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