Hitchhiking & Vagabonding Tips

HItchhiking in Patagonia, Argentina

I don’t claim to know everything – in fact, I learn new things daily – but I can do my best to teach you what I’ve figured out so far. So…here you go.

Part One: Hitching the Ride

Part Two: The Ride

Part Three: Night Hitchhiking

Part Four: Finding Food

Part Five: Places to Sleep

Part Six: Getting Extra Cash

Part Seven: Buses & Taxis

Part Eight: Health Care While On The Road

Part Nine: Hitchhiking in Bad Weather

Part Ten: Hitchhiking Gear

18 thoughts on “Hitchhiking & Vagabonding Tips

  1. Well said Patrick. I´d have to agree 100% with all of this. The only thing I would add is that I also try to avoid ending my day in a semi truck. If you are getting hitched towards a major city in a truck you´re not going to get a place to sleep out of that ride (most likely, though I have before). As it gets towards early afternoon I avoid hitching trucks.

    • It depends on where the truck is going. If they are going somewhere far-off, then they are going to stop and crash out in a parking lot for a couple of hours, and I’ve never not been invited to sleep in the passenger seat.

    • It definitely all depends. I caught a ride once in a semi at midnight, pulled into harrisburg at 4 in the morning, and just ended up sleeping in the ‘movie theater’ they had. but i totally see what you’re saying. but i think the best way to avoid that situation is to just have the driver let you out at one of the truck stops on the outskirts of the city.

  2. This page is like a life lesson! Thank you for the tips, I anxiously await every next post!

  3. Although I’m glad that you personally get to have experiences,

    as a fellow traveller and hitchhiker I find it hard to be as impressed with the picture you paint of yourself. Delighted with your own cleverness you traipse about mooching on the hospitality of locals.

    For readers who haven’t travelled I suppose it might look super cool that somebody is so darn adventurous.

    For the uninitiated reading this website I must say there are thousands of kids who travel the world with backpacks, hitchhiking and camping. Most of them actually make things, artwork, jewelry, music, crafts, to sell to buy food for themselves.
    And most of them, or at least the ones I’ve met, have a reasonable sense of humility, of their significance, of how they can create value for the world.

    I encourage people to go to the central plaza or main street of any major city in the world and talk to the young kids with backpacks. Ive been changed by them, inspired by them, and been one of them.

    I suppose you could say your contribution is your writing, and who am I to argue, having spent the last several days reading your stories and chuckling too.

    You drift between this authoritative presentation of how you’ve got it all under control, how you know the history, culture, language. Luckily you can manipulate people into sympathizing and helping you out of the shit you get in, and you rely on that to survive.
    Quien eres, que piensas tu puedes andar asi, que es lo que buscas-alimentos y gusto? Por favor explicame.

    I’m open. What do you say?

    • Finally! Constructive criticism! Thank you!

      I’ll admit that this is in dire need of an update. As I’m sure you know, the traveler is a constantly evolving creature who daily tweaks his techniques and processes in order to accomplish two things:

      1. To survive
      2. To achive his objective as a traveler, whatever that may be.

      I wrote this while I was in Panamà, about ten months ago. At the time, I’d only been traveling for two months. I’ll of course admit to oftentimes delighting in my ‘cleverness’ as I figured out how to do this and that without money, and to being superbly pleased at how far away I was getting from my mundane hometown, with it’s rednecks and crowded Wal-Marts.

      Today is some time later. You are absolutely right, I am a fantastic manipulator, which while indeed is a useful skill to have, it may not be one to be especially proud of. This is more so if you rely soley on this in order to survive.

      If you have indeed been reading my writings, than you’ll notice I’ve changed significantly from the brazen, puffed-up, skinny kid in Panamà on the dawn of a new lifestyle to where I am now. I am no doubt still brazen, puffed up, and significantly skinnier, since that’s just who I am, but I’d like to think I’ve gained a profound sense of humility in regard to my significance and place in the world.

      A few months ago I realized that using my silver tongue to get what I wanted wasn’t working anymore. Oh sure, it was still working in real life, meaning that I was still getting food and everything I needed to survive, but it wasn’t working anymore on a spiritual level, for me. A friend of mine called me out one day; he told me I was a bloodsucker, a vampire who sucked the life out of the people of the culture I spoke so highly of, and nothing more.

      I was of course, indignant and furious, mostly because I knew he was 100% correct, which is when I get the most indignant and furious.

      After fuming in a whirlpool of anger and self doubt for a few days, I decided to change things up. The idea that I was just a ‘bum,’ alebit one who moves around a lot, had been eating at the inside of me since day one, and getting stronger every day no matter how hard I tried to suppress it under a new wave of manic impulsiveness, which I could ride for weeks before I had to do something else to keep the self-doubt at bay.

