In many places around the world, hitchhiking is the norm, and a widely used method of getting around. I’m from the UK, however, where the majority of people seem terrified by the very idea, convinced that getting into a stranger’s car could only be asking for trouble. And as for picking somebody up from the side of the road?! Well, hitchhikers might as well be wearing a sign saying ‘I am out to rob you and steal your car.’
Brits for one seem to be extremely untrusting of strangers, and therefore of hitchhiking, which is a massive shame; and I’m sure this is case in a lot of other places around the world too. Hop over the Channel into mainland Europe and hitching is already more widespread. Even carpooling sites like BlaBlaCar are much less popular in the UK. But the fear of hitchhiking to me seems like an irrational one, and there are so many good reasons why it should be done more throughout the world. And not just when you’re travelling – in your everyday lives at home too. The thumb is a universally understood signal, so let’s make use of it. The more we all do it, the less we’ll be scared to, and the more commonplace it will become.
Of course, there ARE safety considerations, and these shouldn’t be forgotten; in some places safety is more of a concern than in others. But as long as you keep your head screwed on, do your research into the local area and don’t do it alone if you’re not confident, there are so many benefits to hitchhiking. If you’re a woman, it’s probably advisable to do it with a friend; there’s no reason to exceed your own comfort zone. Here are 10 reasons why we should all hitchhike more (and pick up hitchhikers too!):
Forget the €50 train ticket – hitchhike instead! This is the most obvious reason for hitchhiking, as travel can sometimes be quite expensive, significantly adding to the overall cost of your trip. This is especially the case in Europe, where train tickets can be a fortune if not booked far in advance. Stick your thumb out and save the pennies.
Meet new and interesting people
One of the best things about travelling is meeting fascinating people from all over the world, and hearing their stories. But sometimes this can be limited to other travellers, and hitchhiking is a great way to meet local people and learn more about their country and culture straight from them. Plus it’s always nice to meet new people when you’re hitching at home, too!
Indulge your sense of adventure
Hitchhiking can be fairly unpredictable. How long will you need to wait to be picked up? Are you going to find somebody to take you all the way there? When are you going to reach your destination? But not really knowing what to expect is all part of the adventure! And far more exciting than taking the bus.
The more of us we fit into a car, the fewer cars there are on the road, and the less emissions we produce…
…and the fewer cars there are on the road, the less congestion there is, and the quicker we get to where we’re going. Simple, really!
Photo: Flickr – Keng Susumpow
People help the people
Sometimes, public transport can be really unreliable, and if you don’t have a car it can be difficult getting around. Growing up in rural England, I can speak from experience. So, why not help each other out; if you’re heading in that direction anyway, what’s another passenger or two?! A less lonely journey, that’s what.
It’s often quicker and more convenient than public transport
Public transport can also often have inconvenient timetables, or just be downright slow. Hitching I ride from somebody going in the right direction can avoid waiting around for public transport, and enduring the slow slog of a rickety bus stopping every 50 yards to cram more passengers in.
Have your very own local tour guide
If you’re hitchhiking in foreign lands, you can learn a lot from a ride with a local. Ask them about the local area, and all the interesting looking places that you pass on the road. They might also have some tips for cool things to see and do where you’re heading.
Did I mention it’s free?!
Practice your local language skills
If you’re hitchhiking abroad, it’s a great way to have a chat with a local and practice your language skills. After all, there’s not much else to do on a long journey than have a good chat!
Have you hitchhiked before? Share your tips and experiences in the comments!
(Cover image: Flickr – Angus MacRae)