Your Guide to Hitchhiking by Jada Lippincott

Your Guide to Hitchhiking by Jada Lippincott

Hitchhiking: It’s exciting, it’s cheap, it’s an easy way to get around, but it’s also illegal in some states and illegal on all of our major interstates here in the United States. Before I get into this guide, I feel as though I need to preface that I do not condone any illegal activity, nor am I telling you to go out and hitchhike. Have fun but be safe. Now, let’s begin. 

You may be asking yourself, ‘It’s 2023, why in the world would you be hitch-hiking?’ Well, people, including myself, do it for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re a cheapskate but they want to see the world, maybe they’re hiking across the country and need a ride into town, maybe they don’t have a vehicle and need to get from point to point, or maybe it’s about just taking a ride with strangers to restore faith in humanity. This guide will be aimed at those hitchhiking on a long-distance trail. Whatever reason you find yourself hitching for, there are a variety of things that you can do to not only increase your chances of getting a ride but also how keep yourself safe in situations your Grandma may not think is necessarily a good idea. 

This may seem so obvious, but a smile is the easiest way to make yourself seem less harmful. If you’re hitching in an area where the locals aren’t familiar with hitchhikers, they’re already going to be thrown off guard. If you’re hiking a trail that isn’t as well known, there is a good chance that locals aren’t aware of the trail either. The first thing you can do is hit them with a smile in hopes that it will be enough for the car to at least pull over. From experience, sometimes it even takes some dancing!

It’s all about where you’re standing, as the person that wants to get a ride. If you’re standing on the side of a busy highway, odds are that there is not going to be a good place for the car to stop. It’s all about simplicity. You want the picker-upper to be able to stop in a safe pull-out, away from traffic, where they don’t risk getting hit and neither do you. My advice would be to stand in an area of about 50 feet before a large pull-out area. This will give the car enough time to see you and your thumb, realize what’s going on, and then have time to pull over. 

There are lots of tiny towns scoured throughout our National Scenic Trail system and sometimes you find yourself in one but realize you may need to hitch to a larger town to pick up supplies, or maybe a package. This is where I would recommend making a sign to tell where you need to go. Locals passing through the small towns have probably heard of the larger ones that you need to get to, thus the picker-upper will have a better understanding of your needs. Now, what in the world would one make a sign out of? If you’re coming off the trail after a week, odds are that you don’t have a pizza box to write “TOWN NAME” on. I would recommend writing it on your groundsheet if you have nothing else. 

You’re a thru-hiker, use your gear to your advantage. What do I mean by this? Some folks have never seen a person hitchhiking and could be a little weary of our intentions and whatnot. Because of this, if I’m trying to get a ride somewhere where hitching isn’t very common, I will make sure I have all my gear visible. I’ll be wearing my backpack but most importantly, I’ll have my trekking poles in my hands. This visually shows that I am a walker, a hiker, a whatever! 

Regardless of how long you have been standing on the side of the road on the sunniest day, without a lick of shade, probably watching multiple cars speed right on past you, do not turn bitter or mean. Meaning, don’t yell or flip people off when they pass you. They are probably having a busy day and as hikers, we represent each other. One rude interaction could make that sweet soul not want to ever pick up anyone else. Also, as a hitchhiker, you cannot be in a rush, just take it how it comes, baby. Whenever that ride does come, be oh-so thankful. 

Safety measures are indeed things that have to be taken into consideration when you are doing something like hitchhiking. The second a car stops, and as I’m walking towards it, I snap a photo of the license plate. Maybe you send it right away or maybe you wait until you get in the car. This is just a quick and easy way to become traceable. I know for a fact that my family feels a little bit better when I do this. In terms of personal protection, I’m not going to tell you what to carry on trail and whatnot, but I’ll tell you what I do. I live in grizzly country and thus, I always carry bear spray on me. The top ingredient in bear spray is Capsaicin and that will put any animal or human on their behind. In all my hitching, on and off trail, I have never had an experience where I wished I had something that I did not.


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