My First Hitchhiker


We do judge a book by its cover.

I had never given a lift to a hitchhiker – until yesterday. Being a woman I never felt it was a good idea to have a total stranger in my car. Come to think about it, I still don’t think it is!

Having driven an approximate 1,000 miles the two previous days, I was not looking forward to the extra 300 miles that lay ahead when I set off in the morning. I soon had to stop to check the car manual and did it at a rest area that had a gas station since I was on the motorway.

When I reached the car park, I noticed a young guy holding a cardboard sign with the name of a city I knew I would pass on my way. I wondered whether to give him a ride, resolved to wait and went inside the station. When I got back to the car a few minutes later, he was still standing there. I quickly assessed him and decided to offer to drive him to his destination.

Since I had never done it before, I have since tried to analyse what made me decide to trust him. However loathe I may be to admit it, the answer is simple: looks.
This guy was smart in a casual way and seemed clean. He was clean-shaven and looked sporty – he had a hiker’s rucksack of a brand which is mainly used by experimented hikers. In addition he was checking an Iphone. While wondering what to do, I also remembered that when they were younger my brothers had hitchhiked regularly and had always been glad for the lifts they got.

I did not regret my decision since this young man proved to be a great passenger. He is a 25 year-old firefighter who comes from the French Alps but lives in the flat Northern part of France. Therefore he regularly travels down to see his friends and relatives and hitchhiking is the cheapest way to do it. As a teenager, he had spent a year in the US and we so chatted about traveling and language teaching.

I also asked him if getting a lift was easy and he explained that he had consulted websites to get tips before he hitchhiked for the first time. He insisted that looks are an important factor in a driver’s decision and that he is always careful of his appearance and attitude. For instance it seems people mistrust hitchhikers in darker clothes. Smoking while hitchhiking isn’t recommended. Drivers prefer hitchhikers who are not wearing sunglasses, etc.

We also discussed locations, routes, road maps, signs but I honestly reckon that clothing, hair and a good attitude are key factors in getting rides.

Have you ever given rides or hitchhiked? Why or why not?


8 thoughts on “My First Hitchhiker

  1. Here in Israel, hitchhiking (“tremping”) used to be very, very common. Sadly, that changed 15 years ago this week when IDF Sergeant Nachshon Wachsman hy”d was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. They terrorists were disguised as religious Jews and had Chassidic music playing in the car.

    But even today – in many smaller communities where the bus service is poor or nonexistent – many people are forced to hitchhike.

  2. We hardly see hitch-hikers in NZ, but the public transport, especially buses, are really cheap so that might be the reason.
    I’ve never given a lift to a hitch-hiker for the same reservations you mention. However, if it is raining I often take people into town who are standing at bus stops.

  3. I corroborate Mrs. S’s comments, and add that the Cap’n and I give rides when we can to improve our karma for the times when we may find ourselves needing to hitch lifts. We feel most comfortable giving rides to people we pick up inside our yishuv, and I only pick up women and girls–never men. (The Cap’n gives men lifts too.) Neither of us trusts haredim, especially after Nachshon Wachsman z”l’s experience.

    I have also hitchhiked in the US, England, and Greece. I stood in the rain for 45 minutes before a woman in England picked me up just off the M25, then got a severe scolding for hitching there since a pregnant woman had been killed while hitching the week before. A friend and I thumbed a lift in Greece because it was a holiday, no buses were running, and we wanted to get back to Athens from the small town where we had gone for a couple of days. I only hitched in the US after my car broke down and I had no choice whatsoever (the days before cellphones). The English guy who helped me hitchhike in England (who was hitching his way from Berlin to his hometown of Birmingham when I met him) said there were only two places he wouldn’t hitchhike: Queensland and the US. I suspect there are other places equally dangerous now.

  4. Greetings, Ilana

    I am a hitchhiker; hitchhiking is my life — it is what I do.

    I’m pleased to read your hitchhiker experience was pleasant.

    Thank you very much for your post!

    Kind regards . . .


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