For most vagabonds travelling to New Zealand and Australia, their first stop ends up being the urban center of Auckland, which serves as a travel hub to the rest of the country. From there they either take the opportunity to explore the north island, or they head to the south island, with a large population made up of artists, hippies, back to the landers, and free-minded individuals. A thriving demographic of young people end up travelling up and down both coasts, some on vacation, some eking out a gypsy lifestyle, and others on a working holiday visas that take from orchard to orchard.
These ascetics all have one thing in common, and that’s the unprecedented ability and desire to hitchhike. Unlike some countries, New Zealand sports an amazing number of transient hitchers – you can find them at almost every kilometer, thumbs raised, backpacks stacked to the top. And though it’s a relatively easy – and cheap – way to travel, there are a few things to remember to ensure you stay safe.
1. Nice Rags
Love it or hate it, hitchhiking has everything to do with first impressions. The first thing that any driver is bound to notice is how much gear you’re lugging, so pack light whenever possible. The second thing they’ll notice as they drive past is what you’re wearing – if you’re decked out in grungy jeans, and a ripped and filthy t-shirt, or have opted for the full-on “classic nightmare” trench coat, chances are you’ll be waiting for a ride for a long time. It’s always a good idea to have an extra pair of clean pants and a nice button up shirt on hand.
2. …But Too Much Skin?
For girls, it’s always a trade-off – if you decide to go with short shorts and a midriff-baring T-shirt or bikini top, cars will be fighting each other for the opportunity to pick you up. But keep in mind, you might also be attracting the sketchier crowd as well. A good rule for women is to hitchhike in pairs. If your would-be-savour says he only “has room for one of you”, then wait for the next car.
3. Be Assertive
You’re the one that needs a ride so you get to decide whether or not you step into a stranger’s vehicle. Learning to hitch is also learning how to stand up for yourself, and sometimes that can be a steep learning curve. And don’t be embarrassed. It’s not rude to refuse a ride if you don’t feel 100% comfortable.
Likewise, if you do get into a car and things start to feel off, don’t hesitate to ask them to stop and let you out. There are any number of easy excuses you can use – “Oh, look, that’s the road I was supposed to get off at that we just passed. You can let me off here, thanks.”
4. Nice Day, Isn’t It?
This is something that you’ll have to develop on your own, but if you’re doing a lot of hitchhiking, it helps to have some ready-made topics of conversation at your disposal. Try to be creative, though – if it’s sunny out, you don’t need to reiterate that the weather’s nice. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn things you didn’t know as locals are a wealth of information and can give you valuable advice about customs, landmarks, and other useful facts – you might find yourself discussing the politics of the region or sharing recipes!
5. Be Open Minded
If you’ve decided to hitchhike, you’re probably already living and thinking outside the box. But it’s always a good idea to keep this credo in mind. In your journeys you’re bound to meet all sorts of people from all walks of life and end up sharing some time with them, so be flexible and accommodating. If they want to wax eloquent on the infidelities of their many wives, take it in stride and remember that you’re getting where you need to be for free – so bear with it. Life is only a collection of stories, and you’re writing a good one at the moment.
About the author: Simon is a writer and content specialist who is addicted to being on the front page of anything. A graduate of Dalhousie University, he specializes in using the em dash too often. Currently, Simon rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada. Check out a recent example of his posts on gaming and travel.
Photo Credit: mdid