Solo female hitchhikers: good or bad?

A couple of days ago we posted a story written by Maria, a friend of ours and a solo female hitch-hiker. We didn’t expect all the controversy it might raise, but it did and after a fire-fight of comments under the post, we got an email from Paul who believes that hitch-hiking is too dangerous to be exercised by girls on their own.

But who is Paul and what does he have to say? Paul has been a faithful follower of the blog, commentator and a contributor to our Travel Photography Competition and we got to know him (in the realm of internet) as a wise and well-travelled guy who hitch-hiked a lot in the past as well. Therefore his opinion was very valuable to us and we thought it’s an important topic to hear other people’s voices, so…

Have a look at Maria’s story + the comments underneath.

This is the email we received from Paul:

Hi Jon and Ania,

For what it’s worth, guys, I really don’t think you should be condoning women hitch-hiking on their own by publishing stories like the one Maria wrote. It might make a nice read, but in the cold light of day, what she did (hitch-hiking alone) was stupid and irresponsible (especially allowing herself to be locked into a van).

You have a great blog here and a lot of followers. It might not be a bad idea to let your readers know that you don’t condone this kind of behaviour. After all, should something unpleasant happen to any of your readers, you don’t want to be accused of turning a blind eye when you had the opportunity to give good advice.  I envisage that your blog will soon become the voice of hitch-hiking. That’s a big responsibility.

What you’ve achieved here is an excellent guide for hitch-hikers – the best I’ve come across. But if you allow people (young, inexperienced, naive people) to think that it’s perfectly okay for women to hitch-hike on their own,  you may regret it one day. All I know is that publishing a story by someone like Maria will send the wrong message to a lot of people who rely on you for good advice.

If you stay silent on this one, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to remove myself from your Facebook page and distance myself from your blog. I’ve already said my piece in response to Maria’s story (and her response to me was very negative), but people will listen to you more than they’ll listen to me.

It’s been great fun and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to meet up someday in Barcelona, but this is important to me and it should be important to you, too.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Paul

… and this is our response:

Hello Paul,

Thanks a lot for your message. It’s always very important to us to listen what people have to say about hitch-hiking and our blog, even more so if it comes from a wise and a well-traveller person like yourself.

We do agree with you that hitch-hiking for girls alone can be risky, but isn’t it so for solo male travellers as well? You should always be careful, no matter if you are a strapping male or a tiny girl.

We don’t want to encourage women to hitch-hike on their own (and we believe that we have made this clear on the blog), as we don’t do it ourselves, we always travel as a couple, but we also refuse to criticise people for the risks they take. Hitch-hiking is by nature a moderately dangerous way of travelling and not only for solo women travellers, but for male hitch-hikers as well. I recall reading a story last year written by a Polish male hitch-hiker who got nearly raped in Iran by one of his lorry drivers. Another story that springs to my mind was written by a hitch-hiker in South America who was assaulted by a pregnant woman and her husband. Later all his possessions were taken from him, all his credit cards cleared and he was left on the road, naked. So you never really know and if you decide to hitch-hike, whether you are a male or a female, you should trust your judgement, both before setting off on a solo trip, as well as before getting into a stranger’s car.

Maria is our friend, Ania had known her a long time before she met Jon and it was Maria who Ania first hitch-hiked with. We know Maria as a clever daredevil, but we would never call her irresponsible. She had planned this trip well and we knew about it before the story was written. We didn’t try to discourage her then and all the more, we are not going to condemn her decision now on a public forum.

It would be a great shame to lose you as a follower and a contributor, but we also feel it would be unfair on our part if we started criticising people for taking risky decisions. Hitch-hiking is never entirely safe, so where do you draw the line? Should we just discourage all risky decisions people take, whether it’s hitch-hiking, backpacking, rock climbing or paragliding? Or should we rather encourage all girls to stay at home or travel only with their male companions?

It’s a difficult one, but the one think we really dislike is scaremongering. All forms of independent travelling bear some form of risk and just because of that should we advise people to go on package tours instead?

Hitch-hikers’ Handbook was created so that other like-minded people could share their stories and knowledge. We’ve never wanted it to be a one-direction medium as we are not preachers by nature. It was a great compliment on your part saying that we might soon become the voice of all hitch-hikers, but we don’t view ourselves as hitch-hiking gurus. And our role here is not to preach but to listen, share and give some advice based on our experience. Personally, I (Ania) would never hitch-hike on my own and would never advise anyone to do it, let alone ensure them it’s safe, but if they do, so be it.

I hope that explains our point of view a little bit. We are planning to post this massage on the blog as well, so that other people could share their opinion with us. Thanks a lot for starting this debate, it’s an important question and we are eager to see what others have to say about it.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,

Ania & Jon

Good people sign, Hitch-hiking in Portugal

This is Paul’s final response:

Hi Ania,

Thanks for your detailed response. I’m grateful you took the time. In many ways you are right. Many activities in life are risky. I ran with the bulls in Pamplona for 22 years in a time before women were allowed to run. I’m pleased that those rules have now changed as I am a great believer in gender equality. I used to play high-level competition squash and remember (back in the 80s) being told that I would have to compete against a woman in a regional tournament. I was a little upset about that as I thought it would not be a fair match. She ended up thrashing me. I learned a big lesson that day.