      Since that day, I’ve been working. I play my harmonica on the streets for tips (which definently counts as working because I’m providing music for people to listen to, and most people enjoy street musicians), and not to mention do actual work. When I’m hungry, I visit the nearest resturaunt and wash dishes until somebody puts a bowl of soup in front of me. There is no shame in that, none at all. ‘Will work for food’ has been around since people started using money. I’ll admit to not using it before due to several reasons, among them being underconfident at my skills in Spanish to ask, coupled with embarassment at even asking for such a thing and at the same time being rather lazy by nature. I’ve since learned it’s a rewarding and fun-to-do pasttime which never fails to yield food, friends, and sometimes even a soft spot to sleep for the night.

      Another example; as I’m sure you’ve read, I’ve been stranded in Guyaramerìn, Bolivia for 27 days now after my ill-fated attempt to swim the Mamorè to Brazil. I currently work three jobs:

      1. Every Monday and Friday I wash the tables and chairs, mop the floors, and generally freshen up a resturaunt in the Plaza. I’m paid 10 Bolivianos each day.

      2. I work 3-5 days a week at the police checkpoint outside of town, raising and lowering the big yellow arm. I make 30-60 Bolivianos a day.

      3. I work every morning and every evening in a bakery. At night I knead the dough, mix it, and pack it into child-sized lumps so it can be baked in the early morning. In the morning after it is baked, I ride around on a bicycle for four hours and sell each loaf for 2 Bolivianos. Total, is usually about 35 Bolivianos for me.

      So. My point is you are right in being a bit disgusted with the writer of this page. I myself am on a regular bases. Nonetheless, as I said before, the traveler (and the human being for that matter), is a creature that is more than capable of changing, of evloving. You might even say that we live to evolve.

      That being said, while I have changed my ways of getting food and generally surviving, I most ceartinly have not changed my other habits. I still love to flaunt international law by trying to sneak into countries I can’t afford to go to (that one’s catching up to me now, but I’m confident it shall work itself out. They can’t leave me here forever, after all), and I still delight in doing things that most of the locals are confident will be my last. I live to tresspass where it says no tresspassing, to camp where it says no camping, and especially, to go where the general consenses is that going there would be a terrible idea.

      To attempt the impossible.

      These things about myself I will never change, and couldn’t even if I wanted to; they are too deeply ingrained in my mentality. These things I’m proud of, of being, as you put it, ‘so darn adventurous.’ I live for them; without them, I am nothing.

      In addition to this I still feed my ego like a prized pot-bellied pig the month before the fair, but that’s because if I don’t I’ll spiral into a pit of miserable self-doubt and depression. I’d rather have a chip on my shoulder a mile high than be that whiney sad guy who is always talking about what a failure he is. It’s one or the other, with me. No middle-ground, it’s just how my brain is wired.

      I won’t lie and say I’ve totally stopped manipulating people, either, but the few that I have I was 100% positive were trying to manipulate me as well. Sometimes you gotta fight fire with fire, and some things just never change.

      I also won’t say I don’t accept free money from rides anymore, though I can safely say I don’t push for it anymore (‘I was robbed?’ Shameful.) I try to accept cash from only those who can afford it (though a few times the burning, nearly uncontrollable desire for a cigarette has caused me to accept a Boliviano from someone who almost ceartinly couldn’t afford to give it…smoking was the worst habit I’ve ever picked up, and is usually the reason I’m prowling around at night looking at people’s hands for the telltale orange dot of burning tobacco embers.)

      To be truthful, I don’t know what I’m looking for down here, and I never have. I haven’t even the vaguest idea; all I know is that this life, the life of a lonely traveler wandering the Earth, is the best one I’ve encountered so far in my infinately brief twenty years of existance. I have no plans of stopping until something better presents itself to me, which I have no doubt it one day will.

      Thank you for criticizing, my friend, it is greatly appriciated. All the happy comments were starting to bring me down.


  4. Patrick –
    Wow, thanks! This is greatly appreciated. I’ve read probably 10 or 15 of your posts and so far this comment response is the one that grips me most. Why? It’s the most honest.

    Assuredly, to most uninitiated readers you appear as some sort of superhuman. You have potential to be a person worth aspiring to. But Pat, man, to inspire you must be accessible and real.
    In which posts have you written about that day, when you realized something?

