I'm not quite sure how I even came across Sarah's blog (The Nomadic Dreamer) but I was instantly intrigued as hitchhiking has always seemed so distant to me... hard, crazy, risky. I messaged Sarah to see if she would give you and I an insight in to how she's found hitchhiking. Hopefully you find Sarah and her experiences as inspiring as I do!...
First, thing's first... tell us a little bit about yourself...
I am Sarah. 25 years old and from the Arkansas, USA. I am traveling the world and spreading a positive message in each place I go through the Nomadic Dream Website and also by any opportunities to speak to the public my positive message. I desire to inspire others to start living a life of courage and to start truly doing all the things he or she has always dreamed of doing.
(Read more on The Nomadic Dreamer's about me page.)
So let’s start at the beginning. When did you first hitchhike and what attracted you to it?
I started hitchhiking in April of this year. I had been living in Spain for 2 years and traveling to many different parts of Europe in those 2 years and always taking a bus, BlaBla car or trains. I felt comfortable traveling and so I decided to start a trip and do something completely outside my comfort zone, which is why I chose to start hitch-hiking alone. Its truly a test of courage.
What sort of signal do you use to flag people down? Are the thumbs up a cliché?
I almost always use a pretty made sign to get people to stop. I put hearts or followers on it and sometimes write “hello” in the local language just to make it a bit more personal. If I don't have time, I just find a random box on the side of the road and make my sign, however if I have time I like to get some pretty paper and make a better sign. As far as thumbs, I use it when I need to. For example, I am in Croatia now and to get most of my way here I just used my thumb, but I think its better a sign. You can also go to service stations and ask people, so if I ever get that opportunity I do that! :)
…And what do you say to the people when they stop?
First and most importantly, I look at them directly in the eyes and if they give me a bad energy, I say no thank you. However, if I look at them and I get a good energy I continue talking with them. They start off by asking me where I am going and we try to compare our travel routes to see if there is a place he or she can drop me off in their route. The important talk about my name, what I am doing etc happens when we start the car ride.
Which countries have you hitchhiked in so far?
Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Luxemburg, France, Spain
Easiest: Morocco and Montenegro. Moroccan people are generally known for their hospitality and so when they saw you on the side of the road they really want to help. I hitchhiked alone and with 2 other people (including a guy) and we got picked up VERY fast.
Hardest: Spain. Hitch-hiking is not so common in Spain, so there were times that I had to wait (alone as a girl) for over an hour for something. It all depends really on where your going, but it can be difficult, but not impossible.
Is there anything you pack that you only take because you’re hitch hiking? (e.g. do you take a paper map? Do you take a smaller bag?)
I always have my smart phone with to connect at any given moment if I want to. I prefer to have the option of internet, however that does not mean I always actually connect. I have been in situations where the driver did not speak my language, so if I didn't have my map on my phone I would not of been able to show him where I wanted to go. I ALWAYS carry a small bag up front with me between my legs with my important stuff in it, and little sharp scissors in the bag, JUST IN CASE (so far I have not used them). I like to keep a notebook up front with me to write, my money and passport (especially if I am passing through countries I have to show my passport) and I ALWAYS have food with me (apples, etc).
I think one of the main concerns for most people considering hitch hiking is the safety aspect. Have you ever felt unsafe or had any close shaves?
I have not TRULY felt unsafe in any situations. Some situations are not as pleasant as others (maybe a crazy driver, dirty car, problem with communication due to language), but I have never felt in danger and I have been doing all of this alone. There are some guys that tend to be more flirty, however in those situations I just change the subject from any “personal” talk and put on the radio.
What can you do to reduce the risks or do you have any rituals that you do to make you feel safer?
I ALWAYS have someone “waiting for me” at the destination I am going to, even if I don't actually have them waiting for me. In some cases I will even take a picture before I get in the car of the license plate and say “Sorry, my friends and family know that I am HH and I promised them I would AT LEAST take a picture of the plates so they will feel more comfortable.” I don't actually send that to someone, but if the person I am riding with is an older man, many times I will do that. When I get in the car, sometimes I make a fake phone call and tell the person “waiting on me” that I will be arriving in 1 hour and that everything is good and talk a bit about my driver in front of him (that he is nice, where he is from, that he has children, and just any casual talk). Its more of a psychological thing, because if someone truly wants to hurt you while HH, its more likely that he or she will do it to someone that seems totally alone and not someone who has friends waiting for them.
Are there any great resources that you recommend for those considering taking the plunge? And what are you top tips?
Stop thinking about it and just DO IT! You can sit and think about all the things that “could” go wrong all day long, but the chances of those things actually happening if your careful are slim. Just use your head, plan smart and things should go good. If you don't know where to start, hitch wiki is a great website to find the best places to actually find a hitchhiking spot, because you need to get outside the city to start each time. I recommend finding your own courage and doing the first time alone, but if your not good with that then find a friend from one of the large hitchhiking facebook group (there are tons).
Lastly, is there a particular story you can tell us that just wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t hitch hiked?
I can't even begin to name the stories. There are SOOOO many! I have had drivers that have taken me to nice dinners, shown me the city by car or by foot, allowed me to sleep in their house with their families when I didn't have a place to go, and have even taken me on their own day excursions. I always try to stay flexible with my time, because you never know what kind of adventure is awaiting. Sometimes I think I am going in one direction, and I go with my driver in a totally different direction (however, not usually single men).
All photos taken from Sarah's site The Nomadic Dreamer. You can find looks more updates on Nomadic Dreamer Facebook Page.