While some of you have already done a fair share of hitchhiking, most of you may think such means of travel is reserved to the beatnik/hippie era. No matter what level of experience you have, it never hurts to review proper hitchhiking strategies, etiquette and safety precautions. And this is especially true for the runaway backpacker.
The following guide will take you on a step by step approach which draws from the many successful and not so successful hitchhiking endeavors of my life.
You just watched “Into the Wild” and now you are filled with wanderlust. You want to hit the road like Alexander Super Tramp and get picked up by a cool hippie couple in an RV. Well, here is how you do it!
Where To Hitchhike
In order to catch a ride you need to position yourself strategically. You need to put yourself in the driver’s shoes and think of the most likely place where he/she will be able to stop.
Thus, the most ideal place to begin your hitchhiking journey is at the gas station. You should preferably find a gas station that is right before the highway entrance or on the side of the highway. Make sure the highway is going in your desired direction.
If you aren’t near a gas station, which is the case most of the time, you should position yourself along an ‘on ramp’ or low speed road. Make sure that the driver has plenty of room to slow down and pull off the road for you.
How To Get Your Ride
At the gas station, the first step is to conceal your unease, be personable and talk to some drivers. But just don’t talk to any driver, you need to target the drivers who you think will be able to relate to you. If you are young, go and ask other young drivers. If you see a square in a suit, you will probably be ignored, but don’t take it personally.
The most prospective demographic is the elderly. Back in the day, hitchhiking was a lot more common and so old people enjoy the chance to relive their youth as well as make some conversation. Since you have the chance to talk to people up close at the station, there is a good chance you won’t have to wait more than 10 to 15 minutes for a ride.
On the other hand, if you are on the road side, you could potentially be waiting for hours. You can increase your chances if you smile, look friendly and sport neat cloths. However, if you’re wearing a suit or smiling maniacally, that’s no good either. It’s not so different from an audition. You need to play the part of a young backpacker who really needs a ride. You need to look desperate and tired, which you probably already are, but most important, look friendly.
Whenever you see a movie about a backpacker who finally manages to get someone to stop for him, he always runs up along side the car before it has stopped and starts banging the car side. This is totally unnecessary and won’t be appreciated by your driver. He has already decided to stop for you, so there is no need to express your presence further by hitting the car.
When he opens the window/door, thank him for stopping and ask him if he/she’s going where you’re going. If you notice a plume of smoke escaping from the window or the driver looks a bit nuts, politely decline. Don’t feel pressured that you need to get in just because he/she stopped. But, if the driver is going in your direction and doesn’t appear to be crazy or on drugs, hop on in.
When you get in the car, it is courtesy to put your bag in the back seat and keep your hands on your lap. This way, the driver won’t be worried of the possibility of you pulling out a weapon or something. Many drivers often require you to do this just as a precaution. The next step is to just enjoy being off your feet and make a little chitchat. Finally, when you arrive at your destination, thank the driver for the ride and be on your wandering way.
And that’s it! You have successfully hitchhiked!
Just a few more pointers
-If you are a guy traveling with a girl, let her put her thumb out while you hide. When the driver pulls up, come out from the bushes as if you were just taking a leak. “The Sneaky Leaky”(Emily Graney) The driver doesn’t have much choice now but to take the two of you.
-When you’ve been on the road for hours, having seen countless cars fly past, it’s easy to become discouraged and feel rejected. Don’t take it personally though. Keep your morale up and a smile on your face and you will be successful in hitchhiking and life.
Good luck and safe travels,
P.s If you have any interesting hitching experiences that you would like to share or any tips to improve this guide, feel free to post below.