Monday, 7 May 2012

Vagabonding Types: Hitchhikers

Hitchhiking is the process of asking people, commonly strangers, for a lift in their vehicle. It was once widespread before the 1970's but since then has been on the decline.

Photo by Leo Reynolds
The sight of a backpack laden traveller holding their thumb out is known the world over. Very few countries have laws against hitchhiking and some even encourage it by assigning areas that are suitable for hitchhiking such as in the Netherlands.

It's slow decline can be attributed to a few high profile news stories where hitchhikers were killed or other terrible tales. The media put out stories of similar ilk where hitchhikers, after accepting a lift, would then turn on their trusting drivers. Obviously hitchhiking can be dangerous. Getting in to a car with a complete stranger can bring about unwanted situations. For instance I heard a story of a 20 something bloke in America who feared for his life after a crack-head woman picked him up with her equally psychotic crack-head husband. A knife and then a gun appeared and the guy had to make a rather hasty get away. The experience shook the guy so bad he vowed to contact his Dad and tell him he loved him.

So hitchhiking can have its dangers, but that doesn't deter thousands of people who regularly partake in hitchhiking every year. It is sometimes used for charitable gain too. Universities hold contests to see which of its participants can get the farthest in a set amount of time. Or have to reach a pre-determined destination in the least amount of time.

Hitchhiking can also be an essential and valid form of travel to alot of people. People pick up hitchhikers for many different reasons. Whether to give something back to the hitching community (something I try and do when ever I see a hitchhiker) or simply for a bit of company.

Hitchhiking has changed with the times and the internet is now widely used to pre-arrange car shares. Websites like Digihitch and Hitchhikers.org allow potential hitchhikers and picker-uppers to contact each other ahead of time.

I am pretty sure that I shall be hitchhiking in some capacity during my vagabonding adventure. Except this time it'll be very different. Not only do I need a lift for myself but also Kerry.

It's a free mode of transport afterall! One thing I would urge anyone and everyone to do is to head over to the hitchwiki and read the whole thing! There is definately an ettiquette to hitchhiking and for it to be done safely you should be armed with knowledge and never feel pressured to take a lift just because it's there. Something doesnt feel right? Just say 'No thanks I'm happy walking'.

You can read about my first hitchhiking experience with all its ups and downs in A Tale from a Novice Hitchhiker




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