Matt Westenburg Talks Hitchhiking

Hitchhikers are brave, adventurous souls who choose to ignore the rules about getting into a car with strangers. These people thrive on the uncertainty of new people and places. In many countries hitchhiking is a common way to get around, but Western countries tend to view it as dangerous. People are often skeptical and don’t trust hitchhikers enough to offer them a ride. For the people who do decide to hitch a ride, hitchhiking can be a rewarding experience.

Hitchhiking in America is very different depending which part of the country you’re traveling through, which makes sense considering its massive size. In general, though, you will be able to travel safely across the country. Not only will people offer you rides, but you’ll have opportunities to share a meal with them and be welcomed into their homes. The roadways and transportation infrastructure in the US cover a lot of ground, so make a plan. It’s important to know your destination and let the journey unfold as you go.

Matt Westenburg

First impressions matter

Appearance is everything when you’re trying to catch a free ride across the country. Drivers are going to decide within a matter of seconds whether or not to offer you a ride. People will be more accepting if you’re open and confident. Practice making eye contact with your potential drivers and don’t forget to smile. These little gestures go a long way to making a good first impression. If you’re acting nervous and uncomfortable, people will be suspicious.

Dress for success

The popular phrase “dress for success” applies to hitchhikers, too. Even though you’re backpacking, staying clean and dressing well help you get a ride. Nobody wants to ride with a smelly, gross person. People tend to be drawn towards other people who look like them. Similar interests and shared values can give you something in common with your driver, which makes the ride more fun.

Matt Westenburg

Practice your small talk

Hitchhikers need to be prepared to have conversations with strangers. If you’re sitting quietly in a random, car things will get very awkward very quickly. Think about where you’re trying to hitch a ride. Hitchhiking along a busy interstate is dangerous and drivers will not be able to stop for you. Try connecting with drivers at gas stations, stop lights, and slower traffic areas.

Just say no

Just because you’re trying to catch a ride doesn’t mean you’re trying to catch ANY ride. Be smart about whose car you get into. If the driver seems angry or weird, walk away. There will be more options, and it’s not worth taking the risk.

Hitchhiking can lead to incredible opportunities and rewarding experiences as you encounter new faces and new places. Pack you bags, make a plan and let the adventure begin.