In my opinion, it’s irrelevant that Maria is your friend (although I suspected as such). A female who hitch-hikes alone is irresponsible, as is the male who gives her a lift. When I said that you might soon become the voice of all hitch-hikers, I meant your website rather than you personally. Regardless of this, I feel it is important that you are shown not to condone people (especially women) hitch-hiking alone. I, too, have heard some awful stories first hand, but as with all risky ventures, hitch-hikers should be sensible and diligent, and advice on the matter from the two of you will be valuable for young people who intend to set out on their own. Times have changed. I believe that what Maria did was intrinsically wrong and rather stupid … especially allowing herself to be locked in a van over night.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and friends need to be told that they did something silly. If they are truly your friend, they will appreciate and respect you. Maria’s response to me was childish and this is the way she will look to anyone with any common sense.

All the best,

Paul

Now it’s your turn

We’d love to hear what you think. Have you ever hitch-hiked or backpacked alone? Should girls do it on their own? We value your opinion as much as we value Paul’s, so speak your mind!

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41 Responses to Solo female hitchhikers: good or bad?

  1. Paul Moore says:

    I know exactly what’s going to happen now, but I’m steeled for the onslaught :)

  2. Ah the never-ending argument that will change opinions of neither side. Girls that hitch-hike solo will continue to do so, because – in Maria’s words – they calculate the risks and accept them, and it’s turned out well so far. (I belong to this group). Naysayers will keep on evoking some kind of statistics or the possibility of something going wrong. Both groups are biased in their own anecdotal/subjective experience, and the rationale of one group will never be persuasive enough to the other.

    The places that I’ve hitch-hiked solo in include: Spain, India, Hawaii, Mexico. Most were short distances, except for a round trip between Mexico City and Oaxaca (450km/8hrs). As a female, I prefer rides from female drivers and couples or families, but will accept rides from male drivers as well. I don’t think that’s irresponsible/stupid of either me or the driver. As (solo) travelers, we all have to depend on our judgment and intuition when we interact with strangers. It’s not limited to only hitchhiking. Do we accept food from someone we’ve just met, or agree to go check out a cool spot with them? Situations like these arise all the time on the road.

    Regarding Paul’s advice, I agree that getting locked up in the van wasn’t a wise move. But that’s the extent of my agreement. My boyfriend, however, would agree wholeheartedly with you, Paul. And whenever this discussion comes up, I’d tell him: The most dangerous thing I’ve done in my life is not camping in the back country or hitch hiking by myself, but taking rickety buses in the Peruvian Andes.

    My advice for solo hitch hiking are the same as for solo traveling: 1/ Whenever possible, inform others of your plan, where you plan to be and on what date and when you plan to contact them again. And 2/ Stand out in the crowd (in an unoffensive way – mine is a bright yellow backpack) so that people will remember you in case something goes wrong.

    • Paul Moore says:

      Hi ¡Hablamos español! Thanks for your excellent response. I’m naturally pleased that your boyfriend would agree with me, but I also agree with you in the sense that the most dangerous thing I’ve probably ever done in my life (besides running in front of the bulls in Pamplona year after year) is riding on rickety buses driven by drunken drivers along mountain roads that wind their way around deep gorges and precipices in various parts of Spain (often far too close to the edge for comfort) :)

      Great advice in the last para, by the way!

    • Great comment and very useful advice! Thanks a lot for your input! :)

  3. sunabsy says:

    Travel alone, especially in the hitchhiking fashion, is going to introduce the traveler to all kinds of people and create risk of being targeted by those who realize the traveller is out of his or her element. I can understand that women have some higher probability for danger in terms of how bold men can be when they see a woman they are for some reason or another interested in–I’ve had my share of experience with men making indecent offers, shouting vulgar things, or offering rides while creepily driving alongside me as I try to take a walk in the city. I would dare to say any woman reading this can relate. Yet the majority of this type of attention is innocent, even if a nuisance, and is not going to lead to violence and other types of danger.

    As with travel alone, a woman may draw more attention to herself, but I don’t believe she is going to find herself in greater danger than a man because she is not going to provoke violence from others where it doesn’t exist simply because she is alone: there are predatory people in the world who look for solitary others to attack, rob, or murder, but they are not the majority of humans in the population. Knowing that there are these type of people, though, a woman can plan ways to be safer, whether its carrying pepper spray or something else defensive, or possibly choosing families or females to accept rides from, which may or may not be safer.

    Statistically there are countries, cities, regions that are more dangerous to travel, whether you are male or female. Also, it seems women statistically have a greater chance of being injured or murdered by an intimate partner, considering the high number of domestic violence cases throughout the world–I live in the United States, so for an example of U.S. stats, “nearly 1.3 million women and about 835,000 men are assaulted by their partner every year in the United States,” and “1 in 3 women killed by homicide are murdered by their current or former partner.” It seems a woman’s greatest danger may be the relationships she finds herself in, right in her own home.

    If a woman is looking for any type of relationship whle traveling, this of course could increase her chances of danger, but this is a choice she has control over. Should a man offer her a ride and then offer to let her stay with him, party with him, go to a hotel with him, she can choose to decline and avoid a risk. Even a man accepting a ride from a woman can create a risk by going to her home or to a hotel or some other location with her–what’s to say she doesn’t have male companions and has set him up to rob and/or murder him? It happens.

