Hitchhiking - A Short Guide
It happened 38 years ago that I became a hitchhiker. A friend had invited me to a hitchhiking trip, only 200 km, but it all went terribly wrong, and after hitchhiking 50 km, we had to take a train to reach our destination. But it was not the end, it was rather the beginning - and I tried it again and again. During these 38 years I hitchhiked about 67000 km in more than twenty European countries. I did not count the drivers who picked me up during my trips but I estimate that it were more than thousand. Sometimes I hitchhiked only short distances but more interesting were my longer trips, sometimes several thousand kilometers, lasting several weeks. I always had a lot of fun, it was always an adventure. I met many interesting people, and in some cases I made long lasting friendships. I never regretted to be a hitchhiker.
In this hub I would like to share some of my personal experiences as a hitchhiker with you. Other hitchhikers might have other experiences.
How to prepare for a hitchhiking trip
The most important things you need when you are planning a long-distance hitchhiking trip are a good sleeping bag, some waterproof clothes and some good area maps. It makes no sense to take some city maps with you at the beginning of the trip because in some cases you have to change your route. You can find city maps in every tourist information, at rental car agencies and in most hotels for free. Make sure to carry enough food and drink if you're going for a long trip. In some cases a big cardboard sign with an indication of where you want to go might be helpful. Choose your clothes depending on the climate. I prefer it not to take too much clothes with me, there is always a possibility to wash some clothes during your trip. Think about where you want to stay overnight. You can travel with a small tent, but that means that you have to carry additional weight. If you have enough money you can spend the nights in hostels. I prefer couchsurfing, http://www.couchsurfing.org It is free, and in most cases your hosts give you some free meals. In some cases I stayed overnight in churches, in shelters for homeless people or, depending on the weather, in the open, using only my sleeping bag. Other useful things you should put in your backpack are a pocket knife, a flashlight, some basic medicine, toilet paper and mosquito spray.
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On the Road
One of the most important factors for getting a ride is to find a place where you can be seen early (to give the driver time to decide to pick you up), and where the driver can safely pull over. Ideally, there should be some traffic, but not too much either, as this makes pulling over difficult and makes drivers assume that you can always get a ride with somebody else. Good places for getting a ride are bus stops and car parks. Avoid places where traffic cannot stop legally. Don't try to catch a ride from downtown, instead catch public transport to the edge of town. City drivers are mostly traveling short distances, and it can be difficult for you to stand out or get them to stop in heavy traffic. When you are hitchhiking on motorways, good places to get a ride are gas stations where you can talk to the drivers directly, or access roads. If you can't find a good spot for hitchhiking, it is better to walk until you find a better place. Avoid to wear sunglasses because it is important to have eye-contact with the drivers what makes it easier to get a ride. Always stay happy - hitchhiking is fun -, even if you have to wait long hours or people react nastily. Wear bright clothing so that drivers can see you.
The International Hitchhikers Anthem
Slow down, turn around, pick up a hitchhiker
Slow down, turn around, take me on my way
Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up a hitchhiker
Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up, waited all the day
Hey driver, pick up a hitchhiker
Hey driver, take me all my way
Hitchhiking - there is no better way to travel!