Hitchhiking around the world

Travelling around the world is a dream of many youngers who thrive for discovery. And the youth, they always find their way to make a dream come true. Christopher Heil, a a 33-year-old young man from United Kingdom, has Hitchhiked through over 100 countries and gained a lot of unforgetable experiences.

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I am Chris, a 33-year-old guy traveling full-time since September 2014. Until now, I have visited 100 countries, seen so many amazing places and people on this planet and shared all the stories on my website Chris on Tour (www.chrisontour84.de). Besides traveling, I also have a great passion for guitar and climbing, and I can’t wait to get back to them after my big trip around the world!

I love hitchhiking so much that I have decided to use this mode of transportation when traveling around the world. You might think that I probably just want to save money. However, though it is certainly helpful for me as a budget traveller, it is not the main reason to hitchhike. My main motivation for hitchhiking is to get in touch with the locals, to dive right into their lives and be part of them for a short while. Sometimes they pick me up on their way to work or on their way home, where I might stay in the end; and some might be on their own little adventure and allow me to be a part of it.

After all these years, I have had so many great experiences and never ever had a really bad one. Sometimes it gets challenging, but nobody has ever said that hitchhiking is easy. I hope you will enjoy my Caribbean Islands and Australia stories, and maybe get some inspiration to try it out yourself sometime.

1086547-200CARIBBEAN HITCHHIKING TALES

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Saint Lucia on 2nd December 2016

Together with my Croatian friend, Bo, I went on an epic 6-week cruise through the Caribbean in November and December last year. While we spent most of the time on the boat, we also had some chances to explore the islands along the way. As our shipman had no interest in these islands, we were always heading out to the nearest street to hitchhike all over the place. We arrived in the beautiful Saint Lucia, we quickly realized that hitchhiking was not common there. Nobody seemed to know what we were doing and everyone was only smiling when seeing us on the road. Eventually, some curious guy in a little truck stopped and asked us if we were looking for the bus station. We explained the situation and became the first hitchhikers he picked up, leaving us all a little surprised and interested.

On our way to see the magnificent Pitons mountain, we were picked up by an employee of the luxury Sugar Beach resort which is located right in between the two Piton Mountains. The cheapest price for a room here is USD 500, and you will not be allowed to walk in their premises unless you are a guest – or, as in our case – hitchhike with someone who works there! He was so helpful to call a small tuk-tuk from the resort with a private driver to take us to the beach. We spent a few hours there before walking out to the street to hitchhike back to the boat.

Dominican Republic on 7th December 2016

Bo and I also went to visit the Antigua and Barbuda Islands. Bo has never hitchhiked before joining my trip and until now, I have probably introduced this means of transportation to over 30 people. He quickly realized how much fun it was because we did not know what kind of situation we would end up in, so we continued getting our thumb out on the road, asking for a lift! In Antigua, we wanted to see the Devil’s bridge and had only one day to get there and back again before sailing to the next island. On our way back, we were picked up in a truck by a local delivery man. He was willing to help but asked us if we had any spare time to wait for him to deliver one last item. We, of course, agreed and supported him doing his work. Everyone was happy in the end, and it is always great to be able to give something in return when receiving a free ride. After saying goodbye to the driver and his cute family, we made it to the boat just in time.

Dominican Republic on 11th December 2016

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Accompanied by a friend from Venezuelan CouchSurfing community, we jointly explored the Dominican Republic. Hitchhiking with three people is obviously a bit harder, but luckily the locals here are quite familiar with this transportation method.

We quickly got a ride from some locals but ended up stranded in the small village of Oviedo. The police were really concerned about our safety because of some local gangs, and strongly advised us not to hitchhike anymore. Luckily, the people we met there were all really friendly and we stayed with the person that gave us a lift, shared a great local meal and stories with some locals who had never talked to tourists before, because nobody would ever stop here on their way to Bahia de Las Aguilas. On our way back, we headed to Samana and got a ride in a tiny truck full of coconuts! With the three of us on the back, the truck couldn’t go up the hill and we had to get off to push it.