    If a person of either sex makes a logical plan of safety to follow, their likelihood of safety will increase.

    In the late 1960s my mothers male cousin in his early twenties decided to hitchhike through America at age nineteen. He never made it back, he was robbed and stabbed to death. My father’s friend, a free-spirited world traveler, once hitchhiked Columbia alone, and when he returned he related he had thought he wouldn’t make it back, he had encountered a small group of people who had tried to attack him. I’m sure there are many stories of men and women being targeted for violence while travelling alone, and while I know, as a woman, that simply being a woman presents you as easy prey due to the knowledge that women are in general the physically weaker sex, but I don’t believe irresponsible/bad should be used to describe a female travelling alone. It is irresponsible and bad for anyone to travel alone without knowledge of where they’re going and what they’re doing, without a safety plan, without the resources to act if they are in danger.

    That’s my perspective, as a woman but not as a traveler. I have only traveled alone by train, and my friend (who would later become my husband, and therefore is male) was waiting in my destination city for me. I’ve taken rides from strangers throughout my city in my lifetime and never had any troubles, but I’ve never gone throughout the world as a solitary female. I can appreciate what both sides are saying but still, even with my lack of personal travel experience, would say women are just as likely to be safe in their travels alone as men. Some areas of this planet are much more chaotic in social/political climate and more dangerous to be in for this reason, but again, when you arrive at those places your risk of danger is going to go up regardless of who or what you are.

    Safe travels to all!

    • Paul Moore says:

      Hi sunabsy. Thanks for taking the time to give your opinion. I do feel, however (and I say this with all due respect), that your “lack of personal travel experience” hardly gives you the authority to say that “women are just as likely to be safe in their travels alone as men”. How can you make such a statement when you have never done it yourself? Hitch-hiking is not like getting on a bus or train. If you hitch-hike on your own, it’s your decision and your decision alone whether you accept a lift or not, and that decision has to be made almost instantly. You look at the driver, look at the inside of the vehicle, weigh up the odds, and accept or decline the lift. It all happens very quickly. And once you get into that car or truck, you are still on your own. Would you accept a lift from a complete stranger if they pulled alongside you in the street and offered to take you somewhere? Hopefully not. The only difference with hitch-hiking is that ‘you’ invite someone to pull up beside you and then ‘you’ ask ‘them’ to take you somewhere. The driver in both cases is a complete stranger. Think about that.

      You also need to be careful about recommending pepper spray. Although pepper spray is legal in many US States, it is illegal in most European countries and in many other parts of the world including Canada. Wikipedia has some good info on pepper spray: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper_spray

  4. sunabsy says:

    One more comment, regarding Maria’s essay being irresponsible: the majority of adults, young and old, can and will dictate their lives based on their values and beliefs, and not run into a stupid situation just because they read about someone else doing something that sounds interesting to them. Well, some people will, but most of us do listen to the logic that has strengthened within us throughout our formative years to help us become adults who can function and survive in the world. Maybe she could have explained a little more as to why she though she could trust this person, although I don’t think it’s necessary for her to justify it and didn’t find that it was irresponsible to let others read it. I find the posts on this blog to be very real-life an honest, and in reading about the dangerous as well as the beautiful and fun, I gain some insight into how I would plan to stay safe if I were on the road aone. And Paul, I think you do have a big heart to express your concerns, I would love to read about your travels just as I love to read the posts here. :)

    • Thanks a lot for your insightful comments, Sun. We very much appreciate you taking the time to be part of the discussion. I absolutely agree with what you said that “simply being a woman presents you as easy prey due to the knowledge that women are in general the physically weaker sex, but I don’t believe irresponsible/bad should be used to describe a female travelling alone. It is irresponsible and bad for anyone to travel alone without knowledge of where they’re going and what they’re doing, without a safety plan, without the resources to act if they are in danger”. I don’t think gender should be the issue here, as both males and femals can behave equally irresponsible while alone on the road.

  5. kilaheem says:

    I think it’s more dangerous for solo hitch hiking girls no question, but it’s not enough reason to ignore the ambition. Receiving a personable favour from a stranger is an act of giving in itself, a gesture of trust in humanity and even more courageous if your a female. If someone is going to hurt you it is going to happen what ever your doing and where ever you are in the world. You could be unlucky enough to have a brain haemorrhage tomorrow, a vehicle accident or a even shark attack, they’re all possibilities, especially if you swim in Australia.
    Go with the flow, trust your instincts and stick to daylight hours. Also, be prepared.

    • Paul Moore says:

      “… a gesture of trust in humanity and even more courageous if your a female. If someone is going to hurt you it is going to happen what ever your doing and where ever you are in the world”.

