My first experience with hitchhiking was in Belize. Back 2005, I hitchhiked the complete country, since it was the most frequent way locals got around. If indeed they were doing it, you will want to me? It was lots of fun and far easier and safer than I thought it will be. Since that time, I’ve hitchhiked around a small number of countries and met some interesting (rather than so interesting) people. Hitchhiking continues to be a favorite and common way many people worldwide bypass, but it evokes a whole lot of fears and concerns, especially among Westerners. Today, Matt Karsten from expertvagabond.com shares his experience hitchhiking around america and advice about how exactly you can safely do it too. Enter Matt.
It had been a chilly and overcast day on the Oregon coast when I nervously stuck my thumb from the medial side of Route 101. For another 20 minutes, drivers passed me again and again – most with looks of disgust on the faces. But I continued smiling. Would anyone stop for me personally? Was I wasting my time? I wasn’t completely sure.
Eventually my persistence paid, and an enormous orange pickup screeched to an end in a cloud of dust. A wave of excitement rushed over me as I jogged up to meet up CJ and her dog, Trigger. My first ride!
Yet this is just the to begin many such pleasant surprises on my journey.
CJ wasn’t going far, and then another town. When I asked why she stopped, she explained that I looked relatively normal and that she’d also done some solo hitchhiking in Montana when she was younger. This might turn into a common theme over another five weeks. Drivers will most likely stop that you repay kindness they received during the past.
Before I left on my mission to hitchhike over the United States everywhere, I was told that nobody picks hitchhikers up anymore. They said that it had been dangerous nowadays, and that the golden era of hitchhiking was, sadly, over.
But after five weeks, 3,500 miles, 36 rides (from men and women), a motorcycle, a boat, an airplane, a freight train, and a tractor trailer, I could say that those individuals were wrong. If you’ve always imagined hitchhiking but are unsure of how exactly to do it, where to start, and how to remain safe, here are 14 ideas to hitchhike smart:
Always look drivers in the attention and smile because they pass. Not in a crazy axe-murderer way, however in an agreeable and personable way. Smiling is important. Pretend another car is a pal who is likely to pick you up. Try waving hello or holding your gaze expectantly because they drive past. You truly only have another or two to make a positive impression. Think about it as a drive-by appointment, with only your eyes, appearance, and body gestures to steer the other person’s decision. Smiling for three hours straight in sunlight or rain despite a constant blast of rejection isn’t easy, but you’ll grasp it. In the event that you look nervous or scared, you will attract the incorrect kind of people, so be confident.
Nobody wants to grab a lazy, stinky-looking hobo. Clothe themselves in light or bright clothes. Avoid wearing black when you can. Don’t wear sunglasses (people have to see your eyes), and keep the hands out of your pockets. Don’t smoke, drink, or sit back privately of the street.
Additionally, many drivers grab individuals who look similar to themselves. I was having a hard time obtaining a ride on the border of Colorado and Kansas until I purchased myself an inexpensive cowboy hat! Immediately after that strategic purchase, a trucker couple from rural Tennessee stopped and proceeded to operate a vehicle me 1,200 miles during the period of two days, country music playing even while.
Select a Good Spot
Cars won’t stop for you if indeed they can’t do it safely. Interstate on-ramps are excellent because cars aren’t moving extremely fast and there’s usually room to pull over. Other good locations include intersections with stoplights or an end sign and gasoline stations. The longer a driver will get an excellent look at you, the better. Look out for shady areas with protection from sunlight, too. When you have Access to the internet on your own phone , Google Maps in satellite view will highlight where in fact the best on-ramps are.
Hitchhiking out of big cities can be quite difficult, and sometimes using public transportation to access the outskirts is your very best option. There are several places where it really is almost impossible to acquire a ride, such as for example spots near sensitive government facilities (employees are forbidden to choose people up), prisons, or neighborhoods with high crime rates.
There are various reasons why people grab hitchhikers. Maybe they’re bored and want to hear fun travel stories. Maybe these were once hitchhikers and want to talk about their experience (and karma) with you. Maybe they’ll make an effort to convert you to Christianity/Islam/Scientology. Maybe they want help staying awake on an extended drive.
Providing good conversation is how you pay these folks back because of their generosity. Additionally, it may lead to a free of charge lunch, drinks, and maybe even an offer to host you for the night time. Ed the yacht builder was the last ride on my cross-country journey, and he spent his whole afternoon giving me an individual tour of the Maryland coast before taking me out for supper and drinks at his favorite seafood restaurant.
Always pack enough water and food to last a day, if you happen to get stuck in the center of nowhere . I love to bring a few bananas, apples, tortillas, tuna, refried beans, and perhaps a package of cookies to talk about. A filtered water bottle enables you to safely drink from rivers and ponds. Have a handful of dark-colored permanent markers to create signs, some sunscreen, an initial aid kit, warm clothes, and a rain jacket.
