When I hitchhike

by Karina Shevchuk

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

Lao Tzu

From time to time we all get tired of the same surroundings and daily routine; and some relaxation is essential to restore our mental and physical resources. So, travelling is the best way to do it.

Moreover, travel is like a university without walls. It is like knowledge. The more you see the more you know you haven't seen. When you travel you have an opportunity to meet different people, you can get to know their cultures and cuisines, see modern megalopolises and ancient towns. Travelling is considered to be a good way to broaden your outlook and form your own opinion about the world you live in. When travelling around the world you certainly feel new emotions which you can hardly experience at home; that is the main reason why they say that if you want to slacken cares it is better to travel.

There are a lot of means to travel. And one of them is a hitch-hiking. As all types of transportation, it has advantages and disadvantages. Some people consider hitch-hiking to be the best way of travelling. Others think that hitchhiking is dangerous.

First of all, I want to say that hitchhiking is one of the cheapest ways of traveling. Hitch-hikers travel by getting rides in other people's cars. When they want, they stand on the roadside and raise their hand or put out their thumbs. Most hitch-hikers also carry a sign with the name of the place they want to go to. But is it safe to travel in such a way?

Personally, I think that hitch-hiking is a unique opportunity to see different cities and countries. This way of travelling is for enthusiastic people who want to reduce their road expenses. If you want to travel but have no money, hitch-hiking is a single way out. Hitch-hiking will help you get where you want to go for nothing.

It's also a great feeling to get a ride after you've been waiting for a long time.

In addition, hitchhiking can be a good way to improve your conversation skills. Often drivers pick up hikers to have some conversation on an otherwise long and lonely trip. They tend to be very friendly. So, being a hitch-hiker, you can meet a lot of people and make lots of friends.

But nowadays hitch-hiking is less common than it used to be some years ago. There have been cases of hitch-hikers or the drivers who picked them up being attacked or killed. That is why people, especially young women, should avoid hitch-hiking alone. It is also necessary to be always friendly and polite with drivers in order to avoid conflicts. Hitch-hiking is a very popular method of travelling with young people. But it is not as popular in our country as abroad.

Remember, hitchhiking may be illegal in some areas or on certain types of roads. Enforcement of laws against hitchhiking may vary. Ask locals. It is usually a bad idea to hitchhike if an encounter with the police would create additional problems.

Besides, a lot of people say that hitchhiking is not for those who like comfort. You should also prepare for your trip beforehand. You should have a good idea of how to get where you are going and be informed about road conditions and weather forecast.
Sometimes you will have to walk. Be prepared to walk all day. It is not easy. Buy a map of the area, so you can determine whether a ride will actually bring you closer to your destination.

Make sure to carry enough food and drink if you're going for a long trip. Gas stations are usually a bit expensive for replenishing these supplies.

Take a big backpack. Bring a black marker, a hat, a flashlight, a pocketknife, sunscreen, etc. It is best to be prepared and these items do not weigh much.

Arrange sleeping places. For example a Hospitality exchange host such as “couch-surfing” or a youth hostel. If you cannot arrange a place, take a tent or a warm sleeping bag with you.

Wear bright clothing so that drivers can see you.

Some hitchhikers recommend taking a foldable bike (which can be stowed in a car's back seat) as back-up transportation.

Better yet, take a picture of the car as it approaches and send to a friend. Ask if the driver minds if you take their picture, too (explain your safety concern - it may also reassure them that you're safe). Using a digital system is good for safety as it provides a record of communication between driver and passenger should anything go wrong also.

As an alternative to waiting by the roadside, many websites allow users to try to pre-organise hitch hiking trips. Sites in different countries use different systems, but it is best to find a site which concentrates on long-distance and one-off trips rather than regular commutes.

To sum up, hitch-hiking is both exciting and dangerous. Anyway, if you have decided to hitchhike, you should consult other people and ask them to share their impressions.

Follow-up questions:

  1. Do you like travelling?
  2. Do you agree that travelling is an excellent way to restore our mental and physical resources?
  3. Can you imagine your life without travelling? What does it mean for you?
  4. What is a trip of your dream?
  5. How often do you travel?
  6. Have you ever been abroad?
  7. Which is better – hiking or hitchhiking?
  8. Would you like to be a hitchhiker?
  9. What should hitchhikers do if they want drivers to give them a lift?
  10. Will hitchhiking help you get where you want to go for nothing?
  11. Is hitchhiking a good way to reduce road expenses?
  12. What are advantages and disadvantages of hitchhiking?
  13. Can you improve your conversation skills when you are a hitchhiker?
  14. Is it easy and comfortable to travel in such way?
  15. What should you do to prepare for your trip beforehand?
  16. Is it necessary to be informed about road conditions and weather forecast?
  17. What do you think about a Hospitality exchange host?
  18. Is it a good idea to use a digital system for safety?
  19. Is hitchhiking popular in our country?
  20. Is hitchhiking exciting or dangerous for you?

Tense focused questions:

  1. What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘hitchhiking’?
  2. Have you ever hitched a ride?
  3. Is hitchhiking common in your country?
  4. What country would you like to hitchhike across?
  5. What is the best way to get a ride?
  6. What safety precautions should you take when hitchhiking?
  7. How safe or dangerous is hitchhiking in your country?
  8. Do you think hitchhiking is a fun way to travel around?
  9. Would you hitchhike home late at night if you missed the bus?
  10. Why do you think people like hitchhiking?
  11. Have you read any books or seen any movies about hitchhikers?
  12. Many people have a romantic image about hitchhiking. Why is this?
  13. Do you think you meet interesting people as a hitchhiker / driver who picks up hitchhikers?
  14. Are there different dangers to men picking up female hitchhikers and women picking up male hitchhikers?
  15. What would you talk about if you hitched a ride or picked up a hitchhiker?
  16. What kind of people would you not stop for if you saw them trying to thumb a ride?
  17. Have you ever picked up or would you ever pick up a hitchhiker?
  18. What kind of cars would you not get into if you were hitchhiking?
  19. Should hitchhiking be made illegal?
  20. Have you ever heard about websites which allow users to try to pre-organise hitchhiking trip?

Descriptive ideas

  1. What is a trip of your dream like? Describe it in detail.
  2. You are going to hitchhike. How will you prepare for your trip? What will you take with you? How will you arrange your sleeping place? Describe all the details.
  3. What would you talk about if you hitched a ride or picked up a hitchhiker?

Role plays

Quandary. You have agreed on the low price to spend the night in one’shouse. But when you have arrived to place of destination, you have found that there is no one. It is night and you don’t have enough money to rent a room in a hotel. What are you going to do?

Conflicting. You have stopped a car on road where hitchhiking is illegal, but you weren’t informed about it. A policeman caught you off guard and intended to fine you. You begin to contradict him and a policeman decides to take you into custody. What will you do?

Controversial ideas

  1. Hitch-hiking is both exciting and dangerous.
  2. Hitch-hiking is very popular method of travelling with young people. But it is not as popular in our country as abroad.
  3. To pick up a hitchhiker – is it honourableor dangerous?
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