Why am I so intrigued with hitchhiking? The simple act of one person providing transportation for another. Although, notably, this transaction does occur between strangers and it seems that our society is often very wary and truthfully scared of “strangers” (a thought that Stephen J. Dubner expresses in his Freakonomic’s Podcast, “Where Have All the Hitchhiker’s Gone?” For better or worse, I think I may be on the high (low?) end of this bell curve in that I consider myself more trusting than most. Some of my friends think I am a bit naive, but I prefer to think of it as a sanguine openness to experiences. I guess I feel like if you give people the benefit of the doubt they will most times live up to your expectations. Back to hitchhiking…Dubner’s Podcast on the subject is an interesting exploration of the “history” or at least trends of hitchhiking prevalence in America. I agree with his thesis that there are fewer hitchhikers now than there were, say, in the 60s. Somehow hitchhiking has fallen out of favor and into a great degree of lore and rumor. One part of the mystique, that Dubner omits from his discussion, is hitchhiking’s presence or absence based on region or culture. I invite anyone who thinks hitchhiking is dead to come visit Nevada County (in Northern California) in October and November. But, on the flipside, you would be sorely disappointed trying to thumb a ride in San Antonio or St. Louis. Yeah, good luck with that! Why the disparity in practice? Different social norms? Necessity? I’m not entirely sure.

Here’s another thing about hitchhiking that fascniates me: it is economically thrifty and environmentally friendly (score!). Think about the average commuter who wastes 80% of his or her car space everyday (Yes, this is true. Most people drive alone most of the time. Listen to the podcast). With five seats in most cars and typically only one occupant (the driver of course), it is a wonder to me that hitchhikers aren’t hailed as the environmentalists of our era. Time magazine never fear, I think I’ve just found your men and women of the year.

If you don’t agree with me up to this point, that’s okay. At least consider that, as Dubner says, hitchhiking may not be as dangerous as most people think it is. Analogous to shark attacks, bad hitchhiking incidents, may make good news stories but are probably rare compared to the dangers from other risky behaviors. Let’s just say this is one risk I’m willing to take and, lucky me, I’m now in a country where hitchhiking is a socially accepted practice. My first hosts even encouraged it as a viable and reliable (read: people don’t speed by, they almost always give you a lift) form of transport. My favorite part of this novel cultural phenomenon are the not uncommon, “hitching posts,” in New Zealand. Not for tying up your horse, mind you, but as a designated place to hitch a ride. As homage to my British turned Kiwi hosts, I say, “Brilliant! Carry on chaps!”


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrew
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:13:28


    Awesome. Question: what if I don’t want to get my truck dirty?




  2. Andi
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:43:22

    I was actually wondering how long it would
    take you to find this info! They have something similar in San Fran but the “hitching post” there in Wellington looks much more pleasant. And you posted pictures!!! Yay!



  3. Jesse Hodorowski
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 15:55:10

    Nice job Leda, once again you have provided “another viewpoint” on a subject I hadn’t put much thought into. Thank you for making me think. Keep the posts coming!



  4. al
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 23:00:29

    Sanguine= good GRE word!
    Loving your blog 🙂



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