During the planning stage of our year-long drift we had a difficult time figuring out 2 very critical areas of any journey: Where we were going and how we were getting there. We knew where we were going, but why fly into, say, Mexico City and begin our travels there? We’d be missing out on everything in between.
So it looked as if flying was out of the question. Indeed, with all those security lines and liquid restrictions! Who needs it, anyway? We did not want to put a start date on this whole thing – or an end date, for that matter. Having the adventure begin as soon as we walked out the door seemed the way to go!
The Dirty Dog
Taking a bus to the border or into Mexico looked like a solid and affordable choice for quite a while. Fares and schedules for Greyhound – or the dirty dog, as my brother-in-law (Thanks Wim!) calls it, meant we could be more flexible, see the country along the way, and not bust our budget. Yet, we just could not get enthused about taking a bus either, for it still meant schedules would come into play.
Leaving behind schedules and predictable outcomes was a huge part of why we were travelling in the first place. Why not throw a bit of trust out into the universe and let things just … be? We wanted the adventure to begin as soon as we walked out our door, at that moment. So we started hitchhiking.
The Decision Was Easy
While far from being professional hitchhikers, we had both put our thumbs out in the past. Fiona remembers fondly all the times her parents picked up hitchhikers in Ireland when she was young. She was even hitchhiking before we met!
I got my first lift in 2010 while in Guatemala, so I was a bit of a late bloomer. Since then we have together amassed a nice little bit of hitching in Honduras, Greece, The Dominican Republic, and Guatemala, all on prior trips. When you hitchhike, a spell is slowly cast upon you. That spell was calling us once again!!
The Reaction From Others
In the United States, hitchhiking is a fascinating topic that has quite a bit of taboo around it, therefore most people blanched at our mention of deciding to bum lifts. Fault cannot be placed on those who had our safety in mind, however we could not find among their ranks anyone who could relate a tale of hitching, good or bad.
Those few who had hitched in the past encouraged us and gave us a few tips, while harking back on their own experiences. I certainly grew up with that taboo around me, cemented even further by all the slasher films that were wildly popular in the 1980’s. I cannot say that being taught to be wary of hitchhiking, or hitchhikers, was a bad thing. We just need to understand that it has fallen out of favor as a completely viable way of transportation for reasons that can be debated quite deeply.
Perhaps our best reaction came while on the road from a taxi driver. Our cabbie thought it was great we were trying to get around with our thumbs, even though he could never fathom the thought of doing it himself or even picking up strangers! We quickly pointed out to him that he did indeed just pick up two strangers (hitchhikers) who were sitting in the back seat of his taxi, and that he would indeed pick up more strangers later in the evening after he dropped us off. Is that different? Maybe.
This Is What It Was Like
The largest amount of distance we covered in the shortest amount of time was from Portland, Maine, to San Diego, California in 8 days all total. That is 3,143 miles (392 miles per day!) according to an online search showing the most direct way, so our route was a bit further than that. Lifts were falling out of the sky!
There was quite the microcosm of society represented here; families on vacation, former convicts, a woman who stalked professional wrestlers, people just running errands, a husband and wife towing $80,000 sports cars, and plenty of truckers.
We slept on top of furniture in the back of a moving truck, on a concrete slab underneath a picnic table behind a church, in restaurant booths and in truck stop shower stalls. Although the entire journey was a positive experience, it was not without the odd annoyance; the elements, lack of sleep, boredom, and a few law enforcement officers determined to move us along were all very minor things to deal with.
What It Taught Us
I hope you can sense the amount of uncertainty and vulnerability we dealt with getting ourselves cross-country in the manner we did. As a Couple of Drifters we never felt hindered by any of this, for it showed us ways in which we have complete control over our lives. With enough time – which is like gold dust these days – YOU can accomplish so much.
Along with your precious time you just need to add some desire and a giddy sense of adventure in order to completely re-align your lifestyle and exist in a more deliberate way. There IS a whole world out there, so reach out and grab it.
Not having a finger on the pulse of each and every next move can be quite liberating, actually. Soon you find yourself practicing long-term spontaneity, and every moment and experience that comes along with that feels like a treat, reward, and splurge all rolled up in one. Pretty sweet!!
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