Our parents’ generation knew a hitchhiking age filled with like-minded free spirits, the frequent exchange of peace hand signs, and mutual trust until proven untrustworthy… and yet one full grown ready to frolic travel baby later and those same wandering hearts are now splurging on euro rail passes and direct flights for their kid’s spring break just to keep them off the side of the road. We have to wonder what happened, what changed. Sure, there are a lot of things that people enjoy taking part in when they’re young but then ground their kids for the exact same thing, but with other unmentionable past-times youths have found their own way to the scene regardless, hitchhiking on the other hand has practically flat out disappeared, study abroaders and summer cross country trippers of today don’t need to be told twice to just save up and rent their own car.
A number of causes are said to be the possible blame. Some speculate that it’s simply bigger and badder highways that come with stricter regulations and little on-foot accessibility. Some think it’s the shift in culture, that hitchhiking in itself was simply a byproduct of the treasured traits of the ’60’s / ’70’s laid back, go-with-the-flow hippie and that all the 1980+ biddies were raised in a much more self guarded and socially skeptical society. Another theory is that hitchhiking was always super sketch and the generation of trust ended up learning that the hard way enough times to grow old and forbid their offspring from making the same mistake. No matter why, sometimes things just die out, and then the question becomes should they ever be brought back.
There are definitely both pros and cons to hitchhiking, but I like to be honest with you because I care and I want you to have positive travel experiences- I would never hitchhike and I would never suggest you do either, especially alone. I think I’d have to be armed, and I have no desire to ever enter a situation where I’m at such risk that I need to pack heat and be ready to battle. I honestly don’t know if that fear is a “these days” issue or if there’s always been this many dangerous people and I just had a blissfully naive childhood, and while I’ll never stop traveling I must admit that every time I watch the news I want to take more and more safety precautions when I go. It’s not for me, and as a travel freak you have to decide what is or isn’t for you, but if you’re thinking is, at least take a moment to weigh the factors and see if the benefits are worth the risks.
Photo via Photo Pin/Christiaan Triebert
- Satisfies the strictest of travel budgets
- Great way to meet new friends/locals/fellow travelers
- As a passenger you’ll get to take in the sights
- How spontaneous and adventurous of you!
- Great for nomads and wanderers who don’t like to plan where their next destination is in advance
- Stranger danger yo
- You aren’t in control of the situation, as in where the car goes or doesn’t go, where you end up, no matter what the driver initially told you
- What if they wait until you’re all buckled in to decide they want to discuss politics or their mother
- This usually takes longer than your itinerary planned for… waiting on the road pretty much all day + who knows what route = you arriving to your destination a week late
- Hitchhiking is now thought to be sketchy and dangerous by most people meaning most people will pass you by, and if someone doesn’t think it’s sketch and decides to scoop you up it may be because they themselves are the sketch
- Too dangerous for the solo traveler yet couples/groups aren’t likely to find rides with room for the whole party
While many countries now have laws against hitchhiking, and no travel company, agency or brand promotes it anymore, there are still some known locations where it’s common enough that you might have some good luck. Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia are places to catch a ride in Europe, while it remains most common in New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and sometimes in the rural areas of Central America and China.