They say that hitching is out of date, out of style and dangerous. I think they're wrong and recently set out to prove it. I used to hitchhike a lot and recently I have been doing it again, and it's liberating. Here are 10 reasons why I recommend it:
It's a great way of getting from A to B
I have just hitchhiked through one of the remotest parts of Scotland -- from Traquair to Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery -- and was reminded what a great form of transport hitching is. I travelled with my young niece and we made it there and back in record time. Cars are rare on this road but almost every one stopped for us. One driver took us 30 miles out of his way.
Hitching is no more risky than crossing the road. There is a chance you will meet an axe wielding maniac but you face this risk every time you step outside.
In some poor countries, such as Bosnia and Serbia, you are expected to make a contribution to fuel costs - usually the equivalent to a bus fare. In the UK it would be unthinkable to pay, and I suspect it's the same in Western Europe and the USA.
People don't do it anymore
Hitching seems to be really unpopular nowadays and I'm not sure why (I blame the media). But this is not a reason to avoid it; in fact, it's a good reason to do it as there is no competition. Drivers will be surprised to see you and some may be delighted. I got picked up by an old man who said "I used to hitch all over Britain and I owe thousands of people lifts."
Each trip is a memorable adventure
I have hitched across Eastern Europe and also Tibet and each day was totally different from the last. You never know who is going to give you a lift or how far you will get. I remember trying to hitchhike across Romania in 1986, when it was still under a Communist dictator, and nobody would give me a lift at all. It was the only time I had to give up (although there were other time I hopped on a bus that came along).
It's a great way to meet people
It's the easiest way to meet local people in the land you are travelling through. In Scotland, my niece and I met a coal miner, a retired air force commander who had been in the Falklands War, a Buddhist, a housewife and her two charming kids, a retired couple and the driver of an excavator. We had interesting conversations with each of them and got a different perspective on Scotland.
You see the landscape differently
When you drive through a region you get a rather insular image of the place. When local people are explaining what you're seeing it gives the landscape a totally different perspective, and a more profound understanding.
It's a good way to learn languages
I started to learn Tibetan by practicing words with truck drivers who didn't know a word of English. When you get a lift from someone both sides usually want to communicate and it's an ideal moment to learn new words.
Getting lifts is easy on small country roads
From my recent experiences in Scotland I find that hitching on main roads is really difficult - drivers are going too fast and they don't want to hold up traffic - but on the small back roads they seem much more willing to stop. Sometimes they just stop to chat. Back roads also tend to be beautiful and peaceful.
Hitching builds your confidence
This is perhaps the best reason and shouldn't be at the end of this list. Hitchhiking is one of those things that people say is not possible, and then you find out that it's not only possible but also good fun. Overcoming these taboos is empowering and can give us more confidence in life. Conquer your fear of hitching and it may help you conquer fear.
I want to encourage people to overcome their fear of travel and I would be delighted to advise you on any aspect of hitching or travelling alone. I'm also looking for frequently asked questions about travelling so I can give useful advice here. If you have any questions about these issues please email me on wolfemurray [at] gmail.com