Since I no longer have my rental car, I’ve been getting to the breaks the way anyone would: thumbing it.
Because I’m hitchhiking with a 7’2 surfboard, I’d assumed there wasn’t room in a semi for me and my gear – I haven’t even been sticking my thumb out when trucks pass by.
But yesterday, for whatever reason, I did – and the very first guy stopped. Great!
It turned there was plenty of room in the cab for my board, which suddenly didn’t seem so big.
He spoke no English, and I don’t speak much Spanish, so we couldn’t really say much more than, “Hi, thank you, where are you from, wow isn’t it hot outside!” He asked me a question about whether I surf in a bikini or board shorts (I can understand a bit more than I can say), and before long, we were at the point.
Pointing, I told him, “Here -- err, aqui. La punta es aqui.”
And he looked at me and said, “No.”
It was a chilling moment, to say the least. I’m sure it didn’t last more than two seconds – but for those seconds, I was seriously considering the best way to escape this situation. I knew I could do it – but I might not get to keep my board...
But then the guy said something else. I couldn’t really understand him, but it sounded like he was saying he couldn’t stop right there, because it was a blind turn, but he would stop in a few more meters.
What a relief!
So that’s the story. Ten (or more?) years of hitchhiking, and that’s the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I was scared for about two seconds over a misunderstanding.
But it wasn’t enough to stop me from hitchhiking home that night (after dark), or again the very next morning. Here’s why:
Most people are not rapists and murderers.
Most people are good people. (Even Trump supporters.)
And, in my experience, there are only a few kinds of people who pick up hitchhikers:
1.Traveler/free spirit types
People like me pick up hitchhikers. People who want to meet new people, help out a fellow traveler, pay it forward, etc. Maybe even people who want a passanger to chip in for gas (on a long ride, that is always appreciated).
When I was in Chile, I rented a big pickup for a week. It was expensive, but it seemed like one of the only good ways to get around one of the most remote parts of the country.
Knowing how difficult it was to get around, I picked up pretty much every hitchhiker I saw. Which, admittedly, was only about four or five.
I did, however, pass by two American-looking travelers in the middle of nowhere, and they totally deserved it. It was a guy and a girl, standing on the side of a very quiet road together. As soon as they saw me coming, the guy ran back and hid behind a tree.
Clearly they thought they would have more luck hitchhiking if drivers thought it was just the girl, rather than the girl and the guy, together.
My response? Screw them! If they can’t be honest with me, I don’t want them in my car. Good luck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Hope it doesn’t rain on you.
It actually made me mad that their goal was to manipulate people into doing something they were potentially uncomfortable with. It made me mad that their dishonesty was degrading the trust that is mutually required for hitchhiking to work.
Some people are just nice and don’t mind helping out.
I’ve had a couple of dads pick me up and tell me a version of, “I don’t normally pick up hitchhikers, but I have kids now, and I know how much I worry about them, and I would rather I pick you up than someone else.”
Where it’s legal, truckers are generally pretty receptive to picking up hitchhikers. Some have told me they enjoy the company, some have said they enjoy the female company (“I wouldn’t have picked you up if you were a bloke,” I was told once in Australia – see also: Advantages of traveling while female.)
It makes sense, right? They’re generally driving six, seven, eight or more hours per day. Alone. It’s nice to mix it up a bit.
Some truckers are a little… strange. But none I’ve ever encountered have been anything but sincere.
5. People who think you’re pretty
I’ve had a few people pick me up, take me where I’m going, and then ask for my number – “in case I want someone to show me around town.” Again, no one’s ever been any more forward than that with me. I’ve never taken anyone up on their offer, usually more due to logistics than anything else.
Although it can sometimes be uncomfortable to get hit on, I don’t find it particularly threatening for someone to ask for my number or email when they drop me off. Worst case, I just say no. See also: A Pretty Girl Answers the Age-Old Question: Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Being Hit On All The Time?
I could be missing a few, but those are the ones who come to mind.
Obviously the number one most important rule of hitchhiking is to never be afraid of “being rude.” As I wrote in Here’s Proof That Women Are Trained to Be “Nice” – Even When Their Life Is In Danger,
"If you are a woman who struggles to say no, reframe the way you think about "rudeness." It's not rude for you to say no. But it's extremely rude for people to keep asking after you've said no. It's not rude for you to say, "STOP touching me!" It's rude for people to touch you without your consent. It's not rude to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation -- it's rude for people to put you in uncomfortable situations."
That’s the problem some people have with hitchhiking. They have a hard time imagining what they would do if they put their thumb out and then got a really bad vibe from the driver who pulled over.
What I would do… is just tell them. You can cushion it with a half-truth, or you can just say, “No, thanks.” But you should know what you’re going to say ahead of time, so you don’t get caught off-guard. Maybe something like,
“You know, I changed my mind. I think I am close enough to walk.”
“Sorry – I thought you were someone else!”
Or whatever you’re comfortable with.
If things get weird, you have to be willing to Be Rude. You have to be willing to assert your boundaries, scream, yell, punch, stab…. whatever you need to do.
But honestly, that isn’t going to happen. You’re more likely to be raped or murdered by an acquaintance, friend, or dude you met at a party than someone who picked you up while hitchhiking.
Because, yeah. I had my scary two seconds. But that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in ten years of doing this – and in the meantime, I’ve made a lot of friends and saved a lot of money (and fuel emissions) through hitchhiking.