Hitchhiking (also known as lifting, thumbing, hitching, autostop or thumbing up a ride) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people (usually strangers) for a ride in their automobile to travel a distance that may either be short or long. The latter may require many rides from different people. Hitchhiking is one of the cheapest ways of traveling. By tradition, hitchhiking is defined as soliciting a ride by standing at the edge of a road, facing traffic, with one’s thumb extended. You can meet a lot of people and make lots of friends. You can also become very frustrated; today’s drivers are more fearful of picking up hitchhikers than in the past. But it’s also a great feeling to get a ride after you’ve been waiting for a long time. People who do pick up hitchhikers tend to be very friendly. However, hitchhikers also risk being picked up by someone who is an unsafe driver or even personally dangerous.
Hitchhiking in itself is rarely illegal, but there are often rules about where you can do it (eg. not on highways, near intersections, at bus stops), so read up on the rules first to avoid getting booked for “trespassing” or “obstructing traffic”.
There are many reasons for hitchhiking, including necessity due to lack of transportation, little or no money for public transit, public transit unavailable, infrequent or unreliable public transit, or he/she can’t drive himself for various reasons. Hitching, for some, may be the only way to get where they need to go. For many, hitchhiking is recreation. There are also locales which are relatively safe enough for anyone to hitchhike. For some, hitching is a way to meet interesting people, companionship, or to challenge oneself. Some, mostly the very active ones, who thumb for the love of it, belong to clubs.
A definition of hitchhiking put forward by Max Neumegen, ex-world overland traveler, ‘inventor’ of “hitchhiking with a bike”, and member of the Trans Africa Walk for Peace Expedition 1979; “the hitchhiker is there so you can do your good deed for the day”.