Travel Gone Wrong: Hitchhiking

Updated: Mar 10

I find sleeping on public transport very difficult. My height, a blessing in many ways, is the main reason. Planes, trains, and automobiles are often not designed for a man with my long limbs; the price paid for a few minutes of fitful sleep is usually a loss of feeling in a leg or, conversely, a stabbing pain in my back.

I’ve only hitchhiked twice and, surprisingly, my first experience came as a result of falling asleep on a public bus. As soon as I woke I knew I’d missed my stop. The driver confirmed this; we had passed Port Macquarie 45 minutes ago and this was the last bus of the day. My only option was to hitchhike. It looked simple enough on television. How hard could it be?

Two hours later I'd had no luck, I felt very self-conscious stood there begging utter strangers for a ride. Adding to my woes, darkness was coming and I had no food or water. A classic case of travel gone wrong was unfolding.

Eventually, just as the sun had set for the day, someone did stop. My saviours name was Jim, and Jim seemed to wear a permanent scowl. Unfortunately, beyond our initial exchange, he was not a conversationalist and we sat in awkward silence for the duration. Jim didn’t even glance in my direction until, just outside of town, he pulled over, looked me in the eye and simply said “righto.” This was clearly my queue to get out and I was only too happy to do so. Completing the final kilometers on foot, I resolved never to hitchhike again.

A few weeks later my second hitchhiking experience came about.

After several weeks working on vineyards near the town of Dunsborough, south of Perth, I joined a group headed to Margaret River for a night out. The following morning our designated driver had vanished and, given that the car had also gone, we knew we'd been abandoned. We couldn't understand why we'd been left or how they'd snuck off without any of us noticing.

Regardless of how or why we were stranded 50km from home, on a Sunday, and public transport wasn't an option. We had to hitchhike. I wasn't alone this time so it felt less awkward, but it seemed far less likely we'd find anyone willing to stop for three people and so I began to mentally prepare for a long walk.

Surprisingly, this time our savior arrived quite quickly. It was a young mother, with a baby, who pulled over and offered to take us home. Although much nicer than Jim she definitely did not fit the profile of someone we thought should be picking up three strange men on a Sunday morning so, ironically, we spent much of the journey telling her off until she promised never to do it again.

We never did discover why we’d been abandoned.

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