Zen and the Time-Honored Art of Hitchhiking
The thumb. It’s the symbol of human ingenuity and adventure; a digit worth its weight in bus fare. The hitchhiker is an icon as quintessentially American as Bruce Springsteen and the quarter-pounder. As hikers hitching to and from the trailhead, we are the current practitioners of an art form as old as the roads we stand beside, a legacy that stretches back to our folksy roots. Thumbing for a ride is bold, dignified, spiritual, and it’s a helluva good time. Here’s some food for thought to go, for the next time you find yourself on the road.
The Waiting Game Is the Game
This is where you are, this is what you’re doing. Own it. The road is hot, bleak, and boring, but you’re in the game. Instant gratification makes a person dull. You’re not dull, you’re a hitchhiker, and hitchhiking is a beautiful experience. The waiting is what makes it beautiful.
No One Owes You Anything
It is no ones responsibility to stop by the side of the road and give you and your stanky pack a lift. But someone will.
Hitch with Intention
Humans are incredibly adept at picking up body signals and facial cues. A lot can be communicated in a single second. If your head’s in the wrong place, it will be known. Stand tall with your thumb out and proud, smile, make eye contact–make the connection.
Trust Your Gut
You are under no obligation to get into a car if you don’t feel right about it. Just like drivers read us, we read them. Hitchhiking is about the relationship. It’s an act of vulnerability and trust, but that doesn’t mean you have to let your guard down. If anything, the experience should hone your vigilance.
Men, Don’t Complain About Women Getting Easier Rides
It’s crass, it’s whiny, and it ignores the bigger picture. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to claim that most women would give up any advantage they have in the hitching game if it also meant lowering the likelihood of sexual harassment. In the hitchhiking world, as in most of life’s arenas, men are privileged.
Every Ride Is a Miracle
That’s what we do in this business. We wait for miracles. Remember that the next time the blinker goes on and the car veers onto the roadside. You are experiencing something special. And on that note…
Someone is helping you because they want to. Make your thanks known. You’re an ambassador of the road, and your attitude affects the entire hitchhiking community.
We Are the Vanguard
How fortunate are we, to be on this journey, standing on the thumbs of all those great wanderers who came before us. It is an honor, one we should not dismiss as a mere hassle of trail towns. So hitch, hitch well, hitch with pride, and keep on keeping on.
Oh, and one last thing to remember, as you’re watching those cars whiz past, the age old adage: The best thing about hitchhiking is that all the assholes drive on by.
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I saw and heard of many amazing hitchhiking signs while on my thru hike of the AT. Some of the best include: “I will not kill you.” “WWJD” “Will buy you beer” “B double E double R – U – N” “Not a serial killer” “Be my trail angel”