For this correspondent question I ask long term traveler Loren Everly for some tips on hitchhiking. Loren has hitchhiked across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and I even had the pleasure to hitch across China with him in 2007. He is truly a pro of the art, and I must admit that I picked up more than a few strategies from him during the days we spent on the road together hitching rides and sleeping in the bush across the Middle Kingdom.
Question about hitchhiking strategies
What is your standard operating procedure for hitchhiking? What are your strategies as to where to stand, how to signal a ride, and how to determine if it is safe to get into a vehicle or not? What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced while hitching, and how did you get through them? As a rather tall, well built man with a nicely shaven head, is there anything you do to keep from intimidating potential rides? Have you found that it is easier to hitch alone or with other people?
Loren’s tips and recommendations
I don’t really have a standard operating procedure for hitching. The most important things for me is to be patient, flexible and smiling. That I’m a big tall guy with a shaven head doesn’t help me get rides. But it may have scared away the predators. Although I don’t believe there are so many scary people out there as those who fear hitching think there are. I often wear a hat, which is good for the sun and doesn’t make me look so scary I think.
As for where to wait I’m of the philosophy that it’s best to find a good spot for someone to stop and stay there. Where you are very visible from a long way off and the traffic isn’t moving so fast. If it’s a country where you have to wait at petrol stations because it’s illegal to be on the road I wait there. This has the benefit of letting you ask people who are stopped there for a ride. But this is hard to do if you’re shy like me. So I prefer to wait on the road for people who really want to give a ride to stop.
As for whether to get in the car I’ve not had the experience of a scary person. The only troubles I’ve had are with money. In countries where it’s not clear if you should pay and I don’t speak the language. This has only happened a couple times though.
The hardest part of hitchhiking is psychological for me. When you have to wait for a day or two without a single ride you feel pretty bad. That everyone must hate you. Since hundreds have passed you by and basically said no. But on the flip side on a good day when you don’t have to wait at all and many kilometers and good conversations are passed then you feel on top of the world.
Most of my hitching has been alone. But my best experiences have been with a female companion. One man or two men are scary to pick up. One girl attracts more scary people. But if you are a guy and a girl it’s perfect. The girl makes people feel more comfortable, and the guy keeps some of the creeps away.
Loren Everly has been moving through the world for over a decade, visiting 100+ countries in the process. He usually fields Teaching English Abroad questions for Vagabond Journey, but for this installment, I felt mining some of his knowledge on hitchhiking would be good change of pace. Read more about his travels at LorenEverly.org. Read an interview that I previously did with Loren at Hitchhiking Around the World. For more information about hitchhiking, visit the Vagabond Journey Hitchhiking index.