When talking about hitchhiking – whether in the car or in a bar – I get asked many of the same questions. In the beginning days, I had already compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions in my dear old notebook. Since some of you might want to ask the same thing, I decided to copy these questions and more here for your benefit. Most of the answers are valid for both hitchhiking and traveling solo (as a woman).
Q. Aren’t you scared when hitchhiking?
A. No. You can’t be scared. I truly believe that fear can be smelled of you, so a potential creep would know they have an advantage. My personal experience is that the times I was scared, bad shit would ensue.
Q. So, do you often flash your tits to get a ride?
A. Never. Not that anyone would be impressed.
Q. How do you fund your trips/what’s your daily budget/(how much) do you save for your travels?
A. I wrote a little piece for you right here! I know the answer is unsatisfactory, but would it really help your travels if you had a more specific answer from me specifically?
Q. Any question starting with “When…?“
A. I don’t know.
Q. Are you a feminist?
A. Of course.
Q. Where is your boyfriend?
Q. But men!!!11!!!1!
When traveling solo: I take most of the pictures I’m in myself. I just put the camera on self-timer and put it on the ground or on a high surface. In busy places, I often ask a person nearby to take a photo of me and also take a photo of them. I didn’t have to be in a relationship with these people to get a photo in return.
When traveling together: Now that I have a partner, Jonas sometimes takes a photo of me for me when I ask. I do the same for him. If he’s not with me, I take a photo of myself using self-timer. My camera is a bit more expensive these days, so I tend to not put the camera on the ground anymore.
I almost always used a tent during my trips. Only in a few circumstances did I sleep without a tent under the sky. The answer to how often I sleep outside depends on the year:
2013–2015: a lot (at minimum 2 per month, in Georgia I lived in my tent for more than a month)
2015–2018: a little less often (once a month)
2018: not at all
2019: four times (during the kayak trip)
2020: not at all. I didn’t even bring a tent to Asia!
Back in 2012, I bought my first one-person tent, which I used a lot on my early hitchhiking trips in 2013. When I quit university and started traveling full-time, I used my tent a few times before I traveled without a tent to the USA.
In early 2014, someone in Mexico gave me a six-person tent, which was too heavy to take anywhere. Later in Mexico, some other people gave me a one-person tent without the rain fly. I used that during my travels in Central America. Then when I returned to Europe in mid-2014, I picked up my store-bought tent and used that a lot in the Caucasus countries until it got stolen. Then someone donated me a simple dome tent, which I used in Iran and Northern Cyprus. In December 2014, I bought a new one-person tent.
In 2015, I hitchhiked with that tent all over Europe and freecamped in almost every country with that tent. I still have it. Then I traveled to South America with that tent and used it less and less often, which is because I often stayed with Jonas. I still used it in a few countries there alone. Whenever Jonas joined me, we slept in a small two-person tent he carried. This one broke once, so we went through another tent in South America.
Fast-forward to 2019, when we kayaked on the Danube river. We camped a total of four times on that trip in a borrowed two-person tent. Only one of those nights we freecamped under the stars in the Slovak-Hungarian border region. The other three nights we stayed at paid campings in Germany and Austria.
So that’s my freecamping and tent history! It’s eight tents in total, wow.
Getting back in the game can be a daunting task! I get nervous every time I’ve sat still for a while and then I’m suddenly supposed to hitchhike again. Nervous, but also excited! If it’s nervousness without excitement, better wait another day. I’ve postponed leaving a place many times just because it didn’t “feel right” in that moment. Of course, this is done more easily when you’re hitchhiking and there’s no fixed day and time, as opposed to having a fixed departure time when flying.
It’s time to get your game-face on again. For me, it helps to put on my hitchhiking ‘uniform’ (aka ‘warrior outfit’) and grab other stuff that I have traveled with. There’s something about putting on my hiking boots that makes me feel ready. Also, just putting my backpack on my shoulders makes me rise to the challenge. When I finish writing the hitchhiking sign, it usually means I’ll hit the road within 24 hours. All these are steps in my mental preparation, but perhaps that’s just me.
