Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Hitchhiking is something that everybody would have dreamed about at least once after turning 18. To get on the road and face whatever it comes, be your own boss, make your own decisions, and find yourself on the road.
It is a brave way and budget-effective travel mode which might lead to plenty of adventures. I mean, you can do whatever you want, and experience that feeling of ultimate freedom. It’s like that “born to be wild” feeling.
It isn’t like a pre-paid tour you choose during the winter, from a catalog in a cheap travel agency. And then when the vacation finally comes you just count the cost in your head, if you get proper value for your money, or it would have been better to choose the other trip in the catalog. Compared to hitchhiking it’s like just counting all day looking through options, and you just end up forgetting to enjoy yourself.
Why should you try Hitchhiking?
Hitchhiking is different because the only thing that matters is you and your goals, your ambitions. When you go on a trip without any expectations, you can only win. It will be an adventure; regardless of it going to end up well or it bringing with it some difficulties. The connection with local culture and becoming part of it at least for a short period makes you wiser and helps you get to know other cultures. You can see things that are never advertised in anywhere, that’s the real beauty that you can never experience in the pre-paid tourist agency tours.
We can see the tourist agencies' programs, it's like most of the time 9:30 – Museum, 10:00 – Free activity, 10:30 – Rendezvous point in the Tesco carpark next to the bus and 11:00 – Depart for the next city. It’s like a program you must do, you do not have free choice, you must follow orders. They tell you what you can do and when. Spending most of your time on a bus traveling with the same people maybe is not for everyone.
However, if you are hitchhiking, traveling is not an empty time you spend on a bus for hours drinking cheap orange juice. You are active, thinking, searching for the best options, and that makes it interesting, I was always looking for adventures. Something amazing I could brag about to my grandkids when I’ll be old to tell the stories about how bold and daring I was. It’s like you don’t know what is going to be your next step. And THAT uncertainty will give you that little adrenaline rush, which you don’t realize it the first time, but in the end that makes the whole trip unforgettable, and exciting.
If you are wondering if it can be exhausting, - it will be exhausting, dirty, and at some point, there’s going to be some part of you wishing you would have never left your room, but when you succeed, that will be one of the most unforgettable memories of your life. If you haven’t changed your mind, first you’ll need to start preparing. First set your goals. You should consider how many days do you have for the whole trip, which ways are the best, which are the alternative ways – sometimes the drivers will not go straight to your destination, and you have to redesign your trip after every single ride.
The Fundamentals of Hitchhiking
For beginners, I would strongly suggest the summertime. It can be rainy sometimes, but at least not really cold. And always check the weather forecast. Nobody likes to pick up soaking wet hitchhikers in their car. Take the minimum equipment, foreign currency, passport, if you go to another country, buy a printed map of all the roads that you could touch, you can buy these in the petrol stations, sleeping bag, couple change of clothes, I would suggest shirts – just think about it, an auto driver, would prefer to pick up - a guy looking homeless, or a well-presented hitchhiker?
You’ll need cardboards and thick marker pens. The car drivers must see where you are going, decide if they are going in the same way, and will they pick you up or not. I would recommend a clear dark-colored marker and some cardboard. And the sign should be seen at least 1 km. There are some unwritten rules in the hitchhiker’s book, like the maximum number of hitchhikers is 2 people. If you have a bigger group just make your way separately, but there is only a very little chance to pick up driver 3 strangers.
Also, there is a very useful site http://hitchwiki.org/en/Europe where you can see all the details and tricks to get a ride.
My Experience with Hitchhiking
Nowadays hitchhiking is getting to be extinct, mainly due to the migration, the refugee situation, kidnappings, horror stories, but there are some countries, for example, Romania where the bus infrastructure is not really developed – and here in the countryside hitchhiking is still popular. My personal story begins in 2015, somewhere in the middle of the summer. I remember I was finishing my University studies and we had to go to summer practice where you had to work for a company, in exchange for credit points. My choice was the Cereal Research Non-Profit Ltd, where they are selecting and breeding resistance crops, of all kinds. That subject worth half a year credit.
One day I heard that the people talking about someone old college of the workers who somehow manage to go to the Mediterranean and is now living from fishing and he did that that with no money. The old guys remembered that he also hitchhiked across Europe back and forth. I just listened carefully, and, in the greenhouse, I was working for no money and literally felt the excitement coursing through my body. I decided I’m going to the sea and will swim in that freaking sea that summer no matter what.
I live in Szeged, and the closest seashore was Rijeka. That was my destination, the infrastructure seemed to be alright, mostly highways.
645km x 2 = 1290km. That was the plan in 4 days, back and forth. Just to swim in the sea. That’s all.
I asked a day off for one Friday, and the night before I prepared some food, a sleeping bag, swimming shorts and a change of clothes and at 03:45 am I was on the road. At the end of my city.
Surprisingly a guy gave me a ride, with a good car he was in late, driving fast, and he was talking and talking.
In this little “one-time meeting” the people open up to you. Like you listen to their problems, views thoughts, and they open up about everything they are interested in that moment ---about politics, religion, and everything. And when they go on their way, they have a big smile on their face. They helped a person and you listen to their view on life. A win-win situation. And It was totally organic. I had a couple of other transports, so I was quite quick because at 7:00 am in the morning I was at the Croatian border. That was a heavy step to go through if you know what I mean. I was walking to the unknown.
For hours I was walking next to the road, nobody picked me up, then somebody took me to a highway park, to continue my trip from there. Another individual gave me a ride after that, he was talking about his business with his son and gave me valuable life lessons about how to live. He dropped me out in a Petrol station, near Osijek.
I brought a cola for myself and just noticed two camions up to start. I told them where I am going, and what’s my situation, and they picked me up. They were Serbians I only spoke to one of them, he could speak good English and told me to hop in, and we spoke about the political situation in Serbia and Kosovo, talked about his family, he almost took me to Zagreb.
I didn’t want to get in the capital, because it was hard to get back on the Highway, so he dropped me in a small Petrol station called Jezsevo. That cursed place. I spent 8 hours just watching the cars passing by it was dark, I was planning my way home, I was desperate. I slept a couple of hours in the petrol station also found 40 euros on the ground. That was a fortune. In the early morning, a Father and his daughter picked me up. I told my story and they took me on the turn on the highway which was going to Rijeka.
There is one thing you can never do- hitchhike on the highway. But I had luck again. It was a traffic jam, everybody was going to the sea, and the cars weren’t speeding up. They were going about 10km/h.
After an Ex-military guy picked me up and told me he going to Rijeka as well, just before he goes on a running race. So, I can wait for him in the car or try again on the highway. I said I’ll wait for him. I needed some rest. He also gave me his car keys and everything and when we reached Rijeka and l looked after them.
And then I saw the sea. All the long journey all the tiredness disappeared, I just jumped into the water and sawm into the sea as far as I could and back.
I had that 40 euros in my pocket I found in Jezsevo, so I brought a bus ticket to Zagreb and went home from Zagreb by train. And the whole journey took 3 days. But I was lucky.
On Monday I continued to work in the company. It was just perfect as is.
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