1. The World is Not Such a Scary Place.
Every day, bad things happen in all corners of the world. However, in four separate hitchhiking trips (two of which were the length of Europe), nothing happened to me: no rape, no axe murderers, no robbery, nothing. While these tragic things do happen, don’t let the fear of them prevent you from doing ANYTHING. Everything is a calculated risk, a balance between the potential bad and the enjoyment and fulfillment you could experience.
2. You’re Never Alone.
Couchsurfing, hostels and loads of other groups allow you to meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life who are ready and willing to share experiences and create fabulous new memories. In my experience, locals were usually friendly and hospitable, and fellow travelers couldn’t wait to make new friends. In my first two months in Europe, I met and conversed with 113 people, not including hitch drivers and their passengers.
3. People are Amazing.
I was picked up by 125 cars and invited into countless homes by people who allowed me to travel over 7300 miles for free. This also allowed me to have a more personalized travel experience. Regardless of where in the world you’re from, you have more in common with others than you think. One time, my boyfriend and I managed to travel across the entire continent of Europe in two days, from Bulgaria to the UK, because of the awesomeness of others.
4. Don’t Be So Serious; Have a Little Fun!
A genuine friendly smile and a few silly antics will take you a long way (literally) because it makes people feel that they can trust you. Also, if you think you’ll always be able to get fresh food, you’re wrong. It’s ok to live off olives, cheese, and other gas station staples for a few days a month.
A sure way to grab the attention of drivers.
5. You Can Never Truly Be Prepared For The Weather…No Matter What.
Rain and cold suck. Sometimes it gets you sympathy; most times, people don’t want a wet stranger in their car. Fog once kept my boyfriend and I stuck at a gas station for nearly 10 hours.
6. Sometimes You Just Can’t Help But Sleep.
Your mind wants you to stay awake, to continue, to converse with your driver (the obvious polite thing to do), but sometimes, your body wins the battle and you just have to accept it.
7. Communication Goes Way Beyond Words.
Gestures and other nonverbal communication allow you to have amazing conversations, deeper than you’d expect, without sharing a common language. Don’t be afraid to try to communicate, even if you find yourself looking like a crazy monkey playing with an infant.
8. A Name is Just a Name.
I never knew most of my driver’s names- it wasn’t important. While some people introduce themselves immediately, it’s not the most interesting thing that can be said. It doesn’t allow you to get to know someone or them to get to know you. I made a list while hitchhiking, to keep track of my lifts. For each driver, I wrote a description of them based on their character or stories. I heard entire life stories without ever knowing their name.
9. Lady Luck is a Moody Bitch.
Sometimes, you just have to suck it up. Getting irritated isn’t going to get you a ride (trust me, I know.) One minute you’re getting a 9 hour ride in a truck and the next you’re stranded for 10 hours.
10. Life is Beautiful.
No matter how you choose to live your life, dream big, go for it, drop your preconceptions and be open to listen and learn. And above all, try saying, “Yes” more.