I’m sure we’ve all been warned by someone that hitchhiking is unsafe. The majority of people don’t feel comfortable sticking their thumb out on the side of a highway, or picking up someone they spot hitchhiking.
Personally, I think it’s ridiculous. As someone who has traveled over 20,000 kms using hitchhiking alone, and made tons of friends doing it, I have to say hitchhiking is my favourite method of transportation. Not to mention its totally free.
Now I’m not saying go outside and jump in the first car that pulls over, and I’m not saying that you’ll never experience an uncomfortable situation while hitchhiking either. I’m just saying that it’s not as dangerous as people seem to think it is, but it IS a heck of a lot more fun.
In hopes of getting more people out hitchhiking and more drivers out picking up hitchhikers (and in turn making it safer for everyone involved) I’ve compiled a list of rules that I like to follow in order to keep myself out of sketchy situations. Hopefully they can help you too.
#1. Have a plan in case anything goes sour
I was 17 years old when I started traveling, and not only that but I mostly travel alone (although I did get a pup in Virginia when I was 18!). Being a young woman, I needed to learn how to protect myself. I’d love to say I took a fighting class or something, but I am waaay lazier. Taking care of myself while traveling looked like this: I carried a cellphone… mostly. Even if the bill was not paid, you can still dial 911 for free. So hang onto it (and try to remember to charge it!!).
When I first started traveling, a friend also suggested this: Before you get into a car, take a photo of it, and the license plate. Send it to someone you trust, upload it to social media, whatever. Don’t be afraid to let the driver know, “I’ve taken a photo of your car and license plate, I message _____ when I arrive safely at my next stop, and if they don’t hear from me, they will know that yours is the last car I entered.”
This should be enough that any perverts or murdery people will drop any creepy or murdery plans for you!
#2 Have an exit strategy
If you feel unsafe at any point, you might have a hard time coming up with a reason to leave the situation without arousing suspicion, or offending someone.
My go to line is this – Oh *whatever town we’re passing* I have a good friend that lives here! I should stop and visit with them. I’m going to get out at this exit, I don’t mind walking down the highway if you don’t have time to take the off ramp.
#3 Don’t be afraid to try and intimidate them
Don’t threaten them or anything, that will really only make things worse. Just some friendly talk about how you’re embarrassed for being a girl and being so strong, or how you keep ‘accidentally’ hurting people.
One thing I like to do is casually bring up my martial arts history (which I like to think makes me sound tough, although I can’t confirm that), and also my history working on a farm, which I also think makes me sound strong! I like to embellish these stories (or flat out lie to them if I’m super uncomfortable).
“… anyway, I was kicked out of martial arts for hitting someone else so hard that I actually fractured their scull in three places. That’s sort of why I’m traveling. I didn’t mean to hurt him, I just thought he could handle it, he was a pretty big dude. I felt really bad when I went to visit him in hospital a couple weeks after the incident…” (not true but like whooaa not gonna mess with this girl, right?)