from Fearless Puppy on American Road by Doug "Ten" Rose
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There’s a process to hitchhiking—and most of
what holds true for the hitchhiking process holds true for the rest of life
First, you’ve got to decide that you want to get somewhere other than where
you are. Then you have to raise the determination to actually leave your
present location. All trips start with a determination that’s serious enough
to get you off your butt and moving. You may have a specific destination in
mind. It could just be a direction that you want to head in. Either way,
you’ll always have to conquer stagnation and lethargy, and sometimes have to
risk stability to get there.
After that, you have to pack what you’ll need. It’s always best to reach a
balance in packing. Certain things are essential, such as flashlight, towel,
toothbrush/toothpaste, lightweight emergency food, and water. But then
again, you may be walking a lot in rough weather from a place you get stuck
in. The difference between a thirty pound pack and an eighty pound pack
could end up being the difference between comfort or exhaustion/heat
stroke/frostbite and even death. But so could a half-pound sweater that you
thought unnecessary and left behind. Pack wisely.
You’ll also want a map. Other folks have been to the places you want to get
to and have traveled in the directions you want to go. Maps exist for nearly
every piece of road in the world. They all use universal symbols. It doesn’t
matter where you’re from or what language you speak. Everyone knows that a
bigger dot means a bigger city and that a thicker line connotes a major
highway. You can travel uninformed in unfamiliar territory if you like. You
can even make your own trail or road through wilderness. Folks used to do it
all the time in the olden days. Folks used to suffer greater hardships and
die younger back then too. Luckily, many of those people made maps of the
roads they built or discovered. Reading them can save us modern folk a lot
of time, energy, and disaster. It can help you to live longer and more
comfortably than people did in the olden days.
It is best to start a long hitchhiking trip from the on-ramp of a major
highway. Don’t stand right out on the highway itself. There are good reasons
why this is illegal. It is dangerous for the highway traffic as well as the
hitchhiker. The chance of getting crushed into eternity by a seventy mile
per hour vehicle paying strict attention to its own process is a lot greater
on the highway itself than on the entrance ramp. A car entering a ramp at
twenty-five miles per hour is going to be immediately aware that you are
safely on the shoulder looking for a ride. It will have a much greater
ability to pull over without killing you, its own passengers, or those in
other vehicles than a seventy mile per hour highway car would.
Get to the highway or main road as quickly and easily as possible. Standing
on a barely traveled road in a rural area where the drivers are unfamiliar
with you can last long enough for you to become vulture food. Hitching on a
main city street is usually unproductive and can be dangerous as well. The
highway or main road is probably close enough to where you wake up so that
you can get a ride from a friend, take a local bus, or even walk to it.
Once you are wisely packed and on an entrance ramp, you’re going to need
patience. You can put yourself on a main road, be properly packed and
intelligently discriminating about which cars you get into. That’s
brilliant. It does not change the fact that sometimes you’ll get passed by
hundreds of cars and have to wait several hours before someone stops for
you. It won’t change the fact that a driver who initially seems like fun may
turn into a downer, or worse, after a half hour’s acquaintance.
Most of the time good luck will favor you. It usually takes a good person to
pull their car over to help a stranger, in the first place. You still have
to be vigilant, discriminating, and patient—full time. That way you’re
prepared for anything.
Prepared does not mean paranoid or even afraid. It means aware. Have fun.
Travel should be a joyful process. If you think every car that pulls over
for you will have an axe-murderer driving it, you should take the bus.
(Unfortunately, your odds of meeting that axe-murderer may not drop much on
If you live through many years of hitchhiking, you’ll eventually get what is
called “a feel for the road.” You’ll have a better instinct for the best
times to be on which roads, what equipment to carry, whose car to not get
into, and so on. Rides will seem to come more easily. This is still no time
to let your positive attitude, awareness, or vigilance fall asleep.
Novice or adept, neither the road, its vehicles, nor its human participants
owe you anything—nor are any of these under your direct control. Neither
driver nor divine force owes you a ride. Be pleasant and grateful to the
person that finally stops for you. It is not your benevolent host’s fault if
you’ve been standing in freezing rain for two hours.
At its best, hitchhiking is a joint venture where you and your hosts can
benefit each other. In such instances, taking the ride can be a joy. If
you’re not grateful, if you are arrogant, or if you’re not aware of each
situation you get into—it can certainly be otherwise.
I hope it is obvious to you that this process can apply to any number of
life’s procedures besides hitchhiking.
Pick a place you want to get to.
Read a map.
Hit the road with your eyes open.
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