Knowing how to hitchhike effectively means knowing how to find the most favorable ride with the minimum investment of time, energy and resources.
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How to Hitchhike Effectively No Matter Where You Are

Knowing how to hitchhike effectively means knowing how to find the most favorable ride with the minimum investment of time, energy and resources.
I enjoy hitchhiking and as hobby I hitchhike an average of ten thousand kilometers per year, every year. Based on my personal hitchhiking experience accumulated during the years I can say that this is not possible to learn from any book, documentary or any other sort of learning material, including this paper that I wrote and that You are now reading - this is possible to learn only by going out on the road and doing it, practicing it over and over again. Here, as in any other hitchhiking learning material, there are only hitchhiking tips, You will be able to truly learn only from your personal experience, and if You practice this extreme sport for enough years You will be amazed to see that learning, in the hitchhiking field, is a process that never reaches an end.

Learning how to hitchhike effectively is a process that develops in time and that goes hand in hand with the experience accumulated in this field - the more experience You as hitchhiker will accumulate, the more You will know how to hitchhike effectively. Briefly, what helps to hitchhike more effectively is:
  • study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike
  • hitchhike from where You know is a good spot, not from where your driver suggests
  • jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking spot
  • have a friendly appearance
  • have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood
  • use your common sense
  • use hitchhiking signs appropriately
  • use appropriate outdoor equipment
  • carry luggage as small and light as possible
  • try different hitchhiking techniques
Now I will explain in detail the meaning of each of the points I wrote above.

Study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike.
While hitchhiking, the comfort that one has at home often doesn't have on the road. You will face high temperatures and rain in the summers, while in the winters icy cold and blowing snow. Try to picture this scenario in your mind: You are walking on the side of the road in a summer day and You feel the drops of rain on your face because is raining and You have no choice but to keep walking, or in a cold winter day while You struggle to find a ride the blowing snow keeps getting into your eyes and the freezing cold makes your feet hurt. Along your hitchhiking route, knowing in advance where You can have a warm shower, where You can stop for a break in a petrol station or bar to have a warm drink and refill your bottle with water, where You can put your tent to rest well for the night or where is the most convenient place for You to buy food makes a big difference. Hitchhiking, as sport, can get so extreme that You might even get to the point to hate being on that road in that moment. Because of this, every little comfort that You can benefit of while on the road is important for your health and good mood. Without being healthy and without good mood is not possible to hitchhike.
Then, studying your route in advance allows You to know where You can find rides easier. For example, is always easier to find rides engaging drivers in conversations rather than staying on the side of the road waiting for a driver to notice You and be willing to pick You up so You might want to look for spots along your route where drivers stop to have a break or refuel, such as petrol stations, or if You prefer to get rides in trucks then You might want to go to parking areas where truckers stop to sleep or have the short breaks because as trucks are very heavy is hard for them to stop as easy as city cars do and once they leave the
How to hitchhike effectively: study your hitchhiking route
parking areas usually they don't stop.
Another aspect that can be of your interest as hitchhiker, is noticing where the bigger cities are located in relation to your hitchhiking route and keep in mind that usually in the mornings people will drive inbound those bigger cities as they will go to work, while in the late afternoon and early evenings they will drive outbound bigger cities as they will return to their homes from work.
One last thing that is relevant concerning your hitchhiking route is the type of road that You will take: is it a national road going mostly through countryside, is it an express road, is it a motorway with restricted access to pedestrians? Does this road have more local traffic or more international traffic? On this road, where are the people driving from and where are they headed to? Is this road restricted to certain vehicles or is it open to all types of vehicles? Knowing this type of information allows You to better prepare yourself in advance and to better estimate the time that will take You to cover a certain distance. Are parts of your hitchhiking route going through desert or through the mountains? Knowing this in advance You will be able to take with You clothes that are more appropriate for the temperatures and weather that You will face and will allow You to make better decisions about where to stop to sleep for the night. There is a saying about weather which is absolutely true when it comes to hitchhiking: "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing".
Knowing in advance if there are any dangerous predators (like bears for example) in any of the areas cut by your hitchhiking route can prove useful as this way You will be able to make wiser decisions about where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking in that specific area.
The study of your hitchhiking route is easy to do using services which provide updated maps and sattelite images, like Google Maps for example.