      Forgive me, but these are probably two of the most ridiculous and naive sentences I’ve ever read – especially in this day and age. Would you cross the road without first looking to see if any traffic is coming! I’m not a fatalist like you. I have a very strong sense of self-preservation. I don’t walk down dark alleyways in the Bronx or jog through Central Park at 2 in the morning. I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe that my life has already been planned out for me. If I eat lots of fatty foods (which I don’t), I know that I can expect a multitude of health health problems and a potentially early death. If I smoke (which I used to but stopped 10 years ago), I know that my chances of getting lung cancer increase substantially. No one’s going to hurt me if I don’t put myself in a position where I know I’ve got a good chance of being hurt. I’m hardly likely to walk up to a couple of Hells Angels and tell them that their bikes suck :)

      There’s nothing courageous about a girl accepting a lift from a complete stranger and allowing herself to be driven off. There are plenty of ways to show courage, but this isn’t one of them. Hitch-hiking is wonderful, but it can have as many trials as tribulations. I’ve always loved it, and I’m sure I’ll do it again soon, but I would never describe it as an act of courage or putting my trust in humanity. I simply wanted to get from A to B as cheaply as possible and meet some interesting people on the way. The priority, however, was getting from A to B as cheaply as possible, and anyone who says otherwise is, in most cases, not being completely honest.

      Going with the flow is not always the best thing to do, but trusting your instincts and sticking to daylight hours is excellent, yet odd, advice coming from someone who seems to throw all caution to the wind (but who, I suspect, is not quite as reckless as he wants people to think he is). ;)

      All I’m saying is that I think that females (and many guys) should think twice before hitch-hiking alone.

      • There is a lot of truth in what kilaheem called “a gesture of trust in humanity”. Cheap travelling from A to B is probably everybody’s motivation when they start hitch-hiking but as we have done it in many parts of the world, we know now that it’s not necessarily cheaper. Sometimes you spend the whole day on the road, you have to eat something and the food in roadside bars is not the cheapest. Sometimes you get stuck for the night somewhere and miss a good opportunity of being hosted by someone for free. While if you had taken a train you’d have arrived at your destination within a few hours, you’d have been able to cook and you wouldn’t have to pay for your night. It happened to us many times that after calculating the costs we realised that hitch-hiking turned out more expensive than taking a train would have been. So it’s not always about choosing the cheaper option.
        We have also noticed that after we’d started hitch-hiking on a regular basis, we’ve become more open towards other people, more trustful. It does bring back your trust in humanity and you do return on the road seeking this interaction with strangers having previously concluded that you can trust others.

      • kilaheem says:

        Would I cross the road without looking?Your dramatised example is held with similar disregard. When a driver pulls over you use your senses to calculate the risk of accepting the ride – This, is looking before you cross the road. “Trusting” that you’re going to be ok is what puts you on the road.
        Allowing us glimpses into your life on wether you eat fatty food or smoke cigarettes is all gratuitous commentary really and seeing as you’re quite willing to differentiate between your percieved success of HHHB and the people running it I’m happy to tell you your personal habits are of no relevance.
        Fatalist? Well that puts you in the 96% category with all the other nonbelievers. I appreciate how it looks to you 96ers who don’t posess the information that we do, one of nature and karma, EVERY thing you put out comes back, Nothing happens by chance, everything happens for a reason and ultimately YOU have no control over it. That’s why I’d be surprised if you were truly a harmonious person given your penchant for pesimissm. I dont think you’re comments are wrong or unwelcome because we need 96ers, so we can take a look at ourselves and ask “Is what I’m doing ok?”
        Have you ever looked at your life and thought ” wow, I really didn’t intend on that happening” ? – career, partner, death, money, loss, gain etc? Was it all in your control? This is just what works for me believe what you want but ultimatums to HHHB about your loyalty and some of your other tactics are attempting persuasion.”A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
        Can you tell me how you would feel about going out on the road travelling with absolutely no money? I can tell you people are doing it and are having the time of their lives.
        How exactly does hyperbole like abusing a Hells Angel strengthen your opinion?
        People pick up hitch hikers for many reasons and the main one I think is as an act of kindness. Giving, which is actually receiving, isn’t it? And trusting a stranger to sit in a car with them is not in someway telling that person that they are worthy of my trust? Is that not a courageous act? Hmm maybe the things my people have been saying about my trip for the last year and a half are all innacurate.
        As for any reason to hitch hike other than a cheap means to A-B not completely honest (in most cases), what about creating that memory, having something to write about, stories to tell, giving, recieving, the challenge, learning local culture, colloquials and really absorbing the place your in. Giving the driver a chance to think about things in their own life they want to do, “Your an inspiration!” They say. I’ve had money in the bank almost the whole trip and I give the shit away to anyone that asks, and those that don’t, it’s not about money mate, nothing is. How many friends have you made on planes and buses? Your at least 50% correct, (I’m not as reckless as I want people to think I am) because I’m not reckless at all, I trust in humanity.
        Wanna be friends?

      • Paul Moore says:

        Do I wanna be friends?

        No

  6. theperpetualtraveller says:

    Interesting arguments, but I think to criticise women who hitchhike alone is to victim-blame them if anything goes wrong – i.e. being attacked or raped by a male. How about we criticise the men who perpetuate these attacks? I’ve always believed that women should feel safe and free to do exactly as they please, not let the risk of being attacked by a man stop them.

    • That’s a very apt response, thanks! You are absolutely right!

      • Paul Moore says:

        Yes, it’s a very apt response … but utterly and sadly unrealistic!

