Hitchhiking alone female tips

At 9am on a Saturday, while hitchhiking, the first people to pick me up were a father and daughter on their way to a festival. The daughter—not driving—ceremoniously pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a cup of ice from the cooler next to me and asked, “Kampai?” (“Cheers?” in Japanese). Being a polite guest, I naturally obliged. And from here, the shenanigans commenced.

Hitchhiking alone female drinking Japan

Though drinking while hitchhiking was a rare first for me, the lift itself and number of good-natured passengers were not; all of which I readily encountered during a solo journey around Hokkaido, Japan one summer. Relying only on the kindness of strangers, I was dined with at cafés, offered couches to sleep on, and accompanied on tourist ventures, developing unlikely friendships along the way.

For most people, hitchhiking is seen as a reckless activity, resplendent with tales of kidnappings and murders, a la Ted Bundy and Wolf Creek. Or actual tragic cases like that of Pippa Bacca. As a solo traveler, and especially being female, hitchhiking is considered the least-preferred choice, no matter the situation. News reports and online commentary reek of victim-blaming when an unexpected or “deserved” tragedy occurs. The masses cry: “Why would anyone put themselves at risk?” And, “Aren’t you totally asking for it?”

“To me, life is about accumulating good stories, and there’s no better way to journey… than standing by the side of the road wondering what story will pull up next…”

While some of these claims are justified, and people should approach any such endeavor with caution, I believe that hitchhiking is sorely misrepresented. And definitely not an outdated practice. My foray into this taboo hobby started during a week-long holiday in Japan in 2008, with a charity hitchhike around the island of Shikoku. My male coworker and I set off with the kind of early-20s gusto and naivety that assured ourselves that nothing could possibly go wrong … and it didn’t. We returned to our jobs a week later, unscathed and unafraid of the prospect of future strangers. Not only did we raise money for a good cause and discover secret pockets of Shikoku; we did so in the company of strangers! Twenty hitches took us from Point A to Point B, and we never waited more than five minutes to be picked up. It was easy and invigorating.

Hitchhiking Japan Shikoku

My first hitchhiking trip in 2008 in Shikoku, Japan

Nine years have since passed, but my love for hitchhiking remains. It’s taken me on rides around the US, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, and Chile. Japan, with its low crime rate, politeness, and eagerness to speak to foreigners, is especially receptive. I have hitchhiked in Japan over a hundred times, and never once felt scared or uncomfortable. Sure, there have been a few odd passengers, like the lady who wanted silence so she could chant nonstop for an hour. And there have been hitches that never were. But I have enjoyed the company of couples, babies, students, dogs, retirees, delivery men, champion athletes, and a sex doctor. These strangers have restored my faith in humanity; they’re unknowing teachers, storytellers, and tour guides (see the video below too!).

Hitchhiking around the world collage

Hitchhiking female alone truck driver Japan

Hitchhiking alone female strangers

Sometimes strangers invite you home for baked potatoes

People often say that I’m lucky and, if I continue to hitchhike, will inevitably end up chopped into little pieces and stuffed into a dumpster. But it’s not luck; strangers are innately good. I’m also well aware of the restrictions I’m told to feel as a woman—how traveling this way is frivolous, and that if I were a man, it would be more acceptable. Yes, I may have a bigger target on my back as a woman, but confronting it helps me set an example for my students and women in general. I enjoy the freedom of the unknown and take the risks as an opportunity to grow.

“These strangers have restored my faith in humanity; they’re unknowing teachers, storytellers, and tour guides…”

Still, hitchhiking must be accompanied with vigilance. I’m not condoning hitchhiking in risky places or where it’s illegal. Furthermore, there are certain safety precautions one should take. Avoid hitchhiking alone, unless you’re experienced and confident about the safety of the area. Never hitch at night. Finally, consider taking pictures of license plates as you walk up to the car, or find a way to get a picture of your driver, then send as much information to a friend as possible. Above all, exercise common sense: do not get into a car if you feel something is amiss—trust your instincts. For more tips on hitchhiking, check out these awesome blogs by Vagabondish and Ana Bakran.

“Above all, exercise common sense: do not get into a car if you feel something is amiss—trust your instincts…”

With a little courage and preparation, hitchhiking may be the spontaneous adventure you’re looking for. To me, life is about accumulating good stories, and there’s no better way to journey between destinations, meet interesting people, and even practice language skills than standing by the side of the road wondering what story will pull up next.

Originally posted here

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Erica & Patricio April 10, 2017, 11:55 pm

    We LOVE this article! We were very skeptical before we started hitchhiking but we are hooked now! We have just started hitchhiking and we hate to see that so many people are so afraid of it and think of it as such a crazy thing. We have had some of the most amazing experiences hitchhiking so far! I love this story of the girl and her father. Something similar happened to us in Portugal, this very interesting guy picked us up and reached in the back seat and offered us beers! haha We love to hear other amazing hitchhiking stories.

    -Erica & Patricio @

    • Tam April 11, 2017, 5:11 pm

      Aww thanks Erica and Patricio 🙂 Hitchhiking stories are the best, whether or not it includes alcohol haha. Looking forward to more of your posts!

  • mplo August 10, 2017, 1:50 pm

    As a woman who occasionally did some hitchhiking during the early-to-mid-1970’s, and stopped when I had two very weird experiences I felt had the potential for evolving into things that were more serious and sinister (The guys that picked me up began with innocuous, normal conversation, before sliding into sexual innuendoes and overtones, at which point I requested to be let out of their cars.), and after a whole slue of young women ranging from their late teens through their mid-20’s who were killed while hitchhiking to work, school, or wherever here in the Boston, Ma area, and their bodies deposited in distant places, either by the roadside(s), or wooded areas, I decided to stop hitchhiking altogether. It was just too risky, and not worth taking any more chances.

    • Tam August 10, 2017, 7:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s definitely daunting to hitchhike these days given what’s happened in the past. And I probably wouldn’t hitchhike in mainland USA unless I was with a partner or in a very touristy place. That being said, there’s always a risk in whatever you do and I’m sorry you had such bad experiences!

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