How to Hitchhike

Leaving the vehicle

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Don’t forget to thank your driver and wish them a safe journey when the time comes to leave them behind. Check that you still have your most vital possessions (wallet, phone, passport, etc.) as you get out of the vehicle and look carefully around your seat to make sure that you aren’t about to leave anything behind. Think about whether you have any luggage in a different part of the car and remind the driver that you need to take it before they leave you. Leaving the passenger door open while you retrieve your possessions can prevent any possibility of confusion. If you introduced any fast food wrappers, water bottles, or other litter into the vehicle, make sure you pick it up and take it with you as well.

Strategies for uncomfortable rides

Very occasionally you may find that you’ve made a poor decision and accepted a ride from somebody that you do not feel comfortable travelling with. These bogeymen (or women) of hitchhiking are rare, but having a back-up plan can make you feel more confident on the road.

Before you jump to hasty decisions, consider whether your feelings of discomfort are based in any prejudices you might have – perhaps this is an opportunity to expand your social boundaries. Listening to racist viewpoints or endless wild conspiracy theories might be unpleasant, for example, but it doesn’t necessarily put you in any greater danger than when travelling with somebody who is well aligned with your world-view. You may not like everyone you get into a vehicle with, but at least you’re making progress towards your destination – and you're learning about the world.

If the vehicle you are in is being driven dangerously, the most effective thing to do is ask the driver to slow down. Often this will be enough to turn an uncomfortable ride into a pleasant one. Verbal threats or persistent reckless driving is more serious, however, and in these situations you’ll ideally try to make an excuse to get out of the vehicle early while still having the driver drop you off at a good place to continue hitchhiking. If this is not possible, or if the driver refuses to let you out, insist that you want to leave the vehicle immediately – remember that, depending on where you are, it may take a few moments for the driver to find a safe place to pull over. If they do not pull over when they have the opportunity to do so, saying “I think I’m going to be sick,” followed by some theatrical retching in their general direction may change their mind.

In situations where you are genuinely in danger, call the police or attract attention from people around you. If this is not possible, consider whether any of the following last resorts represent a lesser risk to your personal health:

  • Exit the vehicle while it is moving.
  • Set something on fire and throw it into the back of the vehicle.
  • Use pepper spray or similar on the driver (remember you are in an enclosed space, and will probably suffer some of the effects yourself).

I have had several uncomfortable rides, but I should add that I have never made the decision to end a ride prematurely because of it. Furthermore, I don’t know of anybody who has ever had to make use of any of the above last resorts while hitchhiking.

Continuing your journey

As your old ride drives away, get out of the way of any traffic and orientate yourself. If you are not yet at your destination, you must now consider how to continue your journey. Do you have enough time or energy to find your next ride? Do you have any other needs to attend to, such as finding food or using the bathroom? And where exactly are you going to sleep tonight anyway?