We finally arrived in Germany after 9 days of hitting more than 2000 km of road, spending 200 hours under the open sky, going through climate changes from sweating to freezing, from beach towel weather to heavy rainfalls, sharing our stories with 26 drivers and that in four different languages. It was our first hitchhiking experience together on such a long distance from Portugal to Germany.
In our journal we kept a record of our days on the road, the people we met, the stories of our drivers, the stories of the road and finally the hitchhiking spirit.
We had good days and bad days.
Good weather and bad weather.
Sometimes it was a breeze to find a ride.
Sometimes hard work.
There were moments of pure happiness when we felt free and unstoppable.
As well as moments of desperate waiting for someone to get lost in a place where normally almost no cars would pass by.
Taken all the wonderful and less wonderful things together, there is one rule we learned in the first place:
It’s easy to hitchhike as long as you’re in the right place
Before we hit the road, we wrote down 10 hopes of which we considered the most valuable when looking back on our hitchhiking trip in retrospect.
In this article we give a review of our hopes after we hit the road.
Which ones were positive and which ones were predestined to fail?
Here are our 10 hopes before we hit the road and what happened to them afterwards
1. Good weather
The weather was constant most of the time except of that one day when we ended up in a desolate area somewhere close to the mountains. Heavy rain hit our barely protected bodies and backpacks.
Tip: Be prepared for unexpected weather changes and frozen temperatures in the nights, especially when you sleep in a tent.
2. Constant progress
In the beginning we had slight problems to make big steps. As soon as we left Portugal behind, the progress was far better. In Spain we had luck to find a truck who brought us almost to the border in just one day. However, it took us another day to catch a ride to the actual border because the driver dropped us off in a place where there was less traffic.
Tip: Progress cannot be measured in time that was needed to find a ride neither in the distance that somebody made in a day. In terms of hitchhiking, progress means to at least move away from the last place within a day. Sometimes even that can become a difficult task.
3. Short periods of waiting for a ride
What does short mean when we talk about the time we had to wait to catch a ride? For some people short means a few minutes, for others who have less luck or see things a little bit more pessimistic, a short period can extend to a couple of hours. In our experience the time we waited to find a ride sometimes appeared longer, sometimes shorter. Of course it was more difficult to get a ride in a place far off any traffic than at the exit of a busy gas station.
Tip: Take your time to find the right ride although you have this urge in yourself to leave the last place behind as soon as possible. When you stop focusing on time, you’ll feel more relaxed and a ride will come easily your way.
4. Long rides by one driver
In total we had one really long drive by one truck that picked us up a few kilometers after the Spanish border. If you get a long ride than it is most often by a truck as they drive long distances without making stops. Unfortunately trucks are not allowed to take two passengers as there is just one seat with sealt belt. We could calm down one truck driver who was anyway a very cool and laid back person.
Tip: If you travel alone, watch out for truck stations and ask trucks that drive into gas stations if they can offer you a distant ride. They’re often willing to take one hitchhiker. If you travel with someone else, the golden rule is to take every ride that stops for you, no matter how far it will bring you. This shows your respect towards the driver who took his time and motivation just to stop for you.
5. Great stories
Whether it is a story about the old lady who didn’t speak any word of English but was kind enough to pick us up in a completely remote area or the crazy guy who spoke English but barely spoke to us and surprisingly dropped us off in the middle of the highway. Stories on the road about the road are always unique stories that are supposed to shape a hitchhiker’s vita. They are a sum of all our experiences we made on the road. The name of a place can be easily forgotten, but the story behind the place will most probably come up in your mind.
Tip: Capture everything that is worth to be remembered in your travel book and share, share, share… with travel mates, family, friends or in useful travel platforms like hitchwiki or websites for a life of cheap travel.
6. Finding a couch in some places
We were not really successful in finding a host anywhere as we were not sure where we would end up at the end of the day. We tried it in Porto and Lyon, both cities with a lot of couchsurfers, but unfortunately we were always too late, even for the SOS groups. In San Sebastián we stayed in a hostel to rest our tired bodied at least for a night.
Tip: Try to make a rough schedule of how long it will take to go somewhere, in case you want to stay in a place for a while. Try to send individual couch requests as soon as you know you’ll arrive in a certain place. Try SOS groups in Couchsurfing or Trustroots. Unfortunately, you can only do all of this if you find wifi, making it hard to keep record of replies.
7. Exploring new places
It doesn’t always have to be a well-known city that you pass through while hitchhiking. You can also explore the little village a driver has dropped you off or a boring border town like Vilar Formoso. Once we saw a beautiful sunset right in front of our eyes while we stood at a toll station close to Clermont-Ferrand.
Tip: It doesn’t matter where you are – a gas station, a toll station, or somewhere on the road, keep your eyes open for the little things. Sometimes a strip of the road has more beauty to offer than a whole city.
8. Meeting inspiring people
We met José, the truck driver who left his home when he was very young to hit the road. He was one of the inspiring people we met. In confidence he told us his story, even the downsides what tied the bonds between two strangers which became friends in the end.
Tip: Try to talk to your drivers and also the people you meet on the road like other travelers. Listen to their stories and don’t hesitate to tell them your own ones. It will turn out that for those people you are the inspiration.
9. Writing in our travel journals
In our blog post about useful tips how to create a travel book to capture all travel memories we advised you to write on the road about the road. One day when you re-read the passages about how tired and hungry you felt on the way to your next stop, you’ll feel proud and motivating of how far you got, just by not losing the patience a hitchhiker needs to have.
Tip: For travelers it’s essential to always have your journal close to you and write wherever and whenever you have the feeling to express your thoughts about a certain moment and encounter.
10. No inconvenient incidents
We almost arrived at the end of our hitchhiking trip without any incidents when suddenly somewhere on the highway to Karlsruhe this crazy guy stopped and dropped us off. In the time we needed to realize that cars in high speed were rushing only a hair’s breadth away from us, the driver already drove away, leaving us with our faiths behind. Luckily a brave student stopped and dropped us off at a safer place.
Tip: Be careful and proactive when you sit in a stranger’s car. Talk to the driver and announce in advance that you prefer gas stations on the highway, toll stations or roads leading to a highway. Don’t walk on the highway, avoid hitchhiking in the night and explain your drivers in detail where you want to go and ask if there is a suitable place to catch the next ride.