Hitchhiking guide for women
Yes, hitchhiking can be dangerous. It would be silly to pretend it has no risks. But hitching needn’t always be dangerous. Seasoned hitcher, merry prankster and free spirit Petra Kelsey puts forward the pros of hitching and gives some tips for how to hitchhike and successfully bag a ride, if that’s what you want to do.
“I have hitched and hiked over every state and half the nation, through blizzards and under rainbows, in deserts and in cities, backwards and sideways, upstairs and downstairs and in my lady’s chamber.”
– Sissy Hankshaw (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues )
Hitchhiking is for environmental revolutionaries, adventurers, time-savers, risk-takers, socialites, outside-the-box thinkers and aspiring gypsies who are rethinking traditional means of getting from point A to point B.
It’s an efficient and environmentally-friendly activity. Unlike car pooling, hitchhiking doesn’t require co-ordination. When you’re ready to leave, traffic is there waiting for you.
1. A psycho murderer will pick you up and murder the hell out of your ass.
Reality: Probably not
2. Men will try and get in your pants
Reality: Yes, but as women we are already used to this.
3. People will think you’re crazy/homeless
4. People won’t pick me up
Reality: Yes, they will.
It’s imperative that you give off a happy, mentally healthy, upbeat, adventurous vibe. Practise hitchhiking for fun rather than out of necessity. This will help put you in the right frame of mind.
People will reject you for a variety of reasons. The most important thing to remember is that there is a reason that the ride wasn’t meant to be. Remember that rejection is humbling, builds character, and helps you refine your technique. When I first started, I was rejected about 60% of the time. Gradually, as you refine your technique, your success rate will go way up.
This requires alertness, creativity and quick-thinking. A typical trip around town may look like this:
. walk four blocks
. spot hitching opportunity and hitch to lower downtown
. walk a couple blocks
. see bus, catch ride
. meet up with friend – friend drives you home
. your bus isn’t coming – oh yeah, drivers went on strike
. no money for a cab fare
. you lost your friends downtown and your car is 30 blocks away
. you are bored at this party and want to leave
. you’ve been walking and your feet hurt
. you want to make a new friend
. your day just needs that edge
Traditional hitchhiking (waiting by the street to get picked up) isn’t generally accepted by the masses because it is commonly perceived that only psycho-murderers participate in the picking up/hitching. Therefore these normal folks aren’t likely to pick you up.
So, how does one tap into this goldmine of free rides?
Step 1: Wait by corner, traffic light, stop sign, any place where traffic has stopped. Parking lots are also very effective.
Step 2: Choose your ride. For highest success rate, choose the demographic that resembles you as closely as possible. Psychologically, if people can imagine themselves in your shoes they are more likely to trust you. For example, if you’re a frat daddy, choose the car with the sigma sigma beta beta beta stickers all over it.
Step 3: Ask for a ride.
Wealthy business man in Mercedes
. men usually more open-minded about hitching
. may assume you are a prostitute
. often protective of his nice things
“Excuse me sir, I’m late for work and was hoping I could get a ride in this direction.”
“I’m ambitiously working hard to move up in life.”
Soccer mom in SUV
. protective motherly instincts
. usually unwilling to take risks
. shopping bags may have filled up car
“Hi ma’am! (look lost) I’m trying to get to Yoga Groove (if you’re going to a location that she likely shops/eats/works out at, then mention it!). I was wondering if I could ride with you.”
“I need guidance and motherly protection”
Hippie Rasta Dude
. by far, the easiest to get a ride with
. will smoke you out
. car may break down
“Yo, I’m going to ride with you”
“Hey, wassuup. The universe has guided me to get in your car.”
. If you are a girl, you’ll get a ride.
. You’ll get invited to his show this weekend
. name-drop the wrong band, and it will be back on the street for you.
“I’m trying to get to (name drop some very obscure bar/restaurant/music venue if applicable), can I get a lift in that direction?”
“I want to date you and maybe take you to this very obscure bar/restaurant/music venue”
At this point, the ride will either say:
You: Jump in car. (Congratulations, by the way.) Be nice, polite and thankful!
