra awesome tips about how to be an extreme budget traveler. I love hitchhiking and I enjoyed talks with truck drivers.

    Happy Travels Danielle 🙂

    • Definitely check out her website too – she has amazing stories to tell and tips to share 🙂

  9. I hitch-hiked once and it was a great experience. It was a lovely old lady who picked me up and after that she invited me into her home for food. I will never forget that! 🙂
    Zascha recently posted…Why I’m Not Moving Back to EnglandMy Profile

    • Fantastic Zascha! Glad that this experience has ended up being a cherished memory from your travels 🙂

  10. Good article for those who may be interested or ever wondered about it. I personally wouldn’t hitchhike unless it was some necessary situation that happened.

    • Offers a different point of view to the one we so often hear anyway 🙂 Happy travels Holly!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Rhonda. I’ve only personally hitch-hiked once, we got into a massive jam in the Northern Territory in Australia and had to catch a ride. Targeted a women who we saw driving a Government vehicle because we figured that was a pretty safe bet.

      Had a great time chatting to her about her aboriginal culture, and lie in the outback. Was a really great way to make a new connection even if it was only for an hour that day 🙂

  11. I’m WAY to scared to hitch hike, something about not having control over a situation and the trip not being planned… I wouldn’t hitchhike unless there was an emergency and it was the only way. But this a tops read for the brave souls among us, and cool to see people breaking down barriers and tired old social standards.
    Anna @ shenANNAgans recently posted…Awe Inspiring Milford Sound New ZealandMy Profile

    • It’s not for everyone, and there is definitely safety to take into account, I think that a lot of it comes down to which country you’re in, and perhaps the social stigma around hitchhiking in that culture.

      For instance I’ve had a lot of feedback after this post that people wouldn’t even think of doing it in the US, though I know that in many Western European Countries for instance, it’s the norm. People even then invite you into their homes for dinner as custom.

      So I don’t think that it’s an overly dangerous game, put the research in before you depart though 🙂

  12. I thumbed most of the country as a kid.
    Wasnt too bad back then in the 70’s
    Thumbed the city all over the place, all the time.
    It was real bad.
    Seems half the people who picked me up were twisted, perverted gays. Some very dangerous.

    You can try to believe that people are good. Some are, some arent. I had a pretty sharp mouth and was fast on my feet. But only by the grace of God i survived.

    I couldnt imagine doing it as a girl unless i was prepared to subject myself to their advances, dust myself off and forget what happened.

    People are not good. Many are predators.
    And people often do things they wouldnt if they simply find themselves where they think they can get away with it.

    This girl doesnt say a word about those people. Maybe she was ok with these things – telling herself to accept the good with the bad, and blocking it from memory. Or that the bad is not bad. But i assure you, the bad is everywhere.

    So i advise you never hitch hike unless it is essential. Or if you do, you do so with a male friend who is aware of the dangers – date rape drugs, etc. Cuz once you are in the car with your seatbelt on, you are a sitting duck. And no gut feeling is gonna help you.

    • Kudos to you Shane for telling the truth!

    • Hey Shayne!

      I definitely see your point of view, and it’s true, there will always be some bad eggs out there. I have certainly had some negative experiences, but on the whole, my experience has been extremely positive. Sure, I’ve had men make advances, but there’s a huge difference between someone acting creepy, and someone actually acting on it. I’ve been fortunate enough to only encounter the creeps who are all talk, and I’ve found it very easy to get out of those cars. That being said, whenever I’m hitchhiking, I have both a knife and pepper spray in my purse, within arms reach. I’ve never had to use them, but they are there just in case.

      There are more good people out there than bad, fortunately for not just travellers, but for humanity in general! Having your wits about you is essential, but I don’t believe that swearing off of hitchhiking altogether, or only doing so with a male present is necessary at all. Practically everything can kill you – so we do things in an educated manner. That’s what’s important – not abandoning things altogether.

      Cheers!

      Danie

    • Its not about breaking down social barriers or free of old standards. That’s rediculous!
      Its about surviving the nature of man.
      It’s about exercising your freedom in wisdom.

      There are lots of decent human beings in the world, ready to share good things. But there are plenty of not so nice people out there who will take what they want and slit your throat if they think they can get away with it. It only takes one.

      Btw, when i started hitching around the country it was cuz i had seen enough of the rat race. I was despetate to bump into something more, something worthwhile. It wasnt happening in the city. I was dying there. So dying on the road at least offered options. It was an act of desperation that panned out. By the grace of God.

      But as i see all these young woman reading and responding, i shudder to think of any one of them running in to what ive seen as a young man. So i am compelled to speak.

