The Hitchhiking?

Why?

Every day I find new and exciting reasons to travel, yet none of them really seem to be That One Golden Reason. I believe that is because there is no One Golden Reason. Travel is a million different reasons to do so – that’s what makes it so appealing!

How do you finance your hitchhiking?

I usually start each day with a grand total of just enough money for a coffee and maybe a light breakfast. After that I usually don’t even have two coins to rub together. No credit cards. I make my money to live on day by day. Sometimes I have an emergency large bill tucked somewhere that I’ve been gifted or that I’ve saved for a visa or some piece of gear I’m lacking – but my day to day money is limited to what I can make myself.

For food and other consumables, I often busk, which for those of you who don’t know is playing music for tips on the streets (I play the blues harmonica). I also have worked for food in local restaurants many times, and done a few dumpster dives. What I like to do most is busk for a small amount of money, use that to buy pasta, and either cook it myself (if I’m equipped with the facilities) or find a place that will cook it for me. I also sometimes sell paintings that I make on the street.

I have also learned to make quick, easy-to-make crafts that I sell for cheap. These are things made from wire – the most common being hearts-with-names. These are hearts twisted out of old telephone line wire and lined with red plastic tubing. These sell quickly because they are customizable: you can put any word or words inside the heart, twisted in cursive out of more wire and attached to the inside of the heart. All you need is thin, easily malleable aluminum wire (look at phone company’s installation warehouses to acquire free wire) a pair of pliers, thin plastic tubing, and about a day or two to figure it out. The most common requests are names of children, girlfriends, etc. In Brazil I sell these for R$3 each (about US$1.50).

To save money, and just because I like the adventure and uncertainty it inevitably brings, I never pay for lodgings. 95% of the time I am covert camping somewhere. Common places to find me sleeping are gas stations, wooded areas, abandoned buildings, and anyplace where I can hang a hammock. Sometimes I also meet accommodating and wonderful people who invite me to stay with them. These are the best times!

I don’t use couchsurfing.org – at least not often. In almost three years I’ve used it about as many times. This is mostly because I never know where I’m going and, to be honest, I enjoy sleeping everywhere!

Sound difficult? It only takes a little getting used to – but I’ll admit it’s not for everybody.

What are your plans for the future?

Men plan; God laughs.

Hitchhiking? Really? You’re going to die, dude…

Nope.

Why travel by hitchhiking? I know it’s free, but the buses some of those countries you’re in are so cheap! Are you really so stingy you wouldn’t drop 5 cents to ride a bus 400 km?

Yes.

But really, hitchhiking is such a superior form of travel for those who really want to get to know the face of the area they’re travelling through. You get to know all sides of a place: it’s unknown secrets, it’s forgotten allys, it’s hidden hillsides and what’s underneath all of it’s rocks. In a bus: Point A to Point B. Everything in between is just blank space, something you stare at from behind a glass window while you wish the driver would go faster so you could just get there already. Some of my favourite places I’ve been to have been places unmarked, places far off the map.

You meet locals, learn new languages much faster; and really, you people underestimate how much fun it sometimes is just to walk along the side of the road with everything you own strapped to your back. It’s simply thrilling.

Isn’t hitchhiking dangerous?

In the past 40 years only 459 people have been murdered on Americas’ interstates, proving that more Americans die each year performing sex than hitchhiking.
.
I know, more Americans perform sex than hitchhike. Thank God; I’d never get picked up if all you schmuks were wandering around out here on the shoulder of the road. Still, the danger is greatly exaggerated. When every hitchhiker sticks out his thumb and smiles merrily at incoming traffic, he knows the risks he is taking. I, personally, view it as an occupational hazard. Just like the deep sea fisherman may one day find himself lost at sea, the airline pilot may have to ditch into the Indian Ocean, and the oil rig worker could very well lose his arm to a falling 2-ton metal pipe, a hitcher may one day find himself in a sticky situation with a driver.
.
The hitchhiker needs simply to keep his wits about him while he’s on the road. Any good ride will be obvious after the first few words; people who pick up hitchhikers tend to have a genuine good vibe around them. And the others? Well, lets, just say it’s usually quite obvious what they’re really after.

Have you ever been robbed?

Yes. Twice. The first time was by a large group of delinquent Argentines in Salta. They stole some dirty clothes and a bedroll and were the only people who have physically robbed me to my face. The second time was in Puerto Natales, Chile. It was my fault because I left my pack unattended. I lost everything except for my Passport and a few jackets. But they are just things – and those can be replaced.
.

What is the average type of person you meet while hitchhiking? Any kind souls, great deceivers?

Here’s a futile attempt to summarize all of the people I’ve met hitchhiking:

The old man who insists I come to his place for dinner and meet his grandchildren
The young man who feels trapped at a dead-end job and just needs someone to talk to
The coked-out guy outside of Lima, who just wants to get to the beach and take some Valium for chrissake, and would I mind handing him a beer?

The saintly truck driver, Bible in hand
The racist priest, his concience unmanned
The persecuted, the forsaken, the rich, the poor
The ugly, the beautiful…the strange?
Deranged?
Or simply…shortchanged, misarranged?

The lost, the found, the still looking
The jubilant, the crushed, and….
every
different
kind
of sad, glad, bad, raving mad, scantily clad soul you can possibly imagine
From every corner of this strange old world.

And,

thankfully….

there’s no end in sight.

Don’t you miss your family?

Yes. Very much.

Will you ever settle down?

I honestly believe I never will. Not for more than a few years, at least.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to so far?

It’s like asking a music junkie his favourite song. You’ll never get a concrete answer.

This sounds like the life I’ve always wanted to live! I want to hitchhike, too! How do I get started? What gear should I bring?

The best hitchhiking site on the Internet is digihitch.com . Browse the forums, post a question, and get great advice on how to become a thumb bum from some of the most experienced road warriors in the world!

You might also try HitchWiki, a free-to-edit Wiki dedicated to hitchhiking that has a lot of good information on Europe and other countries.

Don’t forget the experiences of other travellers – visit the “Links” section for a list of some good ones.

Or, you can simply check out my personal recommendations in the Hitchhiking and Vagabonding Tips. How to Hitchhike, Where to Sleep, Gear Selection, and more!

If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me.

Why do you write on this website?

I write here for the same reason most people write: to be read! But I hope that, through my writings, I can give more people a better informed view about who hitchhikers are and what hitchhiking really is, and to remove the negative stereotypes associated with it. I also write to promote alternative lifestyles and modes of travel, and perhaps even inspiring [to travel by hitchhiking] the odd person who would have otherwise veered down other cosmic paths.

-MN

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