Hitchhiking is a wonderful (and of course free) way to see the world. A lot of people have come to believe that it's a thing of the past, however it's still a very realistic way to travel, practiced by thousands each year. In the past decade there has been an incredible comeback (see here). In addition, new technologies have made it safer than ever. The five of us are happy to answer any questions you have on the practice, or just share our experiences on the road. We've done our best to provide proof. Ask away!

EDIT: Alright ya'll, it's been 12 hours and we've done our best to answer every single question. It's been fun and I hope you all learned a thing or two. If you are ever interested in giving thumbing a try, we're very friendly over at /r/hitchhiking, and would love to help you get started. Keep your thumbs out!


We are (In order of mileage):

/u/thewindandrain

Hitching

Timestamp

Countries: Canada, USA, Costa Rica

Mileage: ~105,000 km (65,400 mi)

/u/payne007

Hitching

Timestamp

Countries: Canada, USA

Mileage: ~91,700 km (57,000 mi)

/u/gk3coloursred

Hitching

Timestamp

Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Wales

Mileage: ~40,200 km (25,000 mi)

/u/physicshipster

Hitching

Timestamp

Countries: Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Laos, Bhutan

Mileage: ~21,400 km (13,300 mi)

/u/Ghostophile

Hitching

Timestamp

Countries: USA

Mileage: ~19,000 km (12,000 mi)

Comments: 533 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

miiuiiu28 karma

Man, it's like an old-school AMA, with real answers to all the questions and stuff. This is awesome guys!

Obviously, a big part of hitchhiking is the human aspect, but let's talk about vehicles. You've spent more time in the passenger seats of more vehicle types and makes than most. Have you developed a preference? Freightliner vs. Mac., which is the better truck? Strangest vehicle you've ridden in? Most luxurious? Smoothest suspension? Most likely to be driven by somebody who will pick up hitchhikers?

physicshipster23 karma

Love this question! Honestly, any time a truck stops it's one of the best feelings you can know. Last summer I was in south east california and the sun was almost down. I was just about to go set up camp when a huge 18 wheeler pulls over. You always have this moment of frantic euphoria as you run towards the truck where you think to yourself "HOLY SHIT HE ACTUALLY STOPPED FOR ME". Riding in the back of a pick up truck is a close second for most fun. Got a long ride (also last summer) in a pick up from Arizona to New Mexico. Felt so good to have the wind in my hair as we blazed through the desert. Good times!

Strangest Vehicle? Freight train, 60s VW beetle, minivan piled high with birdfeeders one time.

Most Luxurious? Definitely an RV that picked me up in new zealand.

Smoothest suspension? Trucks aren't bad, had some very nice luxury 4x4s which were great.

Most likely to be driven by a hitcher-picker-upper? Beat up cars are slightly more likely I suppose. Pretty rare to get picked up by a flashy sports care. In general not too much of an obvious trend.

alexiagrace22 karma

How do you handle safety concerns? As a woman, I would be paranoid about getting robbed/kidnapped/etc.

physicshipster27 karma

I have met a lot of women who hitchhike alone and say they've never had a bad experience. They carry phones, a knife or can of mace, and let people know their route before leaving. That being said it is probably best for women to hitch in pairs, or with a male friend if possible. When I discuss with solo female hitchers, they are not denying that there is a risk to hitching solo, but they're not convinced it's any more dangerous than walking alone downtown at night.

iambluest37 karma

To be fair, you wouldn't have much chance to talk to a woman who had a very negative experience.

physicshipster6 karma

This is a good point. I would imagine, however, that these dangers exist in many aspects of traveling solo, not just hitchhiking. That being said, if you ever did want to try it, find a friend and hit the road!

dirtyinthelurdy20 karma

How did you guys get the idea to do this? What percentage of drivers do you estimate actually gave you guys rides?

physicshipster18 karma

I think we all had different reasons. I was in Tasmania and there was no other way to travel as I didn't have a driver's licence. It was either hitchhike or don't go. Once I started though I realized how much fun it is, and was hooked right away! The percentage of drivers varies incredibly from place to place. New Zealand and Bhutan were the best. You'd wait 5 minutes max (Maybe 1 in 4 cars would pick you up). Mississippi and Western Ontario were the worst, huge wait times (1 in a couple hundred I'd guess).

Bruins334615 karma

[deleted]

physicshipster11 karma

There have been a few odd ones, but nobody that has made me feel threatened. If ever I do feel threatened in future I will definitely not get in the car. It's a good policy to say you're not going to the same destination if you feel threatened.

plummye14 karma

What was the best story you heard from the people you were traveling with?