        It goes without saying that the men who perpetuate these attacks should be severely punished (long-term jail sentences and more), and women who attack men should also be severely punished,

        I, too, believe that women ‘should’ feel safe and free to do exactly as they please. ‘All’ decent people should feel safe and free to do exactly as they please. Unfortunately, and very sadly, this is not the reality of life. In the real world, most women are vulnerable, and many men, too; and bad people take advantage of that. I wish it were different, but it’s not. The human species can be pretty awful sometimes.

        My comments concern the ‘real’ world, not the fantasy one that we would all like it to be (no wars, no killing, no rape, no torture, no abuse etc).

        I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t hitch-hike. Hitch-hiking is great fun and I’ve probably done it more than most of you. What I’m saying is that it’s not clever to hitch-hike alone if you happen to fit into (and only you as individuals can decide this) what would be regarded as a vulnerable category.

        Time to get real, folks!

  7. Arty Om says:

    Well I absolutely disagree with Paul, and I see no reason why women cannot or shouldn’t hitchhike alone. I have met many female solo hitchhikers and they never had any problems on the road. Not a single time. And I’m talking not just about short distance trips, but… one of my friends hitchhiked all the way from Siberia to Portugal and back. Alone. Another one to Malaysia from the south of Russia. And again, she was perfectly safe, and never faced a problem.

    And I agree with the comment just above mine. I find it absolutely wrong to blame the solo female hitchhiker and call her stupid. Instead it is the men who should be blamed for not being able to keep their dicks in their pants.

    And if you think that male solo hitchhiking is safer, well, it’s not. The dangers are just different. There are always dangers when you hitchhike. Car accident, robbery, wild animals and/or criminals attacking you, there’s so many things that can happen. But! As I always say, what happens to you on the road is the reflection of what’s happening in your mind. So better stop thinking of negative possibilities, and rather just relax and trust the Road.

    Thanks, and sorry if this was a bit too emotional.
    Cheers,
    Arty

    P.S. My support to Maria! Never give up dreams!

    • Great comment, thanks a lot for sharing your views with us, Arty!

    • Paul Moore says:

      … and I totally, and respectfully, disagree with you, too, Arty, in the sense that I think you are living in a semi-dream world.

      As I stated in an earlier response today – and I’ll paste it in full here – it goes without saying that the men who perpetuate these attacks should be severely punished (long-term jail sentences and more), and women who attack men should also be severely punished,

      I, too, believe that women ‘should’ feel safe and free to do exactly as they please. ‘All’ decent people should feel safe and free to do exactly as they please. Unfortunately, and very sadly, this is not the reality of life. In the real world, most women are vulnerable, and many men, too; and bad people take advantage of that. I wish it were different, but it’s not. The human species can be pretty awful sometimes.

      My comments concern the ‘real’ world, not the fantasy one that we would all like it to be (no wars, no killing, no rape, no torture, no abuse etc).

      I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t hitch-hike. Hitch-hiking is great fun and I’ve probably done it more than most of you. What I’m saying is that it’s not clever to hitch-hike alone if you happen to fit into (and only you as individuals can decide this) what would be regarded as a vulnerable category.

      Time to get real, folks!

      • Arty Om says:

        Hello Paul,

        Well, thank you for your comment and the time you took to reply! If you don’t mind, I’ll response.
        Even if I live in a semi-dream world (though I still believe that the reality around us is the reflection of ourselves), yet if I’m not mistaken, we aren’t here to discuss whether we live in real world or semi-dream one (what is reality, anyway?). You have your strong opinion that female solo hitchhikers are stupid, and that’s what, in my opinion, is totally wrong. We (I mean people in general) may disagree on different topics, but I don’t think we have to call each other stupid because some of us chose to do something different and/or unusal for us.

        As stated in an earlier message, I have many friends, female friends, who did hitchhike alone and do it often, and everything is perfect with them. I’m not saying that there is no danger for them. Yes, there is. But if compare rape/murder statistics on and off the road, I believe we’ll find out that it happens more often “off the road”.

        Thank you again.

    • I love this response! You are very correct, Arty.

  8. Mick Dolan says:

    I have hitch hiked in my younger days without incident though I have to say I never encountered a female hitch hiker back then growing up in Kansas City. I rarely see any hitch hikers where I live now in Florida but that could be a sign of the times in the “sunshine” state. I did find it interesting that I encountered numerous hitch hikers while traveling by car recently in the Pacific Northwest and California. Actually hitch hiking is illegal in most places now. http://www.hitchhiker.50megs.com/custom.html
    Regardless, some words of advice to anyone who hitch hikes: Show no fear, look ’em in the eye, don’t let ’em see that you’re nervous. People, just like animals can sense fear and bad guys will take advantage. You can usually sense people’s sincerity if you look for it. If something seems funny, just say no thanks and keep walking. (exercise is a good thing!)

  9. If the driver you hitch with crashes, does that make hitch-hiking dangerous or is it driving that’s dangerous?

    When I was a strapping young lad of 18 (and I’m happy to announce that at 31 I’m still a strapping young lad), I hitched a ride in Tel Aviv, Israel. The guy kept talking about how I was welcome to come over to his home and ‘use his shower,’ and that I should ‘move my backpack to the backseat,’ rather than having it in my lap.

