*This is a guest post written by my adventurous friend Ben Chapman*
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” — On the Road
So, you’ve read Kerouac, or at least wondered how your meagre ration of a travel budget will bring you into contact with the unexpected and unsual. Suffice to say, you are of a braver or at least more curious disposition; not to be held back by finances or fear of not knowing where your next sleep will pull your head down to. The questions of ‘won’t you be murdered?’ and the eternal ‘isn’t that dangerous?’ should be dismissed with healthy scepticism. When did your last taxi driver murder you? Or a stranger on the bus for that matter. Enough!
Experiences wanted – must be memorable – apply within
I can regale rampant tales of all emotional colours and experiences for a rainbow of reasons, but ultimately you’ll get out of hitchhiking what you’re prepared to put in. I started my thumbing career a shy, eccentric and gangly 19-year-old with a heavy weight of expectation and anticipation of what lay before. I finished up a comparitively confident, eccentric and gangly 28-year-old, able to look back at the finest collection of people I will never meet again, nor remember the names of. If hitchhiking gives you one thing, it’s a quick draw, dice throw, sink or swim, friendship fling. All at, or indeed considerably above, the speed limit of your hitching host country. I fondly remember being assigned the role of patient and doctor in a torrent of therapeutic syncretism, whilst marginally north of 220KPH on ‘das autobahn’ one 3am on a Tuesday.
Think of the road – Dharma bums
A good day on the road starts like a day on the mountain: early and with a generous calorific intake to fuel the imagined inevitable escapades. Don’t dispute the mundane; the waiting, the watching of traffic or the sound of trundling compliant rubber. Embrace all the road has to offer and juxtapose it with the highs to enhance your journey. A high is only such becuase of the lows offered to you. The rain will fall and moods will smoulder but be open to the connections that turn up. Seek time to reflect on each ride as a connection to the next.
Brake light banter – stop and go comedy
I found the spiritual side of the road as intoxicating as the brake lights pulling in to pick me up. Yet do not forget the lighter side of your transportation revolution. I can ruin many a future anecdote by recalling here the sheer variety of people that I have met whilst thumbing Europe, North America and Africa. Perhaps my most comedic friendship fling ended with the revelation that my hero of the day had in fact been driving around a garden strimmer for its holidays in the Scottish Highlands…
Be awake, but trust in the road. It will provide all for the present and the mind, at the cost of a debt to be repaid in kind to others on the road.