2. Hesitate and give you a confused look.
At this point, it is critical that you say these exact words:
“…I am not crazy!”
Then they will give you this look:
Oh! Cool, they’re normal.
“Come on in!”
Tip: once you’ve identified the person you want to ride with, get their attention by waving. Give them a couple of seconds to assess who you are from a distance. This freaks them out less.
Since being a professional psycho-murderer* requires a high amount of planning and preparation, the following items are needed to stay in business: shovel, plastic bags, axe, rope, Febreeze, hacksaw, someone to murder, white van, trucker hat, countryside, mustache
* Only .002307% of the population fits into the active psycho-murderer category. This individual is either in jail for being a psycho-murderer or they are smart enough to plan their murders and cover their tracks.
By using the above Jump-in-the-Car method, even if you do by chance jump into a car with a psycho murderer, chances are you caught him “off-duty” and he won’t have his gear ready to murder your ass.
If you’re hitching in an urban area, you have safety in numbers. Traffic is usually slow enough that you can jump out if the driver gets creepy or has gnarly B.O.
. For long distances, catch rides with truckers. Meet them at truck stops and you’ll get a chance to talk face to face.
. Always stand near a spot where cars can easily and safely pull over. Not right around a curve or just over the top of a hill.
. It’s easier to get picked up during the day.
. Talk about gas prices, air pollution or something car culture related; this lets people know that you have a grounded practical reason for hitching and aren’t flat-out crazy.
. You can also choose to only ride with women.
Tip from a fellow fantastic hitcher, Meredith:
“When I hitch, the first thing I say when I open up the car door is, ‘Are you safe?’ Look them directly in the eyes and watch how they respond. This sets up expectations and boundaries right from the start. Don’t ever be afraid to say, ‘I think I’ll just wait for the next car, thanks anyway!'”
Note on Safety: Remember that human psychology leads us to fear more often than is warranted. Even though 98.7% of my experiences have been awesome/amazing/super safe, most often the people I talk to will ask about the 1.3% of drivers who’ve been slightly weird. Creepy stories are generally more interesting to hear about, so know that the statistics are skewed. Your most valuable tools are not fear and distrust but rather intuition and a positive attitude.
If you think you don’t have good intuition, then kick yourself in the butt. Everyone has the ability to intuit safety and danger. You have to start trusting yourself and not be afraid to act when things just feel funny even when there are no “cold facts”.
. When walking down the street, ask yourself questions like, “which direction should I go?” Stop, wait, listen to your body. One way will just “feel” better.
. Before calling people, ask yourself, “should I call this person?”. Wait to see what your bod says.
Your body has lots of information to share. See what happens when you start listening!
Small private airplanes land at small airports all over the world. Find these airports, make friends with the staff and pilots who land and you may be able to hitch a ride in their airplane.
Arrive at the airport with a small travel bag. Talk to the staff and let them know some destinations you’re looking to get to. They can look up air traffic for the day to see which planes are coming in and where they’ll be heading. They also often have useful inside information. The staff I’ve encountered has always been very nice and curious about airhitching and are interested in a good adventure story as much as anyone. Play up the part.
When a pilot comes in, strike up a conversation:
“Hi! Have any outgoing flights today?”
“Oh really, which direction are you heading in?”
“Oh wow, that’s near where I’m headed to. I’m a student traveling to visit my friend/grandparents/a university. Would you be open to having a traveler along for the ride?
Tips for air hitching:
. If applicable, mention the following:
your student status or that you just graduated
pilot family members
your interest in aviation (offer to help read the charts)
the cool places you’ve already airhitched to and other awesome pilots you’ve flown with
. Wait until the pilot has used the restroom. It’s one of the first things they need to do when they land.
Story from the air:
I waited at an airport in Sedona, AZ for just 40 minutes before two planes came in which were both going to Texas. I got turned down by the first pilot since “it was a privately chartered corporate jet” but a couple minutes later a woman came in who had some extra room in the back of her helicopter.