Hitchhike from where You know is a good spot, not from where your driver suggests.
Often, some people that will see You on the street or some of your drivers will recommend You to go or to take You to certain spots as in their opinion that is where will be easy for You to find the next ride. These people want to help You. The problem is that, unless they have concrete personal hitchhiking experience, the hitchhiking spots they recommend are no good for hitchhiking and in most of the cases these places will only translate into a waste of time, energy and resources for You. You should not go to these spots. Once You study your hitchhiking route You should know more or less where You have to go to find the type of rides You are interested in. Go to the hitchhiking spots that You think are good ones, not to those recommended by people who even if they want to help You they have no concrete personal hitchhiking experience. This is one of the very first personal hitchhiking lessons that I experienced many years ago when I started to hitchhike.

Jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking spot.
In the process of learning how to hitchhike effectively, understanding this hitchhiking technique will save You a lot of time, energy and resources.
A beginner hitchhiker, what usually does is this: goes to the exit of the city and waits on the side of the road until gets picked by someone, then once in a car asks the driver to take him/her to the center of the next town, then gets out of the car and repeats the loop until arrives at his/her destination.
An experienced hitchhiker, what usually does is this: goes to the closest hitchhiking spot that seems good to him/her and from that spot finds a specific type of ride that will drop him/her to another good hitchhiking spot from where can easily continue until arrives at his/her destination.
Excluding hitchhiking boats, aircraft and trains from these hitchhiking tips, a good hitchhiking spot ideally is a place where many cars and trucks going in your direction stop for limited time, there is a facility there that offers some
How to hitchhike effectively: petrol station on motorway
sort of comfort and the staff working there is friendly (an example of such hitchhiking spot can be a petrol station located on an important road that has a big parking area and a bar, restaurant or motel where is possible to get water and food, stay warm, use the toilet services for free and offers an open unrestricted wi-fi Internet connection as well, another example can be a border crossing point).
If You are in a place like this then likely You are in a good hitchhiking spot. This hitchhiking technique consists in getting a ride from a place like this to another place like this, "jumping" over the geographic area in between that otherwise would take a lot more time to cover. I give You a concrete example: lets say that your route crosses three or more countries and You are at a border crossing point on an important road where lots of cars and trucks drive slowly and they are headed to the next country where You are also headed - the "jumping" hitchhiking technique in this case consists in finding one specific direct ride that will take You from this border crossing point to just before the next border crossing point, crossing the entire country in one ride and saving a lot of time and resources doing so, instead of taking any ride and going through many towns and cities.

To hitchhike more effectively have a friendly appearance.
Hitchhiking depends a lot on how friendly the hitchhiker is and hitchhiker's appearance is one of the major factors which influence hitchhiker's success or failure in finding rides. The friendlier and better the hitchhiker looks, the more people will be willing to give him/her a ride. Based on my personal experience I can say that when it comes to hitchhiking, appearance is so relevant that for two different people hitchhiking on the same route in the same day can be very different.
There is no second chance to make a first good impression. Before starting to hitchhike, make sure that You are clean and don't look like anything that can be associated to a dangerous person in the area where You intend to hitchhike. Being on the road is not an excuse to be dirty. Being clean and looking good is often associated with self-respect. If You don't have respect for yourself, is likely that few people will and in relation to hitchhiking this translates into not finding rides.
When approaching drivers to ask for a ride, smile. As I explained in "the Importance of Smiling in Communication", a smile on your face while You approach a driver to engage him/her in conversation will help You appear more friendly.

Have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood.
Sometimes You will get stuck, or You will not have any food with You left until the next day, or You will miss an exit on the motorway because your pronunciation is not that good and your driver misunderstood You, or a driver will give You a rude answer when You approach to talk or will even insult You without any reason, and many other unpleasant events can happen which can negatively influence your mood. Whatever happens, You should always react in a positive way and don't let your emotions have a negative impact on You. Always remain calm and try to preserve your good mood. Your good mood and your positive attitude are two other major factors which determine your success or failure in finding rides. Because our energy is perceived by who is around us. If You let your good mood to be destroyed, the next people You will approach to ask for a ride will perceive your negative energy, and guess what, they will not pick You up.

Use your common sense.
Your common sense will help You avoid most of the problems of any sort that could arise in any of your trips, hitchhiking and backpacking included. Everything You do, do it with common sense.

Use hitchhiking signs appropriately.
To understand in which cases I recommend using signs while hitchhiking and in which cases I recommend not using them please read "Hitchhiking Signs: When to Use Them".

Use appropriate outdoor equipment.
Quoting a truck driver that I met two times in two different countries in the same year, "as hitchhiker You do lots of kilometers on the right seat, but You do lots of kilometers on foot as well". Is when You will have no other choice but to walk that You will have to be ready to deal with the burning sun and showering rain in the summers and with the blowing snow and icy cold in the winters. Based on my personal experience accumulated during the years practicing this sport, I can say that even in common circumstances sooner or later on your route is likely You will have to walk off-road in order to save time. Before getting on the road, I strongly recommend buying a pair of good quality waterproof hiking shoes and a good quality waterproof rain jacket.
In the winter, hitchhiking is not like going for a walk around town for few hours and then returning to your home and enjoying its warmth. Hitchhiking, You will be outdoors from morning until evening, and if among the things to carry while hitchhiking and backpacking You intend to take also a tent with You in order to save money on accommodation, then is likely You will be outdoors during the night as well. In the winter, for this You will have to wear warmer clothes than what You would normally wear when going for a walk around town.

Carry luggage as small and light as possible.
A luggage small and light helps You to hitchhike more effectively in three ways. First, there are drivers that have little space in their vehicles (for example those who drive sport cars) and carrying a big luggage
would make it not possible for those drivers to take You even if they want to. Second, sometimes because of other traffic the driver has only few seconds available to pick You up or drop You and carrying heavy and big luggage would make it difficult for You to get in/out the vehicle in just few seconds. Third, hitchhiking from morning until evening is already enough tiring, carrying big and heavy luggage would make it exhausting.
As luggage, is way more practical to carry a backpack instead of a trolley or
How to hitchhike effectively: carry a small and light backpack as possible
a bag. Also, to hitchhike as effectively as possible, You should always have your hands free, and carrying a backpack instead of a trolley or a bag helps in this as well. Remember that hitchhiking means also walking a lot.

Try different hitchhiking techniques.
If You hitchhike and You get stuck, based on my personal experience, I can say that there is always a reason why it happened - it could be the location, the people living in that place, the time, or You. After a while, if You see that what You have been doing since You got to that place didn't get You any ride, then don't insist in doing the same thing thinking that a miracle will happen, because it won't happen and You will only waste your time, your energy and your resources. Instead, stop doing it, observe and analyze what is going on, the actions and their effects, and then, with common sense try a new technique by doing something different than what You did up to that moment.
If You hitchhike together with another person and that person has more experience than You, inform that person of how You perceive the environment and let that person make the decisions about what to do.
Someone once said that "only idiots expect different results doing the same thing", which put in other words means that when we pursue a goal many times we have to try different ways to achieve it. When something goes not as we want it to go, to get a different result we must do something different than what we did up to that point.

Learning how to hitchhike effectively no matter where You are, no matter if is summer or winter, sunny or snowy, by day or by night, takes years of practice, yet is rewarding and most of the times entertaining. Slowly, while practicing this sport, You will develop also other skills that will prove useful in your everyday life, such as organizational and planning skills, prioritization, decision making, survival and problem solving. As is based on the interaction with other people, You will meet all sorts of people and You will have great positive experiences. There are lots of really good, wonderful people all around the world. However, based on how I experienced this sport during the years, I feel is my duty to bring to your attention also that hitchhiking is not a joke and You should be careful every time You intend to hitchhike and You should always treat it as seriously as possible, because it can kill You. You are the only one responsible for yourself and for your actions. Every time You intend to hitchhike, hitchhike responsibly.

Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre, © 2017



See also

      > How to Hitchhike Safely Preventing Common Hitchhiking Dangers

      > Where to Sleep While Hitchhiking and Backpacking

      > Hitchhiking Signs: When to Use Them

      > The Importance of Smiling in Communication

      > Things to Carry While Hitchhiking & Backpacking
People who met me say...

Hitchhiker and Adventurer from Europe
"Meeting with Adriano is like charging yourself with a positive attitude that leads to happiness and success and can change your whole life. With that I am saying that people like Adriano will never be lost. He will always find a way how to enjoy the time that he has for himself and others and get the most out of it, even if he is alone in the middle of nowhere."
~
Liva Juskevica