Hitchhiking tips by Uri DNS2017
In Spain it’s not common to hitchhike. Where I live, I’ve hardly ever seen anybody waiting next to the road asking for a ride. There is the belief that hitchhiking is dangerous and that unless you want to be kidnapped or harmed, you should not do it. But this way of thinking was not always like this, since around thirty years ago, our parents used to hitchhike, and it was considered a good way of moving around if you didn’t have a car. It’s interesting to see how, little by little, it became less and less popular, and right now nobody hitchhikes anymore. Apparently, this change of perspective didn’t happen from day to night, but somehow people became increasingly afraid of it, until the point where the belief that hitchhiking is dangerous sank in people’s minds.
On the other hand, in Denmark, although the amount of people hitchhiking has decreased considerably over the years, it’s still plausible to see it as a good option to travel around the Country. Danish people don’t seem that shocked to see hitchhikers, and a great amount of them are open enough to share their car with unknown people asking to be picked up. If you are not in a rush and you don’t have to arrive at your destination at a specific time, hitchhiking may be a good possibility to consider if you want to save up some money and fuel.
Apart from the economical part, hitchhiking also gives you the opportunity to meet local people with whom you can have interesting conversations with. If you’re hitchhiking and a driver stops to pick you up, you can already tell that this person has been open-minded enough to take you, so it’s very possible that he/she will be also open to talk about different subjects that you would not be able to discuss with a random person on the street.
Another positive aspect is that when you decide to hitchhike, you turn what it may have been a predictable and structured trip by yourself, to something special and different. It’s unpredictable to know what may happen during a trip hitchhiking, since there are no timetables, and you don’t choose the people who will pick you up. You also may have to wait for a long time in the cold or rain, but this is a part of the uncertain adventure.
When I joined DNS, I realized that hitchhiking was a common way of travelling among the students, and it was something that I was pretty apprehensive about, since I brought with me the belief that hitchhiking is not safe and that I should avoid it at all costs. Despite this doubts, my teammate Dovile and I tried to hitchhike for the first time from Hellebaek to Ulfborg. It was quite optimistic to think that we could achieve to cross the whole Country, since we didn’t have any experience hitchhiking at all. At the end, we managed to get in two cars, but we didn’t even get to half of the way and we ended up taking the train. Despite we didn’t achieve our goal that day, we were happy we were brave enough to go for it and we were looking forward to improve and to try to make it next time.
The next time we hitchhiked Gian also joined us. We were in Aarhus and the objective was to get to Ulfborg again. We also didn’t manage to get to our destination, but we got in three cars and we met a popular Danish director, Nils Malmros, who even invited us for a cup of coffee in a fancy restaurant. In the end we had to take the train, since it was getting dark and we were still far away from Ulfborg.
In Spain we have an expression which goes “a la tercera va la vencida”, which means something like: if you failed the first and the second time, the third one will be at last the successful one. With this thought in mind, I tried to hitchhike again, this time alone. I was going to a school for a job interview one hour away from home, and I had to arrive at a specific time, so I could not fail, or I would lose the opportunity to get the job. The previous night I had prepared a cardboard sign with big letters and I left early in the morning to make sure I would arrive there on time. To make the day more epic, it started to snow just the moment I left Tvind. I was wearing a thermal T-shirt and a skiing jacket, but after some time waiting I could feel the wet cold in my body. Luckily though, after three hours and three different cars, I got to the school, where I had the interview on time. At the end of the day I felt very happy, since I finally managed to get to the final destination without the need of public transport.
Now I have hitchhiked several times and little by little I am gaining experience and learning tricks to be more effective to reach the destination faster. The main factors that I take into account are:
- I try to hitchhike next to roads where the cars go slow enough so they can see me and they can have time to stop. It’s also important to be in an area where the cars have enough space to stop without bothering the other cars behind it.
- Having offline maps on the smart phone is very helpful, since I can see where I am and the different roads to get to the destination. There are various similar apps that can be downloaded for free and these can be really useful when hitchhiking or traveling without internet.
- I usually take a clear sign with me, writing big and visible letters, preferably on cardboard or in a bigger surface than just a piece of paper, so the drivers can see easily where I’m going.
- I also keep a positive attitude and smile. I try to put myself in the place of the driver and think how I could behave and show myself in order to have more options to be picked up.
That’s a good base to start from. Little by little you can adapt to what you think it works the best for you, but these are the main factors that I found out so far to be able to have a successful ride. There are also other mental factors, like having the patience and endurance to be able to wait for long periods of time, bearing different kinds of weather, getting lost from time to time, etc.
One of the main challenges that I had to overcome when hitchhiking is that, to do it properly, you need to put yourself in a really visible place where the drivers can see you, and some people may look at you in strange ways, since they may not be used to seeing hitchhikers every day. I am a person who tries to blend in as much as possible and I don’t particularly enjoy being on the spotlight, and this is exactly where you have to be if you want to get a ride: to be at the centre of attention. Because of this reason, it could be said that hitchhiking is a particular personal development for me, since I’m faced directly with the fear of what other people may think of me when I do something uncommon like that. It’s a good opportunity for me to learn to feel comfortable in a situation where, if I feel it’s the right thing to do, to go for it, even if it means behaving differently or standing out from the rest.
To conclude, hitchhiking opened my mind a little more, and I’ve dropped the barrier that said that it was dangerous and not worth the risk. Now, I’ve learned that hitchhiking is a good option to travel around and from now on it’s going to be a resource that I can use whenever needed. One of my general goals is to have the skills and resources to be able to face different unexpected situations, and experiences like this give me a boost towards this objective.