1 Come prepared
Don’t jump out of the shower and onto the street. Not everybody appreciates a naked hitchhiker. Be dressed at least and even better know your way. (From experience: a list of cities along the way is not enough.) Know street names/numbers and intersections. It is only common sense to bring map. (That said, I never do that.) Have a phone to rely on. Be sure you have money on your prepaid and your battery full. To have a functioning phone can easily make all the difference of feeling lost or feeling found. Bring a good & full power bank and have emergency numbers handy. Make up your mind if you want to have a sign or not. Both works. I prefer having a sign. Finally if you are likely not able to speak to the driver have some written sentences in their language prepared. Some phrases come back over and over again:
“I am traveling to XYZ. Would you please take me along for a bit? Thank you.”
“I need to stay on the highways. Best drop me at a gas station.”
“I won’t pay you for that. I am a hitchhiker and travel only for free.”
“My name is Andreas, I am a student from Germany/Holland”
2 Pick a good spot
I recommend gas stations along the highway to be the best spot. Cars are slowing and stopping. There is shade and even a small shop if you run out of water or didn’t bring a map. (Like me.) Get a local car to bring you to a gas station and than aim for the inter city traffic. If it can’t be a gas station consider highway entrances, traffic lights, etc. Just imagine you are the driver: Can they see the hitchhiker early enough? Will they be able to read your sign? Is there an opportunity to stop? Make sure to stand where the cars are not to fast. Nobody stops on a highway when thew others drive 110 km/h. Often they will see you and brake but it takes them up to 100m behind you until the come to stand. Position yourself according to that. Always make sure the spot is safe for you and the cars.
3 Think of Safety
As a matter of fact weird and horrible things have happened to hitchhikers. And many more wonderful things of course. Be sure to takes some basic security measures and you will be able to enjoy the ride: Most importantly have somebody know where you are. Keep family or friends updated! (I text my twin brother all day long when hitchhiking.) Turn the GPS of your phone on. Security goes before privacy here. (I got this tip from a security guard taking me through Belgium. He said it helps the police located your body…) Stay confident with drivers, the weirdos feed from insecurity. Avoid arguments and sexy conversation. That can be hard sometimes. The ultimate safety steps is probably to take a picture of every number template and send it to a friend.
4 Say “No” and “Thank you”
The biggest problem are people that want to help but just don’t get what you need. Like the nice old lady that takes you away from the highway drops you in her little village. As a hitchhiker you need that next ride. Before getting in the car make sure it goes your way and talk about a good spot to be dropped. Say “No!” to any car that leaves your route. Better wait 30 min longer than spend 2 hours getting back on the highways. Although say no to any weird drunks or people you just don’t feel comfortable with. Nobody has to take you and you don’t need to accept anybody. Remember the choice is yours, too! And say no to all those nice people offering you to drive you to the bus station. Your are a hitchhiker in the end. If you agree with a driver make sure to say “Thank you” and foster a conversation. Entertaining them is the least you can do to give back. Some will add you on Social Media and ask for Selfies. If it makes them happy… Sure.
5 Restore your faith in humanity
There is more good people than bad people in the world. We just never see them in the news. “Hitchhiker safely arrived” ain’t no headline like “Hitchhiker arrived in 37 pieces.” Every time I hitchhike wonderful things happen. People help you for free. People buy you food. People get late to drop you. People become grateful and proud, too. To trust and depend on is not necessarily a bad thing. Put security first and than get ready to open up and embrace the wonders of our uncertain world. Hitchhiking can be the excitement in front of your door or the adventure of a lifetime. But it is definitely a great way to safe money, travel many countries an remind yourself once more of all the good in the world. Hitchhikers will know.
The hitchhiker’s soundtrack: NONONO – Pumpin Blood