Hitchhiking in new countries is so exciting. I never know if it’s actually going to work. Usually locals will adamantly tell me it’s either a) impossible b) dangerous or c) exclusively for crack addicted child rapists. I’ve heard that so many times now I’ve learnt to ignore it but there’s still uncertainty and that’s what makes it exciting.
I got the train to London’s Western horizon. There jumped fences, jaywalkers and waded through blackberry thorns to find an onramp to the highway. It was an average spot* and I was worried. Three minutes in another hitchhiker appeared – a tall Irishman with shorts and stubble.
“Hello!” It was so jolly I felt like I was being welcomed into a pre-teen hillsong camp.
“Haha hey man. We’re you heading?”
“Edinburgh.” He flashes up his sign, Edinburgh please. Smiles and doodles. “How bout you?”
“I’m heading to Liverpool. Have you just come from London?”
“Yeah I’ve been waiting for about an hour and a half around the corner. I thought I should try somewhere different.” He looked around at our spot. “Should I go wait somewhere else?”
“Na, na. Let’s hitch together.”
“Ok great.” Pure enthusiasm. It was his first day on the road. Ten minutes later, just after I’ve mentioned how women never stop to pick me up, a car stops – of course with a woman driving. She’s an ex-military, horticulturist dart enthusiast driving to Peterborough for a beer festival. We quizzed her on Iraq, eating plants, prison reform* and the celebrity culture of dart professionals. My Irish friend smiled and said great a lot. After about 40 minutes in the car together he interrupted the conversation.
“This is the best. . . Why do people ever catch trains.” What a sweetheart.
Our next driver, a business man who liked talking business, took us near to Doncaster. I wanted to head West from there and Smilerish North.
“Where do you think I should go now?” He asked me. His real question was probably where should I tell this guy to drop me off?
“It depends. It’s unlikely you’ll make it to Edinburgh unless you get a ride in the next half an hour with someone driving the whole the way there. Maybe you should see how far you can get and stay the night wherever that is,”
“Do you want me to take you into Doncaster and I can leave you at the train station?” Our driver asked.
“Yeah I guess so.”
My ride finished efficiently. The next car, after ten minutes, took me to the other side of Manchester. The ride after, another ten minutes, took me the final 80kms. They were both football fans with new girlfriends so that’s what we talked about. They think I should do crossfit competitions with my girlfriend and Manchester United is going to come third. It’s unlikely either of those things will happen.
I’m in Liverpool now, the brickiest, sunsettiest and most incomprehensible place in England.
When I arrived the first thing I heard was a group of teens yelling across the street. The only word I understood was fook and hey. I was very intimated. All the Liverpudlian accents I’d heard before now belonged to particularly slow footballers and film gangstas.
I’m becoming a lazy traveller. Today I woke up at 10. I did some laundry, talked to home, scrolled through reddit and looked at gifs of my favourite footballers doing skills. When I finished all of those exhausting activities it was one and I was hungry.
I stayed there for two hours reading and writing and then left for a walk. When it started to rain I went into a museum and later a cinema. In the museum I saw fish and thought about whether flatheads had thoughts beyond instinctual feelings and in the cinema I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Shouldn’t I be doing things?
Rides taken: 4
Distance travelled: 433km
Average wait: 17 minutes
*How to judge a good spot to hitchhike
When finding a place to hitchhike there’s a few things to consider. The two most important things are how fast cars are going and whether there is room to stop. Unless the traffic is particularly sparse and the cars are moving very slowly you need somewhere for cars to pull over – this can be an alley way, an emergency lane or even a random scrag of gravel. The next thing to consider is how much contact you have with the drivers. The more interaction you have with the drivers the better – eye contact, smiling, gesticulation, sexy winking, whatever – anything you can do to make them consider you as a normal human being is a good thing. The best situation is a long straight road with slow but semi regular traffic. The drivers see you from afar and have plenty of time to decide whether to stop and eventually they get close enough for you to exchange glances.
*we had both recently watched the Shawshank Redemption