Why we love hitchhiking (and you should do it too)

Most people think hitchhiking is extinct, that hitchhiking was for the old days. Hitchhiking was for the adventurers, hippies and other vagabonds in the past. Nowadays public transportation brings you almost everywhere and Uber and Bla Bla Car are cheap paid options. But we think hitchhiking is still worthwhile and can give you more than you would think. Find out why.

Did you know that almost everybody tells us about their fellow countrymen that people don’t take hitchhikers anymore? And did you know every time we hitchhike – it doesn’t matter where –  it is very easy for us to get rides? Funny isn’t it. People don’t know their own people anymore 🙂

Why we hitchhike and why we love hitchhiking

We started to hitchhike when we were in Vietnam in 2015. During our travels we every now and then upgrade our adventure level. We thought hitchhiking would be a perfect way to spice up our travels. And it was.  

The beauty of hitchhiking is you don’t know who you will meet, where you end up, how long you need to wait for a car to stop and much more. This uncertainty brings both a promise and a challenge and therefore appeals to us. Hitchhiking helps me to train the mind. Hitchhiking is also a way to expand my comfort zone and to trust in the goodness of people. Every time we hitchhike we are rewarded with a lot of goodness and beautiful stories.

 

Hitchhiking with the perfect strugglers
This family took us through Malaysia from the South to the North. We sat at 100 km/h in a pick up truck. We were in the pick up and probably in some bloody left over of a dead animal. Sometimes you have all the luck 🙂

 

“Sometimes it is even overwhelming. In Portugal a mother offered us a ride in her tiny car with her children. We couldn’t exchange words because our Portuguese is too bad and her English not any better. But when she dropped us a warm hug was the goodbye combined with a lot of waving when they took off. That gives me such a good feeling.”

Hitchhiking benefits

Hitchhiking is cheap and you get to know the country from a different and interesting perspective. People who take you with them are curious to learn what you do and to learn why you hitchhike. Many people respond with: ’You don’t see this often anymore!’ Nice conversations are the result.

To us – and I think the same will apply to you – it is really rewarding to get a ride after a lot of rejections. Circumstances can be difficult sometimes. It can be cold, you selected the wrong spot, or you are hungry or tired. You have to struggle through those moments and suddenly out of the blue your reward presents itself. You put a lot of effort in getting a ride and suddenly someone offers you a ride. The euphoria is huge and you feel energetic again. The unease of waiting and struggling is away within a couple of seconds.

“The biggest benefit of hitchhiking is that it strengthens the mind and trains your resilience. This is a personal leadership skill which comes in handy in almost every part of our life :)”

 

Hitchhiking with the perfect strugglers
We were Hitchhiking in Cuba. It was hot. The humidity was sky high. Not one car stopped for over two hours. Sometimes hitchhiking gets tough…

What you will learn from hitchhiking

The romantic picture of hitchhiking reflects a frame of a movie in which two vagabonds, most often good looking, get a ride and they end up in a crazy adventure or a wild party. Along with a high dose of alcohol, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. What you don’t see are the many rejections you get and the patience you need to hold during the day. Hitchhiking can be a mind challenging occupation 🙂

Here is what we learned from hitchhiking:

  • People are GOOD. People are friendly and people are helpful. Most of the time people brainstormed with us where to leave us for a good new spot. Or people drove extra miles to a better place to help us out. A lot of people were extremely helpful.
  • In the end you will get there. Maybe you need to wait for a long time but there is always someone prepared to help you out. Patience is always rewarded.
  • We receive in 1 hitch hiking day more rejections than we had in a year of ‘normal’ life. This means you thicken your skin. It will make you more resilient when you have to deal with setback in life. Which is in general a mini summary of living. To keep your head up and be positive when things don’t work out the way you wished.
  • Hitchhiking helps you to make small talk with strangers. When we are at a petrol station we approach a lot of people to ask whether they want to help us and take us with them. It is a small talk practice every time.

 

And more

  • Hitchhiking helps you to get rid off your shame as well. You can be ashamed of many things which is totally unnecessary. You make things up in your mind and you will start to believe your own creation. It is always a good thing to challenge and tackle those self made convictions. Things are self fulfilling prophesies. When I expect nobody will give me a ride, that will happen. What will happen if I think and act differently?
  • For every thing you do an audience exists. You just have to find and reach your audience. This applies to hitchhiking but also to all other things in life. Like I writing this blog and you reading it.  
  • Never give up. If you start something, go on with it.

This is what we experience and (re-)learn every time we hitchhike. If we practice enough we will get better on every topic :). And the funny thing, you can apply these lessons to life in general.

“Did you know there isn’t a word for hitchhiking in Vietnamese? Different people in Vietnam tried to give us money because they thought something terrible would happen to us if we continued hitchhiking. We got an awesome ride in a big American truck (picture below). Also in Vietnam people will pick you up.”