    Needless to say, I got out, a little shaken but out cause I could smell his intentions. But it didn’t stop me from hitching.

    Back in the 90s there was a serial killer in Australia who targeted backpackers that hitch-hiked. He got 7 of them, buried them in the bush.

    Did people stop hitching (he was eventually caught and is serving life)?

    I lived in Australia for 14 years of my life. Australia has more animals and creatures that can kill you within 20 minutes – land and sea – more than any other place on the planet. Yet you stand a higher chance of being hit by a car than even seeing one of the lethal species that call Australia home.

    So do I stop crossing the road?

    Paul, you chose to run with the bulls for 22 years. You could have been caught out in Year one or Year 15 but you kept doing it, knowing the risks.

    Although allowing herself to be locked in a van with a stranger was a risk, I’m sure Maria has a good judge of character and knows when you can trust someone – regardless of gender.

    I had an epic hitch-hiking journey from Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand. And even though for the majority of the way I was with a friend until we separated ways, there was never a hint of danger – but I was always alert and looking out for any possibilities (you can all read about it at, http://thenomadicdiaries.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/hit-the-road-jack/ – apologies on shamelessly plugging my story here, guys).

    The biggest risk is being born. From there it’s just living.

    Bottom line, use your common sense. We all have a sixth sense of sussing out if we can trust someone or not, regardless of what you have between your legs (excuse the bluntness).

    And always keep a backpack on your lap.

    There’s a lot of roads out there that need hitching – go exploring.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment, we really appreciate it! As for keeping the backpack on your lap, it can get a bit uncomfortable, especially on long-distance journeys, don’t you think? ;) We always put the big bags in the boot, because what’s the worst that can happen? Someone might drive off with a bundle of dirty clothes, that’s it :) We always keep our most valuable possessions (cameras, kindles, money etc) in small rucksacks on our lap, though :)

  10. Paul Moore says:

    All I’m saying is that people should be careful, wise and clever if they’re going to hitch-hike. Not all of these ‘traits’ come naturally, and not all people develop them (not ever). I suppose my age and experience have made me a little more cautious than I used to be, but I’ve always been wary of danger and taken the necessary precautions. The old saying ‘one lives and learns’ might better be said as ‘one learns and lives’.

    On 14 July, 1995, I was only two meters from Matthew Peter Tassio, a 22-year-old electrical engineering graduate from Chicago, when he was gored through the aorta by a massive bull during the fiesta in Pamplona. He died a short time later.

    The following is an extract from an article in the New York Times that announced his death:

    “Officials said that too often the tourists go with little knowledge of the dangers, insufficient training, too little sleep and too much alcohol after a night of celebration. Every year there are an average of 10 to 12 serious gorings in addition to injuries caused by being trampled, either by bulls or other runners, according to city hall calculations. Many of those injured have been foreigners. And among foreign visitors, Americans are the ones who are most likely to be injured, according to records.”

    I didn’t know Matthew, but I was running very close to him when I saw him fall to the ground. That should have been the end of the story. If Matthew had stayed down, he would probably be alive today. It’s a rule of thumb during the bull run that if you get knocked over, you stay down and let the bulls jump over you. It’s also a rule of thumb (but pretty much impossible to achieve given the intense partying during the fiesta) that you get a good night’s sleep and don’t drink too much if you’re going to run with the bulls at 8 o’clock the next morning.

    I saw Matthew fall, and then I saw him get up immediately … straight into the path of a bull. He had no time to react. Some of us were shouting “stay down, stay down!”, but it all happened so quickly. One moment he was one the ground, then next he was being gored.

    Here’s another extract from the same NY Times article:

    “Javier Chourraut, the Mayor of Pamplona, told a morning radio talk show that he was deeply saddened by the accident, adding that ‘with a little training this would not have happened’. He said Mr. Tassio committed the deadly mistake of trying to get up after being pushed to the ground, something natives of Pamplona [or experienced bull runners] would never do.”

    I’m not going to retract what I said about Maria and her hitch-hiking escapade(s). In fact, I believe that all women (and a great many guys) have to be pretty silly to get into a car with a complete and utter stranger. Having said that, I understand why they do it. During my own hitch-hiking escapades, I occasionally (but rarely) saw girls 20 or 30 meters away from me hitch-hiking alone at the same motorway entrance. I would walk up to them and ask if they’d like to hitch-hike with me for part of the way, and they usually accepted the offer gladly. Of course, this meant that they had to put some instant trust in me as a fellow hitch-hiker, but I must have looked the part with my massive rucksack and hand-written road signs saying ‘SPAIN’ or ‘SWEDEN’ or BERLIN’ or ‘GENEVA’ etc, because they always seemed to be relieved to have the company and the added safety.

    This will be my last response on this subject, and maybe my last post on HHHB. I’ll have to give it some thought. I’m clearly outnumbered and fighting a losing battle. We all do rash things sometimes, and we all want to get the most out of life, but as I said earlier, my age (and I’m certainly not old) and my experience (which is extensive) have probably made me more cautious.

  11. warero says:

    Reblogged this on Javmode.

    • kilaheem says:

      This post was actually made so provocative because of Paul’s comments. They give you a reason to think about why you believe in what you do. Hopefully the outcome was positive for everyone involved.

