< SWITCH ME >

3. Be Specific /  Be flexible

We thought we were being very clever by putting just the road name we wanted on the sign. Dan, one of our longest and best lifts, told us that this was foolish as most people did not know the roads they were going on, only the place where they were heading. So be specific! If you want to go to Munich, say in big letters MUNICH, and even if someone is only going half way (to go pick mushrooms in a local forest for example – yes this happened to us!) then that is better than nothing. And on this note, BE flexible – if you have a long distance goal, take the opportunity to travel to a place somewhere closer, or how about changing the destination all together? We wanted to go to Rødby, a port in Denmark, we got offered a lift to Gedser instead (much further east) changing the whole dynamic of our trip and making for some very interesting stories along the way.

hitchhiking1
Photo: Mathew Shearman
Tim, getting friendly with the bad conditions

4. Enjoy the little victories

Hitchhiking is hard.  Much like being a fighter pilot (I imagine...) it involves a lot of waiting around followed by a great adrenaline rush when you get the call to go. We were lucky, and we usually only had to wait between 1 – 1 ½ hours each time. But whilst you wait it is best to keep your morale as high as possible. If there are two of you, enjoy mocking the people who don't pick you up - for example - 'I wouldn't get in that car if you paid me! Did you see his acceleration around the corner?!' You will also notice that people apologetically wave at you a lot - so smile back! Happiness makes time travel faster. My personal favourite was to wave at a coach full of people, signalling in four separate actions - that if they were going my way - could they please tell the driver - to stop - and let me onto the bus... Clearly it was never going to work, but it made about 30 people and myself laugh every time!

5. Bad conditions are your friend

You are at a service station in the middle of nowhere. It's late, it's dark, and it's raining. Are you miserable? NO! Because bad conditions are your friend. If you consider the first advice again, that hitchhiking is mostly about making that small group of people who 'may' pick you up do so, then what could be better than horrible conditions to make them think twice about driving past you... But if it is dark, there's no use waiting by the side of the road and hoping for the best.  It would be much better to go near the entrance of the roadside café and ask people for help. Fortune favours the brave, and if moving on takes approaching everyone you meet, then so be it!

It's late, it's dark, and it's raining. Are you miserable? NO! Because bad conditions are your friend.

Hitchhiking is, quite obviously, a dangerous affair.  You're entrusting your life to someone else's driving and whilst they clearly do not want to kill themselves, their idea of 'safe' driving may be very different to your own. But that said, across the whole of Europe; in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany the people who picked us up were all fantastically interesting, great to talk to, and were genuinally kind people just trying to help. Whilst I wouldn't recommend making a whole holiday out of hitchhiking, the buzz you get when you finally are picked up is amazing - like achieving the impossible - and the stories we heard along the way made the waiting completely worthwhile.

Next page: Hitchhiking... The Game!

NEXT ISSUE
IN -1131 DAYS