As I have eluded to in the foreword to this series, Hitchhiking has been described as a giant leap of faith into the unknown. We consciously let go of the urge to control everything, we surrender to the flow of life and to the people around us, offering them a chance to do good and to help us out.
But since our society has become so hellbent on planning everything, on obsessing over control, ego-gratification and fixed outcome expectancy it can be quite tough to shift to a mindset where you are able to let yourself be carried by life in ways that defy logic or that seem "impossible" to your rational mind.
In this weird way, hitchhiking is a paradox of planning and flowing, of control and surrender, and if you generally fear the unknown you may want to start doing things today that can show you that "you will survive" and that "the unknown can be a massive source of inspiration and happiness" - once the overly critical rational mind steps out of the way.
Yes, you may get stuck along the way for a day, having to change "plans" and trying again the next day. Yes your backpack may get damaged unexpectedly and you may have to ask someone at a gas station for some duct tape. It will all be alright, really! There is no need to obsess about potential things that could go wrong before you take the leap.
At the same time, you can alleviate many sources of worry long before you ever start your first hitchhiking journey - read about other people's experiences, connect with other people in your city who hitchhike, get used to doing things out of the blue and not hanging on to your minds fixed expectations. It's about getting into a mindset where you no longer resist the unexpected things that come your way.
As long as you obsess on shielding yourself (through your own expectations), the universe will have little room to work with bringing good your way...
Instead you want to build huge momentum! It will show you that being spontaneous can be a great relief! It might be mundane things like trying out a new food the next time you are out grocery shopping, rather than going for the stuff you always eat.
It can be initiating a chat with a stranger on the bus or in the bakery, asking them questions outside the realm of small talk. It could be calling an old friend or a relative and just letting them know how much you care about them when they didn't expect your call. Build spontaneity momentum and let your rational mind see that you do not need to plan out any- and everything that is to come this week. Practice surrendering, take challenges as they arise instead of being mad that things turned out differently than your ego originally expected.
The martial art of Aikido is a perfect image for this sort of attitude. In Aikido you never attack your "opponent" - rather, you redirect all the energy he throws at you back at himself, bringing him down. The harder he attacks you the harder he will fall - you work with what life throws at you and make use of that instead of preplanning everything and executing mind-born plans of egomania that will most likely end up way different than your mind wanted anyway.
Life seldomly cares about the wild and unreasonable expectations of the ego and coming to that realization can hurt a lot... (I have written about the negative gravity of fanatic expectations in my floor lessons series, here). Better to try and find the balance of what you would like to happen vs. letting things happen as they will, never becoming too sticky of what it should look like in particular...
The "it's dangerous" obsession
Many people have said to me they would never attempt hitchhiking because "it's too dangerous." And in my years of doing this I have found this statement to be somewhat ... accurate for people who make that sort of statement, which is something I will gladly elaborate on.
You see, whether it is due to cosmic energetics, self-fulfilling prophecies or the power of the mind, people that tend to expect danger and disappointment along their journey are easily able to find it when things don't go their way. Or rather: It tends to find them. Like a heat seeking missle.
What do I mean? Well, being nervous before going is absolutely normal and totally part of the experience, but people who are outright terrified of doing this should NOT attempt hitchhiking.
Let me repeat it: If you can't stop thinking about how you "will be raped" or "mugged" or something, do NOT hitchhike. In my experience these people tend to attract drivers like that in the most mysterious of ways, and ultimately - if your mind is ambiguous - do not focus on these fears during the journey. They will not help you, but will only be in your way. Rather, visualize friendly people who would love to help you out of pure kindness and compassion, and you will attract those.
If you stay present to the moment you will feel when things are dangerous and then be able to act accordingly in an instant, but there is no point in pondering these bad situations before actuality presents itself and unfolds...
This might be hard to belief for more materialistically-minded people out there and I don't expect you to take this as "the truth", it's simply what I have found during my own experiences and in talking to many many hitchhikers out there over the years.
If you are wrestling with fear (maybe because people in your life are constantly reinforcing it like mom being worried "oh my child don't do this, you will get hurt!") - stop talking about hitchhiking with them. In my experience, most people who talk like that watch too much TV, have never done hitchhiking themselves or have attempted it once or twice in the past with bad results but are of a worrier mindset in general and therefore terrible supporters and guides for what you are trying to do. Pretend you are not going hitchhiking when they ask you or simply stop bringing it up in conversation, their well-intentioned advice is mental poison for your confidence if you are unsure in yourself. Reinforce positive attitudes, not the negative ones.
If you can't shake the thought of something going majorly wrong during your trip it might be a really good idea to do some "exercises" before going hitchhiking, similar to trying out new things and getting used to that feeling. Meeting people who are strangers to you and making a habit of it might be a perfect place to start - go to a psychedelic festival and meet new people, see that most have good intentions in their hearts and that there is so much upside in daring to start talking to someone you don't yet know, until your ego can start believing and recognizing that overly worrying about the 0.001% of people out there who may be bad is neither helpful nor a particularly good use of your mental resources.
Again: Don't be too self-demanding. Worries and doubts are totally part of getting into this thing, for everyone. These bits of advice are merely meant for those who would love to hitchhike it but can only think of the most terrible things to happen along the way before they ever actually go on their first trip.
And weirdly, I have met a few worriers like that who have stopped hitchhiking altogether after getting mugged or even raped on their first trip with the total conviction that hitchhiking is the most dangerous thing anyone could attempt and the attitude of "I knew this would happen!" - well why then do you go hitchhiking huh? Are you crazy?^^
Funnily though, the vast majority of hitchhikers I have talked to who have traveled to places our media and society regard as totally "off-limits" and "dangerous" never had any problems but instead: Hugely positive experiences. It often leaves one with a drastic need to reassess the narratives of our culture about these places when reality turned out to be a glaringly positive experience...
So, before going onto your first hitchhike ask yourself: Are you overly worried and constantly thinking of the most dangerous things that can happen? If so why? Do you actually know that these worries have merits beyond hear-say and societal conditioning or are you just used to thinking this way because you picked that belief up from somewhere?
Are you willing to spend a day in a hitchhikers' forum and find the most positive hitchhiking stories and consider dropping your worries, focussing on the positive, and getting into a habit of slowly trying out new things to realize mostly good will come of it?
If you can't, that is fine. Take other steps to work on your fear of strangers first, hitchhiking can wait. Safety always comes first. But oddly, we have a huge role to play in safety ourselves, it's not what "happens to us" along these trips, it's "what you send out mentally" that will be mirrored in those people you meet.
If you are not sure how you feel about this, do think of great results not terrible things, and take a good friend with you for your first journey across a small distance, it will be alright. Gather experience, let your ego see that there is nothing to worry about and you can slowly start building positive momentum until you actually are confident and ready to tackle larger distances on your own, doing things most people consider "crazy"!