A Dummy’s Guide to Spiritual Hitchhiking

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 (#)

  1. Wear well visible clothes, stand at a safe spot, be careful while walking on the road.
  2. If you doubt about the ride offered, turn it down.
  3. If it starts raining, standing under a tree is an option.
  4. You can also check if the doors open from the inside by pretending not to have closed the door properly.
  5. 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.
  6. Hitchhike with someone you know. On hitchhike forums (such as at Hospitality Club, Jayride or DigiHitch) you can find other hitchhikers.
  7. Hitchhiking at night is more dangerous than at daytime.
  8. It’s probably safest to not go with more than one guy in the car.
  9. It’s better to sit in the front of the vehicle.
  10. 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.
  11. Keep your backpack close to you (i.e. on your lap), so you can grab it if you need to get out quickly.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Aim to leave the vehicle at a safe spot.
  16. Always trust your instincts.
  17. Think positive and you will attract positive. Do nothing of this and you might be safer.
  18. 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

2 thoughts on “A Dummy’s Guide to Spiritual Hitchhiking”

  1. Hi,Katinka ,your post always seem personal to me,,,hitching i do know,but from along time age,i hitched only in the uk,but it was from age10-25 and a car,with a few motorbikes inbetween,that was 1974-1989,and from rural angelsey island (northwales),,, i have had lifts in rolls royces,the fastest sports cars,even at 150mph (gpz1300)(try hitching with a helmet,bikers always stop and would do today,but they do tend to show off,,
    Mostly me and my brother (1 year older) went to cities to window shop guitars,then from 1978 onwards we went to free festivals,oftern with only our 50pence pocket money,and a plastic bag to sleep in,,
    People were far more trusting then,and young people were picked up in order to help them,many people carried me(or us) extra miles to help,and once or twice we even had people give us money as we handant eaten
    i learnt alot from them days,-
    -priests (vicars) dont stop for us (at a time near everyone would,like when we were youngest )
    -being fit is a good one,as you get droped oftern in a place its hard to hitch again from,crossing a town to its other side,is something you end up doing oftern.
    -carrying weapons like says above is a bad idea,,spraying pepper at a driver would curse a crash if hes driving (a time they oftern start touching you)
    if he pulled over and touch you,and you sprayed him,not being able to see wouldant he still just lash out and then bash anypart of you he could find
    – maybe 1 out of 10 lifts were perverts ,def 1 out of 15 or 20
    -if your getting touched and the car is moving,,open your door and say im going then,,motion to get out,that works
    -learn to take people as they are or want to be taken,id say “ok your into lads,fine but im into girls mate” i found by not judging them,they would drop the attack,and settle for someone who understands them,and doesan judge them,,maybe this is why i answer this katinka,im age50 now and i have not hit anyone or been hit since my school days,ive known a few gasters in my life too, and im sure my ego at least has been as big as anyone elses in its time,but its knowing when to be humble and when and in what manner to put your views out,,,i was never molested and it was on the cards so many times,but i think deep inside everyone responds to acceptance,i serpose it comes down to “seeing ourself in the other” and the whole thing about hitching,travel and meeting strangers,is that we find ourself,and them strangers do also,remind them “that people are much the same wherever we go”and they will open up to you,even a stranger can be family in moments with this attitude,,,
    I thought id post this,since i now realize even then i was learning the other was me,,stu

  2. I hitched across the united states once ; I hitched from London to Scotland ; Scotland to Amsterdam ; Amsterdam to Paris ; Paris to Barcelona .I didn’t have any money ; I lived in the now ; Iwas in love ; Love of life and the road not taken and couldn’t wait to see what the next day would bring .The kindness of strangers ; the willingness and selfless desire of spirit “Por sur la Route”; or life on the road .
    Sure it was a different time ; there were no cell phones or lap tops then .Everything was by chance .
    If i was stuck somewhere for two days then there was some reason for it ; something I needed to pay attention to ; often something greater than self
    Lessons learned were opening oneself up to transformation and change through the laws of abundance and spiritual manifestation ; .
    Did I Fear? sometimes sure ; but what i learned was greater ; in that I learned to quite my mind especially during crisis
    so that i could be accountable and present to give whatever was neeeded and stay aligned in body mind and spirit

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