For people who are not per se hitchhiking, it might be a motivation to grab one’s passport and leaf through it. Or just start collecting the stuff you’d bring on a trip and put it in one visible place. Even when you’re not yet leaving, you’ve started to categorize your stuff into travel stuff and non-travel stuff. You might even start packing it in your backpack/suitcase – though I know some people get really stressed out from packing.
If you don’t want to be dealing with physical stuff, perhaps try eating something out of the ordinary. Get it from somewhere, or try cooking it yourself. Travel is largely improvisation, and so is cooking. It makes or keeps you flexible, which is mostly a mindset irrespective of the task. Those qualities are very helpful when doing (things that are considered) silly/dangerous while abroad.
I know some people who just take it real slow when they start. They fly out, stay a while in the city/town near the airport eating familiar foods. Then they take a bus to the next place, introduce themselves to something unfamiliar etc. It’s the comfort-zone people who expand at their own pace. They are building up the confidence until they feel comfortable enough to do something like hitchhiking or freecamping.
These are some of the ways to get back into travel-mode I can think of right now. Whatever it is, it has to be your idea and choice in the end. No one can feel and understand your travel-style as well as you do. I hope something here works for you and you’ll be on the road soon again. Happy travels!
Wheeeee I’m not the expert on city freecamping as I usually try my best to find a host/24-hour place in big cities, but I’ll give it a try 🙂
The first time I camped out in a city was in Debrecen, Hungary in the summer of 2013 at the Petőfi square. I was kicked out of the nearby train station by the police along with a few other travelers and festival-dwellers. So I rolled out my sleeping bag under a tree in the park and slept without my tent that night. I felt safe enough to catch a few Z’s as there were a few other like-minded folks around who were in the same situation. Most importantly, I was fucking tired and didn’t give a crap anymore. At 6:00 I had enough, packed up my shit and caught my first (ever!) truck ride to Budapest. Good memories!
As for where it’s good to pitch a tent, first question whether it’s necessary to pitch the full tent or whether it’s good enough to just roll out a sleeping bag. A tent stands out more than a formless heap of human on the ground and if you’re made to move, you’ll be out way faster. Remember that your primary objective is to get some sleep and to be the least disturbed. Consider the following things:
- The weather: will it rain?
- Authority: will the cops come by to remove me? Is it legal?
- Humans: will passersby be scared shitless? Will they call the authorities on me?
- Location: am I on or in the way of anything? Is this private property? Do people urinate here?
- Fellow rough sleepers: am I occupying the spot of a homeless person? Do I have their permission to join?
- Visibility: does the spot get really dark or are there city lights? Are there cameras around?
Sometimes I feel more safe when there’s more lights around – even when it deprives me of sleep – and other times I want to be as invisible as possible. It’s usually the latter for me. I’ve noticed when traveling together with cis men, that they are a lot less picky about a spot than I am. One time I’ve suffered the consequences of that in the “city” of Jermuk, Armenia, when me and my hitching partner were attacked in the tent in a city park. Now I’d rather ditch a travel partner than settle for a spot that’s not up to my standards.
People walking by will generally assume you’re homeless, so if that is seen as a problem, respectfully explain your situation, without disrespecting homeless people of course. In some countries it’s illegal to sleep on the streets (certain states of the USA, I’m looking at you), so it’s best to avoid this at all costs for your own sake. While during hitchhiking, the cops might help you by giving you a ride, when sleeping in public (tent or no tent) they are almost never your friend. Asking the cops if you may camp in their yard might yield a positive result when they like you. They have the power to say yes or no, and no one is there to stop them from going on a power trip.
Most of your city camping experiences will depend on the hospitality of the country you do it in. The small cities of Uruguay usually have a grassy “Plaza de Armas” and the people are so chill that permission will likely be granted. In Spain, the Guardia Civil are (very generally) super joyless people that will not entertain any ideas of adventure. Sometimes it’s best to just hike out of a city or at least the popular/tourist center. If you’re in the center and the city is too big to walk out of, try sleeping in a 24-hour ATM booth (tip by my friend Xiao Wei).
