Many things in life are difficult, some are scary, and a few are very uncomfortable. Hitchhiking is all three. If you can surpass these obstacles then you can see new lands in a way no tourist ever does, by being invited to live with the locals.
Hitchhiking is difficult because you don’t simply walk to the side of any road and hold your thumb out. In most places that doesn’t work, in others it is offensive. You have to be smart. First if you’re in a big city, get out. In Bangkok I take the train to Ayutthaya then make it to the nearby highway, in Kolkata take buses to the highway, in Istanbul just make it to the highway that pierces the inside of the city and in Western Europe I always make my way to the last gas station before the open highway. If you end up on a highway (outside of a western country) go to the road hold out the thumb of one hand, wave with the other, and give a sweet smile. If you make it to a gas station, just ask, ask and ask. Don’t be afraid, lots of people will say no, but if you ask you will get a ride sooner than waiting. Once in Germany I arrived at a gas station and saw a hitchhiker with a sign, he had waited three hours for a ride. I went around asking cars and in less than 3 minutes I had a ride.
Hitchhiking is scary, certainly the fear created by horror movies and sensational news stories is there. Yet that fear, which is mostly unfounded, isn’t the real fear that holds back someone who wants to hitchhike. No, the real fear is wondering if you will make it. As cars zoom by, and no one stops, the thought always enters your head. Don’t worry, just keep at it, change your spot if you need to, stay visible yet safe and someone will pick you up, they always do.
Hitchhiking is uncomfortable. I remember the first time I stood on a roadside with my thumb out. The blast furnace sun glowing like hot bronze, the heat beating me, the UV rays burning holes in my skin, and the warm wind carrying no comfort, only sand that clung to my sweat. Be patient and above all be smart. Look for shade if it is hot. Walk to keep up your internal heat if it is cold. If you get bored then sing, dance, and have fun. Plenty of cars have stopped because they saw me and Echo dancing together on the road side.
You read this much about hitchhiking, now you are ready to hit the road and see the world from a whole new angel. Enjoy!