Your Ad Here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tips for female backpackers

As much as I would like that advantage of being picked up of so fast for being a lady I would never want to trade it for the danger that they put themselves in. As sexiest as it seems the road is harsh and you need to take precautions as a female on the road. So here's some dos and don'ts to remember:


~Travel with a friend if you can. A man would be your best choice but another female works great too. A male friend can pretend to be a boyfriend or husband keeping away some of the pervs.

~Try and take a couple martial arts classes. A little bit of know how and some will power goes a long way. Also a little can of pepper spray can go a long ways and is legal in most places.

~Go to places like gas stations or truck stops. Anywhere you can stop and know the driver a bit better before hand and turn down the ride if anything seems fishy.

~Do your best to memorize the plate number and text it to a friend. If that fails text the model and color of the car to a friend. It's best to have a homebase you can keep up with as much as possible.

~Stand with confidence. Hands at your hips and when somebody pulls over make direct eye contact. They're not going to want somebody whose going to fight tooth, claw, and nail they want a victim.

~Make sure you check the childlock before you shut the car door. Go ahead and wiggle the handle just to be extra sure.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Hitchhiking from Michigan to Florida

Here's an amazing heartbreaking story from another hitchhiker

There is  a point in time when you could (successfully) just walk out on life. I was one of those people for a period of time. I think of it as the point when I finally took control of my life. My mom was an alkie and involved in other dangerous drugs and dad was too far away to do anything about it. My younger sister was taken by my foster grandparents when she was 10 after my mom hit her with her car (going 10mph) and my older sister ran away long before that so it was just she and I. I'll skip the prologue but suffice to say when I left I had a few scars from put-out cigarettes under my upper arm (easily concealed) as my only memory I couldn't forget and that the bullshit from everything suffocated me.

I took a duffel bag with 2 weeks worth of clothing, an ounce of grass, 400 USD and some things I was looking to pawn. This was a time when 400 bucks was a considerable amount of money and pawn shops weren't trying to scam you. They took pity on me and cut me a few deals, seeing the situation. While at the shop I bought an aftermarket Makarov, 2 boxes of ammunition and an under-the-shirt holster. After hitching to Flint, Michigan from Rockford, Illinois, I found myself in a position that almost scared me. I was finally completely independent. I was also completely independent in what is now the highest murder/rape rated city in the East coast, last time I checked. I was in a small diner when a sketchy guy asked if I needed any rock. Obviously he meant crack. I told him I'm not into that stuff, and he kept pushing, saying if I didn't take it I could make some real money selling it for him. I was done eating so I headed for the door. He got up and followed me outside. I didn't know where I was walking to, just away from him. He called my name about 5 feet behind me, and I kind of flipped. I was scared he might try to mug me or something, so I pulled the gun on him. It was easily concealable so he was pretty surprised when he saw it, but had a look like it wasn't the first time he was face-first to a barrel. I told him to fuck off and he tried telling me this shpiel about how he can tell when someone doesn't mean it when they point a gun. He said something like "It's not the finger that decides the trigger, it's the eyes. Your eyes... they're soft." and walked towards me. I of course did NOT want to shoot him, so I did the next best thing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hitchhiking though England

Here's a story written for me by a fellow traveler who goes by the name Copernicious. 

I had the interesting challenge over the summer of having to alter my comfortable routine of living in the wilderness to suit the environment of southern England, which is bustling and very densely-populated. If you've been through the seventh grade, you've probably read Gary Paulsen's book Hatchet -- it felt kind of the reverse of that. After finishing my first year at university in Scotland (I was brought up by hippies in rural Maine), the only thing for me to do was to explore the fabled Highlands. This I did for four glorious weeks, living deliberately and all that. I had promised, however, to be at a wedding which took place in Oxford in mid July. My desire not to spend any money was out of habit more than necessity, but I formed the plan of hitchhiking all the way, tenting it where I could, and hoping my outdoor skills would still be of use in the modernized towns and farmland.