Also I thought the title said: We are five Hijackers who have used our thumbs to travel over 270,000 km collectively in 30 countries. With the plane in the image icon I was confused for a bit.

physicshipster17 karma

A few good ones come to mind. I had a brit pick me up in Australia who wasn't happy with his life in the UK, so he quit his job, bought a ship and sailed to Australia to start a new life. I was picked up by a 'prison architect' (that's a thing apparently) once who had amazing stories about every pub we passed. He had once picked up a hitchhiker who had left home at 16 in France and had traveled nonstop ever since. He was 35 when the drive had picked him up. An Ecuadorian man who picked me up in Louisiana had ran away from home (also at 16) and lived for a year on top of a bakery. Heaps of good ones!

Skruffee10 karma

What's the most unexpected thing you've used your towel for?

physicshipster13 karma

Haha, I loved the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy series. Honest answer: nothing especially interesting comes to mind besides drying myself off.

bcgray99 karma

What's the scariest situation you've been in (or heard about) while hitchhiking?

physicshipster8 karma

Personally my worst was probably a wily guy in Texas who drove me way off track and kept asking me for money. He let me off at a gas station when I asked though. Worst I've heard? Lots of stories of guys who take out their penis in the car. It's a shame there are people like that out there.

Barbara_Streisandd4 karma

For me was taking an offer to drive this dude's car who admit to me he was too drunk to continue himself. After maybe 10 minutes down the road I realized this guy has some unknown mental issues so I told him I was going to turn around and give him his car back. I didnt feel comfortable being around him

At that point he flipped out and grabbed the steering wheel attempting to steer the car. I slammed on the brakes, he kept flipping out, crying etc. I waited and calmed him down a bit before heading bsck to where we started off

physicshipster3 karma

Shit man, that's messy. Poor guy.

alexiagrace9 karma

What is the longest you've waited for someone to give you a ride? What's the longest distance someone drove you?

physicshipster7 karma

Longest wait time: about 24 hours in the Australian Outback. I was well stocked with water, and I had a tent, so I knew I wouldn't die. If ever I started running low on supplies I would stand in the road and flag down a car. If a car sees you are in distress (or waving an empty water bottle) they will stop right away. Longest distance, probably North Carolina to Syracuse, whatever that was. Though I did have 1200km on the east coast. I think /u/payne007 had a massive one down the west coast from Alaska to California or something.

sensestrand6 karma

Did all the people that picked you up fit into a particular demographic? Personality type?

physicshipster6 karma

Not at all! And this is one of the best thing about hitching. The only similarity is that they are all profoundly good people, but other than that they come from all walks of life. I've had soccer moms, architects, physicists, a fashion designer, single dads, other hitchhikers, mexican refugees, religious, atheists, people driving to find themselves, a math teacher, a set designer for HBO, one of the merry pranksters, and honestly this list could go on forever. Because of the huge diversity of people you learn so much that you wouldn't have considered otherwise. It's a great way to introduce yourself to different worldviews.

Superaverunt6 karma

Have you ever had any sexual encounters or proposals through hitchhiking, if so details?

physicshipster13 karma

I ended up skinny dipping with a MtoF transsexual in California once. There was nothing sexual about it, but wow did the surgeon do a good job on her boobs.

Superaverunt2 karma

That actually sounds like a hilarious story

physicshipster5 karma

She was great, we camped together by the Pacific and shared stories about our lives by the campfire. Shame I'll probably never see her again. Oh, I should also mention I only discovered she was transsexual when we first got in the water. A wee bit of a surprise to say the least, haha.

SnarkyLondoner886 karma

How, exactly, and which new technologies make getting in a car with a complete stranger safer than it was when Charlie Manson was tearing up the place? AND did all 5 of you travel together all the time?

physicshipster6 karma

Cell phones give you a constant line of communication to friends and family, and GPS makes you trackable. Another idea is asking a driver to take a picture of their license plate before getting in the car and sending it to a friend. If they say yes they have nothing to hide, if they say no then don't get in the car. The 5 of us have never even met outside of reddit, although I think /u/thewindandrain and /u/payne007 did travel together briefly last fall in California.

thewindandrain3 karma

only hitched once with payne here in santa fe. got a 1 mile ride together.

physicshipster8 karma

Still counts!

Barbara_Streisandd5 karma

Share a interesting story/experience!

EDIT: also, sign or thumb. What do you prefer? What do you think gets more rides?

physicshipster6 karma

In the outback I was picked up by a Dutch couple. 2 months later on the east coast I was surfing and just happened to bump into them. I got a job offer from a German ecologist while hitching in New Zealand (still have his card). In the US a driver brought us to his week grow-op. I don't smoke, but my friend and him got high as kites. One of the truckers who picked me up in the US believed that Jesus was an alien who had encoded physics lessons into the bible. I gave him a 4 hour lesson on string theory and somewhat managed to get him to abandon the alien theory. A math teacher picked me up in Oz once and we drove all night listening to rock and roll and talking about life. Those are the ones that come to mind at the moment.