A USB car charger and external battery for your cellular phone may be beneficial too. They’re ideal for hearing music, checking Google Maps, or calling for assist in a crisis. A lightweight camping hammock or bivy sack can help you spend less on accommodations. I frequently camped in the woods privately of the street or behind churches on my trip.
Use a Cardboard Sign
A straightforward cardboard sign indicating a town nearby helps a whole lot. Keep it short and write in large capital letters with a Sharpie marker. It requires to be readable far away from a fast-moving vehicle. Use destinations that are relatively close (within 20-50 miles), and you’ll become more more likely to score rides. After that you can negotiate longer ones in the vehicle if the driver is certainly going farther in your intended direction.
Funny signs work very well too. A few successful ones I used were: “Free Cookies,” “Won’t Kill You,” and “Rabies-Free Since June.” That last sign was funny enough that Dan, a retired theater actor and pharmaceutical executive, had already driven to another exit when he changed his mind and turned around to come get me!
You could find cardboard for signs at any gas station or fast-food restaurant, either by asking inside or by checking the dumpster in the trunk.
Choose Your Ride Carefully
You are under no obligation to find yourself in every car that stops for you personally. May be the driver in an excellent mood? Are they looking you in the eyes? Are they sober? Just how many people are in the automobile? If you don’t feel safe accepting a ride, thank the driver and say no. Constitute an excuse when you have to. Pretend to be sick, or explain that you’d rather await an extended ride. Trust your gut instincts. By myself trip, I only rejected one ride. I was in a sketchy neighborhood (prostitutes were travelling in the center of your day), and the automobile that stopped was a truck filled with four young guys, with the smell of weed pouring from the windows. These were also only headed to another exit. It’s likely that good I would’ve been fine, however the situation didn’t feel right and I made a decision to wait for an improved opportunity.
Use GOOD SENSE
Always wear your seatbelt, and if the individual starts driving erratically, stay calm and polite but ask to be discrete at another safe pullover spot. Avoid hitchhiking (or picking right up hitchhikers) at night. It’s not only very difficult to avoid privately of the street safely at night, but it’s also much harder to see pedestrians during the night. Not to mention, folks are more likely to commit crimes beneath the cover of darkness.
Hitchhiking happens to be a mental challenge. You’re putting yourself out there in public areas while engaging in a task that isn’t considered mainstream. You’ll be judged by everyone who passes you, often in a poor way. People will laugh, flip you off, yell, honk, rev their engines, and maybe even throw things.
Stay static in Control
Predators victimize weakness and insecurity. Don’t make your self a straightforward target. Dress conservatively and steer sexual topics to something unsexy. Make it superior you’re only thinking about addressing your destination, and nothing else. Maintain an aura of confidence.
Keep your valuables on or near the body if you must escape quickly, you don’t lose them. Avoid putting your bag in the trunk when possible, therefore the driver can’t remove before you grab it. Snap an instant photo of the trunk of the automobile together with your phone before you enter, then send it to a pal or your Twitter account. Once in the car, look for a moment to call a pal and tell them what your location is and where you’re headed therefore the driver can hear you carrying it out.
Stay away from speaking with your driver (or hitchhiker) about politics, religion, race, or other controversial subjects, at least until you can know one another a bit and may gauge how they could react. You don’t want to provoke them into becoming angry or emotional while when driving. If they try to take up a conversation on these topics, make an effort to change the topic or give boring/vague answers with their questions until they weary or you are feeling comfortable discussing them. This is one way I taken care of immediately Captain Kitty Litter’s overly racist remarks and questions. Despite the fact that I disagreed along with his views, I just sort of nodded along and let him talk.
Hitchhike with a pal
If it’s your first-time hitchhiking and you’re particularly nervous about any of it, try hitching with another person who’s done it before. That is a fantastic way to understand the ropes and get convenient. While it may be more challenging to get you to definitely stop for just two hitchhikers, it will continually be a bit safer. I’m not saying never to go alone, but if you’re concerned about safety, hitchhiking with a pal might be a sensible way to begin.
Be prepared to Wait
My average wait time while hitchhiking over the USA was about one hour. But there have been some days when it took 2-3 hours or even more. You must anticipate to wait in a single spot for at least a couple of hours. However, there have been also often when I was found after only a quarter-hour. You just never understand how long it will require.
If you’re in an especially bad spot, it could take days to get found, which happened certainly to me once outside Denver. I spent two nights in a motel waiting to escape there. Are you getting fed up with waiting? Maybe have a break and go take action else to split up enough time. Having camping gear with you might help in these circumstances too. Walking a few miles to another exit or catching a taxi to an improved location are also options.
You will likely never need to utilize it, but packing a weapon of some sort to help with self-defense is always an excellent idea. I love to bring pepper spray along with me. When Captain Kitty Litter started telling me about enough time he threw another hitchhiker out of his moving car, I subtly placed one submit my pocket where pepper spray was hidden (in the event). Luckily I never had a need to utilize it!
