Most people are like “Let’s go to Cabo” or “Eurotrip, who’s in!” and I find myself standing on the side of the road with my thumb out, looking for free rides on Gumtree, and even going so far as posting flyers around town asking for a ride (it worked!). Hitchhiking – It’s thrilling, it get’s you in the moment, it’s kinda taboo for a female hitchhiker, my mom wouldn’t approve, and it gets you right into the world.
It was such a romantic idea for me. My life on my back and no real plans or destinations – just going with the flow. I’ve hitchhiked in Australia and New Zealand and now that it’s all said and done, I have some tips for the future female hitchhiker to help you trust your gut and be safe. This is the Solo Female Hitchhiker Guide I was looking for when I was a little scared because of all the yucky stuff I’ve heard and needed that push to get me on the road.
Check the Weather
The worst is hitchhiking when it’s raining. In places like New Zealand or in South East Asia during monsoon season, this could often be the reality. If you do have the luxury, check the weather or wait a day until the sun will be out to stand on the road. It’s one of those things, people don’t want to pick up a wet person and a huge wet bag either, even though this is the time you really need the ride most. If you have to hitchhike in the rain, bring an umbrella, wear a rain poncho and stand under a big tree.
I think it helps to dress in some nice modest clothes. As a female hitchhiker, you need to feel comfortable and confident. When you’re all alone on the side of the road with your bag weighing you down, your thumb out, exhausted by the heat and the heavy load, and you’re wearing a tee and short shorts, you will feel vulnerable. Trust me, I’ve done this before and when I was picked up by a truck of 3 drunk fisherman, I was clutching the handle of the door and wishing my shorts were longer. So, dress for the old ladies that you want rides from! They will stop.
Pick a Good Spot
Petrol stations and intersections to the highway just out of town are the safest and best bet for a ride. Know which road goes to where even if you don’t care about the destination, it’s smart and safe to know the direction your ride is taking you in. If you have a specific destination, pull it up on google maps or ask a local which road leads to it. Now that you’re standing on the right side of the road, in a safe little spot. Take off your bags and…
No one wants to pick up a mad hitchhiker (you do see it a lot and they have a hard time getting picked up obviously!) If you’re not enjoying it, maybe you should just pay for a bus. You are the one asking for a FREE ride here. Be grateful, enjoy the moment and smile.
Write a Sign
A sign isn’t essential but if you need to make it from Point A to Point B by X o’clock – it can help. You will have people stop for you but many will be going somewhere out of the way or they will be going down the road you’re on but will turn off at the next town. Some of these nice fellows will suggest that they drive out of their way to drive you more in the right direction. If you have a sign, you narrow down your drivers and you’ll get the perfect ride. In New Zealand you’ll see a lot of hitchhikers with a sign that says “Anywhere”…I’m not really into it, if you really want to go anywhere, skip the sign.
Put Your Thumb Out
Extend you arm from your body and out towards the oncoming traffic. Lift your thumb and clench your fist. You are hitchhiking.
Trust Your Gut
If you get a bad feeling, don’t take the ride. I did a long stretch of hitchhiking in New Zealand and I took some pretty stupid rides that I probably should have turned down. They were all nice people in the end but I still had such a bad feeling during the ride. Don’t feel bad to turn down the ride, especially if you are a solo female hitchhiker just say “Thank you for stopping but I am only accepting rides from female drivers”.
Hold onto your phone and make sure your driver sees it in your hand. When you get in the car, pretend to text your friends or parents and tell them you are on your way. Tell your driver casually “I just told my dad I’m on my way”. Carry pepper spray or something to defend yourself with. I carry a Global Chef’s Knife, Samurai tested, and I know where it is if I need it. If you feel uncomfortable, tell your driver “That’s a good spot just there ahead” and have him drop you off immediately. Be smart and stay alert.
Don’t be afraid. I know there is a lot of yucky stuff about hitchhiking, especially so for the female hitchhiker, but don’t let this hold you back. Hitchhiking is an awesome experience that builds your confidence and sense of freedom in the world. It helps build a connection between people from different countries and a sense of community.
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