When my friends found out that I hitchhiked from Malaysia to Thailand, and also when I was in Laos, they thought I was crazy and adventurous. Well, I don’t have to be crazy to be doing that. I think it’s pretty normal for anyone to do it, just as long as they are always aware of their surroundings. Outdated, dangerous and not trendy – well, people can say what they want about hitchhiking, but here I’ll share with you 6 reasons why I think it is interesting to me.
1. It is a great way to get me from point A to point B…for FREE!
When hitchhiking, it’s hard for me to expect things to go according to plan. The main plan was all about getting from where I was to where I wanted to go. I can’t be certain of what time I’d arrive at my destination, how many cars I would have to stop, or if I will have enough time to get to my destination before dawn. I guess those are some of the reasons why I find hitchhiking interesting. I realised that no matter how I managed my journey, it’s all about trying to get from point A to point B.
Every time I completed a journey, I felt so accomplished. The best part about it? I didn’t have to spend any money at all. Well, honestly, it can be time consuming. But if you have a lot of time to spend, why not?
2. It made me realise how generous people are
Let’s face it. We live in a materialistic world. Almost everything we do requires money. We need money even to go to a public bathroom! The idea of getting a free ride sounded absurd to me before I tried hitchhiking and I always thought to myself “Who would give me rides for free without expecting anything in return?” Yes, there are people who would genuinely do things for us without expecting anything in return. Seriously.
When I was hitchhiking with my Dutch friend, Lee, we were given more than just free rides. The people who gave us rides were really nice to us. They sent us to where we intended to go, bought us dinner, introduced us to their families, and even invited us back to their homes! Going back home with a stranger? It’s a risk to take, so if you ever decide to do it, just be careful! Always follow your guts! If something feels wrong, it’s best for you to turn down the offer.
3. It’s a cool way to meet new people
I met all kinds of people when hitchhiking. I met the locals of the countries I visited. They were all very kind and helpful. I was a complete stranger to them, yet they were still helping me out. I remember this one time when Lee and I were picked up by a guy from New Zealand. He said when he saw us, he was reminded of the good old days when he was a hitchhiker himself. I thought he was really cool and he even treated us for dinner.
We also met a Thai lady who was driving across town with her English husband. She let us sit at the back of her Four-Wheel Drive. She then invited us to her new Thai restaurant in Ranong, Thailand. I won’t forget also about this one time when a Thai man picked us up and took us to his factory where he introduced his workers to us. He then introduced his family to us before sending us off to Trang, Thailand. Also, not forgetting the two Muslim ladies who allowed us to join them on the ferry to Koh Lanta. Up to this day, I still keep in touch with one of them.
4. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the landscape
When I was hitchhiking in Thailand, I was able to enjoy the scenery from the back of all the Four-Wheel Drives I hopped into. Thailand’s landscape is amazing. There were times when I actually sat at the back seat and had chit-chats with the drivers. Whenever I had the chance to sit at the back seat, they’d tell me stories about their countries, and even described the history behind every mountain, rice field, river and building I saw along the way. My hitchhiking experience is way better than my 2 days bus trip from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. I could barely see anything!
5. It helps me build my confidence
There are a lot of ways to build confidence of course, and hitchhiking is just one of them. It’s common to hear people telling us about the dangers of hitchhiking, but once you’ve tried it, you’d realise that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. In fact, it is usually fun! For many, it seems challenging for them to simply stop some random cars and talking to random people – asking them if they could give a lift and so on. It’s not that bad, seriously. Ask any salesmen how they could possibly approach strangers and convince them to try or buy a certain product or service. They’ll most likely tell you that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Hitchhiking is a great way to help you overcome your fear. Apart from that, you’ll also learn how to determine if someone is being honest or fake about their generosity.
6. It improves my sense of direction
Okay, I was so bad with maps and navigation. I was always relying on someone else to get to somewhere. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to expect things to go according to plan when hitchhiking. Many times I had to change my routes, depending on the situation. Lee didn’t have a smartphone back then and he was relying on a big paper map. These days we have offline maps that can be downloaded for free, which makes travelling a lot easier. My travel buddy, Alex, used it a lot when we were travelling together in Laos. Prior to starting our journey, we always made sure that we studied the map first. Whenever we got lost, we’ll look at the map again. The map will also give us an idea of the road conditions – whether it’s flat or mountainous.
One time when our motorbike broke down in the middle of nowhere, we had to hitchhike and make our way to the nearest workshop. In a country where people barely speak English, Alex and I were fortunate to be able to get a ride from a local driver who happened to pass by. Because he was a local, he knew exactly where to take us. We also knew that there was a workshop a few kilometres away from us from the offline map we had.
Below is a video of me and Lee doing hitchhiking in Thailand: