AskDefine | Define hitchhiking

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  1. present participle of hitchhike

Extensive Definition

Hitchhiking (also known as lifting, thumbing, hitching, autostop or thumbing up a ride) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people (usually strangers) for a ride in their automobile to travel a distance that may either be short or long. The latter may require many rides from different people.

Legal status

In most countries, hitchhiking is not illegal. However, many countries have laws that restrict hitchhiking at certain locations. In the United States, for example, some local governments have laws to outlaw hitchhiking.

Signaling method

The hitchhiker's method of signaling to drivers differs around the world. In the U.S., one would point his thumb up, while in some places in South America one displays to an oncoming car the back of her hand with the index finger pointing up. In Poland, the hand is held flat, and waved. In India, the hand is waved with the palm facing downwards (or the U.S way). In Israel the hitchhiking signal is similar, often pointing downwards.
A hitchhiker may also hold a sign displaying their destination and/or the languages spoken. A more recent method is to go to websites and arrange lifts beforehand, without soliciting directly from the road. This way of transport is a modern way of ridesharing/carpooling.
Often nothing more than communication and entertainment of the driver is given or performed in exchange for the lift, but in some places, such as parts of central Asia, hitchhikers in cargo trucks, especially foreigners, are expected to pay for the ride, usually some portion of the usual bus fare for the trip.


There are many reasons for hitchhiking, including necessity due to lack of transportation, little or no money for public transit, public transit unavailable, infrequent or unreliable public transit, or he/she can’t drive himself for various reasons. Hitching, for some, may be the only way to get where they need to go. For many, hitchhiking is recreation. There are also locales which are relatively safe enough for anyone to hitchhike. For some, hitching is a way to meet interesting people, companionship, or to challenge oneself. Some, mostly the very active ones, who thumb for the love of it belong to clubs.
A definition of hitchhiking put forward by Max Neumegen, ex-world overland traveller, 'inventor' of "hitchhiking with a bike", and member of the Trans Africa Walk for Peace Expedition 1979; "the hitchhiker is there so you can do your good deed for the day".

Sport and leisure

For many, hitchhiking is a great adventure and challenge. Each year hundreds of students take part in a sponsored hitch to Morocco or Prague in aid of Link Community Development. In 2007, 782 people hitched the 1,600 miles to Morocco and raised almost £340,000 to improve the quality of education in Africa.
There were fifty hitchhikers supported by several MEPs called Eurizons that did the Tour for Global Responsibility. They traveled over 2500 km. In Eastern Europe, especially Lithuania and Russia hitchhiking is an adventure sport. There are clubs, hitchhiking schools, and competitions. From 1992 to 1993, Russian hitchhiker Alexey Vorov made a first trip around the world, hitchhiking by cars, planes and boats. In January 2007 197 students hitchhiked from Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland to Paris, France in Race to Paris, an event co-ordinated by the University of St. Andrews Charities Campaign. The winners made the journey in just 19 hours and 16 minutes. The event returns as Race to Amsterdam in January 2008. In October 2007, Pete Stephens and Tim Keevil (two students from Bristol) completed a hitch hike to Singapore from London, taking seven weeks and crossing over 6600 miles. Raising over £3000 for Students Partnership Worldwide and Epilepsy Action.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) international student group from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam went on two hitch-hiking trips during the 2007-2008 school year, one being to Paris and the other to Berlin. About 25 groups of usually two students each successfully made both trips. Only one group managed not to arrive in Berlin, being stranded in Amersfoort.
A hitchhiker is also a type of letterbox, which is part of an outdoor hobby known as letterboxing. In this hobby, the hitchhiker (a stamp and a logbook) are discovered in a letterbox by a letterboxer, and are removed, to be placed in another letterbox elsewhere.

Hitchhiking in popular culture


The writer Jack Kerouac immortalized hitchhiking in his book On the Road. The road has a fascination to Americans; countless writers have written of the road and/or hitchhiking, such as John Steinbeck, whose book The Grapes of Wrath opens with a hitched ride. Kurt Vonnegut's perpetual protagonist, Kilgore Trout hitchhikes halfway across the country in Breakfast of Champions. Roald Dahl wrote a short story called The Hitchhiker, in which he uses the idea that you can hear fascinating stories when giving people a lift to introduce one of his trade-mark eccentric characters. Another lesser known author, a lifetime hitchhiker named Irv Thomas, incorporates hitchhiking into his writing perspective and lifestyle in Innocence Abroad: Adventuring Through Europe at 64 on $100 Per Week, as well as recounting his hitchhiking travels in a memoir, Derelict Days...Sixty Years on the Roadside Path to Enlightenment. Douglas Adams postulated on interstellar hitchhiking in his cult classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, while fellow science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein described interdimensional hitchhiking in his book Job: A Comedy of Justice. The protagonist of Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Sissy Hankshaw, becomes legendary as a hitchhiker in part because of her unusually large thumbs. British comedian Tony Hawks writes about hitchhiking around Ireland with a refrigerator as the result of a drunken bet in Round Ireland With a Fridge. An in-depth analysis on the practice of hitchhiking in Poland was published, aptly called Autostop Polski ("Polish hitchhiking").