When you’re in Spain or another warm country, never ever pitch your tent on the lush green grass that’s been well-kept. There’s probably hidden sprinklers in there and you might wake up to a nasty and wet surprise as I experienced in Taragona in summer 2015. Dried-out grass is safe from such events.
The one time I really did pitch my tent, blew up my mattress and got super comfy in a city was in Liverpool in December 2013. I was super drunk and had asked prices at a hostel and the answer was “a dorm bed will be £35”. That’s a great offer to walk away from, so two blocks down the street I found a library that was under construction with a few square meters of grass. I pitched my tent, fell asleep and the next day I was better rested than a night at an extortionately-priced bunk bed would ever have given me. I slept in until 9:00 and even though my tent was less than a meter from the busy sidewalk, not a single soul noticed me sitting there smoking my morning cigarette before packing up.
As always, it’s best to check out Hitchwiki.org for a specific location to see where others have camped out before. If you’re the first, be sure to add your contribution to Hitchwiki when you made an experience, good or bad. City camping usually requires a lot of improvisation and flexibility to move on a whim.
I hope this was helpful. Let’s be happy campers!
Excellent question! I’m happy to elaborate…
Cheese is great. It’s tremendous. I love cheese. Yuuuge cheeses. The more cheese the better.
However, not all cheese is created equal. There’s bouncy cheese, hard cheese, and super squishy cheese. Smelly cheese and unsmellable cheese. Fifty shades of yellow, white and blue cheese. Each has their own superpowers.
I didn’t eat raw Dutch cheese for about eight years of my life. What the fuck is “raw cheese”, you ask? I don’t exactly remember, but it had something to do with the lack of gooeyness and funky texture. My life has improved significantly since I’m munching cheese again without discriminating on the very glorious state of its being. I even had a bite of vegan cheese. Whatever the fuck that is.
I could write a book on how to hitchhike with your favorite cheese.
First of, you should consider the type of cheese and the way you’d like to munch it. Go make yourself a sandwich, if bread is the vessel of choice for your cheese. Want to be pretentious AF and munch it with some wine? Do it. Just be careful with combining booze and hitchhiking. Would you like to eat that cheese just as it is? Go for it. No one can come between you and your cheese. No one.
Secondly, you have to consider the packaging. #Notallcheese responds well to volatile temperatures and being tossed into car trunks and from high trucks. Wrap it up in plastic or put it in a well-sealed box. You don’t want to end up with a smear of roquefort all over the inside of your backpack.
And finally, you have to consider your timing. You can easily eat a block of queso chacra while waiting for a ride in Spain. That’s because your ride in Spain will likely never happen. However, don’t commit to eating anything more than a humble string of Oaxaca cheese while putting up your thumb on a busy road in Armenia. Otherwise you’ll have to talk to your potential driver while choking on the glorious stringy cheese that deserves your full attention. It’s a hazard.
There’s more to all of this, but then I’d actually have to write the damn book on how to hitchhike with your favorite cheese, and I don’t really want to commit to that.
I hope my opinion on cheese was worth it.
A tent! I can’t do without my tent and related camping gear like a mattress and sleeping bag. I think backpackers sometimes look like snails, with their big fat backpacks attached to their backs, shuffling slowly into a hostel. But wait, why carry so much crap on your back and not a tent? A snail has its house so why don’t you?
If you’re hitchhiking, you’ve eliminated the costs for transportation, but accommodation is always the big spending department – and one day can cost you €5 while the next day you might be forced into paying €30. If you carry your own tent, you don’t give a flying fuck about the situation. When no one hears your couchsurfing cries, when the hostels are filled to capacity, when the cheapest place to stay is quadruple your budget, you meet the situation with a shrug and pitch your tent somewhere quiet, dark, and safe.