 

Hitchhiking in Vietnam
Marleen getting out of the big American. This was a very cool ride because we had to communicate via Google translate 😉

Practical hitchhiking advice

I hope we inspire you to try hitchhiking yourself one day. Even though it is just one day and one try in your life. We hitchhiked during our travels but we never tried to hitchhike in our home country the Netherlands before Since we started to hitchhike in Europe we are totally convinced hitchhiking is the most convenient thing to go from place to place. Also compared to public transport. Your transport is always out there. You just don’t know which one is yours yet and a delay doesn’t exist. You will meet a lot of friendly people who even can become your friend. I even mean it when I say hitchhiking changed my life for the better.  

We developed a few ground rules how to hitchhike the most fun & effective way and we would love to share them with you.

Hitchhiking rule #1 – Give yourself time

If you have your timetable sharp then your day will be filled with stress which is exactly not the idea of hitchhiking. The more stressed you are the less cars will stop for you. That will be your karma. Instead let your need to control go. Be patient and have a day full of fun. Incorporate some margins.

 

Hitchhiking Portugal with the perfect strugglers
One day of hitchhiking from Lisbon to Aljezur

Hitchhiking rule #2 – Try to get a ride at petrol stations or parking areas near the highway

The best chance to get a ride is when you ask people directly for a ride. What is a better place to do that than a parking place or petrol station near the highway? This is our main strategy and it always worked. It also helps you to practice the skills we talked about! If you don’t start directly at a petrol station try to get as fast as possible to one. Which is number hitchhiking rule #3.

Hitchhiking rule #3 – Get yourself as fast as possible to a petrol station

One thing we learned is: “To be on the move is better than not to be on the move.” This only applies to your first ride to get you started. When you are in a (big) city it will help to ask people to bring you to a petrol station. We write down on our carton boards the names of the highway or a petrol station. If people pull over when we are not at a petrol station we ask them whether they want to bring us to a petrol station. Always make sure the petrol station is on your way ;).

Hitchhiking rule #4 – Give cars space to stop

If you are beside the road always make sure cars have enough time and space to pull over. In a split second people need to make a choice. It helps you a lot if there are no obstacles for them to overcome. Pick a spot where cars can pull over safe and give you a ride!

 

Hitchhiking with the perfect sturgglers
Hitchhiking to Terschelling. This is an example of the space we give cars if we are not at a petrol station or parking spot near the highway

Hitchhiking rule #5 – Be fresh

Did you ever sit next to a person with bad hygiene or odour? If you have you know what I mean. People definitely don’t want to take someone that smells like that. They don’t stop, don’t take you, throw you out, or just have a terrible time. None of them is good. So take a shower and bring a smile. People like positivity. Be positive and your conversion will be more positive for you.

Hitchhiking rule #6 – Prepare

Bring some food, make sure you have fresh water and have some knowledge of the roads, distances and towns along your way. This helps you to make decisions on the way. Decisions like: do I take this ride, where shall I get off, which roads? We look into hitchwiki the night before we go on a hitchhiking adventure. It helps us to form a hitchhike strategy.

Hitchhiking rule #7 – Use cardboards

We always write down destinations on cardboards when we hitchhike. We have several destinations written down. Your end destination is most of the time too far away. People can’t make an overview decision within 2 or 3 seconds. It helps to write down destinations closer by. For example to the highway. Or a petrol station or a nearby village town on your way to your destination. The only thing we use is a black marker. We are also thinking of upgrading our travel gear with a mini whiteboard but haven’t decided yet.

 

Hitchhiking with the perfecttsrugglers
Use cardboards

Hitchhiking rule #8 – Bring a good mood

This is perhaps consistent with number 5, be fresh, but also make sure you have a good mood. If you are cranky or moody this will reflect on your rides. People don’t want to be with moody people. Do your best to be friendly, nice and positive. That is the least you can do for yourself and your hitchhike host. People pick you up because they want to help you but also because they are interested in your story.

Is hitchhiking safe?

We didn’t experience any awkward or disturbing rides yet. We are always together. One boy, one girl. I think, although it isn’t any science, for us this works very well. It feels safe for people to pull over and take us, and for us it feels good too.  

In the end you also have to trust your instincts or intuition. If it doesn’t feel good for you, don’t step in the car. There are plenty of cars; don’t force yourself into the one that doesn’t feel right and perhaps is a wrong one. One remark: this reasoning the other way around unfortunately doesn’t work; that it feels good doesn’t necessarily mean it is good. Trust, but use your instinct and critical mind at the same time!  

We really hope you liked to read about our hitchhiking lessons learned. And that you embrace this almost forgotten travel skill and add it to your travel toolkit after reading our blog. Are you going on a hitchhiking adventure? Let us know. Tell us your stories and inspire us with your ideas too. We appreciate.

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