A guide to Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking sign in Japan

How does one hitchhike? What to do to get picked-up? How do you maximize your chances when it comes to hitchhiking?

In this article I will try to help you when it comes to hitchhiking by sharing knowledge from personal experience, good or bad.

Forget about the simple idea of traveling for free. Hitchhiking can be a great experience in itself. You meet people, strike conversations, keep in touch with them, call them friends.
Yes, you get to link point A to point B without spending money. But if that’s all you’re in for then you’re not doing it correctly. You’re just going to be a guy who will leave a bad image to drivers and deny other hitchhikers to be picked up.
So how to prevent that?

1. Presentation

Say what you want, but looks matter.
Imagine driving in the middle of nowhere and suddenly coming across 3 hitchhikers. The first one looks messy, dirty, doesn’t smile and just kinda looks like a mean person. The second one looks like a traveler with a big backpack, he’s not the cleanest but he’s definitely not dirty, he smiles and looks like he’s full of stories to share. The third one wears a tie and a suit, a gold watch and some pretty dope sunglasses, on top of that he smiles like a car salesman.
Who do you pick?

Well I’ll tell you who I’d pick: neither player 1 or 3. Simply because I don’t feel comfortable sharing an enclosed space with some weird looking guy. I mean, who hitchhikes while wearing a suit?! Then I also don’t really feel like having an ungrateful passenger who smells.

So what are the key words here? Simple: comfortable and grateful.
Make your potential driver feel COMFORTABLE picking you up.
When it comes to hitchhiking, I don’t hesitate changing and wearing a shirt (it’s a hiking shirt, but it’s still a shirt), I don’t wear a hat, and unless really necessary I don’t wear glasses. The drivers need to see me and realize I have nothing to hide.
I also smile for every car. You would not believe the amount of cars that have turned around to pick me up after giving me a good close look first. 

2. Direction

Hitchikking Direction in Norway

When hitchhiking, do not hesitate to write your direction on a piece of cardboard. It helps. A LOT.
It goes with the comfortable key word from above. People want to know where you’re going, even if it’s just a general direction. The last thing they want is to grab someone and be stuck with him/her for the next 3 hours if that wasn’t intended from the start. By indicating where you’re going, you’re getting read off the uncertainty element.

3. Entitlement

As mentioned above, the second key word is “grateful”.
This is a feeling you must have every time you hitchhike or get picked up.
Why? Because you are NOT entitled to ANYTHING. Being a hitchhiker doesn’t mean people MUST pick you up. They do if they want (unless you end up in a life-saving situation, but that’s a different situation).
So make it feel when you put your thumb up or when you are in someone’s car.

Don’t give the finger to anyone who doesn’t pick you up. Don’t make a sad face even if you’ve been waiting 2 hours. Every car is a new opportunity.
The drivers that have been passing you might simply not go where you’re heading to.

Say “thank you” when you get in and “thank you” when you get out. Ask for their name and remember it when you leave.
And NEVER ever consider your driver as your personal chauffeur. They don’t have to do any detour for your pretty eyes.
Want to take your shoes off? Ask first!
Their car, their rule.

4. Author’s notes

Look, there’s no need for an 18 bullet point presentation on how to hitchhike. Just follow these 3 rules above and you should be fine.

I met a lot of drivers -females, grandpa’s, students, couples- who had never picked up ANYONE in their life yet decided to stop when they saw me. It happened in Norway, it happened in Japan, it happened in Tasmania, it happened in Chile, it happened in Iceland, it happened in a lot of difference places.

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