Besides the camping stuff, my most important possessions are my guitar to make money by busking in the streets of big cities, my tablet for writing this blog and contacting couchsurfing hosts and procrastinating on the internet, a swiss army knife for clipping nails and opening wine bottles, and finally, a towel!
It’s really not that hard to find things on my website. I even made an about page for really, really basic shit. I’m from the Netherlands/Holland/that country with flowers, cheese, wooden shoes, weed, and legalized prostitution. None of these things reflect back on me personally (except for cheese).
The Netherlands is located in the European Union (EU) and that’s why I can travel to shitloads of countries visa-free. My passport is by far the best thing my Passport Nation gave me. I’m not from Amsterdam. Not every Dutch person is from Amsterdam. I don’t know people who can host you on Couchsurfing in Amsterdam. The language spoken in the Netherlands/Holland is called “Dutch”. I speak it too, but I prefer my blog to be in English so there’s a higher chance you can read it!
Yes, I visited Morocco in the spring of 2012 with a friend. This is before I became a hitchhiker. If you want to see all the countries that I have visited and/or hitchhiked in, go to this page which shows a world map with the countries I’ve been to and some routes I have made across the world.
The issue of finding cardboard is an important matter. It’s the first time I’m publicly talking about the determination and mad skills it takes to find cardboard anywhere and my secret to obtaining the aforementioned skills—if you sign up for my newsletter! Cardboard is everywhere human beings are! If there are cars, there’s cardboard. Guaranteed. If there are no cars, you can’t hitchhike, so why and how would you be there?
On a serious note (the previous was quite serious too), I just go into shops and ask for “karton”. The English “cardboard” is one of the most pointless words ever as nearly all other languages are using “karton” or something really similar to that. Once the shop owner understands what I’m asking I usually get to slaughter a box for my hitchhiking signs. I ask if they have a box-cutter knife or scissors for that so I don’t have to grab my own which would possibly make me seem suspicious of a crime.
Trash day is the best day of the week in any big city because you don’t have to ask anybody for cardboard and you can find it on every corner of the street! It’s a bummer when it’s raining though, as wet cardboard (even when dried up again) makes highly hideous hitchhiking signs. Sometimes it’s best to open a few skips (trash containers/dumpsters) to find the good cardboard. Even in the most desolate places, cardboard usually gets “recycled” (i.e. dumped in a designated place) which is awesome as you can find large quantities and get to find the best piece of all.
Only in a desperate situation I use cardboard from a used pizza box, as they always have cheese stains. Smooth, clean and dry cardboard is the holy grail for writing up that destination! 😉
I’ve written about safety and street harassment abroad before and I’m not the most positive person in giving advice to other (self-identifying) women, besides not listening to men. Unless the *men in your life are actually cool, they’re very likely to tell you that traveling solo (whether hitchhiking or not) can’t be done as a woman and is a guarantee to a short life.
If I’d listened to the men in my life I wouldn’t have seen or done half of the experiences that have formed me as a person and there’d be no blog for you to read. If you’re starting out with solo travel, get used to ignoring the “you’re on a suicide-mission”-comments and find support from other female travelers out there on the internet (e.g. Facebook groups). It’s about finding “your people” who will **respect your choices and only give advice when you’re asking them for advice.
If taking courses in self-defense or carrying around pepper spray wherever you go (including public bathrooms) makes you feel safer, do it! Just know that it’s not a 100% life-saving guarantee and that you’re contributing financially to the whole “women’s anti-rape/protection” economy; we buy pepper spray instead of teaching boys and men not to rape or otherwise harm women. You also need to know that if you don’t know how to use your weapon, it’s very likely to be used against you, sooner rather than later.
Don’t underestimate the power you have without weapons or violence: if the situation isn’t physical yet, you can use your voice to try to solve the situation diplomatically and get the hell out of there. Creating a lot of confusion also helps to steer off insecure potential attackers. I did the latter a few times in sketchy situations by speaking Dutch – the most confusing language on earth? – to them very suddenly… it bought me time to bring myself to safety.
