Lily and I have been in France for few weeks already, trying to run a budget travel channel.
We want to show our readers and viewers that it is quite easy to see the world on a budget if you do your homework. In this particular case, we tried our hands (or rather our thumbs- har har) at hitchhiking. The concept is an easy one to grasp. You have a destination, you stand on the side of the road, and you get a ride with an open minded individual going in the same direction. Easy, right?
A few things to note..
Attitude is huge.
Sitting down with a frown isn’t going to encourage anyone to let you in their car. We’ve had people tell us that they don’t normally pick up people on the highway, but we looked friendly, which compelled them to help us out.
Looking at the driver when they’re approaching with a big smile on your face goes a long way. Do a little dance if you feel so inclined.
Not everyone is going in your direction. You might have to wait a while, traffic depending. Some people might have kids in the back. Some people just aren’t comfortable with picking up strangers. Don’t take it personally, more times than not its not you.
You don’t need to impress everyone, anyway. A hundred cars might pass you over the course of an hour- but all you need is one friendly driver to stop and see if they can help you.
Always have a sign with your destination.
To make it easier on those friendly drivers. If they don’t know where you’re going, they don’t know if they can help you. Make it big, use a dark marker, they need to be able to read the sign.
If you’re going a long distance, it would be more likely that someone will only drop you part of the way. It might be better to put closer towns that are on the route, to make it more likely someone will pick you up.
Know your area.
Hitchwiki.org is a wonderful resource for knowing the good spots. Doing your research can be the difference between waiting 20 minutes or waiting two hours for your ride. It’s a database and a handy map with lots of notes and ratings and warnings from people who have hitchhiked the very same spots in the past.
It can get very detailed down to which patch of grass along the highway is best for waiting on. A very valuable website for any hitchhiker.
Know your route.
People will offer to take you parts of the way. Its not common to find someone at the start of your journey that will take you right to the end. Try to avoid being dropped off in the middle of nowhere (gas stations are often your best bet), and don’t lose hope if you have to find accommodations in a town halfway to your destination. Those random towns can often be an amazing time, and you don’t know what friends are there, just waiting to be met.
A few of our rides (and friends made) were random people we asked at gas stations along the highway. Once you get past that awkward stage of asking favors of random people, you’ll find many people to be friendly and willing to help.
One guy drove us 200 kilometers to Bordeaux airport, and was a wealth of good conversation and stories (we even exchanged Facebook and emails). Don’t be shy, you never know where just talking to people will take you.
Do your research, make that sign, put on your best smile and get that thumb out! You’ll impress yourself at how far you can go!