Hitchhiking.. try it.

For the last few months, I've started to actively use hitchhiking as a means to travel between home and work. What started as a "I'm not sure about this, it seems a bit awkward, but I do want to know how it goes and feels, so I'll try it out once" ended up being "this is great, I'm doing it every day and loving it". Here's why you should try it and why it may make your life more awesome.

Why do I do it?

  • Meet new interesting people. I meet a lot of different people with all kinds of backgrounds. Male, female. Young, old. Native Belgians, immigrants, students, anything from "lower class" people, to people with regular jobs to even some people with very exciting lives and/or high profile jobs.
  • It's better for the planet.
  • Save time and/or money. For me, traveling to/from work by hitchhiking is quicker than going by public transport (bus). Bonus points because my route involves a pleasant bike ride to the highway entry where I start my little adventure.
  • No concerns about parking and/or paying for gas. My job is near the highway exit so usually I get dropped off literally in front of the building.

Why do people take you with them?

From what I can tell:
  • They like to do something nice, it makes them feel like a better person (rightly so).
  • They are bored in the car and would like some companionship.
  • Out of compassion. "poor guy must be standing here for a long time", which is rarely true, and I think compassion is not needed, but hey. Some drivers told me "I did the same when I was a student so I know it feels like". Most folks are surprised though when I tell them I do it because I like to.
  • Concern that something bad will happen to you. Which I also think is not really needed, but hey.
  • curiosity, they want to hear your story.

Why you should try it

What I learned is, not only can hitchhiking bring you to work faster than by public transport and/or in a less polluting manner, it can be a fun experience for both you and person picking you up. Indeed, some people that pick me up never picked anybody up before and tell me at the end they were happy they did it, and you can tell their day is made. Also, avoiding routine makes your days more memorable and interesting. Btw, I recently stumbled on this presentation, which tells you how you can make your daily life more interesting and memorable by trying out new things, the video fits this post well :)

Tips

  • Sometimes you can have bad luck (no pick up, traffic jam, ...). It helps if you have flexible working hours like me.
  • Have some good card boards with your destination clearly written. If you live in a small village like me, write down the name of a bigger city which is in the same direction.
  • Find a spot where drivers have time to see you, have some time to read your cardboard and to make up their mind about whether or not to pick you up and then have enough room to legally put their car to allow you to get in. All this without endangering other people in traffic. When going to work I can stand just at the entry to the highway, where not that many cars pass, but I have an almost guaranteed pickup within 5 minutes because drivers have time to react. Whereas when going from work back home, I have no choice but to stand at a very busy section where drivers have little time to react (avg pickup time there is 10 minutes or a bit more).
  • look decently dressed. People tell me they felt okay picking me up because I look civilized.
  • If you're a girl, it could be trickier because you could feel uncomfortable with some people who pick you up. That said, I think there are many more people with good intentions then bad, and you can always say "no thanks" and wait for the next ride.

Note: this article is not accurate anymore. I have since moved to Ghent, where I go to work by bike, but that's material for a future post.