Travelling the Hitch-hiking way can be an intimidating experience. You don’t know who will hitch you, and what experiences will the road lead you to. But the very uncertainty of this style of travel, makes it all count in the end. For all of you who are looking for an unplanned, unknown and in the moment journey for your next adventure – Try hitchhiking Amruta’s way! Our very new and eccentric contributor, who is here to share a few pages from her recent hitchhiking diary entry…
“You guys are crazy!” is what I heard a lot when recently, I hitchhiked from Sheffield to Bucharest with 2 friends. Why did I do this? For the Bummit charity Hitchhike event 2015. As exciting as it may sound, hitchhiking can get quite stressful. It has its highs – you are at a new place every day, you get to know strangers, meet people and if you are lucky you may even be invited over to some ones place for a local home-stay. And all this doesn’t require any money. Now, who wouldn’t love a free holiday?
On a more realistic note, you start the day walking from your hostel to your hitching spot, spend a good amount of time thumbing a ride and you end the day thinking what if you do not have shelter for the night. This unpredictability made the entire experience worthwhile for me.
Since we had a set destination to get to within a specific time frame, the entire trip became a race in itself. We were always out there, asking anyone and everyone for a lift to the next possible stop. We thought if we rested even for a minute, we might miss a lucky hitch.
I remember that one evening, in a service station just outside of Salzburg (on the border of Austria and Germany), that changed the entire scene for us. We had had a tiff and were dejected as we had no shelter for the night. Luckily, we bumped into a really nice lady who offered us a lift into the city. Our broken conversation involved some Austrian-German and a lot of hand gestures. When we got to the city, we decided to head to the train station hoping to get a free train to anywhere eastwards. We needed to get to Bratislava within 30 hours as it was the halfway point for the trip. Since we were doing it for charity and had proper documents to prove the authenticity of it, it wasn’t difficult blagging a train to Vienna and then one to Bratislava. At 7 pm we stood there in Salzburg not knowing what to do next and by 2 am we had made it to Bratislava, a good 700 km away!
I have been asked what my most interesting experience was. And this one that I am going to share with you now, bags the first spot. Long story short: I managed to get me and my team mates stalked! We were on our way to Szeged from Budapest and had managed to find a really good hitching spot. A few cars had pulled up but unfortunately they did not have enough space for three people. On the overhead pedestrian crossing bridge, we saw this lady watching us from a distance. I was curious as to why she was so fascinated by what we were doing and decided to talk to her. My team mates advised me not to as they did not have a good feeling about it, but she seemed harmless to me. I tried to make a casual conversation and she politely answered all my questions but made no effort to keep the conversation going. We continued our thumbing for about three hours after that and she still stood there, watching us.
We finally gave up and crossed over to the other side of the road to get a bus back to the city. She followed us for a good half an hour all the way to the metro station. Not lying, I have been followed before, but not with such dedication! She did not seem scary but my team mates were stressing out so I decided to ask her if she was following us. Surprisingly, she smiled at me and said, “I know everything about you and what you are doing. I can take you over to my place if you want a place for the night.” This statement genuinely freaked me out. Hiding my feelings and trying to be as polite as I could manage, I asked her to stop following us. And she did. On our way out of the metro station , I kept turning around looking for her but she wasn’t there. She gave us a good reason to laugh for the rest of the journey to Bucharest.
Meeting people is just a small part of hitch hiking. All the effort lies in getting picked up for a ride. So, if you ever want to hitch it to a place, here are a few things I learned from my experience:
- Wear bright clothes so that you can be easily spotted.
- Make sure you are on the right side of the road and the cars are going in the direction you want to go in.
- Select a place such that you can be seen from quite a long distance and cars have a place to pull over.
- DO NOT hitch from motorways / highways/ autobahns (as they are called in different parts of the Europe). It is dangerous and you can even get arrested.
- Best places to get picked up are from slip roads (roads that lead up to the motorway) and petrol / service stations. It is easier to hitch from one service station to another service station. Lots of people stop over here and it is easy to talk to and convince people. Also, many service stations are open 24 hours and may let you crash indoors for the night. Downside – you don’t get to visit the cities.
- A map that shows services and rest stops would be a good investment.
- The Hitchwiki website comes in very handy, though some information may be outdated.
- If you are doing a long distance hitchhike, white board and markers are more convenient than cardboard boxes.
- If you are trying for free trains, make sure you talk to the conductor first. You could be fined 300 Euros for travelling on a train without a ticket. (Since we were doing it for charity, it was easier to blag trains. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone uses them.)
- Making eye contact with drivers makes you appear friendly.
- Trust your instincts. If you sense something uncomfortable, make an excuse. There is always a better hitch around the corner.
- Introducing yourself is a good way to start a conversation; and you can keep it going by asking them casual questions like about their work or if they travel / have hitchhiked before etc.
Hitchhiking in Europe is pretty common and trust me, you WILL be picked up. From personal experience, I say that Belgium is not very hitch hiker friendly. Germany, on the other hand, is very enjoyable.
Happy Hitchhiking! by Amruta Tendolkar : Born and brought up in India, she was suddenly set free when she moved to England in September 2013 for her University studies. Working towards a degree in Conservation Genetics, being outdoors has always been her passion. Travelling rough is her style because Amruta truly believes that adventure lies beyond your comfort zone.