Gone are the 1960’s and 1970’s when hitchhiking was the norm. Instead many of us live in a climate of uncertainty, destruction and fear which makes picking up a stranger an oddity. Therefore, if you want to know how to hitchhike across the United States, you need to both mentally and physically prepare yourself for this inspirational and cost-effective journey. In case you have dreamed of hitchhiking but are unsure of how to do it, how to stay safe, where to begin, here are several tips to hitchhike smart.
Always smile as drivers pass and try to look them in the eye. However, not in a wired way, but in a friendly and personable way. Smile is important. Pretend that you are waiting a friend who is planning to pick you up. You really have only a 1 or 2 seconds to make a positive impression. If you look scared or nervous, you’ll attract the wrong type of people. Therefore, be confident.
Dress in bright or light clothes, because nobody wants to pick up a stinky, lazy-looking hobo. If you can, avoid wearing black. Since people need to see your eyes, don’t wear sunglasses. Don’t drink, smoke, or sit down on the side of the road. In addition, keep your hand out of your pockets. Most people pick up people who look similar to themselves.
People won’t stop for you if they cannot do it safely. Interstate on-ramps are excellent choice, since cars aren’t moving very fast and there is room to pull over. Other good locations include a stop sign and gas stations or intersections with stoplights. It is important that a driver can get a good look at you. You should also keep an eye for shady areas with protection from the sun.
You should always have enough water and food to last a day, since you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere. We recommend that you bring a few apples, bananas and tuna. A filtered water bottle will let you safely drink from ponds and rivers. Take a rain jacket, first aid kit, and warm clothes.
A simple cardboard sign helps a lot. You should keep it short and write in large capital letter. It should be readable at a distance from a fast-moving car. You should also choose destinations which are relatively close. You can then negotiate longer destinations inside the vehicle if the driver is going farther in the same direction.
You don’t have to get into every car that stops for you. How many people are in the car? Is the driver in a good mood? Are they sober? Are they looking you in the eyes? If you don’t feel comfortable, thank the driver and say no. If you have to you can make an excuse. For example, explain that you would rather wait for a longer ride. You should trust your gut instincts.
This is definitely a mental challenge, since you are putting yourself out there in public while at the same time engaging in an activity which is not considered mainstream. You will be judged by everyone who passes you. People will flip you off, honk, laugh, yell, or maybe even throw things.
Don’t make yourself an easy target, because predators prey on insecurity and weakness. Make it perfectly clear that you are only interested in getting to your destination, and nothing else. Keep your valuables near or on your body in case you must escape quickly. Avoid putting your bag in the trunk, so the driver can’t take off before you can grab it. Find a moment to call a friend once inside the car. Tell them where you are and where you are headed so the driver can hear you doing it.
It might take several hours before someone picks you up. You must be prepared to wait on one spot for at least several hours. You just never know how long it’ll take.
You probably won’t need to use it, but packing a weapon of some kind in order to help with self-defense is a good idea. For example, you can bring pepper spray.
Hitchhiking has become more rare over the years. Many irrational fears about hitchhiking are brought on by horror stories promoted by the news and then turned into movies. However, we think that you can have wonderful time and meet great people if you decide for hitchhiking adventure. Make good preparations and hit the road.