First, a bit about the basic mechanics of hitching in the UK. I found that the further south I got, the longer I'd have to wait. Also with towns closer together the rides are usually shorter. Anyone who says the Greater London Area doesn't spider out right into the Midlands is lying. What I resorted to was the ol' whiteboard routine (except I used newspaper and a ball-point pen -- making signs took ages), standing outside rest stops along A-roads (the equivalent of Interstates). The problem with this method is that it'll likel get you right into the middle of the big cities. I narrowly avoided getting plunked off in the middle of Glasgow, but I hit Birmingham dead-on, and it's not the kind of place you'd want to leave your thumb exposed. I won't put a blanket label of unpleasantness on all English cities, but I'd suggest having a compelling reason to travel to one, and and bus fare when you can't stand the heat and holy rollers any more.

I'd gotten a bit spoiled in Scotland, which has passed revolutionary laws regarding camping. You can pitch a tent almost anywhere as long as it's not blatantly in someone's back yard, and you don't frighten livestock. I was shouted at once by some early-morning golfers whose putting green I had infested, but if that's the only thing that annoys a Scot, well God bless them. In England, however, this is not the case. "In England we're too lazy to come up the hill and tell you to feck off" I was told by one aged man, and of course you're not going to get fined or arested if you kip in a cornfield. The only thing is, it's hard to be subtle when unused land simply doesn't exist. Coming from America it's hard to imagine, but finding enough trees to conceal your tent can be the work of an afternoon. I pitched up on traffic islands and behind grocery stores, and during a rainstorm broke into a construction site caravan. Ultimately my advice regarding this: don't be as paranoid as I was; get comfortable and leave if somebody asks you. Happily, there are very few midges down south. I cannot exaggerate enough how bad it can get in Scotland. If you're moving or there's a decent breeze, you're fine. Sit down near a stream or some long grass, and you may imagine the sensation of your face being enveloped in a woolen blanket. I welcomed the possibility of sleeping out under the stars.

I won't say much about finding places to sleep in towns, because I don't think I did a very good job of it. If there wasn't a 24 hour bus station, I'd head for a well-lit bench with lots of CCTV coverage. While I was never bothered, that's not a system could have sustained. Many 'persons of distributed living' began to approach me in the towns, which at first I didn't understand, not having realized how scruffy I'd got. After being asked for the first time, "are you on the streets?" I replied, after some thought, that to be alone and penniless in the mountains is to be an adventurer; but in suburbia it meant I was a bum. I had some wonderful conversations with people who were obviously quite comfortable being homeless. I declined two invitations to free meals at city churches, and visited a community that lived in wicker huts by the river outside of Stratford-upon-Avon. It was constantly being on the road, it seemed, that made me so uncomfortable during this time, while stagnation would have been torture up in Scotland.

You can eat well anywhere in the UK for very cheap, due to rather extreme competition between generic brand foods. 14 pence will get you a can of awful spaghetti; 38p, a can of meatballs; 50p, a loaf of bread. I am very serious about proper nutrition while travelling, but even so I found I was living comfortably on £2 a day. I'd splurge at a restaurant every week or two, just to keep the tanks full. If you're not awfully strapped for cash, you will eat well. Another thing I suddenly had to deal with in England was not being able to drink out of streams. I wouldn't do this so much in the States, but if there's a small stream with no sheep fields above it I am happy to stick my face in and suck, maybe filter through a bandanna to get the spiders out. Hose pipes are scarce, and I ended up just buying water, which again is cheap.

Hygene is obviously extremely important when hitchhiking. If there's a small, flowing stream, I'm happy to bathe in it or do laundry; the colder it is, the more of a mountain man one feels. I use Dr Bronner's castille soap, which is biodegradable and is perfect for camping -- being highly concentrated you don't have to carry much. Half a teaspoon was enough to wash my mop of hair. When it came to the city I figured that I wouldn't care if I walked into a public bathroom to find some guy washing his hair, so nobody else would either.

Keeping clean on the road

iKeeping clean is by far the hardest task on the road or at least it was for me. It wouldn't a big problem if it wasn't so important to keep appearances to get jobs and rides. So here's some tips for keeping clean on the road:

~Large truck stops generally have showers and bathroom facilities you can use for free or cheap. It's pretty easy to sneak in the showers in the larger ones. 

~Universities and high school locker rooms are easy enough to go into and wait for the place to clear out and take a quick shower. I would only advise this though if you can fit into the age group. University dorms might also have shared bathrooms you could pop into at night depending on the security. You can pay students cheap to get you in with their pass if you need to, they could use some extra pocket cash.

