Is hitchhiking dangerous? I believe not.
Should girls hitchhike alone? Why not?!
I recently posed some questions to Rajam, who at the age of twenty, gave away her belongings to embark upon a 4.5 year hitchhiking journey. With little to no money and carrying a cooking pot, tarp, matches, blanket and a dog, she lived and travelled in true “road dog” style through the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Venezuela.
So Rajam, tell me, what made you give up everything and hit the road?
When I was a kid, my doll would pack her belongings in a cardboard box van and drive around the world. When I grew up I wanted to be a warrior who travelled the world defeating bad people and healing the sick with plants. So, from an early age, the idea of traveling around has been in my imagination. When I was in my 20’s, I looked around at my boring boyfriend, my boring job packing supplies at a warehouse and wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t ready to have this be the start of the same rigamarole day in and day out. I was getting on my bicycle and riding around the little college town where I lived after midnight- that’s how restless I was feeling. I was feeling something so strong that I could taste it, but I couldn’t explain what it was.
Fortunately, I met a woman living there who had told me about Rainbow gatherings and then my boyfriend had a friend who had been hitchhiking around the U.S. and also going to Rainbow gatherings. After hearing some of his stories, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I’ve always had a rebellious nature and a strong independent streak. At 14 I was sent to a wilderness school for girls where we lived outside, built our own cabins with hand tools, crapped in an outhouse that we dug, built a bridge, tool shed, etc. We had no TV, radio or really any other contact with the outside world. I didn’t get hardly any schooling for the 18 months I was there. We were only allowed a small chest for clothing. I think having that experience in my teen years helped set the stage for what I did later.
In my memoir, I share a lot about my youth and how those experiences shaped the decisions I made later.
If you were to go back in time, would you do it again? Or would you do anything differently?
Yes, I would definitely do it again and wouldn’t change a thing. Except probably say “good-bye” to David. You’ll have to read the book to know what I mean.
It’s near impossible to capture in a few words, but how did you feel during your adventure?
Incredibly amazing!!!! People don’t understand- well, you would, but most people don’t understand that to sleep under the stars every night, not have any schedules, no bills to pay, etc- it was so liberating. My only worries would be getting something to eat that day and where to sleep that night. For me that was a lot less stressful than working my ass off 8-9 hours a days doing medial work and barely having enough to eat or pay bills. And then being beside the road with my thumb out not knowing who was going to stop and where I would be going was thrilling beyond belief. I also loved traveling for a bit with the Rainbow- well, hitchhiking with Rainbow folks and helping build kitchens, water supply set up, clean up. I used that experience for meditating and self reflection.
Did you learn anything from your adventure?
I learned so much about myself and the world- I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences. When I left to hit the road, I was such a naive girl- only believing what the media told me about the world. Initially, I thought everyone was generally out to take and to be honest, I thought people were stupid assholes. My experiences taught me the exact opposite- that people generally want to do the right thing and how similar we all are to each other. On an individual basis, we think we’re the only ones with our own thoughts and ideas. I learned just how wrong that was. We are so similar to one another, our differences are purely superficial. I learned how to talk to people and enjoy their company and hear their stories.
I remember about mid-way through my travels I just thought I was hot shit, living this lifestyle and being a woman. I thought no one else has ever done such a thing. Well, as I talked to more people, I was surprised at the stories they shared- it really helped tone my ego down.
Selling crochet hats/bags on the street taught me a lot about business and I think that’s a good reason why I’m successful today.
Did you have any problems hitchhiking as a female and would you offer any advice to others who are thinking of doing the same thing?
Only a couple minor issues which are discussed in the memoir. My first hitchhiking trip was from Montevallo, AL to Auburn, AL, a short 3-4 hr drive, I did it with another girl just to get a taste for hitchhiking and see if I would enjoy it. After experiencing the exhilaration, I was hooked. My next trip was from Mobile AL to Oregon with 2 guys, we made it in 6 days. The 2 guys had been hitchhiking before and I recommend anyone who wants to give it a go to try out a short distance and go with someone who’s done it before. You will learn much more if you go with a pro than if you just try and kick it out on your own. After I hitched around with people who were more experienced, I felt more comfortable doing some hitching on my own.
