Women hitchhikers

 On Forever

Throughout all of my travels I have never once hoofed it to the road and ceremoniously raised a thumb in hopes of hitching a ride. Have I missed some sort of backpacker’s right of passage? Or have I avoided certain death?

Hitchhiking has some kind of romantic allure to me, and I’ve always been keen to do it. I blame Kerouac and his mad Duluozian Haiku: “Hitchhiked a thousand miles and brought you wine.” I love the idea of hitching to a not-so-fixed destination, where each new car is an opportunity to connect. Some of my most memorable travel experiences have been when a local person or family has welcomed me into their home, or offered to shuttle me across town to the bus station in their family car.

However, I do most of my long term travelling alone. My friends and family would easily denounce me as insane for even broaching the topic of a woman hitching alone. Likewise, I found a lot of opposition from other travelers while on the road. Women travelers that I have met in hostels and campgrounds around the world have felt it their duty to recount the many tales of sexual assault or muggings that befell hitchhiking women travelers that they have met.

Are these Urban Backpacker Legends? Or is there some truth to these tales? While one should always consider safety, there is such a thing as being too cautious. I once met two American teenagers while backpacking in Europe who refused to talk to any local person unless it was to ask for directions or some other service – everyone else was suspect. I have to wonder what these girls got out of their European experience. Maybe they were able to see a bunch of cathedrals, and monuments, and tiny cobbled European streets, but they never once touched the culture in anything but a superficial way.

Is it careless, this thrill of unknown experience that perhaps glosses over my opinion of hitchhiking? And sure, careening through the highlands of Guatemala on a chicken bus comes with the same near death thrill of, say, having a driver press a knife to your throat. But still, I can’t put the idea down. Have you any words of wisdom, suggestions, or stories from the road that could balance the scales of opinion?

We’ll see, readers. Perhaps next year, when I make my way to the other hemisphere, I’ll be able to report back on my experiences hitching the open road as a solo woman traveler.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | November 23, 2009
Category: General

3 Responses to “Women hitchhikers”

  1. jaz Says:

    hey colleen,

    woman hitchiker here. did it for 2 years all over the usa. no probs, great friends and experiences.


    ps- but i still carry mace 😉

  2. Anneka Says:

    A fellow female, I had my share of ‘thumbing it’ (solo in the U.S. only, partnered outside of the U.S.) and quite the time of it. Even as recently as a few months ago when my car broke down. Within this last year I have also met a 20 year-old woman who had, with intrepid abandon, hitched from Kansas to Portland, Oregon- solo. I can’t say that at 40 years old I would still do it cross-country, or even cross-state; as romantic an idea as it still sounds. Frankly, people can be downright bloody frightening out there in this rapidly changing world. However, if you lose that sense of faith in humanity, you lose the game, just as the Euro-traveler girls obviously have. Immersing one’s self in the culture at hand is the prevailing reason for travel, yes? Well, outside of the smashing eats of course!

  3. RK Says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Hope you had a great hitch! I agree that anyone hitching should be aware of their surroundings- whether they are male or female. I’ve got thousands of miles under my belt and although have had a couple rides ask for sex (which I had them stop and let me out), I was fortunate not to be attacked.

    In my experience, I would have to say male hitchhikers get attacked and groped probably more than females do. This may be because hitchhiking is a male dominated activity. But I can’t even count how many times a guy would tell me how he had to jump out of a moving vehicle or deal with strong, groping advances from male drivers. I find it interesting that in public- this is never really mentioned- it’s only talked about how dangerous it is for women.

    I think that is a sexist attitude and if you’re careful of your surroundings, you should be okay. Every generation likes to think that hitchhiking was only safe when they were younger. I hitched all over the place in the 1990’s- U.S., Mexico, Venezuela and the Bahamas and enjoyed every minute of it.

    Happy Travels!