I prefer signs, though sometimes when there is only really one place the road leads I won't bother.

esiedlecki5 karma

I've given people rides before, but only through rideshare ads on Craigslist. Picking people up without contact at first has always sketched me out a little bit. I want to pick them up, but I'm just a little nervous. Should I pick them up?

physicshipster4 karma

Definitely! Most likely they are just as nervous about you as you are of them.

NationYell4 karma

What has been the best food someone has made for you/given you on your journey? Worst food as well please.

physicshipster7 karma

Interesting question. One woman in Ontario treated me to amazingly good apple pie and ice cream. Can't think of a worst. In Laos a truck driver gave us a bag of rice, which was bland but we were so hungry it was amazing.

dirtymoney4 karma

were you ever harassed by cops for hitchhiking?

physicshipster5 karma

Cops will often check on hitchers. In my years of hitching I've only once been told I could not hitch and would have to take a bus. The vast majority of times cops are very friendly, and will check your ID and give you tips on safe spots. Twice I've actually gotten a ride with cops!

minesony4 karma

Hey! I love this AMA! I've done a bunch of backpacking like everyone else, but I really dig the spirit of the way you guys go about it, some inspiring stuff that really gives me a bug deep down. My questions are, what's in your bags and how much do they roughly weigh? Also hygiene, what's the go to solution when your feeling like a dirty old rag?

physicshipster2 karma

You can find a lot of info on our gear and backpacks here. As for hygiene, couchsurfing is a great way to get a shower and a warm bed when possible. If not I can usually find streams and/or rivers in summer to grab a quick dip and shampoo.

PastaPanda333 karma

How difficult was it getting rides from people in different countries that spoke foreign languages?

physicshipster6 karma

Not too tough! I speak enough Japanese that I could get my ideas across in Japan. In Bhutan and Laos it was entirely hand gestures and smiles. It was kind of a bummer not being able to chat with the drivers though. As long as you can (sort of) pronounce the name of your destination you will get there.

thewindandrain3 karma

/u/physicshipster how was the hitchhiking in japan?

physicshipster7 karma

Fantastic! Very easy country to hitch in. Drivers are so eager to help out foreigners and would more often than not buy us snacks or drinks.

thewindandrain2 karma

I really want to hitch there, I've been watching airfarewatchdog prices for a long time now but there's so many things left to do on this continent that it might take a while for me to expand outwards. What time of year were you there and how often did it rain/snow?

Also how did you get into bhutan to hitch? I thought it was heavily regulated.

physicshipster3 karma

June. Rain: lots (it was typhoon season). Snow: none.

QuantumFX3 karma

Why are you so awesome? Also, trivia night?

physicshipster2 karma

It's happening!

bionicnipple3 karma

Have you ever read 'even cowgirls get the blues'?

physicshipster2 karma

No but it looks hilarious!

WhySpread_Panic3 karma

One of you guys made mention of being on a bad road for hitching; what constitutes a good road to to get picked up and not hassled by the cops? Also, are any of you guys rainbow?

physicshipster2 karma

There are some other good tips for this under section IV of the beginner's manual; the latter which is found on the sidebar of /r/hitchhiking.

37sense3 karma

  1. Did you guys hitch the whole way or was there also any train hopping along with it?

2 what is the most dangerous situation you have encountered through hitching.

physicshipster6 karma

I trainhopped once last summer. One thing I can't stress enough is that getting on a moving train is very dangerous. People interested in trainhopping should either find someone with experience to accompany them or do what I did: walk up to the train and ask the driver nicely if you can ride with him. Many will say yes.

payne0073 karma

Really?!

You just walk up to the locomative's driver and ask them? By that time, you are already trespassing, I believe, so the good old white-truck can bust you, no?

physicshipster11 karma

There was no barrier where I was between the tracks and the road, so yeah, I just walked up and said "Sorry to bother you, I don't want to do anything illegal or dangerous, but I'm trying to get east, could I ride with you?" The guy set me up in my own cabin with water and AC. Sweet deal!

Barbara_Streisandd2 karma

Hey /u/psychichipster

I recently did ~16,000km in australia circling the entire country starting/finishing in Melbourne in roughly 6 months

What route did you take for Australia?

physicshipster2 karma

Cool! Australia was my first hitching experience, so I did a mix of charter flights and hitching. In hindsight I should have just hitched, but what can you do.

I started in Tasmania where I hitched from Hobart to Gordon's Dam and back. Then later from Alice Springs to Uluru and back. Finally I hitched from Brisbane up to Airlie beach and then back down. I was in Australia for 5 months on exchange, living in Melbourne. Fantastic city!

jonhudsonian2 karma

What is the next episode of Majors going to be about?!

physicshipster4 karma

Linguistics. Now can we please keep the questions about Rampart?

fannerz2 karma

I have a question. Why do you never pick up your damn phone? :P

physicshipster2 karma

Hey! Did you call me today? Laura's taking a nap so my phone has been on silent for the past while.