  12. Emily says:

    This ‘Dream world’ that Paul is so skeptical of, where people give and take out of trust and compassion rather than for financial interest, is only constrained by negative, distrustful attitudes towards people like his.
    Experienced and worldly-wise as you may be Paul, people are not like a stampeding herd of angry bulls for the most part. Anyone hitching for social rather than financial reasons can appreciate the immensely satisfying and emotional connection between strangers as the best reason to hitch-hike, something no-one should be discouraged from. Hitching with a friend and hitching alone are vastly rewarding in their own rights. The freedom of hitching alone is the kind that men have always had access to, whilst conservative views have constrained women to spheres where they can be ‘looked after’ (i.e. kept an eye on).
    Times have changed, and I’ve no doubt Paul wishes for the safety of women rather than the restriction of their enjoyment and liberty. However, his view that women need to be escorted for their own safety echoes of the possessive nature of conservative domestic arrangements and as someone said earlier, transfers responsibility of attack from the attacker to the victim. He calls this ‘realistic’, which is accepting that reality rather than challenging it. Women who hitch alone ARE challenging that reality, and pushing for the world that they believe in. Fully aware of the risks, as most hitchers are (particularly women). Paul calls this stupid, ridiculous and naïve. I agree with the earlier commenter who called it courageous.
    Women are fed up with men telling them how to think and live to avoid taking responsibility for their own urges. If you don’t have the body of a woman, don’t pretend you know how to live in it.

  13. kilaheem says:

    Reblogged this on k i l a h e e m and commented:
    I commented on a blog recently about a girl solo hitch hiking through Europe showing support. My comments were openly criticized by a member of the community who shares very differing views to mine. It’s lengthy but really cool and if you can’t be bothered reading you should be able to grasp the quintessence by shooting down to the comments section to view the argument between Paul and myself. It is of significance because it made me dig down and think about why I actually believe in the things I do.

    • Mick Dolan says:

      You made an excellent point, kilaheem. We all need to dig deep and analyze why we believe what we believe and how the reality of all that is around us is constantly changing. You are so right—this is a very cool exchange of ideas and it made me think a bit deeper. And isn’t that what its all about?! Maybe a cool sidebar to all this would be, “define risky behavior” That should be interesting!! By the way I don’t usually respond to very many blog postings unless they really catch my eye. This one did. Thank you.

      • kilaheem says:

        That’s right and Paul’s abrasive comments were the catalyst for that introspection, hence why criticism can actually be a gift. I guess yeah, it is what it’s all about Mick thanks for your comment especially seeing as you don’t do it much. If only I my theme supported sidebars ;)

  14. I’m gonna be one more to disagree with Paul and I think even if most of the comments have covered my point of view already, it’s important to show it here.
    I think people should be aware of the risks involving hitchhiking, and you are the only one to decide whether or not is worth taking it. I personally think everybody can do it as long as you’re careful.
    A girl friend of mine heard my hitchhiking stories and asked me if I thought she could do it. I said yes, but also that if I were a woman, I’d be extra careful.
    While hitchhiking throughout Europe I’ve met a Israeli girl who hitchhiked alone the same route I had done. She told me she have hitchhiked a lot in Israel and that there are only a few places in the world where she would avoid it, and for me that’s being extra careful.

    I hope that there are more brave girls out there like Maria, Ania, my friend Tanya and other girls who commented here, spreading hitchhiking stories and proving that everybody can do it.

  15. Tim Shey says:

    Short version: women should not hitchhike alone; men should hitchhike alone.

    I have only hitchhiked with another male maybe two or three times. I believe it is much harder for two guys to hitchhike. I believe that a woman should hitchhike with another man or another woman because it is safer.

    I have been hitchhiking the States for most of 17 years and that is my two cents worth for the day. Safe travels.

    “A Thumb and a Prayer”
    http://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/a-thumb-and-a-prayer/

    ***

    I hope that the Hitchhikers Handbook becomes more popular. I used to be a contributor to Digihitch.com (officially I am a moderator–my username is Sawman), but Digihitch has gone down the tubes since Morgan Strub (the founder) passed away. Digihitch used to be the best and biggest hitchhiking website on the planet.

  16. Paul Moore says:

    A couple of days ago, I decided not to post on this thread anymore. In fact, with the exception of Tim Shey’s post, I’m so appalled at the level of irresponsibility in the responses that I’ve decided to cease participating in this blog and have already unfriended myself from the HHHB Facebook page. I’m certain that some of you will be very happy to see the back of this guy who (according to kilaheem) doesn’t possess the information that you have: “one of nature and karma”. Ha!

    But before I go for good, I want to put a couple of questions to Jon, one of the two founders of this blog. You see, Jon, I suspect that you’ve been staying silent on this subject while Ania’s been speaking her mind:

    Jon, both you and Ania have openly supported the people who have attacked my belief (and my well-intended and sensible advice) that females should not hitch-hike alone. I can only assume, therefore, that you, personally, would have nothing against your soon-to-be wife, Ania, hitch-hiking on her own. In fact, if Ania told you that she intended to hitch-hike from Spain to Poland on her own, how would you feel? And would you mind if she allowed herself to be locked in a van over-night? Give it some thought before you answer and please be completely honest.