My experienced hitchhiker friend Shannon posesses stun gun openly on her behalf belt (this is often illegal in a few states). However, a straightforward pen shoved in to the ear or eyes of an assailant should work in a pinch too. For me, a knife shouldn’t be your first choice for self-defense unless you’ve been trained to utilize it, as it could easily be turned against you if the problem requires a turn for the worse. Please be aware that utilizing a weapon can be an absolute final resort – only utilize it when communication doesn’t work and you honestly fear for your daily life.
Is Hitchhiking Safe?
Hitchhiking is becoming progressively more rare through the years. Irrational fears about hitchhiking are due to paranoid horror stories promoted aggressively by the news headlines and then converted into movies by Hollywood. Bad news is what sells, so that’s what we’re subjected to. I’m still looking forward to CNN to do a tale about my successful hitchhiking adventure, but I’m not holding my breath. I had an excellent time, met great people, and nothing bad happened. It’s not sensational enough to be looked at news.
Predicated on my very own experience and after hearing other people’s hitchhiking stories, it’s likely that some weirdos will pick you up. But rarely does it create a dangerous situation. Out of 36 different rides within my own adventure, I had maybe several “odd” (socially awkward) drivers.
I was told countless times that hitchhiking will be dangerous. While it’s best if you be ready for worst-case scenarios, the truth is you don’t need to worry about these horror stories an excessive amount of. A lot of people I met while hitchhiking were friendly, fascinating, and filled with entertaining tales. But that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.
While hitchhiking isn’t nearly as dangerous as some individuals make it out to be, there is risk involved. If you opt to take part in this activity, you are accepting those risks. Crimes are committed against hitchhikers every once in awhile, in addition to against drivers (although significantly less frequently).
Should anyone ever feel threatened or uncomfortable once you’re already in the automobile, first ask the driver to avoid and enable you to out at another exit or gas station. Constitute an excuse if you need to. If the driver still does not stop, remind them that you sent an image of the automobile and plate number to friends. Within an absolute emergency, you can always grab the tyre or handbrake and result in a small accident. Remember, only use these techniques as a final resort, when you genuinely fear for your daily life. Even small accidents can kill you or another person. It’s not at all something to take lightly.
One Final Legal Note
Hitchhiking in america is legal. The confusion lies with america Uniform Vehicle Code. Regulations states:
“No individual shall stand in a roadway for the intended purpose of soliciting a ride.”
Sounds illegal, right? Yes – until you read its definition of “roadway:”
“That part of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk, berm or shoulder despite the fact that such sidewalk, berm or shoulder can be used by persons riding bicycles or other human powered vehicles.”
What does which means that? It’s illegal to stand on the street (for obvious safety reasons), but sitting on the side of the street, the shoulder, or a sidewalk is okay.
Each state also offers its laws, though, and some specifically ban hitchhiking. Included in these are New York, Nevada, NJ, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming.
However, getting caught hitchhiking in these states doesn’t indicate you’ll head to jail. Cops may stop and question you, offer you a warning, or fine you. Actually, hitchhikers may experience this from authorities even in states where it really is technically legal, because of ignorance of regulations or boredom.
Hitchhiking will certainly be a challenge. Nonetheless it will also open your brain, build your confidence, educate you on patience, and introduce you to new friends. There’s something magical about the open road and the uncertainty that is included with protruding your thumb without plans.
You could meet an agreeable schoolteacher who’s never picked anyone up or an ex-con with hilarious stories to talk about. Or maybe you’ll meet up with the inventor of the best Pancake Sandwich. I was found in fancy Land Rovers, an airplane, a boat, a motorcycle, and an automobile held as well as duct tape. You don’t know who’ll stop, if anyone will minimize, or how your entire day will unfold when someone eventually does. That’s why is hitchhiking so special. It’s the unknown.
It’s a complete roller coaster ride filled with emotions: thrilling about a minute, then completely discouraging another. But in the finish, hitchhiking could just be one of your most remarkable or rewarding travel experiences, since it has been for me personally. I’ll never forget the sensation of accomplishment I experienced when jumping in to the Atlantic Ocean by the end of my long journey.
Useful Resources for Hitchhiking
To find out more on the legality of hitchhiking, trip reports, organized meet-ups, and route maps from all over the world, have a look at HitchWiki.org and Reddit Hitchhiking.
To find accommodations while hitchhiking, you may use Couchsurfing.org to meet up local people ready to share their homes with strangers in trade for interesting conversation. You will certainly have the ability to provide some after a couple of days of hitchhiking.
Matthew Karsten has been vagabonding all over the world since 2010. Dependent on adventure travel and photography, he’s on a mission to inspire the next journey with entertaining stories and images from his travels. Read more about his five-week hitchhiking journey across America at ExpertVagabond.com.
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