How to Hitchhike

Earning money on the road

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No matter how frugal you are, you will always be spending money while you're travelling. Most hitchhikers try keep travel cheap by limiting their expenses, but you also have the option to try to earn money on the road. My own experience is primarily with playing music on the street, but I have known others who earned money by making and selling jewellery, writing poems, playing chess, or performing magic tricks. Walk down the main street of any tourist town and take inspiration from the many street performers you'll inevitably see there. They aren't there just for fun – there's money to be made. Here's how to do it with music.

I should begin by saying that I am not a talented musician by any means, although I have been fortunate to travel with talented musicians at times. People give money not because you're necessarily playing high-quality music, but because you've introduced some positivity into their day. Smile, dance, interact with passers-by – especially with children. Your attitude and approachability counts just as much as your performance. You don't need a huge amount of material either; you can make a lot of money with just 20-30 minutes of music played over and over again in different places.

The first step is to find a street with a large amount of foot traffic and no vehicles or construction work to drown out your music. A commercial street filled with tourists is ideal, as people have change in their pockets and will already be in a “spending” mindset. Crossroads, bridges, and underpasses are often good spots. If you see any authority figures around (police, security guards, etc.), ask them what the local laws are about street performance. Most of the time they'll refer you to some kind of bureaucratic agency, in which case you can just go ahead and play. Sometimes there are very specific rules about where and when you can play, the instruments you can use, and how long you can play for. Either way, as a general rule, don't stay in one spot longer than 20-30 minutes to avoid complaints from nearby shops, and don't play unnecessarily loud or offensive music.

If you see other performers, give them a friendly smile and try to judge whether they're in a good spot. They'll probably move on within an hour, so you'll have a chance to take advantage of it too. Be friendly and give a bit of your change to the other performers – they can often be the source of a lot of useful local advice.

In my experience busking in Europe, a good spot yields about 20-30 Euros an hour. Actually making this amount of money takes a little longer, as you'll have to move between two or three spots in order to play an hour of music, but this is still a very good deal for the cash-strapped hitchhiker. If you've ever thought of tourist destinations as tacky and degrading, perhaps you'll now be able to discover a deeper appreciation for their capitalistic tendencies.