    • Hi Paul, Jon here. So where to begin? Firstly it should be pointed out that HitchHikers Handbook is a joint effort between the two of us and all the comments that we write on here are the product of both of our labour, but seeing as you would like me to respond personally, I shall.

      As I believe we have made clear on the blog at no point would I recommend that women hitchhike alone. We have written numerous times on the blog of the dangers that exist, we have stated that we wouldn’t encourage women to do it alone and we have made it clear that we personally would never do a female only hitchhike. Would I be comfortable for my future wife or hypothetical female children to hitchhike alone? Probably not but I feel that we have done the best we can to demonstrate the potential problems and have laid out our advice for people to follow or disregard as is their wont.

      This being said however if woman are determined to hitchhike alone, who am I to stop them? Of course there will be some danger but if they are still prepared to do it and they have their eyes open to all the potential pitfalls that exist then on their head be it. I say this not out of an uncaring attitude but out of the fundamental believe in free will. We invite others to contribute to our blog, not so they will repeat the same thing that we are saying but to gain an insight into the plethora of views that exist about travelling. I do not think that giving a platform for people to express these points of view is irresponsible in the slightest.

      Paul it would be a shame if you left our little community just because of this. I believe that you made your argument in a succinct, thoughtful and caring manner and simply because others have expressed an alternative view I see it as no reason to withdraw into splendid isolation. We, here at hitchhikershandbook, do not for one minute believe that you’re views don’t come straight from the heart and we hope that you can understand the position we have taken.

      Best regards,

      Jon

      • Paul Moore says:

        Thanks for your honest and well thought out response, Jon. Unfortunately, the fact still remains that the two of you openly complimented the people who attacked my opinion on this particularly important issue.

        I’m aware that you’ve stated in other posts that you wouldn’t encourage women to hitch-hike alone, but far from using this particular thread to reiterate your belief, you chose, instead, to condone this potentially dangerous practice. Not once did you compliment my posts, nor did you take the opportunity to state that Ania would not hitch-hike alone these days (even if she did so in the past). You effectively belittled my sensible advice.

        It goes without saying that people are entitled to their opinions (even those pseudo-hippies, know-it-all karma-junkies and fantasy-world dwellers who believe it is perfectly okay for females to hitch-hike alone). But as the owners and moderators of this potentially great blog, you have to accept that it might occasionally be necessary to give your personal advice and direction on important matters. You might lose some follows for appearing to err on the side of caution, but regardless of how much fun hitch-hiking is, and how much money it can save you in transport costs, the fact still remains that there is an element of danger for those who choose to hitch-hike alone … and for lone females, the danger is amplified.

        Couch surfing also involves potential dangers and numerous legal complications (for the surfer and the owner), but that’s another matter entirely.

        Regardless of how much I like you guys (and I do), the fact still remains that not once did you support my good advice. In fact, you undermined me by openly siding with the people who encourage females to hitch-hike alone. Perhaps you didn’t want to upset your friend, Maria.

        It’s very admirable to say that if woman are determined to hitch-hike alone, who are you to stop them. Of course you can’t stop them. But with this blog, you at least have the platform to discourage the practice and still maintain your integrity and respect.

        In one of your responses in this thread, you wrote: “I don’t think gender should be the issue here”. Unfortunately, in the cold light of day, gender is very much an issue and probably always will be. That’s the reality of life. I believe in equality in every sense, and I actively fight for equality in the work place and in other walks of life. For example, I have occasionally (and quite recently) reported employers who blatantly disregard anti-discrimination laws concerning age, gender, race, sexual leaning, religion and disability etc. The fact still remains, however, that it is far from advisable (and certainly far from clever) for females to hitch-hike alone.

        If you had agreed with me during this thread, the outcome might have been different, but your silence regarding my advice was glaring. Instead of taking the opportunity to discourage females from hitch-hiking alone (which would have been the right thing to do), you chose a different path.

        You said it would be a shame if I left your community “just because of this”. You make it sound like the issue is of no major importance. But if just one female has decided not to hitch-hiking alone because of my posts, I’ll be happy knowing that I prevented something potentially bad from happening to that person.

        It’s not a small issue, Jon. It effects hundreds of thousands of people who hitch-hike every year – some for fun and some out of necessity. Many of those people are females, and every time they get into a car with a total stranger, they put their lives in danger. That’s why many states in the USA have banned it, why it’s also banned in certain countries, why most companies tell their drivers never to pick up hitch-hikers, and why the police and the authorities in most countries discourage it.

        Compare it with speed restrictions or texting while driving, if you like. Both could kill or seriously maim you, yet hundreds of millions of people all over the world do both as a matter of course. Are they stupid? Of course they are. The unfortunate guy who was killed two miles from my home a few days ago when he drove his car into a tree while texting was stupid. He knew the risks but he did it anyway. The same applies to females who hitch-hike alone. We can’t stop them, but we can advise them against it.

        I’d still like to have a beer with you one day, but I can’t take part in a social network site where the moderators do not make it absolutely clear that they do not condone a practice that, by its very nature, is dangerous and irresponsible. Even websites devoted to the running of the bulls in Pamplona make it very clear that taking part in the ‘encierro’ is not advisable.

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