    Right now you’re in a semi-permanent state of traveling outside the States; that alone makes us different than 99 percent of the US population. I’m no expert on life, really, but maybe you can reach deeper in tu viaje, tu obra.
    How can people learn from you, relate to you? Sure, there are times when pretty girls give you attention because youre a silly little hitchhiking gringo, and that’s cute. What about any pretty bolivean girls who won’t talk to you, the kind that you can only stare at bashfully? Or times when you have geniunely been afraid? Times when you have encountered somebody radical, or just encountered yourself, and been afraid of what you saw?

    Try doing social experiments with the time you have in communities. Start a mural on the side of a building, see how many people join you. Go to the school and see if you can get 20 minutes every thursday afternoon to teach kids how to play the harmonica.

    Surrender to the beauty of your humanness, Patrick. When you learn to do that, let me know; that task is the most difficult in the world.

    -Your friend, Jake.

  5. I suggest you read some of my newer posts from here in Bolivia…I’ve been trying to make them, as you said, a little more real.

    I’ve been finding a lot of tarantulas here in Guyara…big hairy fuckers that are the stuff of people’s nightmares. Every time I find one I catch it and go to the plaza and show it to people, just to teach them that just because it’s not the prettiest critter doesn’t mean it’s evil. Bolivians have the mentality of ‘kill everything you don’t understand,’ which usually includes tarantulas, snakes, and your general lineup of creepy crawlies. Kids love it when I hold the big spider in my hands, and I teach them everything I know. Maybe now they won’t smoosh the next one the find on their way to the outhouse, which is usually when I find them :)

  6. I also loved your reaction to the critics and your reply. The places you go are as interesting as your transformation.

  7. hi pat, i wanted to ask, have you dealt with robbery/mugging and how to deal with it. i do not advocate violence, but what about pepper spray? what do you do when you have nothing?

    thanks you


    • Hi Michael

      This is a question I get quite often.

      When you’re hitchhiking, the best weapon you can carry with you is your common sense. I don’t advocate carrying any sort of weapon while hitchhiking, because it tends to give you an unwarrated feeling of safety, causing you to take risks you would have not normally have taken, had you been unarmed.

      Pepper spray is indeed a useful weapon, though apparently it’s illegal in Massachusetts. I used to carry it in backwoods East Texas to ward off the dogs, but using it against people is a different matter. Yes, I have been robbed/mugged, on the outskirts of Salta, Argentina. The thing about getting mugged is that usually it’s more than one person – I was robbed by a group of six. Even if you do manage to pepper spray one of them, the rest will overpower you, take your pepper spray, and maybe use it against you simply out of spite. If you get robbed, be co-operative, give them what they want, and hope they don’t kill you. It’s just material possestions, which can be replaced. Your life cannot.

      Here is a topic on the Digihitch.com forums that covers pepper spray and the usage of weapons while hitchhiking:


      Now, there’s a difference between carrying a weapon while hitchhiking and carrying a tool. There is nothing wrong with carrying a knife with you – as long as you use it as a TOOL, and NEVER for defense. Most people have no idea how to fight with a knife, and the usual situation is the aggressors take the knife away from the assaulted, who now has to face not only robbers, but armed robbers.

      There is a very small minority of hitchhikers who hitch with firearms, but again, they use it as a TOOL. I personally would never do this, but those that do hitch with firearms are backwoods hunters and outdoorsman. This is obviously dependant on location – what would be fine in the Alaskan bush would not be fine in New York state. I have seen local hitchhikers in South American jungles hitching with shotguns for hunting monkeys, and rifles in Patagonia since they are shephards who use the rifles to keep the pumas at bay,

      Here is a digihitch forum discussion on the usage of firearms while hitchhiking:


      Also, here is a nice article written by digihitcher Tobobear about the usage of weapons while hitchhiking:


      Good luck, and remember – use your head!



  8. Sweet, I enjoyed checking out this site. I occasionally hitch hike. Just to the next few cities and whatnot, nothing like majorly far but these are some handy dandy tips!
    Anyways just wanted to say hey and that you’re my friggen hero for hitchin’ the world.

  9. Patrick,
    To relieve the sense of unnerving anonymous voyeurism I often feel on the internet, I will write to you after reading a fair bit of your writing. I don’t have much to say after reading for perhaps half an hour – a little criticism, a little compliment too.
    I’ve been travelling for a damn long time now. I’ve began to slow down, try to live things more deeply, honestly after so long trailing here and there for thrills and kicks. I almost always hitchhike too – the idea now of going anywhere mutely, so to speak, without communicating with another seems absurd. Reading your travels, after a couple of months of working the bloodclots out of me and barely travelling, gives a sense of that spark, that opening, that beckoning to the new to the exuberance of growth. Thank you. Travels to the north of europe, finding places to camp out away from the snow, begin soon for me.

