To be free as a bird: (not only) beginner´s guide to hitchhiking


“No one will stop for you here!” or “Why you don’t go by bus, it is not such expensive!” are only some of several reactions while you are hitchhiking. Although the fact, that this type of travelling is for free, hitchhiking is not only about saving money. It´s a lifestyle, it´s an adventure and above all, it´s highly addictive.

Talking from my own experience – once you find enough courage to try it, you would most probably realize how easy and amazing hitchhiking is and your first hitchhiking trip won´t be the last one. Combining with camping, or being hosted by couchsurfers or locals, you can experience amazing, adventurous and very low budget trip.

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My friend Tereza hitchhiking in Albania, during our Czech Republic-Istanbul hitchhiking trip.

Hitchhiking, as well as any other way of travelling, has its own advantages and disadvantages. While for me all the possible complications are more like a challenge, for some people it could be reason to choose other type of transportation.

If you are hitchhiking, be prepared that you will not follow your itinerary. Of course, it is good to make a plan of cities and places you want to visit, to have a general idea of your journey, but at the same time you have to be prepared to change it. Not only because locals can recommend you better, not so touristic and more authentic places to see, but it can also happen that due to language barrier you will end up in completely different place or some places can be difficult to reach by hitchhiking so you would have to skip them. Especially when you are travelling out of main roads and main touristic destinations, you can quite often encounter closed roads due to weather conditions or simply no many cars going that directions. So hitchhiking is not the best type of travelling for those, who need to always know what is next and strictly follow the plan.

Another thing which you should consider while deciding if to hitchhike is time. Sometimes is hitchhiking very easy and even quicker than bus. But be prepared for waiting as well. I have experience that in Central Europe to stop a car is bit more difficult than for example in Balkans or South Caucasus. If you are girl or girls, you will probably stop the car quicker than if you are boy/boys. Depending on quality of roads and difficulties of terrain – of course it is very different if you are on a new German highway or on tiny road in Caucasus Mountains – but in general my experience is, that most probably it is not possible to make more than 600 km per day.

One of the biggest advantage of hitchhiking, next to the fact that it is free, is amazing connection with locals. On my journeys, I stopped doctors, officers, diplomats, other travelers, people delivering fruits and vegetable, truck drivers, … And if you and these drivers are speaking common language, you will be enriched in the way no tourist agency could provide you. Be open, be curious and you will see, how people are glad that you are interested in their country, their region, their culture and their opinions on all of this. Very often people will be asking you about your country as well, so it is also good to be prepared for that: I experienced questions about unemployment, economics or average salary in my home country, by which people are trying to compare it with the situation in their own country. Another necessity is to prepare short list of basic phrases in the official language of the country you are travelling in. Phrases such as “hello”, “are you going to city…”, “can you take me to…”, “stop”, “thank you”, etc. will not only make the communication with drivers easier, but just to say “hello” in local language is really magic word, opening doors and hearts. You will see how much this small word can do, showing locals that you are really interested in their country and culture. Don´t be shy when people will be inviting you for a dinner or to visit their home. The connection with locals is the best way how to really explore the culture and also remember that for them you, crazy nomad traveler, could be as exotic as they are for you!

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.25 AM

Maria and Talvike on the traditional Turkish/Kurdish dinner, to which we were invited during our hitchhiking journey through eastern Turkey.

Decided to hitchhike and ready for the adventure? Here are the things you should not forget. Map or smart phone with navigation is the must. Although I have experience in travelling without map and it is possible, still is better and more comfortable to have some. Very useful is web page hitchwiki.org, full of hitchhiking recommendation and also for example tips for the best hitchhiking spots in the particular cities. Also plan where you will be sleeping, if take a tent and camp during your journey, or use couchsurfing.com or some other web on which you can search for hosts providing you with place to sleep for free. And again, don´t be shy when local people will invite you to sleep in their house!

Important topic connected with hitchhiking is safety. Although the probability that you would meet a psychopath who would really harm you is very low, you never know and for your own good feeling and enjoying the travelling is good to follow some recommendations. The rule number one is to be always prepare to leave immediately. Which means for example, that apart the big bag with your clothes and other stuff, you should have small bag with the most important things (passport, money, mobile, water) always with you and should never put it away. To leave the big bag with clothes in the car is not such big trouble as if you would leave there phone or passport. You should also have the list of emergency numbers with you, or the best – learn them by heart: emergency numbers (police, ambulance), number to your embassy in the country and your emergency contact in your home country.

