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.
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 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.