Hitchhiker's Guide to Happiness

Hitching is a wonderful way to travel. Especially in New Zealand it is extremely easy as there is usually only one way to go, no big highways and Kiwis are incredibly friendly. Furthermore it's as cheap as it can get and flexible – you don't have to get up early to catch the only bus at 7am.
I've had over 200 rides just in NZ, 99% of which I hitch hiked by myself. It enabled me to meet amazing people, kind and generous and it opened great opportunities – from river rafting, over harvesting honey and horse riding, to flying in a helicopter.

Walking backwards in Kaikoura, waiting for a ride to the seal colony.

I've written down some “rules” for hitch hiking. Although all of it is common sense, I regularly watch stupid mistakes being done. Also if you've never hitch hiked before this might give you an introduction on what to pay attention to. You may think some of them are ridiculously logical, but believe me I've seen it all. Others are just my personal opinion.

In general on the road:

1. Smile!
2. Don't hide yourself behind sunnies/hats...(negotiable in the desert) What kind of hitchhiker would you rather pick up, somebody you can fully identify or a mysterious person with hoodie and shades?
3. Have a map. Of course a smartphone with GPS is an advantage, but I reckon a paper map is a must. (What if you're out of battery/signal?)
4. I believe signs are only good in certain situations. If there is only one way to go (95% of the time in NZ) you don't need it and it's rather distracting. If on the other hand you're about to enter a highway that goes north and south, it makes perfect sense to indicate which way you want to go. But please make it readable. Bad typography kills every sign. Take a step back, you are not able to read it from a 5m distance? Nobody will be, especially not while driving.
5. Wear your backpack, you're quicker to get to the car. I believe the impression you give is much more positive than when your baggage is lazily laying next to you.
6. When a car stops, hurry to get to it (see 5). Don't take it for granted that they stop by wasting their time. I consider it very impolite when a hitchhiker approaches slowly.
7. Maximum of two people. Who do you think has space for 3 people and possible their backpacks? Unless you have all the time in the world, because it could take a while...
8. Somebody was there before you? First come first serve. You may ask to hitch together, but if you get only the slightest feeling they don't want it, move on app. 50m behind them. If that's not possible, wait app. 50m far away to avoid cars thinking you belong together.

Ye good ol' paper map


1. Stand on a straight, where cars can see you from a distance. Don't hide behind a hill or bend.
2. Position yourself just before(!) a pull-over possibility. They see you, they think, they pull over.
3. Unless it's 50°C, don't hide in the shade! You want to be seen.
4. Try to be dropped of in a 50km/h zone. Nobody likes to stop when they're travelling 100km/h.
5. Try to anticipate what is going to happen. I know sometimes you can't avoid a bad spot, because you're being dropped off by somebody who claimed to know where it's good. Watch out for spots and trust your gut. How often has it happened that I saw somewhere good, but didn't say anything and got then dropped off two kilometres down the road where it was shit. That also means saying no to somebody that just wants to take you 10km up the road, where you'll know for sure it's gonna be a bad spot. You're better of waiting where you are.
6. When you're at a gas station, it helps to talk to the people. It's much harder to say no to a person than just driving past them.

Hitching in England

Once in the car:

1. Smile
2. Talk
3. Security plan: It can be a good idea to let somebody know where you're travelling. For example you can text a friend the licence plate numbers. Most people that pick you up will approve and say it's a good idea. Bad people might be let off by the thought of being caught. It definitely is an extra thing you need to think of each time a car stops, it might be easier and quicker to first write it onto your map. Once you're in the car you can write the text. But be aware that you might loose signal, you don't want your friend to worry more than necessary.
4. Don't ask for detours. When offered, don't take them for granted.
5. Be thankful!