Later that day we arrived in Denton, TX where a group of pilots had gathered to see our helicopter land. One of the pilots in Denton grabbed me and said, “you don’t know how lucky you are to have gotten a ride in that thing – that’s a 5 million dollar helicopter. There are only a handful of those in the world!” Of course, I was just happy to have gotten to Texas so quickly.
Concept: hang out by the piers and make friends with boat owners and captains. See if they are going on any exciting expeditions. See if they need any help sailing/mopping/cooking/playing music.
. avoid scurvy
. wear condoms
I was walking to work and passed by an older business man getting into his car. “Hey, are you going downtown?” “Sure, want a ride?” I got in and we started chatting. It turns out that my ex-boyfriend was his ex-employee. “Yeah, Chris was a hard guy to please” he said. “(sigh)… Yeah, you’re telling me,” I responded.
I was walking to work (fully decked-out in skirt, hose and high heels) and I jumped into this dude’s car. He was in his mid-twenties, hadn’t shaved in a couple days. It turned out his destination (to feed his friend’s cat) was only a couple blocks away, but he said, “I’m so impressed that you just jumped in my car, I’m going to take you to where ever you need to go,” And he drove me all the way downtown. Sweet!
I was leaving a bank at the same time as another girl in her early 20s wearing big dark glasses. “Excuse me are you going north?” She mumbled something like, “Yeah, I can give you a ride…. hope you’re not freaked out… (mumble)… do some whippits…” I got in her semi-trashed out car and she proceeded to fill up a balloon with a CO2 canister. “OK,” I think. “just a little whippit before the ride. I guess this is how they do things here in Santa Cruz.” She inhaled from the balloon and began to pull out of the parking lot. Waiting to pull out in front of traffic, she took another hit. During the whole ride (which thankfully didn’t last more than 7 minutes) she continued to take them. Surprisingly, her driving was normal.
While walking in San Fran, a man is getting into his car. I ask for a ride and get in. Soon enough I realize he speaks no English. I try and make conversation with the little broken Spanish I knew. “Yo soy una tourista. Yo necessito una mapa!” He drops me off at Walgreens. My mission was to purchase a map of the city. He hands me $5 and refuses to let me leave without taking it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the skills to explain that I just hitch hike for fun, not because I’m broke. Something tells me to accept the money and so I do. Thank you random man for helping me buy a map!
Right after I landed in Hawaii, I walked out to the unloading area and ran up to a car that had just dropped someone off. An elderly native Hawaiian man was inside and also going downtown. As we drove together, he gave me a first-hand history of the islands in broken English. It was a wonderful way to be greeted right off the plane.
While in Denton, TX, I stood at a corner on campus with a sign reading, “Austin”. People waved and yelled, “we wish we were going to Austin!”
Then a truck of fratastic fratdaddies stopped at a light and started talking to me. “we’ll take you to Austin!”
We started talking and they said they could take me to an area closer to where people were getting on the highway. I jumped in. Once in the car they started asking me a ton of questions and were mostly just really curious (after all no one hitches in Texas but immigrants and Huntsville prison escapees).
The driver/President of the frat said, “Listen, there’s no way I can drop you off, this area’s too sketchy. We’re having a party tonight back at the house. You should come crash there and we’ll drive you to Austin tomorrow.”
Because the sun was already setting and these guys seemed safe I obliged. Ironically, these were the guys I spent most of my college career making fun of, yet here I was, actually going to one of their parties. The whole night I felt like an anthropologist watching the species in their natural habitat. They said really nice things like, “We think you’re the most liberal person we’ve ever met” and “Are you vegetarian? Do you own a Mac book? Do you listen to… bands and stuff?”
Since it was a costume party, my costume was inspired from the day’s events. I went as a dead hitch-hiker and the president of the frat went as my murderer (complete with flannel, winter vest, handlebar mustache). The whole night people kept coming up to me saying, “OK, I heard that you’re a hitch hiker… but are you really?”
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame at Sigma Sigma Sigma Chi.