EuroTribe

your guide to Europe off the beaten path

Category: Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking Is Not Dead (It Just Took a Break)

This is a guest post by Jamie Bowlby-Whiting who is the creator of Great Big Scary World where he shares his adventures through stories, photos, and videos. He has published…

This is a guest post by Jamie Bowlby-Whiting who is the creator of Great Big Scary World where he shares his adventures through stories, photos, and videos. He has published a book, The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World, which is a true story of fear and hitchhiking, covering the six months that he spent on the road in Europe. You can follow him via Facebook or Twitter.
Back in the sixties, it is rumoured that hitchhiking was the thing to do. In fact, if I am to listen to the stories of people a generation above me, I start to believe that everybody used to hitchhike. So why the sudden apparent change? According to this same generation, it is because the world has become a dangerous place and there are now bad people who want to do bad things to others.
Yet can the people of the world have possibly changed so much?
Back in 2007, I signed up to a charity hitchhiking event. Myself and a girl that I didn’t know too well, would hitchhike 1,600 miles from the UK to Morocco, raising money for charity by getting people to sponsor is. In our charity hitch t-shirts, we along with a few hundred other nineteen and twenty year olds, made it to Morocco and felt amazement at the fact that we had travelled so far without money.
Fast forward nearly six years and I had all but forgotten about hitchhiking until I missed a bus in Japan and was faced with the prospect of paying a £200 train fare to catch up with my friends who had gone on ahead. Rather than paying this outrageous sum, I walked to the road and put my thumb out. There my hitchhiking dreams were rekindled and I made a promise to myself that I would one day hit the road without plans and without an end date. Nearly a year later, that is exactly what I did.

hitchhiking eastern europe

What I found, was a world that I thought had disappeared. For the first few weeks, I saw no other hitchhikers and everyone I met thought I was mad. But then I started to meet other hitchhikers on the road and heard more stories from people who had also tried hitchhiking. As one thing led to another, I soon found myself at a hitchhiking festival in Lithuania along with over one hundred other hitchhikers from around the world, many of whom were living long term, nomadic lifestyles with very small amounts of money.
I was hooked. It was like scratching away at the surface of some huge, impenetrable barrier, only to find something so very sweet and delicious beneath the surface. My hitchhiking journey continued for half a year across twenty-four countries, during which time I spent many nights guerilla camping or staying in the homes of strangers. I spent hardly any money each day and soon realised that with a little bit of work, this life was sustainable – so many other people had been doing it for so much longer than I.
hitchhiking in the back of a van

Hitchhiking in the back of a van

Hitchhiking isn’t quite as visible as it used to be, but I blame the bad news stories and the rules of society for this. However, take the time to look around and trust in people, and you might just find something a little bit more wonderful than you expected. I certainly did. I now use hitchhiking as a normal method of transport, simply to save myself money. Even when I have a plane to catch, I know that by sticking out my thumb and trusting in strangers, I can get where I’m going for free, without having to further contribute to the negative environmental impact that would ensue if I was to drive my own car (not that I own a car anymore).
Hitchhiking isn’t dead, it just slipped out of view. There are new movements in fresh thinkers of today who are returning to the world of hitchhiking and for the next many years, I expect it to continue. Sites such as HitchWiki are a perfect example of this.
All you have to do is have a little trust in the world.
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15 Essential Tips Every Beginner Hitchhiker Should Know

Hitchhiking is not only the cheapest way of traveling but also the most exciting one as it allows you to have so many experiences in short period of time. You…

Hitchhiking is not only the cheapest way of traveling but also the most exciting one as it allows you to have so many experiences in short period of time. You will;

  • meet a lot of people and maybe even befriend someone

  • get frustrated or mad after hours of waiting, but the feeling of getting a ride after waiting for such a long time is good

  • you will be exposed to very interesting music (see below)

  • you’ll get better at sign language

  • your faith in humanity will be restored

  • you will hear insider stories from your drivers

  • and more

Hitchhiking is not fun and games only as it involves a risk of being picked by a potentially unsafe driver, so if in doubt turn down the ride.

Hitchhiking from Belgrade to Zagreb

Here I’ve compiled a list of 15 essential tips every beginner hitchhiker should know;

1) Think twice before you decide to hitchhike. Why? Hitchhiking is not about getting a free ride only, it’s also a WALKING ADVENTURE, so be ready to walk. And sometimes to walk all day!

2) Buy a good road map. It’s gonna be useful when deciding whether you should accept that ride or not.

3) Try to learn the language at least a bit as it will help you have a conversation with drivers. Sometimes they decide to pick up hitchhikers for one simple reason – they are bored and they appreciate company. You will also have a higher chance of getting that ride if you speak your driver’s language.

4) Have a supply of food and drinks with you.

5) You will of course first use the public transport and then go to the outskirts of the town to hitchhike.

6) NEVER accept a ride into the center of the city if you are traveling long distance and between big cities. Not only you will lose a lot of time, it will also be hard to come back to the highway.

7) When at the border, it’s better to cross it on foot and then hitchhike from the other side. Why? Drivers are more alert and they don’t feel comfortable transporting other people through an international border, so you might have more success from the other side.

8) Gas stations are a good place to hitchhike. You can always ask people around for a ride and the chance of success is usually pretty high.

9) Getting a ride at night is really difficult and not recommended.

10) Some people will react mean or try to make a joke on you. Don’t let that discourage you! You are awesome! 😉

11) Usually people who stop don’t go all the way to your destination but you can ask them to leave you at a better spot or at the next gas station.

12) Hitchhike with a friend. Not only it’s more interesting, it’s also more safe. A girl and a guy is the best combination for hitchhiking.

13) Walking along some roads like highways can get you warned or even arrested. Although you may have the right to walk along most roads, it doesn’t bother to check which one you can and cannot.

14) If you are entering a truck, take off your shoes. This is especially true for the part in the back. Truck drivers spend most of their time in a truck and they treat it like it’s their home.

15) In EU there is a law that forbids more than two people in the front of a truck. That also means if there’s two of you traveling you won’t be able to pass an international border with a truck and will have to cross it on foot instead.

What do you think about hitchhiking? Would you do it or not? If you already did, do you have any other tips to share? Feel free to comment below.

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