~Knock door to door at hotels and motels and ask to pay for a quick shower. People might want five bucks for the snack machine. Be polite and do this during the afternoon you don't want to get thrown out of the place by being rude or waking people up. 

~Carry a small travel kit with toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, and shaving tools. Women might want to bring a small makeup case if you're going to be looking for employment. You can go into public bathrooms and wash up with a small towel and clean up a bit It's best to look clean and not like a hobo because people judge you very harshly on the road.

~Cheat your way through cleanliness. If you're a guy cut your hair short to keep from looking greasy. If you want to keep your hair long or you're a woman try wearing hats or keeping it tied back. Visible dirt can be washed away at gas station bathrooms. If you stink carry a can of Axe and if your clothing is starting to get a odor lie them out in the sun for a few hours. Blue jeans can be worn for long periods of time with out looking nasty and they rarely carry noticeable body odor. Underwear should be changed often, if you don't have a clean pair air one out in the sun for a bit and change into it. You can get a rash around your waist from not changing them often. Socks also collect grime and begin to get crusty if you air them out. Just run them under hot water in a sink and leave them to dry.  

~If you're going to be applying for jobs carry one nice pair of clothing. Roll them into a cylinder shape and wrap them in plastic. Rolling your clothing saves space and doesn't wrinkle them as much.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Basic guide to hitchhiking

Why the hell would anybody want to put their life in danger and hitchhike? We'll mostly because it's free and it still carries this cowboy culture that a lot of people romanticize and respect.Thumbing your way across the country is quite an experience. If you're going to do something like this you have to be prepared to go through hell. In the long run though it's all worth it and it's an amazing memory.

Step one: Pack your bags. If you can bring only what you need and if possible send your non essential baggage ahead through the mail. It's an expense but it's better than having to carry it all and risk it getting stolen. You're going to need a place to sleep like a tent or sleeping bag, anything you need to cook and start fires, clothing for the climate you're going through, and the all important large tipped sharpie pen. Make sure this bag can sit on your lap for twenty hours comfortably.

Step two: Plan out your ride. Make sure you carry a map of the whole country you're traveling through with major roads and highways. Pick a route and stay on it as best as you can, it's ok to adapt but there's no sense in getting lost or going way out of your way. Google maps is your best friend when it comes to choosing routes. If somebody isn't going your way turn down the ride, there's always the next car.

Step three: Pick your first location to get your ride. Gas stations and intersections near highways are great places to find rides. Don't stand by the on ramp, the cops will pick you up, it's happened to me before.

Step four: Stick out that thumb! The hardest thing about getting a ride is that people seem to hate you. Maybe not but after four hours standing at the road you start to think so. Even worse when cars will pull over to pretend to pick you up and then speed off. BUT it is possible to get a ride as hard as it seems. Make a sign with clear bold letters of where you want to go. If you're traveling large distances only put a few towns over and just try to hop from large cities. Some people like to put some flair into it by dancing, waving their arms and signs around, and putting jokes on the sign next to their destination.

Step 4.5: Ways to improve your chances of getting that ride. If you're a man it's best to travel alone or with a woman. Not very many people are trusting groups of strange men in their car. If you're a woman you should bring a friend, preferably a man to protect you from sexual advances. Try to keep clean and look normal, nothing will turn people off more than ragged clothing, a shabby beard, and that cowboy hat.

Step five: Safety. First things first, no matter how long you've been waiting for that ride, when you think something is fishy don't get in. I've had EMTs tell me stories of finding stabbed and raped hitchhikers. It's still a dangerous journey so it's best to be prepared for danger. So I recommend sticking a knife in your bag even if it is illegal, the cops can't check unless you're doing something illegal or give them permission. Another thing to carry is a can of pepper spray, it's very effective in a car. So effective I might add that you're probably going to get some in your face too. If you can't get pepper spray a film canister full of finely ground pepper works on the fly.

When you get into a car always check the handle when the door closes and check for a childlock if you get into a back seat. Keep you bag on your lap and if you stick it in the back make sure you can lose everything in that bag and not care. It's a huge risk that you're going to lose it. If you're in a car and they refuse to pull over a easy way to make them slow down is to take a roll of toilet paper, light on fire, and throw it in the back seat. Another risky way is to yank the wheel force them off the road. The point is to slow the vehicle enough to bail out and roll.       

Have fun and always remember: safety safety safety!