To be a girl on journey could be sometimes tough. If you are girl and planning to travel to countries with very traditional gender roles, I recommend you to go in pair with a boy. Even in more liberal countries be prepared that this society is still patriarchal and girls travelling without boys are sometimes perceived as easy target. You will often encounter personal questions as if you have a boyfriend or if you are married, etc. Even if you are single, it is better to say that you are not – it will clearly say, that you are not “on the market”. Not very often, but I also experienced more uncomfortable situations than just very personal questions. Offering sex and touching is very scary, but I still believe that communication is the key and it is also the solution of these situations. When something like this is happening, keep calm and first try to talk. Resolutely say to person that this is not good, that you are not feeling comfortable, that he cannot touch you, etc. My experience is, that this usually work. If not, be harsher: say to driver to stop the car immediately or you are calling a police. For your good feeling girls, I recommend you to have a pepper spray with you. And the last safety tips: don´t hitchhike when it is dark and also choose wisely your clothes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.32 AM

To travel with trucks is very comfortable, but at the same time sometimes very slow, because trucks have limited speed.

My biggest recommendation while hitchhiking is: take it easy, be positive and open-minded! If cars are not stopping, just enjoy the view and surroundings or relax and take a rest. To leave the comfort zone could be very demanding so pay attention to your state of mind, try to perceive things positively and with a smile on your face. So well-known quote – journey is the destination – applies especially when hitchhiking.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.38 AM

Me, hitchhiking in eastern Turkey, with amazing view on biblical mountain Ararat in the background.