Famous hitchhikers

  • Jack Kerouac hitchhiked in America and wrote many books about his experience.
  • Kinga Freespirit hitchhiked around the world with her friend Chopin for 5 years and authored the travel narrative, Led by Destiny.
  • Jacob Holdt, Danish author and filmmaker of American Pictures, has hitchhiked over 200,000 kilometers.
  • Neal Cassady, friend of Jack Kerouac known pseudonymously as Dean Moriarty in On the Road. Also driver of the bus, Further, with the Merry Pranksters in the mid 1960s. Lifetime hitchhiker and freight hopper.
  • Devon Smith was listed in Guinness Book of World Records for most cumulative miles hitchhiked (1973 to 1985), over 468,300 km. He also held the record for hitchhiking all 48 continuous U.S. states in 33 days during 1957.
  • Stephan Schlei, from Ratingen in Germany. Hitchhiked more than 1.000.000km. The Guinness Book of Records, before they removed all hitchhiking records, used to say that he is the World's No.1 Hitchhiker.
  • Billy Cook a true hitchhiking murderer.
  • The Hitcher a green cockney man who was featured in "The Mighty Boosh".
  • Chris McCandless, subject of the book, Into the Wild, hitchhiked throughout the western region of North America in the early 1990s.
  • Valeri Shanin, founder of Moscow School of Hitchhiking has hitchhiked over one million kilometers.
  • Alexey Vorov, founder and president of Saint Petersburg Autostop League (PASL) has hitchhiked over one million kilometers.
  • Elijah Wald, lifetime hitchhiker and author of Riding with Strangers: A Hitchhiker's Journey, among other books.
  • Mick Foley hitchhiked to Madison Square Garden in 1986, to see a now infamous cage match between wrestlers Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco.
  • Max Neumegen, ex world overland traveller, 'inventor' of "hitchhiking with a bike". Trans-Africa Walk for Peace Expedition member 1979. Purpose of the hitchhiker; "the hitchhiker is there so you can do your good deed for the day". Definition of the overland traveler; "the traveler goes around the corner to see who there is to meet around the next corner..."
  • Famous Canadian hitchhikers include:
  • Ludovic Hubler, 29, is a French hitchhiker who spends $10 a day while on the move. He began his life as a nomad at the valise re ski station in the Alps on January 1, 2003, equipped with just a backpack. He hitchhiked to the ‘end of the world’, Joshuah's in Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. The trip that was supposed to take 2 years ended in 2008 and summarized in Ludovic Hubler's travel blog.
  • Robert Prins, 48, is a Dutch hitchhiker who spent one year in the Guinness Book of Records (1991 UK edition) as the person who hitched the greatest distance in 24 hours, 2,318.4 km (1,440.6 miles). He's also one of a select band of hitchhikers who have recorded all of their rides.
  • Joe Bennett, famous New Zealand newspaper columnist and author, hitchhiked around the world for 10 years. As a result, he has taken an oath to never drive past a hitchhiker, however he makes an exception for "people with beards, be they men or woman".
  • Ford Prefect, a fictional space-hitchhiking travel writer in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Hitchhiker (character), a hitchhiking lunatic killer played by actor Edwin Neal in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974.



  • Nwanna, Dr. Gladson I. (2004). Americans Traveling Abroad: What You Should Know Before You Go, Frontier Publishers, Inc., ISBN 1890605107.

External links

hitchhiking in Arabic: رحلات الأتوستوب
hitchhiking in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Аўтаспын
hitchhiking in Bulgarian: Автостоп
hitchhiking in Czech: Autostop
hitchhiking in Danish: Blaffer
hitchhiking in German: Trampen
hitchhiking in Estonian: Pöidlaküüt
hitchhiking in Spanish: Autoestop
hitchhiking in Esperanto: Petveturado
hitchhiking in French: Auto-stop
hitchhiking in Italian: Autostop
hitchhiking in Hebrew: טרמפ
hitchhiking in Lithuanian: Autostopas
hitchhiking in Hungarian: Autóstop
hitchhiking in Dutch: Liften
hitchhiking in Japanese: ヒッチハイク
hitchhiking in Norwegian: Haiking
hitchhiking in Polish: Autostop
hitchhiking in Portuguese: Boleia
hitchhiking in Russian: Автостоп
hitchhiking in Simple English: Hitchhiking
hitchhiking in Slovak: Autostop
hitchhiking in Slovenian: Avtostop
hitchhiking in Finnish: Liftaaminen
hitchhiking in Swedish: Liftning
hitchhiking in Tajik: Автостоп (нақлиёт)
hitchhiking in Ukrainian: Автостоп
hitchhiking in Yiddish: היטש
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