Dangers of Hitch Hiking
Hitch-hiking - the ultimate adventure! Walk off down that road with your bag on your back and see where it takes you - it's a romantic dream shared by almost anyone who's ever read a Beat novel, heard of the hippy trail or seen Easy Rider. It's an integral part of the American Dream, but the idea didn't originate there; in fact, the concept of hitch-hiking existed long before there was ever a name for it.
But alas, that was back in the days when the world was a safer place; when a gentleman in his car would feel obliged to offer a lady a lift if he saw her walking alone, when people never needed to lock their doors and it was safe to let your kids go out and play for days - you know, the good old days!
We could go on a trip of nostalgia here, but to be honest, few of us are old enough to remember such days. The cold facts are that we live in a different world now, a world where there's more rape, murder, violent crime and robbery than we ever dared to imagine before.
For some of the more adventure-thirsty travellers out there however, the thrill outweighs the danger, and despite the dire warnings of those crazy people who care about you, it's one experience you just can't resist. So, if you must do it, at least bear in mind the following points.
Essential Advice for Would-be Hitch-Hikers
- Read up in advance. There are some places in the world where hitch-hiking is just asking for trouble, like North Africa; there are others where the dangers are fairly minimal, like east Asia. Always read up about where you're going as thoroughly as you possibly can. In many places it's possible to prearrange lifts and get in contact with other hitch-hikers in the same place with whom you can share lifts and experiences.
- Always carry a charged mobile phone with credit on it. The power of communication is a blessing of the time we live in and a phone could save your life. It's a deterrent to people who would do you harm and it can help you out of all sorts of tight spots. Even if you're abroad and using it costs a fortune, just carry it for emergencies.
- Be extra vigilant when hitch-hiking alone. Especially women. That's not sexist, it's realistic - attractive girls are a target for rapists, hairy-bottomed men aren't, and in certain places a lone woman may well be mistaken for a prostitute no matter how conservatively she dresses. You're infinitely safer with a companion, even another hitch-hiker, although this does reduce your chances of getting a lift.
- Put people at ease. Fear drives people to do things they otherwise wouldn't do, and remember that it's just as dangerous to pick up hitch-hikers as it is to be one. Respect the person who picks you up, be polite and don't invade their personal space or do things they ask you not to do. This is also a good policy for avoiding getting dumped in the middle of nowhere.
- Start in public places, like Service Stations. People who premeditate murder and rape won't want CCTV cameras showing you getting into their car. If you do end up stranded somewhere, do whatever you can to get to a public place, even if it means walking a few miles.
- Know where you are. Carry a map and try to keep an eye on where you're going - this is useful if you need to use that phone for help.
- Save the vehicle registration in your phone or in a notebook. This won't help much if you wind up dead (except in helping the police find the perpetrator) but if you're robbed or attacked you'll be glad you did it. Of course, it wouldn't be good form to let your lift see you doing this!
Hitch-hiking can be a life changing experience and can lead to the kind of adventures that will keep your grandchildren positively riveted in years to come when it's all but extinct as a mode of transport. But remember why so few people do it these days and above all, remember that your safety is more important than having an adventure. Trust your instincts and keep your wits (and your phone) about you.