1086547-200HITCHHIKING TROUBLES

Western Australia countryside on 30th July 2017

Hitchhiking is not always fun or easy. You often have to make effort and walk a lot to get to a good spot where there are many vehicles going through! In the late July of this year, I found out that the remote area of Western Australia Countryside which was located between Albany and the Wave Rock South East of Perth did not have much traffic at all. After exploring the beautiful Two Peoples Bay, I hitchhiked to the north and got off near the Borden village. The guy who picked me up and his 98-year-old mother already warned me that I might not get a ride there since it was already 5pm and nobody was driving to the next village that late. He dropped me at the intersection and told me that he had to sleep in the bush nearby when he tried to hitchhike 30 years ago.

I still had about 90 minutes until sunset to wait for any vehicles that may come past. It was very windy that day and a storm was supposed to pass through the area the next day, so I had no interest in staying in the bush that night.

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Hours passed and just a single car came by, leaving me behind with no other option but to set up my tent. One car in about 2 hours! In this situation, you need to be able to make it through the night. It was winter in the south of Australia, so the night became pretty cold and without a tent and my sleeping bag, I would have been in trouble that night. However, the spot was great and I even had some space to start up a small fire.

The next morning, I was woken up by the first car at 7am and quickly packed up my tent and other stuff. I walked to the street and and waited for the next car. It was super windy and freezing cold that morning, and the dark clouds above me certainly indicated that a big storm was about to come. Sadly, there was still not much traffic even in the rush hour of the morning and I had to wait nearly four hours for the second car. It picked me up and I was on my way to the Wave Rock with one more unforgettable hitchhiking experience.

1086547-200HITCHHIKING TIPS

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1. Look likable!

Put on your best smile while waiting for a lift. You only got a few seconds of leaving a great first impression and without looking “nice”, you will not convince the drivers to stop for you! Don’t be angry if they don’t stop and keep a positive attitude up even if you have to wait for a bit longer. Trimming that messy beard and not wearing a T-shirt full of holes might help out as well.

2. Find a good spot

It is of great importance to find a good spot that offers enough room for cars to pull over safely without harming any other people in the traffic. They should also be able to see you in advance to give them some more time to react. A speed limit will greatly increase your chances as well, so try getting a lift in towns or after roundabouts. Note that hitchhiking directly on highways is usually forbidden, for a very good reason.

3. Get on the road early

Don’t start your adventure too late as you will have less traffic the later you hit the road. Between 7:30am and 9am is perfect in most scenarios when people start to work. If you hitchhike in rural areas, you might not get a ride at all anymore after 4:30pm or even earlier, so be prepared to wake up early and calculate any time that you might need to walk out to a good spot. I often walk up to 5km to get a decent spot trying to get out of bigger cities.

4. Keep moving

There are two things I like about hitchhiking while walking out of town. First, people will not think that you have a dangerous buddy waiting in the bush to ambush them and second, you are able to improve your position and try your luck again if you are stuck somewhere. Personally for me, it is a mental thing of moving to another spot if I didn’t get a ride. I just like to think that if you put in some effort, you will eventually be rewarded!

5. Go step by step

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Don’t think you will get straight to your final destination. Most of the time, you will have to move from town to town and be prepared to have multiple rides. Especially in countries that might leave you with a little bit of a communication problem due to language barriers, I would always just mention the next town to them rather then the final destination as they might otherwise decline you since they are just going to the next town. Once you are in the car, you can always talk about where you are trying to end up at the end of the day and get dropped at a good spot for the next lift.

6. Be prepared to strand

Sometimes you will not get a ride if you head out towards the remote corners of a country. I have just experienced it in Australia and after the traffic came to a complete stop, I had to set up my tent in the bush and try again the next morning. One car woke me up at 7am and then I had to wait until 11am for the second car to pass in the wind and cold. ưDon’t wander off and try to hitchhike to remote places without a tent, enough water and food!

7. Interact

Once you get in the car, be nice and interact to the driver. Start off by offering something that you can spare such as a snack or sweets and even if it is not much, it will show that you are a nice person. Also be curious and answer any curious questions the driver will have. You will most certainly be a very interesting person in his mind and even if you hitchhike everywhere for a long time and you get the same questions over and over again, always try to answer them in a nice and polite way. Truckers like to pick up people to kill their time as well on very long rides, so help them by talking to them!

8. Have a map

This one seemed to be too obvious for me but after reading some comments, I have now added the 8th tip: Have a map with you!! I always use Google maps and MAPS.ME and you just have to know everything about the possible routes to take in between towns and it is always good to see how far away you are. GPS signal usually works even without a SIM card and I will write a separate post about using Offline Maps in the future!

Christopher Heil | Wanderlust Tips

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