I’ve always been warned never to hitch hike. Why? Because you’ll die.
At least, that’s the rhetoric in Australia, mostly due to the notorious murderer Ivan Milat who killed seven backpackers in the early 90s. For many years, Aussie parents have used this story to instil fear of ‘stranger danger’ into their children. Despite the obvious pitfalls of hitch hiking, it can also be a great way to meet new people and an easy way to get around. To hitch or not to hitch? Here are three experiences that may help shape your judgement on this question.
Ten years ago was the first time I took a ride home from a stranger. I had just reached the age where I was legally able to enter bars, and had danced one night away in the city. The problem with where I lived back then (Kings Langley, in Sydney’s Northwest) was that it took one hour by public transport to get near home. After which I had to wait in the middle of whoop whoop to get a taxi. That particular evening, no taxis came for what felt like an eternity. Probably because I looked about twelve, the police officer that drove by questioned what I was doing at the train station by myself in the wee hours. He ended up offering to take me home if I was still there after his next patrol round.
Kind, right? Due to Ivan Milat, I did wonder if he really was a police officer driving a police car, but he turned out to be a responsible citizen who also saved me about 15 precious bucks. So thank you, responsible officer!
MOROCCO TO SPAIN
The first time I really hitch hiked wasn’t so safe nor so virtuous. My friend Amber and I backpacked across Morocco and wanted to cross the seas to get to southern Spain. Our last stop in Morocco was Asilah, a beautiful white seaside town. From there we needed to travel about 30 km to the port of Tangiers to eventually catch a boat and make our way to Malaga in Spain. The day before we were supposed to leave Asilah we chanced upon two Spanish businessmen who were driving in that direction. They offered us a lift, and after weighing up the pro and cons, we accepted their offer. We figured catching an air-conditioned ride that only took 8 hours would be better than spending potentially 30 hours of travelling (which included transferring and expected delays) by hot, stinking, public transport.
The two businessmen were kind but they were also opportunistic. Towards the end of the journey they gave us two options: Plan A was to drop us off directly in Malaga, Plan B was to take it easy. They would treat us to a nice dinner and then we would check into a hotel room for the night. No doubt, Amber and I wouldn’t share a room. They weren’t that happy we chose Plan A, but they dropped us off with begrudged grace.
So, last night. Instead of waiting 25 minutes for the next bus, I started walking into the city centre with the hope that someone might pick me up. I should add that the chances of someone going in the right direction in Nuuk is high, since there are only three main roads in this city.
As posted on Facebook last night, I had to compete with an alcoholic for ‘territory’ first, but after acceding the space to the guy and finding my own begging place down the road, I stuck out my hand. Only a few cars drove by before someone stopped. It turned out that the friendly person who did slow down was the CEO of a company that is currently advertising an interesting role! It was so lovely to have a quick chat about Nuuk and put a face to a name. Professionally, it means that the chances of him remembering me if I contact him will be higher, which can only be good. One thing is certain, the chances of that happening in Sydney would be slim. I’m still marvelling at just how small this society is!
HITCHHIKING, WORTH IT?
I guess a good screen test would be, “Would my parents/partner like me to get into the car with that person?” If that answer is no, you’ll probably have to ask yourself why. 😉