It has been almost a year since my first hitchhiking experience in Morocco. I am still new to the art of hitchhiking, and to be totally honest, I am still not always comfortable reaching out. That being said, I have become increasingly more comfortable with my two experiences as both have been positive and can be labeled successful.
My first hitchhiking experience was not really intentional. Someone just stopped and offered me a ride, and I took it. This time, I intentionally hitchhiked.
Having missed the bus by just ten minutes, I did not want to pass more hours waiting for the next. I knew that the bus was set to pass every hour or so, but if I delayed an hour I would also miss the train service that left during that time from the city I was going to. Missing this train, would have further delayed my arrival in Barcelona by several hours. Something that I did not want to do in this circumstance.
So, what did I do? Well being that I was already on the road to the city which I needed to travel to, it helped that all the people were going in that direction. I was standing there at the bus stop in the hot sun, as there was no shade at this hour in the morning. The thought had crossed my mind to hitchhike, but I was not really committed to getting a ride. At first, I stood nonchalantly with the proverbial thumb-up routine, but I was not proactive. As I realized the tardiness that would arrive if I missed the next train service I began to consider being more obvious in my quest to get a ride.
Thankfully, I had a pen and paper with me. I began by writing the city name on the paper, then I wrote estació (meaning station in Catalan), but I decided that it was too much and too complicated to read (tl;dr). Later, I rewrote Ripoll in larger letters.
Now, I stood near the road in plain site holding the paper with the city name clearly displayed. Within less than ten cars, someone pulled over and c´est la vie. It was a car driven by Marco and two of his older friends. They were very nice and interesting people to talk to. Marco a middle-aged man of nearly 45-50 years of age. His friends, matured, possibly in their 70s. We talked the whole ride and in the end he even gave me a free hat, as he mentioned that he had hitchhiked before. After all, it is just a ride. “Tip: Hitchhiking in Spanish is called autopista, at least in Spain”
What made it successful and positive?
As I look back and analyze the factors of my success in this hitchhike, I can conclude that there are a few attributes to this ride that made my efforts successful.
1.) I was on a main road. The road that I was standing on was directly in line with the next town where I needed to go. It was just 15-20 minutes straight ahead.
2.) I was well located. I was standing at the bus stop in Sant Joan de les Abadesses, which happened to be at a red light. Therefore, people had the ability to stop and look, read my sign, and decide if they would like to stop.
3.) I was somewhat presentable. Although I was not in a suit and tie, I was not dressed poorly. I was wearing a nice pair of jeans and t-shirt. When people have not met you, one of the main ways that they can judge you from afar is how you physically present yourself. I think this could be a small factor, even though not overly significant.
4.) I had the city clearly written out on my notepad. When I first began writing out my preferred destination, I had complicated it with writing station or writing small letters. I rewrote the name of the city in large-bold letters: clearly legible from a moderate distance.
5.) I was not holding my bags. I am not really sure if this would have made a difference or not, but I was not holding my backpack or small bags. It is possible that seeing several bags with a traveler looks somewhat overwhelming. One person standing looks very manageable. Not sure if this was a factor, but I think that it could have contributed some.
6.) Speaking the language. I think that speaking the local language, or at a minimum phrases, helps in any country or culture in the world. It not only shows that you respect local culture, but also enables you to communicate and get things that you need more precisely. As of writing this, I do not speak a ton of Catalan, but my Spanish is not too bad. I was able to communicate effectively where I wanted to go and who I was, which is helpful in a hitchhiking setting. Although, in my first time, phrases were sufficient.
Additional Resources and Conclusion
Spain is not the most hitchhiking friendly country. However, it is also not the least. Depending where you are traveling you may have better luck than others. Here is a good website with some tips specific to hitchhiking in Spain. Click here if you seek more.
As I said before, hitchhiking is relatively new for me. I have only done it twice to date, but I will be open to it again in the future. However, it is not always my first go to.