    • I think you and I are more similar than you realize – I first started hitching to escape the rat race too; my world was killing me, and a different world at least offered the chance to live a life I dreamed of. Even if that life is the one that leads to my demise, it is worth it. Still, I take all the precautions possible when I hitch.

      In regards to other ladies reading this, first off, I do not think hitching or travel In general is more dangerous for a female than a male. I have plenty of hitchhiking male friends who encounter the same situations I have, as I am sure you have had. Furthermore, hitchhiking is a dying art, and I believe it highly unlikely that anyone reading my article will suddenly decide to hitch if this idea had never crossed their minds. I have a full article on hitchhiking tips on my site (http://likeridingabicycle.com/hitchhiking-tips), and I’m more than happy to offer up any advice to anyone – female or male – who wants to hitch for the first time.

      Life is dangerous, and in the end we all reach the same fate. This is no reason to not live your life. Be educated, follow your gut, and enjoy your life. I don’t know about everyone else reading this, but I’d personally far prefer a short and beautiful life to a long and safe one.

    • No, Danielle, i do realize, we left for the road for similar reasons in common, thats why i said it.

      Why i went into detail was because you did not. You made it sound as tho it’s a walk in the park, and didnt make any mention of pepper spray, or of the dangers that even male hitchikers face, and even went so far as to comment on fearing or being cautious as if it were just old ignorant, foolish thinking. And its not foolish or ignorant at all. You are lucky to be alive. So am i. The difference is, i found my answers written in stone. You did not. And inspite of knowing you are lucky to be alive, you still encourage others to take that chance, inspite of your worst experiences and those of your male friends. And you never said a word.

    • You and Adam traveling as a couple would make it safer too 🙂

  13. We have only hitchhiked once in Korea! It’s so safe here that I never even doubted what we were doing. I think I’d probably be a little scared if I was by myself hitchhiking, but you bring up some good points! By the way, love that photo of Megan with her suitcase in the road!
    Megan Indoe recently posted…18 Story Book Villages to Add to your BucketlistMy Profile

    • Thanks Megan! We were in Olympic National Park for that on on a deserted road so thought we would stage a fun photo shoot – luckily no cars came lol!

      Thanks for the note that Korea is very safe 🙂

    • Absolutely Mary – not for everyone but it’s another method of travel to consider.

  14. I am a bit shocked to see hitchhiking can be safe… maybe it is abroad… if you come to India please don’t take lift from a stranger particularly a female… the world is evil too… I heard of couch surfing community where you can stay in people’s houses for less money or free and they are generally good people. I won’t hitchhike for sure because well what if the guy there is not good?… he maybe but many can’t be trusted. Also giving lift to a stranger is equally dangerous, as we don’t know about the other person… still it is inspiring… that said I have been dropped home by strangers too but they are part of community or group of volunteers who travel carpooling, bike sharing etc and we are good people atleast many of us are… well please be careful hitchhiking, good you are assertive and have the wits about you… I guess that is quite enough to be safe… goodday
    Andapo recently posted…How To Get Rid Of a Hickey After a Hot Date With Your Loved One?My Profile

    • Hey Andapo!

      You’re absolutely right that not everyone can be trusted, and I have found myself in a few cars where the people were just flat out creepy. I made them pull over, and I got out of the car. Another good way of doing things is to hitchhike from gas stations; this gives both the driver and the hitchhiker the time to chat, and get a sense of who the other one is, providing extra safety. That being said, I certainly haven’t hitchhiked in every country, and I’m sure there are some that even I wouldn’t try it in. It also depends heavily on where you’re located within a country. I often check out a website called HitchWiki, which gives tons of info about hitchhiking different places.

      Also, I had to note, very cool that you have such a community around you with carpooling and volunteer drivers! Perhaps that’s the future – we can hope!

      Have a wonderful day!

      Danie
      Danielle recently posted…Round and Round She Goes…My Profile

    • Well… you rock girl!! … yes I join volunteer groups etc for trekking, planting trees and also visiting NGOs and have a great time… they make life easier. I applaud your bravery in asking people you find creepy to stop, you are not a easy one to mess around and that’s awesome(:… take care cool smart girl
      Andapo recently posted…How To Get Rid Of a Hickey After a Hot Date With Your Loved One?My Profile

  15. I don’t think Hitchhiking Is a crime, Although In many Countries It’s Prohibited . This is a great post . Obviously Hitchhikers are not freeloaders . It’s just that we can’t trust everyone that we meet on the roads.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Ludhiya 🙂 Definitely prohibited in some countries, so it’s something to research before we stick out our thumb. I think the biggest thing to hitchiking, as with anything in life, is applying common sense when it comes to safety, and trusting our gut instincts about where we place our trust 🙂

      Happy travels!

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