    Yet, I sense something that I felt once too – this delight in always finding a way, a joy of kindness and hope – of always finding what you need. Always, even if it’s for days of hunger. But, what I’ve learnt is that to be humble and grateful for all this is by far the most important, else an emptiness will eat away at you. Perhaps I haven’t read enough of your words but it feels like some of this is missing – the food that appears before you is there but the people who give are not – just a grinning face, a wave and you and they too disappear out of each others lives for ever.
    I don’t know how it’s possible to not expect kindness after some time. I slow down, travel slower, stay in places longer that I adore, and then begin again. Contrast can only ever be good and healthy, je crois, and reduces burn out. Just be careful with that, when generosity becomes anticipated rather than to be as a surprise.
    And yes, working, not perhaps for gold, but to give back, is wonderful, more and more I’m realising.
    Well, hope this reaches you well and in warmth and splendour,


    P.S Completely different – but how do you own a website like this with its own name, nice layout and so forth? Tech friends? Never worked it out. Well, bravo for that too, it looks great.

    • Hi Jass,

      The message does indeed reach me in the warmth and splendor of the Brazilian interior. Far away, thankfully, from banks of snow!

      I’m not entirely sure where you’ve began reading my writings – perhaps from the start? If so, then I will surely admit that when I first started travelling I was rather thankless. I had one thing and one thing only in my mind – get far away. The fact that people helped me suprised me at first, but like a dog whose become used to getting fat meat scraps from the butcher, the novelty soon wore off and yes, I began to expect it.

      However, after a period of time (I’d say about six or seven months, starting from when I entered Mexico) things started to catch up to me – you put it well when you wrote “…an emptiness will eat away at you…” That was exactly how I was feeling. I started to think to myself, “How come all of this comes to me at the right time? Food, cigarettes, everything I need?” I couldn’t figure it out and still haven’t, really – but the point is from then on I tried to at least make an effort to get what I needed myself instead of – like the butcher’s dog – simply waiting for my nightly handout.

      I started working for food when allowed to, and in the numerous occasions when the owner simply gave me the food without letting me wash a single plate, I said thank you and that was that. There really wasn’t much else I could do, except offer to work one more time. Sometimes I gave a souviner, but I rarely had anything that interested resturaunt owners, and anyways if they are the type to simply give out free food than they are also the type that does not want anything in return except a simple thank you.

      Now I generally support myself by busking with my harmonica – much more than I ever had. It’s working out very nicely – I almost always have food and cigarettes now, I buy great bags of pasta and find accomodating places that will cook my meals, and while there’s still that sense of things working out for you, the feeling of self-sufficency that knowing you can get the things you are lacking by yourself brings goes a long way towards a sensation of well-being and satisfaction in your travels.

      If you’ve simply started reading from the present and still feel that way, all I can say is if I wrote “I said thank you,” every time I said thank you to someone, I may as well change the name of this site to “Isaidthankyou.com”. This applies as well to the people that helped me – they tend to be so numerous that writing about the appreciation I felt to every one of them would leave me typing perhaps indefinitely. Lately I’ve been feeling like rather a monotonous writer and have switched from describing every second to describing only the truly interesting or moving or funny moments that the adventure inevitably brings.

      Travelling for thrills and kicks is indeed a huge part of travelling – yet staying where your heart screams for a pause is important as well. I was stationary for most of the first half of 2011 in southern Chile – and while it was to work towards the next great adventure I won’t say that there were no sentiments felt over the badlands of Patagonia. For me, to travel is to seek adventure. To venture into the wilds of the unknown and to reach the peak of the unexplored mountian. Perhaps it is not a literal mountian but a remote town far away from prying eyes or riding a freight train through the uninhabited hills of Minas Gerais. Connection with people is also vital, of course, but the thrill of seeking out the absolute least-travelled path brings a special feeling of wonder and awe. That is how I feel – the beauty of travellers is that each one seeks out his own way.

      In closing, I’d like to thank you deeply for writing to me – it’s marvelous to get a perspective from a fellow long-term traveller instead of the fresh-starter’s drooling infatuation. We can only better ourselves by listening to the words of those around us – and indeed, travel would be quite pointless if it were not so.

      Here’s to hoping this message finds you somewhere in the snow – yet still warm, dry, and in a good spot, with perhaps a dying fire outside your grinning tent flaps.

      Travel on, Jass.


      P.S. The site is quite simple to set up. I’ll admit I do have a techie friend who figured out how to register a domain name and knows a few things about HTML coding, but I think it’s really not all that complicated. WordPress.com does most of the work.

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