I’ve been working on a book that digs up my old tales of being on the road, and as a consequence, I started listing tips for hitching rides that I’ve learned over the years. Here’s what I have so far:
- Don’t wear sunglasses. As Polly, the manager at the Winter Park hostel, told me the first time I hitched, “people need to see your eyes or they won’t pick you up.”
- Smile, though not like a lunatic, drunk or psychopath (a tricky feat after several weeks on the road).
- A small pack helps: too big a pack and people will think it’ll be a pain in the ass to stow it somewhere, and no pack seems like you are completely itinerant or a recent escapee from somewhere.
- Signs help. A sign with a town on it makes them feel that you have a destination, a purpose, rather than just being an aimless wanderer (which you are, knowing that “not all who wander are lost.”)
- Sometimes, a sign that simply says, “Please” works well.
- Make your signs neat, so you don’t seem like a lost village idiot. Use fat markers for thick, even letters. Bring several colors and a spiral bound sketch pad to make new signs for each leg of the trip. Get artistic. A fun and creative (but still readable) sign tells the driver you will be a fun and creative person to have with them for a while.
- Your thoughts are easily read by the people in passing cars. If you’re thinking, “Come on, you fucking prick, give me a dog-damn ride!” they never will. “If you’re thinking, “Hi! It sure would be nice to get a ride with you” they just might agree.
- When they do pick you up, your first job is to assure them that they didn’t make a mistake: you’re not a psycho or wack-a-do. Smile. Thank them. Try not to be too stinky; if you are, crack the window.
- Most people pick you up because a) they used to hitchhike and want to relive the adventure, b) they’re bored and either want to talk or want to listen. Pick up on the clues and either be a good listener, or be a good storyteller. People crave vicarious adventure; don’t let them down. But just as importantly, learn when to just shut up and enjoy the ride.
- If no one’s picking you up, sing. “Crossroads,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Big Joe & Phantom 309” are obvious choices, but don’t forget “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. If you belt out, “Come on people now, smile on your brother” with enough sincerity, they will.
Lovely list, Marc! If you have any stories that won’t make it for the book or haven’t been published on your blog before, we will gladly consider them as a guest post on HHH. let us know if you’re interested and merry Xmas!