“The world is not ready for women doing shit like that” should only be met with the response that some of us aren’t willing to sit around and wait for the world to be ready. Basta. You’ll find your own ways of keeping yourself out of scary situations by being out there. Nobody can really give you tailored advice, as the treatment you’ll get in life is dependent on more than just your (perceived) gender. Become the expert on your life’s curveballs that are constantly thrown at you. Most of all, never let the shit-stains of the world get what they want, by doing everything they want you to do…
*and women. There are plenty of women telling me – like men – that I can’t do what I do because they’ve internalized the misogyny spewed over them by the patriarchy all their lives. Arguing with them is pointless.
**Note: there’s a nasty bunch of women travelers out there that still slut-shame and victim-blame other female travelers if they get assaulted by saying shit like “yeah, but that outfit was super revealing”. I don’t really have to mention that these people have a desperate need for more education on the matter; maybe throw in some sensitivity training too while we’re at it.
An average day hitchhiking is usually really dependent on where I wake up – whether that’s a freecamping spot or someone’s home – and what the hitchhiking goal is for that day. If I’m just regularly hitchhiking and not speed hitchhiking, I get up at some time between 6 and 10 a.m. Depending on the availability of a shower and stand-by breakfast, I’ll do those things first.
If I’m freecamping I wake up at sunrise and smoke a cigarette outside of my tent as the first thing in the morning – gross, I know – and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. Freecamping requires leaving early as it’s illegal in most countries, so I roll up my sleeping bag and mattress, break down and pack up my tent, and get lost ASAP! Of course, I take my trash with me when I leave.
The first thing I do at the road is observe traffic: how many cars are passing in ten minutes, how many have space for me and my backpack, what their number plate tells me and how people interact with me from their cars. This information is vital in telling me how easy/tough of a day I’ll have. Then I put up my thumb, stop a car and take a ride with (mostly friendly) strangers towards my destination. My day is full of interesting conversations
I do this, with little breaks for food, drink, toilet, and WiFi (to update you people!) until I get to my desired destination. If I don’t make it there, I find a freecamping spot or occasionally get invited to someone’s home. For staying long-term in a place, I message potential hosts on Couchsurfing or find a host in the myriad of Facebook groups that are out there to make instant new friends. After a successful day of hitchhiking, I enjoy the evening with a beer and some more conversation!
All your answers can be found in this little piece I wrote about Budgeting. Enjoy!
I started hitchhiking in 2012 when I was on study semester abroad in Aarhus, Denmark. Some of my roommates hitchhiked and it all sounded very excited. One day I felt like going to the west coast of Denmark, so I woke up my roommate and asked if he wanted to join. It took some eight rides to get there and we had to take the train back, but it set the precedent for going about it alone. A few weeks later I had my first solo hitches in Kirkenes, Norway, and it took my fears away as everything went fine.
Flash forward to November 2013: I quit my studies after being fed up with them for a long time already. First thing I do? Pick up my packed backpack and hitchhike to a friend in Belgium, then onward to the UK to visit more friends. Since then I haven’t stopped!
I have no clue! Of course I wish to continue hitchhiking as long as possible, but something might happen that changes everything – much like the way I started doing this. Any serious injury could put a sad end to my adventures as hitchhiking also involves a lot of hiking, too. Though I can’t see how, there’s a possibility I might get bored with hitchhiking one day, as anything can become a routine!
One thing I can say for sure, is that hitchhiking changes once you get older. I already get a load of questions (at 24!) of why I’m not settled down or don’t have children and I think people might get more reluctant to stop their cars for a woman who “should have her life sorted by now” than someone who still looks like a student. However, many mature hitchhikers out there prove the opposite/still don’t give a shit for those ageist notions and continue to give people the thumbs up.
Another worry I have is about self-driving cars… a robot won’t stop for hitchhikers. Will this be the end of hitchhiking? Can someone please make an app for those self-driving cars to recognize hitchhikers and stop for them?
These are mostly worries about the future though, so I think I’ll just Go with the flow until something stops me!