To remember who you are, you need to forget who they told you to be

“Isn’t it dangerous?” I get asked this question on a daily basis. “Aren’t you scared?” For the last two years of my life, I’ve been travelling around the world, using my thumb as my primary means of transportation. Yes, I’m a girl who likes to travel by way of hitchhiking. Many think that I do it due to a lack of funds, and it is true that I travel with little to no money. But this isn’t why I hitchhike. I hitchhike because hitchhiking provides me with just the opposite of what everyone thinks. While many believe that the world is a frightening place, filled with people who are out to get you, my lifestyle proves just the opposite.

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It all began in the Australian Outback, when my boyfriend at the time and I headed to that open stretch of highway. I wasn’t scared for a single moment – rather, I was filled with intense excitement. I have always craved freedom, and I have always known that it is not finances that could grant me this. From that very first ride – an off-putting and slightly racist Australian man – I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before I began hitchhiking by myself, embarking on long distance missions. Last summer, I decided to travel across the second largest country on our great planet, all by way of my thumb. I began in Vancouver with a measly $50 to my name, and made it all the way to Newfoundland – a journey of over 4,500 miles across Canada. I’d like to say it was my own great ingenuity that got me there on such little money, but in truth it was the kindness of strangers that made this trip possible.

As I hopped from car to car, from mountains to prairies, past lakes and streams, people would stop here and there to buy me a coffee and a meal. People were always so interested in my story, as if they thrived off the freedom that they saw within me. They truly wanted to help.

I stood at the side of the road one windy day in Newfoundland with my thumb out. As I waited for a car to pass me by – hopefully pulling over – I watched the salmon fishermen immersed in water up to their hips. Their passion for their craft and extreme patience mesmerized me. But soon dusk began to approach, and I knew it was nearing the time to find a secluded place to pitch my tent. I love living in my tent, but sometimes I crave more than just the hour or two of human interaction that hitchhiking provides. I wanted to spend more time getting to know someone. As such, I had found a lovely girl to stay with through the CouchSurfing website. Unfortunately, she lived another hour or so down the road from where I was. It became clear I would not make it there that night.

Three middle aged women started walking down the highway. “Excuse me?” I called over. “Do any of you have a phone that I could use?” I wanted to let my host know that I would not be arriving that night. The three women came over to me, none of whom had a phone, and we began chatting. “Would you like to come over for a cup of tea?” It was a chilly summer evening, and a hot cup of tea and some conversation sounded like the perfect thing before finding a spot to camp. “I would love to!” I replied enthusiastically.

Not five minutes into our walk back into the small fishing town, and the same woman who had invited me over for tea looked over at me. “Actually, would you like to stay at my place tonight?” I was filled with joy and appreciation, and happily accepted.

The four of us arrived at her home, and she laid out a buffet of different foods, tea, and coffee for us all to enjoy, insisting that I continue eating after I was stuffed. She then offered me a hot shower, and told me if I’d like, I could even do my laundry. I was ecstatic with this generosity. This was to be only one of many such occasions along my travels.

So my answer to those who question me on the safety of my lifestyle is this: No, I am not scared, and though there may be some less than favorable human beings out there, most are good. Hitchhiking has restored my faith in humanity, and shown me a world that I never dreamed of. It has granted me my freedom, but more importantly, it has shown me the beauty of human nature.

If you’d like to follow my random adventures around the world, check out my website at likeridingabicycle.com.

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