In the age of the sharing economy, it is often believed that new fancy mobile applications or websites are the only path to innovation and new trends in your life. Sometimes however, the best solutions and innovative ways of doing things are not at all new, they stem from long ago and were already popular in our parents’ generation.
Thinking about travelling, what we all want to do is to move from A to B for as cheap as possible. Options everyone thinks of immediately are taking the car, train, plane or bus. Great options, but they are usually not at all that cheap. Those who love the power of the crowd, see the benefits of connecting suppliers and demanders, and believe in the kindness of others would probably suggest carpooling, which is for example offered on the platform Blablacar.
It is a great option as it connects those with space in their cars and those who need a ride. Transport is cheap, around 5 Euros for 100 km, and a nice chat with the other travelers is included. Interesting conversations guaranteed!
Whoever is a bit more adventurous, wants to travel for even cheaper and would like to explore a sharing economy without the necessity of the internet should however also try out another option: hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking is free, fun, surprisingly fast and reinforces your belief in the kindness of humanity. Really, people are nice. And most of them would actually take you along if you go in their direction, look friendly and ask politely.
Here is how it works: Get yourself some cardboard and a pen to make a sign with your destination (and maybe some places on the way) and a map including the service areas on the highways, like this one for Germany. Then check out the websites Hitchbase and Hitchwiki (ok, a little bit of internet and crowd wisdom is always useful and makes everything even easier).
Those websites list cities in Europe and the best places to get a lift to the preferred direction. A little bit of research there lets you find the best spots to hitch a lift to the highway. Once at the location, put your sign and thump up, smile and look each driver in the face.
And be patient, there will be a ride eventually! Another tip, wear decent but not too fancy clothes, it is all about a positive, friendly impression.
Once someone has stopped, ask them to take you on the highway to the next service station before they go to another direction. Never agree to someone dropping you at a parking spot or just off the highway if you want to continue further. From there, it would be too hard to get a new ride.
On the service station, place yourself in front of the gas station or at the entrance to the shop/restaurant, where people also pay their gas bills. Now ask politely anyone who enters or exits the shop if they have space for you and go towards your destination.
Never give up, always be nice and understanding, for example if the people are not sure if they should do it. A good strategy is to give them time to think until they are back from the toilet or have had their coffee. Usually, you will be in another car by then.
Don’t worry, hitchhiking is easy, especially in Western Europe where there are big highways and service stations, like for example in France or Germany. A tip to make life easier: Check what locals would write on their signs, for example a pleasant a.u.b. in the Netherlands or s.v.p. in France (meaning ‘please’ take me along).
From personal experience, you can calculate to need 1.5 times the duration of a normal car trip to your destination. It is all about getting on the highway. Once you are there, waiting for a ride will usually take about 5 to 25 minutes, if you are proactive. You meet the most interesting people. Ask them about their lives and tell them about yours. This can be the most tiring part, as you have to retell your story over and over again – a great reason for which it makes sense to go with a friend, as you can take turns in who ‘entertains’ the driver.
Hitchhiking is not something for every day, for that it can be too tiring and also to unforeseeable. But it is definitely something for once in a while. Maybe you are broke but would really like to get to Berlin. Or you are looking for a small adventure. Or you simply don’t believe in your fellow humans and need a boost of renewed faith. Simply try it out and search for your city’s best starting spot.
A final tip: Take a picture with each driver so that you can remember the funny, interesting or unusual conversations. Or the nice Mercedes they drove.