The Invisible Hitchhiker

| 11/7/2007 4:34:35 PM

It's easy to romanticize the life of a hitchhiker. I quickly conjure up visions of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Ken Kesey hitching rides, listening to jazz, meeting charming people, and exploring the American landscape. I remember my dad's stories of hitching his way from Michigan to Florida in his 20s, imagining him as an oh-so-cool hippie before the days of parent-teacher conferences and two cars in the driveway. Part of me has always wanted to follow his footsteps: pack a small bag, head out to a freeway ramp, and stick out my thumb.

But the other (bigger) part of me knows I'm not of the Beat generation, and the horror stories of hitchhiking-gone-bad cloud my dreams of running around the country with strangers. Dev Carey, on the other hand, estimates he has received 400, maybe 500 rides from strangers, and his hitchhiking history is chronicled in the latest issue of High Country News, as told to contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis.

Carey has used his thumb to navigate the U.S. West, France, Holland, Germany, and Luxembourg—and has only felt as though he was in danger once. He says he simply enjoys the human connections that emerge from sharing the road with someone. He feels good that he was saving gas and money, and although he has options for travel beyond hitchhiking, he says he is advocating for those who don't.

After 20 years of hitchhiking, however, Carey finally had a breakdown after being passed by cars for hours on end. He writes, "They looked like they were in a rush, they looked guilty, they looked angry, they flipped me off. I’d been watching that for a long time, and I finally let myself really feel it… I was suddenly very aware that all of us were going around so scared, so isolated, that we wouldn’t even look at each other." 

Cara Binder 


joe w._2
11/12/2007 3:01:22 PM

Hitching, for me, has always been one of the most accurate personal assessment tests there is... I have always been amazed at the direct correlation between what I am projecting outward into the universe and the almost immediate feedback I receive, when standing on the side of the road and waiting for a ride. The rides and people who provide them are educational, and the wait between rides is sometimes even more so. Thumbs up!

11/12/2007 10:54:05 AM

400-500 rides in 20 years isn't all that much. Hitchhikers are a different breed of cat entirely. And if this guy sobs and feels lonely at the drop of a hat, he ain't much of a hitcher.

Rex Ingram_2
11/11/2007 12:31:48 PM

Being alive is the most dangerous thing that I've yet encountered. You could end up losing your very life just by pursuing it. How can you think that mere hitchhiking is any more dangerous? If lightning, an earthquake, a falling jet plane, an errant truck or car, or a deranged idiot can get you even at home in your own bed, how is hitching any worse odds? If taking a chance on adventure makes you worried about danger, you may just end up living an uneventful lifestyle that ends in regret. You have only one life, so stretch it out and enjoy it. All your money in the world won't make you happy, only deciding to be happy will accomplish that.

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