I was challenged to make this article (*) ‘A dummies guide to spiritual hitchhiking’. Although I write a lot about spirituality online, I have never hitchhiked a day in my life. My brother on the other hand hitchhiked all the way from Amsterdam to Pakistan, and back. AND he met sufis and other spiritual folk on the way. The route goes mostly through Muslim country.
As a former European scout, I do have experience hiking, sleeping out in the rain (without a tent even – and no, we weren’t too cold) and a bit of survival training.
As a result this page contains 8 tips on how to survive hitchhiking, how to get the most out of it spiritually and some reading tips on the topic.
1) Safety tips for Hitchhiking (#)
- Wear well visible clothes, stand at a safe spot, be careful while walking on the road.
- If you doubt about the ride offered, turn it down.
- If it starts raining, standing under a tree is an option.
- You can also check if the doors open from the inside by pretending not to have closed the door properly.
- Note the vehicle’s registration number, or at least the make, model, and colour, etc. You could then SMS this to a friend. You can pretend calling your mum and saying car type, color and licence number aloud. This makes driver believe he is under surveillance.
- Hitchhike with someone you know. On hitchhike forums (such as at Hospitality Club, Jayride or DigiHitch) you can find other hitchhikers.
- Hitchhiking at night is more dangerous than at daytime.
- It’s probably safest to not go with more than one guy in the car.
- It’s better to sit in the front of the vehicle.
- It is a good idea to get yourself some pepper spray, just in case. But it can be illegal to carry in some parts of the world so be aware.
- Keep your backpack close to you (i.e. on your lap), so you can grab it if you need to get out quickly.
- Wear your most valuable stuff on your body: passport, wallet, money, mobile phone. This way you will keep these items in case you should abandon your bag. More about safety purses.
- If there are other houses or people in sight, you can wave to them or pretend to say goodbye to a friend. The driver will think that somebody has seen you getting into their car.
- If getting in a truck or car driving long-distance, maybe to where you want to go, including sleeping in the truck with the driver. Never tell yes to go all way from the beginning. Say you are going to visit a friend in a city on the way and then when you get a feeling of safety with the driver tell him that you will visit your friend some other time and go all the way now.
- Aim to leave the vehicle at a safe spot.
- Always trust your instincts.
- Think positive and you will attract positive. Do nothing of this and you might be safer.
- Try to be good conversation for the driver
Remember, just because you’re in this for spiritual growth, doesn’t mean you should not take care of yourself. Hitchhiking is a great way to experience the positive in people, but it’s also a great way to experience the risks of life first hand. Balance both when traveling.
My brother once got stuck on a mountain with a sprained ankle. Lucky my parents didn’t find out about that till he was safe home…
Books about hitchhiking as a spiritual endeavor
|On the Road: The Original Scroll, Jack Kerouac
The original to ‘On the Road’, the book that put Karoac on the map as an author and was the first celebration of hitchhiking as a quest.
|The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Hitchhiking as a spiritual quest to Buddhism.
|Hitchhiking Grandmother: The Adventure and Spiritual Journey of a North West Woman Who Hitchhiked Across America and Europe After 50|
2) Be poor: cloths
It’s pretty clear that if you’re going to hitchhike, you need to make the risks as low as possible. That means, and I’m going to do this when I go to India next year too (though there will be no hitchhiking involved), is to dress down. Don’t make yourself a target for thieves. Wear humble cloths, shoes that are sturdy, but unassuming. Wear cloths that are climate appropriate without being expensive.
After all – this is not about looking good. It’s about finding yourself and having an adventure. Dress the part with cloths that stand out without arousing jealousy.
You’re hitchhiking: you should look like you need the ride.
3) Be poor: gadgets and tech
Do take a mobile phone that works in your area. Don’t take an expensive phone.
Same reason: don’t give people a reason to steal from you. Also, isn’t a trip like this about letting go? Use it as an exercise in living without the luxuries of modern life.
If you ARE bringing electronics: be mentally prepared to loose them. Be ready for the batteries to run low. Don’t assume they’ll always work.
4) Spiritual food
If you’re going to be traveling as a spiritual quest, you need spiritual food on the way of course. If you’re Christian you may want to take your Bible (the lightest you can find). However, there are also other small books out there that will be a great companion on a trip. Personally I would prefer a book that contains aphorisms: short lines to think over and ponder as I wait for that car to pick me up.
|NIV Compact Thinline Bible
There are loads of compact bibles available. This is a neutral one, but you can find Girly ones as well. The reason I’m featuring this one is because it’s really small type and travel friendly.
|Meditation, Sogyal Rinpoche
This is a little book I gave my brother years ago, and he took it with him on his trip. It’s a chapter out of Sogyal Rinpoche’s famous book on the after death states in Tibetan Buddhism. And as the title says: it’s all about meditation.
|The Voice of the Silence: Being Extracts from The Book of the Golden Precepts, by H.P. Blavatsky
Long my personal favorite. Short aphorisms – allegedly from a hidden Tibetan book of wisdom. I don’t know if that’s true. I do know that this book is the spiritual path summarized. Each phrase enough to meditate on for ages.
5) Take time to meditate
In between rides, you’ll be facing your demons: where am I going to sleep? Will someone pick me up?
Try and face up to those issues, without panic. This is what’s in your mind, so let it be.
On the flip side: enjoy the scenery. Be aware of the sunset. Meditate on beauty.
6) Hitchhiking supplies
I already mentioned a mobile phone (with coverage where you’re going).
You will also need the following.
I may have no experience with hitchhiking, I do have lots of experience with hiking and rough weather camping. The following are must have supplies.
|Mini-flashlight – Getting caught in the dark? You’ll need to pack a flashlight.Stormtech Nylon Packable Rain PonchoColeman Taos Extreme-Weather Mummy Bag
Whether you’re planning on it or not, you’re not likely to be able to find yourself a hotel every place you go. A waterproof sleeping bag is a must in such circumstances.
And yes, you should go with synthetic. Wet natural fiber is COLD (take it from someone who has experienced it). Synthetic fibers these days can be very comfortable, light and warm. Think fleece for instance.
|Internal Frame Hiking Camp Travel Backpack
If you have a functional hiking backpack, go with that. Again: looking a bit dingy is good.However, protecting your back is also important. And remember to use those hip bands once you’re on the road: that’s where the real heavy lifting is supposed to happen: at your hips. Your back will thank you later.Also, make sure to have someone help you set all the bands just right for your posture before hand. Again: your back will thank you.
|Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Water is way more important on the road than food (though the importance of food should also not be underestimated). Take a good water bottle that can hang on your backpack.
7) Take what comes
On the road the most important thing is to live with what comes at you. Whether it’s weather, or a talkative driver. Whether it’s silence, or a beautiful sunset.
You’ll be forced to face up to yourself throughout it all.
8) Exercise beforehand
Be sure you’re in good health when starting on this. You may end up soaked by the rain. You may end up having to walk miles to the next inn.
Remember that if your body is fit, you’ll be better able to handle what comes to you. Whether it’s someone taking advantage of a lonely hitchhiker, or a patch of heat and no more water in your bottle.
The image is from a page about hitchhiking and other travel customs in Australia: http://australiaonlinetravel.com/australian-travel-tips/australian-customs/ (no longer available).
* This article was first published on Squidoo in 2010. I thought it would be fun to republish it here as it is no longer available elsewhere online. It has been edited only slightly.
# These hitchhiking safety tips were found on, where they are now no longer available: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Hitchhiker’s_safety