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 (s)he has 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!
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 forementioned skills – if you sign up for my newsletter! Cardboard is everywhere human beings are! If there’s cars, there’s cardboard. Guaranteed. If there’s 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) 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 pepperspray 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 pepperspray 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 – 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 of 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’s 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 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 in a given time and take a ride with (mostly friendly) strangers towards my destination. My day is full of interesting conversation. 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!