The accidental discovery of hitch hiking

Sitting at the Banana Bungalow backpackers in Wailuku scratching my head on how to get east to all the windsurfing beaches with all my stuff. A taxi would have been the obvious choice, but I was well versed in the art of frugality and wanted to be able to stay here for a time interval measured in months instead of weeks. The cash I’d saved was from 2nd year apprenticeship wages which really wouldn’t even total enough in Australia to pay the rent. Living at home with the parents allowed me to save a few shekels.

There were no trains or buses or any other form of public transport at the time. Somebody at the backpackers said “Why don’t you hitch?”

I don’t think I knew what to say. At the time I was still socially conditioned by an inner suburban mindset from Sydney and Melbourne. The echos of people back home saying “You’re mad”, but here on Maui it seemed normal.  It was just under 20km to Paia and it worked. I made it to the Mana Foods notice board where I found a advert for a car for sale. I bought it and didn’t think about hitching again for a long time. However I picked up many hitchers on Maui.

Some years later I was in West Oz and I had to hitch for this reason or that. I think I may have had to get from Margaret River to Perth. I was washing dishes for a job earning $50 per week less than the dole paid. I may have hitched in another frugality effort.  After one of those short 300kmish hitches to Perth and back the idea dawned on me. “What if I took a tent and a camp stove?”

I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Until then a major frustration of traveling was that i had to save for fuel and what ever else my car needed before I could get to the next place. For instance I arrived in Margaret River with negative $35.00 and Broome smack on $zero dollars.

People said I was freaking nuts and I’d get raped by some trucker. However they also told me that I’d probably die driving across the Nullabour and if I stopped in the wrong place I’d get my eyes hacked out by aboriginals with sticks. What an utter crock that was!! (Man, the native people of Australia get a bad wrap. I’ve been given lifts from so many Australian natives and had so many positive experiences.  I really feel sad for them. You can see it in their self esteem. They are actually more awesome people than they think they are, but that’s another blog post.)

So far I’d only hitched rides with awesome people. I also theorised that urban myths were just that, myths. I realised that sometimes wrinkles meant wisdom, but most of the time ingrained social conditioning. Age != (does not necessarily equal) wisdom. And raped by a trucker?? Has anyone looked at a trucker? They’re usually unhealthy on the physical side of things. They sit in a truck, eat truck stop food and do no exercise. I go to the gym, eat good food, and do several sports. Who’s got the upper hand here?

What people say usually does not make sense when you think about it. I had so many reasons thrown at me as to why I couldn’t hitch hike. You’ll get cold, lost, run out of money, abducted, stabbed, raped and so on and so on. It just did not make sense. Yes every one of these things are possible, but no more possible than in daily life. At the time I spent a lot of time going to pubs and night clubs and I reasoned that if I could handle myself there against young, fit, aggressive drunk males, then a sober not so fit older person holding a steering wheel wouldn’t be any worse. In actual fact, now if someone asked me which is safer on average, going to a night spot or hitch hiking? I’d say hitch hiking, and statistically, hitch hiking.

Continuing the story. “What if I took a tent and a camp stove?”

So I tried it. An overnight hitch. It worked. At the end of the day all I did was walk into the bush, flick out the tent, cook dinner on the camp stove and go to sleep. No one even knew I was there. A two man dome tent is very easy to hide. It’s also very unexpected, so people don’t quite believe some one would camp in many places.

The lights went on and a whole new world opened up. Amazing!!! No more car, no more fuel, no more working for 3-4 months to get the money for transport, no more accommodation costs, no more time limitations. Now for the price of one tank of fuel (400 -500km) I could travel for half a week. In 2004ish for about $AUD150 to $180 I could travel for a week and cover up to 5000km. When I realised this I couldn’t keep still. I was so excited. The possibilities were limitless. Everyone around me was talking about saving for the next 2 years to set up their camper van /  truck and drive around Australia (12,000km) . Most never did it. Life got in the way. Where as I could now smash that in less than $1000-.

Of course I’m not eating gourmet food in that. Rice, tuna with freeze dried peas is the order of the day. Quick cooking oats for breakfast. However after a while I learnt I could take $20 of herbs as spices which I could hold in one hand and make marvelous dishes.

This travel overhead meant that I could work any job doing anything and still save enough in a few weeks to travel for weeks.

After a few trips totaling 17weeks, I had wondered how far I’d gone. I’d really not thought about it till that point. A rough measuring of the map blew my mind….. 21,000km!!! I couldn’t believe it. That was pretty much half way around the globe. Upon working that out I just sat there for a long time staring into space. Why is no one onto this? Is media really that powerful we believe the newspapers, television and radio? Are the words of acquaintances, family and friends that powerful, that even when the words make zero sense, we still follow because everyone else does? Is having the right clothes, the right car and the right house so important so important to us? The answer is yes to all of these questions. Is this a good thing or a bad? I think neither, it’s just the way it is. A state of the the survival machine called the human.

Why do so few do the above? Probably lucky or unlucky circumstance as in my case. So which is it, lucky or unlucky? Well, that depends on who you ask. I certainly can only give you equal and contradicting answers.

Being on the road hitch hiking through so many towns, countries and environments really did change my mind. It is extremely hard to fit into any society ever again. It is extremely hard to have conversations with many people, because my stories don’t really match many others. Many eyes glaze over because it upsets peoples realities. Some get angry or jealous.

Should you hitch? I don’t know. I don’t think the main danger is getting physically hurt. I think the main danger is not being able to converse with the people whom surround you now after you’ve hitched everywhere.

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