Every good vacation is filled with new experiences, and our recent trip to Nice was no exception. Some of these experiences are quite unsurprising: seeing new places, discovering cool art, getting locked in… But some of my favourite vacation stories revolve around the more unexpected new experiences. The kind you can’t plan for, but which really bring something unique to your journey. In this post, I’d like to share the story of the first time we picked up hitchhikers!
Some time near the halfway point of our 15-hour-long ride home, we were taking a break at one of the aires that you find along many French toll roads. While I was lying down on the backseat to get some rest, I saw a girl approaching Boyfriend. They kept looking at me and talking with many hand gestures, so I got out to see what was up. She and her friend (who was off on the opposite side of the parking area talking to other drivers) were trying to get to Geneva, and wanted to know if we happened to be going in that direction. After a brief chat and some fiddling with Google Maps, they decided that we kind of were.
The woman looked friendly enough, we wouldn’t have to go out of our way to help them at all, and, frankly, we could really use some excitement on such a long drive (even though we had an awesome playlist and a number of audiobooks). So, after carefully considering the situation, we decided to help the two of them out.
We had to rearrange some of our baggage, but before long, all four of us were in the car and on our way north. After some introductions, we learned that our guests were veteran hitchhikers, and that they had even met through an organisation that helps would-be hitchhikers find travelbuddies. Both Boyfriend and I were very curious about their experiences, and they seemed more than happy to share stories. They told us that it’s actually really easy to get around by simply asking people for a ride, and that, on average, they have about 5 minutes of downtime between rides (though, as they themselves added, the fact that they were both young, attractive women might play a role in that). It isn’t always that easy, though: sometimes it can take hours before someone agrees to take you along. Some friends of theirs once had to wait nine whole hours.
Speaking of hitchhiking as young, attractive women, the conversation quickly moved on to safety concerns. They told us that, while you have to be careful, of course, there are a lot of things you can do to stay safe. For starters, apparently real pros never try to get a ride by standing by the side of the road holding up signs or doing the hitchhiking sign. Instead, they moved from one busy area to the next (think gas stations, large rest areas like the aires, et cetera), and approached people on their own initiative. This immediately gives you more control. Additionally, travelling in pairs is of course also very advisable (not to mention more enjoyable).
We briefly talked about the differences between hitchhiking as two women and, for example, as a woman and a man. While this might make sketchy people less inclined to be sketchy, it also has a flipside: drivers tend to feel less safe around male hitchhikers, which makes it harder to get a ride in the first place. To this, one of our guests added that that was silly, really, as she could beat someone up just as easily as a guy could (which, while I agree with the sentiment, might not exactly be the best thing to tell your driver, so I joked we would kick them out of the car at the next stop).
All too soon, we reached the part where we had to part ways. We were almost out of gas, and they needed to take an exit that would take us too far off course. We said our goodbyes and wished each other safe journeys. They were a little closer to home, and we were one very memorable experiences the richer.