It’s true. You might get picked up by a dude in a van with a knife. Can’t argue the possibility. Odds, however, are another thing. Unfortunately there are no statistics available regarding the number of hitchhikers who’ve had weapons pulled on them, though I’m here to guess that it’s a stereotype taken too far. The truth is that the joys of most hitchhiking exploits far outweigh occasional switchblades anyways. Not convinced? Let’s get started then. Below you’ll find five reasons hitchhiking is better than any other form of transport.
By expense, I mean the lack thereof. Hitchhiking is free! It costs no money at all and requires only that you patiently wait by the blacktop of a road with your thumb extended towards the sky. Let’s say, for example, you’re traveling through Europe. The general trend is that you go online and buy a Eurail Pass that will invariably be limited by either the number of trips or countries you can go to, or will be limited by timeframe. A basic Eurail Pass costs $490 if you plan on being there longer than 14 days. I know, I checked. You could instead spend that cash skydiving over Interlaken or slamming shots at the Chipito Bar in Barcelona or slurping up gelato on a hike break in the Cinque Terre, or visiting breweries in Belgium, or, well…you get the idea.
Half the time you’re hitchhiking you’re really just walking for a long time on a lonesome highway and watching various avian creatures fly overhead and a million cars pass by. Some say this is bad. I’m not sure why that is. Research has shown that in addition to being a healthy activity for strengthening the muscles and increasing stamina, it’s also a calming, rhythmic motion with many psychological benefits. Some of the greatest thinkers throughout history made a habit of working out theories and ideas during long walks. Embrace it.
A woman named Ruth Woodrow once picked me up. This was in the middle of I-don’t-even-know-where central California. She maybe had four teeth, but her gums looked hardy enough to grind things up in place of the missing molars. Ruth was a gem. A bit crusty, to be sure, but she cackled and joked and lied our way to the next town in a way only the finest storytellers know how. And I’ll remember her forever. The people you encounter while hitching are often the most soul-charged individuals you’ll ever come across.
A good friend of mine – we’ll call him Barefoot Dan – was in South Africa in the Spring of 2006. He was some 800 miles east of Cape Town and had only two days to get there. This was a problem because Dan had only US$5 to his name and if he didn’t make it to the Cape Town port and on the ship he was leaving The Motherland on, well, then he’d be deserted. Of the many rides he caught, one was on a flat bed freighter with wind screaming and howling at him from every direction. Another was a luscious middle-aged woman who was on her way to meet some Cape Town stud she’d met online. She took him most of the way. There was lascivious activity along the journey not fit for printing here, which only added to this glorious experience. Had it not been for Dan’s willingness to kick ass at life by throwing up his thumb to experience the world as it came to him in a frenzied rampage down a dusty, sunburned blacktop, he wouldn’t have any of the stories that make up his adventurous existence.
Lastly, by the time you’re done – done with the long walk, the enormous wait, the drivers with lunacy in their eyes and perhaps a near-death experience or two, the respite you take when it’s all over will be as sweet as nectar and completely justified. You’ll sleep for ages, and then will wake up refreshed to do it all over again.