A Realistic Hitchhiker’s Guide
“Hitchhiking”, “hitching”, “aventon”, “en stop”, “rite”, “lif”, “autostop”, “carona”, “a dedo”, “jalon”, and “thumbing” all refer to traveling by flagging down rides on the side of the road or by asking for rides at gas stations or elsewhere. It is the only way that I have been traveling, and it is free. Sometimes people ask for money but I never go with these rides, always making sure the ride is genuine. The only buses I have taken have been when I’ve been too lazy to walk out of big cities. I have also hitchhiked on ocean-going sailboats, and I’ve worked or traded on smaller boats for passage.
Hitching is very popular in Europe and Canada, and to a lesser extent in the United States. Contrary to popular belief it is not dead, only dormant after its heyday in the 60s and 70s. Hitching in Latin America has been easier than in the Untied States and Europe because people are either more friendly, open, helpful, or curious as to why a skinny gringo is in the middle of the road.
There are three things to consider in hitching: weather, time of day, and location.
I hitch in all types of weather, from a ill-conceived yet successful hitch across the northern United States in winter to a scolding hot hitch through Central America during their hot season. Common sense plays a big role in hitchhiking. For instance, maybe you should take an umbrella, because maybe it will rain. If it’s hot, you can use the umbrella for shade. You have to dress appropriately for all types of environment, which goes without saying.
Best time of day to hitchhike?
As for the time of day, the earlier you begin the better. I tend to start my days around 5 a.m. That way, I’m tired by the time night comes around, which is important because the chances of negative experiences coming your way hitchhiking increase at night. I try to find a place to pitch my tent or throw down my sleeping bag before the sun disappears completely.
Location in the hitch
Location in hitching is absolutely key. First, you need to be able to be seen by the drivers. Secondly, make sure there is ample room for the car to pull over (although, if there isn’t, it’s not the end of the hitch). Third, avoid trying to hitch in crowded areas where there is a lot of foot traffic or car traffic in general. If trying to leave a city, walk to the limits or take a bus. Avoid being dropped off where there is no good place to hitch, and if you do not have food or water, do not get out in the middle of nowhere.
The best way to learn how to hitchhike is to do it and observe through trial and error. So for you who’s reading this and wondering why I’m holding back all the hitchhiking knowledge I have, know that I do on purpose.