Advice for First Time Hitchhikers (and in a foreign country!)

October 11, 2018


Hello friends! If you follow me on insta, you may have noticed I went on a bit of an adventure over the summer! My boyfriend Leon and I went travelling for 4 weeks, which consisted in booking a coach to Paris then making the rest up as we went along. We travelled mostly by hitchhiking, I thought I'd share some of my top tips from the experience. 
Hitchhiking is a super eco friendly way to travel, you meet amazing people and you have an adventure, so what are you waiting for? It can be hard, and sometimes you might get a bit lost, but it's worth it! That being said, every time we thought we were 'lost' we actually had a brilliant experience somewhere we wouldn't have travelled to otherwise. The main thing is to remember is to have fun, and you can't go too far wrong!
Want to try? Here are my top five snippets of advice before you go!

1. Do not expect a lift
Let's start with the hardest pill to swallow shall we? This one took me a lot of time to get my head around, I was doing everything right- eye contact, smiling, the sign, the thumb up. After all you know you're a nice person to pick up, why shouldn't they? Well, a lot of people don't pick up hitchhikers. From discussions with people since my travels, many still think hitching or giving lifts can be dangerous. It takes one news article to get people wary, so don't expect everyone to stop. Also, many people are just in  hurry, or going in the wrong direction- don't take it to heart. The most important thing to remember is the right person will stop, and you don't need loads of people, just the one person going your direction! 
2. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.
Your face will ache. Your arm will ache. But you've got to do these things! No one wants to pick up a miserable person, plus a smile makes you look instantly friendlier, making you more likely to bag a lift. As we were hitchhiking as a pair, one of us put up our thumb, and the other waved, as this engages the people driving. Normally you'll get some kind of response: smile, wave, sorry, point to a different direction, beep etc. If nothing else, you're boosting someone else's day by showing you're having a laugh with them!

3. Download Maps.Me, right now. 
This app was amazing and so useful when we were hitchhiking and walking. You can download the map for offline mode, so it works even when there's no signal. We found it much more accurate than Google Maps, and it helps big time when showing drivers where you want to travel to. You can also keep a check where you are once you are in the car and make sure there's no confusion! Google Translate was also a great app, so we downloaded French when we had internet. This meant we could type in what to say and have conversations with the driver quite easily! Learning the basics by heart, and showing a willingness to try more complex conversations, really helps you and the driver get the most out of the experience. Remember it's not just a free lift, it's a cultural exchange and a chance to make a new friend!
4. Have plenty of food and water
Hitchhiking days are loooonnnnnnggggg. Often there's service stations and shops around, but sometimes there aren't. So our first day of hitchhiking that didn't go to plan, we got also got dropped on the edge of a motorway, on an island on a dual carriageway. This meant we had to hike about 4km back to where we started from the edge of the city, carrying 10 kilos each. We had a bag of cereal luckily as there weren't any shops on the route. In the city, we asked in a few corner shops for any food they were going to throw out, and we got given burgers, cheeses, tomatoes etc. This is a great money saving tip, and it also reduces food waste! But yes, make sure you have lots of snacks, and it'll save the grumpiness and hunger when you've been on the road for a few hours ;)

5. Eye contact!
Similar to smile and wave, this helps you connect with people driving past. If you're busy looking at your feet, why are they going to care enough to pick you up? It also helps not to cover your face, so remove sunglasses and caps if you can! Eye contact shows interest, and will help people react more. It's just a really simple way of basically reminding people you're a person too, and you're interested to meet them!

So those are my top tips hitchhiking, written from my experience of hitchhiking for the first time. We travelled over 1,200 km by hitchhiking, caught about 25 different lifts and went from Tours, France to Girona, Spain. We met so many amazing people on the way, and used Couchsurfing to stay with locals. 
A special thank you to Julien in Tours for inspiring us to hitchhike, and for the advice that helped us a lot! You can follow his travels on www.SerialHikers.com.

Have you tried hitchhiking before? Will you give it a go?
Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear about your travels and thoughts.

Emma xo



   
  

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