Eva Michálková

To be free as a bird: (not only) beginner´s guide to hitchhikinghttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-15-at-5.12.05-PM-665x500.pnghttp://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-15-at-5.12.05-PM-150x113.png admin CultureSliderTraveling
“No one will stop for you here!” or “Why you don’t go by bus, it is not such expensive!” are only some of several reactions while you are hitchhiking. Although the fact, that this type of travelling is for free, hitchhiking is not only about saving money. It´s a...
<p class="p1">“No one will stop for you here!” or “Why you don’t go by bus, it is not such expensive!” are only some of several reactions while you are hitchhiking. Although the fact, that this type of travelling is for free, hitchhiking is not only about saving money. It´s a lifestyle, it´s an adventure and above all, it´s highly addictive.</p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Talking from my own experience – once you find enough courage to try it, you would most probably realize how easy and amazing hitchhiking is and your first hitchhiking trip won´t be the last one. Combining with camping, or being hosted by couchsurfers or locals, you can experience amazing, adventurous and very low budget trip.</span></p> <p class="p5"><a href="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.18-AM.png"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-101" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.18-AM.png" alt="Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.18 AM" width="575" height="435" /></a></p> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">My friend Tereza hitchhiking in Albania, during our Czech Republic-Istanbul hitchhiking trip.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Hitchhiking, as well as any other way of travelling, has its own advantages and disadvantages. While for me all the possible complications are more like a challenge, for some people it could be reason to choose other type of transportation.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">If you are hitchhiking, be prepared that you will not follow your itinerary. Of course, it is good to make a plan of cities and places you want to visit, to have a general idea of your journey, but at the same time you have to be prepared to change it. Not only because locals can recommend you better, not so touristic and more authentic places to see, but it can also happen that due to language barrier you will end up in completely different place or some places can be difficult to reach by hitchhiking so you would have to skip them. Especially when you are travelling out of main roads and main touristic destinations, you can quite often encounter closed roads due to weather conditions or simply no many cars going that directions. So hitchhiking is not the best type of travelling for those, who need to always know what is next and strictly follow the plan.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Another thing which you should consider while deciding if to hitchhike is time. Sometimes is hitchhiking very easy and even quicker than bus. But be prepared for waiting as well. I have experience that in Central Europe to stop a car is bit more difficult than for example in Balkans or South Caucasus. If you are girl or girls, you will probably stop the car quicker than if you are boy/boys. Depending on quality of roads and difficulties of terrain - of course it is very different if you are on a new German highway or on tiny road in Caucasus Mountains - but in general my experience is, that most probably it is not possible to make more than 600 km per day.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">One of the biggest advantage of hitchhiking, next to the fact that it is free, is amazing connection with locals. On my journeys, I stopped doctors, officers, diplomats, other travelers, people delivering fruits and vegetable, truck drivers, … And if you and these drivers are speaking common language, you will be enriched in the way no tourist agency could provide you. Be open, be curious and you will see, how people are glad that you are interested in their country, their region, their culture and their opinions on all of this. Very often people will be asking you about your country as well, so it is also good to be prepared for that: I experienced questions about unemployment, economics or average salary in my home country, by which people are trying to compare it with the situation in their own country. Another necessity is to prepare short list of basic phrases in the official language of the country you are travelling in. Phrases such as “hello”, “are you going to city…”, “can you take me to…”, “stop”, “thank you”, etc. will not only make the communication with drivers easier, but just to say “hello” in local language is really magic word, opening doors and hearts. You will see how much this small word can do, showing locals that you are really interested in their country and culture. Don´t be shy when people will be inviting you for a dinner or to visit their home. The connection with locals is the best way how to really explore the culture and also remember that for them you, crazy nomad traveler, could be as exotic as they are for you!</span></p> <p class="p5"><a href="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.25-AM.png"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-103" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.25-AM.png" alt="Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.25 AM" width="564" height="426" /></a></p> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">Maria and Talvike on the traditional Turkish/Kurdish dinner, to which we were invited during our hitchhiking journey through eastern Turkey.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Decided to hitchhike and ready for the adventure? Here are the things you should not forget. Map or smart phone with navigation is the must. Although I have experience in travelling without map and it is possible, still is better and more comfortable to have some. Very useful is web page hitchwiki.org, full of hitchhiking recommendation and also for example tips for the best hitchhiking spots in the particular cities. Also plan where you will be sleeping, if take a tent and camp during your journey, or use couchsurfing.com or some other web on which you can search for hosts providing you with place to sleep for free. And again, don´t be shy when local people will invite you to sleep in their house! </span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Important topic connected with hitchhiking is safety. Although the probability that you would meet a psychopath who would really harm you is very low, you never know and for your own good feeling and enjoying the travelling is good to follow some recommendations. The rule number one is to be always prepare to leave immediately. Which means for example, that apart the big bag with your clothes and other stuff, you should have small bag with the most important things (passport, money, mobile, water) always with you and should never put it away. To leave the big bag with clothes in the car is not such big trouble as if you would leave there phone or passport. You should also have the list of emergency numbers with you, or the best – learn them by heart: emergency numbers (police, ambulance), number to your embassy in the country and your emergency contact in your home country.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">To be a girl on journey could be sometimes tough. If you are girl and planning to travel to countries with very traditional gender roles, I recommend you to go in pair with a boy. Even in more liberal countries be prepared that this society is still patriarchal and girls travelling without boys are sometimes perceived as easy target. You will often encounter personal questions as if you have a boyfriend or if you are married, etc. Even if you are single, it is better to say that you are not – it will clearly say, that you are not “on the market”. Not very often, but I also experienced more uncomfortable situations than just very personal questions. Offering sex and touching is very scary, but I still believe that communication is the key and it is also the solution of these situations. When something like this is happening, keep calm and first try to talk. Resolutely say to person that this is not good, that you are not feeling comfortable, that he cannot touch you, etc. My experience is, that this usually work. If not, be harsher: say to driver to stop the car immediately or you are calling a police. For your good feeling girls, I recommend you to have a pepper spray with you. And the last safety tips: don´t hitchhike when it is dark and also choose wisely your clothes.</span></p> <p class="p5"><a href="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.32-AM.png"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-100" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.32-AM.png" alt="Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.32 AM" width="572" height="434" /></a></p> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">To travel with trucks is very comfortable, but at the same time sometimes very slow, because trucks have limited speed.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">My biggest recommendation while hitchhiking is: take it easy, be positive and open-minded! If cars are not stopping, just enjoy the view and surroundings or relax and take a rest. To leave the comfort zone could be very demanding so pay attention to your state of mind, try to perceive things positively and with a smile on your face. So well-known quote - journey is the destination – applies especially when hitchhiking.</span></p> <p class="p5"><a href="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.38-AM.png"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-102" src="http://recmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-1.15.38-AM.png" alt="Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 1.15.38 AM" width="567" height="412" /></a></p> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">Me, hitchhiking in eastern Turkey, with amazing view on biblical mountain Ararat in the background.</span></p> <p class="p5"><em><b>Eva Michálková</b></em></p>
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