Let’s get the negatives out of the way to begin with. As long as you’re not picked up by a murderer, a rapist or an old gentleman who drops subtle hints of racism and lets off an odd odour in a tiny cramped car, then hitchhiking is a fascinating and eventful way to travel. Unless I hold some deep and dark secrets buried within me then at least 2 of things mentioned above has not and, probably, will not happen.
My journey across Australia took me from Cairns, through the centre to Alice Springs and down to Melbourne, stopping off to see ‘the big rock’ on my way down. I had everything I owned with me; my backpack, a (very shitty) single skin tent, ridiculous amounts of water (people literally die in the Outback) and a map. My only way to get to my chosen destination was to stick out my trusty thumb and hope for the generosity of passers by. 9 lifts. 7 days. And 7000km later, I had arrived. And not one person tried to killed me.
Hitchhiking certainly isn’t for everyone. Firstly you have to make conversation with total strangers, and sometimes not even in the same language as yourself. Lucky for me this time around everyone who picked me up spoke English, just about. From the aboriginal family in their people carrier who let me eat one of their sandwiches, to the young Frenchman who had crossed Australia by himself in his beat up old car, to the local Australian farmer who was incessant on talking the entire 6 hour long journey in barely coherent English. Did I mentioned that I also went to a dinosaur museum and shared a cabin with another one of my lift givers?
Yes you heard that right! In the middle of absolute nowhere me and this random stranger, who had picked me up at an outback petrol station just hours before, spent a lovely evening together. She sneaked me into her cabin so we didn’t have to pay extra (nothing happened!) and we then spent the next morning at a local dinosaur museum. I was even invited to spend the night at her house but her boyfriend was certainly not pleased with a strange English traveller kipping on their couch and so I ended up pitching my tent under a bridge just outside of town. It’s what films are made of. Obviously things like that don’t happen everyday, but it’s guaranteed NOT to happen if you always decided to take the easy route or the simplest.
Another positive (and negative) of hitchhiking is that it can teach you that famous art form of patience. When you’ve stood on the side of the road for 4 hours and no one has picked you up or even glanced at you then you naturally begin to get really frustrated. That sense of anger, stupidity and foolishness becomes prominent in your mind as you start to think of why the hell you decided to hitch when you know that plane ride would have only cost you a $100 without any of the hassle. But everything always works out and you will always get to your destination, eventually. You learn to deal with the rough and the smooth. Sometimes you’ll get picked up in an instant and be driven 650km, sometimes you’ll wait 3 hours to be driven 10km down the road. As you’ve probably heard before, it’s the journey not the destination that counts, and sometimes that journey can take a while.
And of course, hitchhiking is free, and everyone loves free stuff! Fancy going to Scotland but can’t afford the train fares? Why don’t you hitchhike there? Want to get to London but are tired of paying ridiculous travel expenses? Hitchhike! If you have the time then you can go pretty much anywhere and without paying a single travel expense. As mentioned before it’s not going to be for everyone and if you have a specific date or time to reach a destination then it’s probably best that you don’t hitch. But if you do have the time, the energy and the sheer will power then you could pack your bags and head anywhere you want with minimal fuss and a very minimal wallet.
“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – A. Person
A Few More Photos…