I completely disagree with the idea that hitching is more dangerous for women than it is for guys. Hitchhiking by itself is a dangerous activity- not only do you really need to have a good instinct for the drivers, but you also run the risk of being hit by cars. I’ve heard some stories of women being groped or attacked, but I’ve heard a LOT more stories of men being groped by male drivers and even have known some guys who have had to jump from a moving vehicle to get away from the driver. I’m sure this is probably because hitching is a male dominated activity- but to say that it’s more dangerous for women is a load of s***. I think that idea is based on wanting to keep women at home where they belong. It’s been so ingrained in people to say, that we don’t even realize how negative it is, we’ve accepted it for fact. Of course, there are places where a woman alone may be viewed as a prostitute, but a woman should know where these are and avoid them or travel through them with caution.
When I tell people I didn’t really have too many problems, they like to say how fortunate I was or I had “angels” watching me. The truth is that I made some good decisions- I mostly wore pants, stayed away from bars, didn’t drink alcohol and have a really good sense of people’s intent. I think those kind of “you’re lucky” statements just reflect the person’s idea that hitchhiking and/or traveling is an extremely dangerous activity that should be avoided. The truth is, that driving is dangerous and every time you get in the car to go to work, you’re taking your life into your hands- but those become such habits that we don’t give them a second thought.
Hitchhiking isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But, if a person really would like to give it a go, I completely support that. Before I started to travel, I was very introverted and shy. Travelling really helped bring me out and I learned so much invaluable information about myself that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Hitchhiking is also a great way to learn to live with little. Most of the time I just had a blanket, a tarp, some matches and a cooking pot. Roughing it in that way was enjoyable for me, but it may not be for everyone. Some people like to have money and stay in hostels or whatever. I rarely had money, so stayed out in the woods and really roughed it- but that was what I enjoyed.
Did you ever feel like giving up?
No. There was only one time I even felt real loneliness, when I was in hitchhiking by myself with my dog in Venezuela, I had a dream where I was talking to my sister and when I woke up, I really missed her. That was the only experience like that I had. But, I’ve never been a sentimental person either.
Are there any moments that stand out in your memory from your adventures?
Many, many, many moments stand out in my memory. Although, when I “got off the road” to go to massage school, I wrote everything down in a notebook. I just sat down and wrote every experience in order that I remembered, it took me about a week. Years later, after a freelance editor who read some of my stories on a hitchhiking website contacted me to help me write my book, I went back and there were some things I had completely forgotten. There are just too many things that do stand out to list here. So many amazing things happened during my travels.
What stopped your adventures, what are you doing with yourself now, and what comes next for you?
I wouldn’t say my adventures have “stopped”, but they have changed. I’m running a busy massage practice, growing food, training to be a Feldenkrais (type of movement therapy) instructor and still traveling to new places. I never thought I’d ever stop hitchhiking around, but my desire to do healing type work and make a difference in society made me realize I would have to “get back in”, so to speak, in order to make the kind of difference I wanted. Now, my adventure is more the mental kind where I’m learning some incredible things about pain and how our brains perceive pain- it’s all really exciting. I’m still doing a great deal of hiking, learning about the natural environment, growing food and we’ve just transformed our 1/2 acre property into a native habitat. Marriage has been another kind of adventure- I never planned to get married, but I met someone I love very much and that is something new and exciting for me (well, we’ve been married 8 years, but it still feels that way).
If you have ten days left to live and you could be anywhere, doing anything, what would you do?
I would tie up my business ends and contact everyone I know to tell them I love them and then spend the rest of my time cuddling with my husband.
Rajam has written a book about her travels titled, Travels With a Road Dog, Hitchiking Along the Roads of the Americas. You can read more or contact her through her website, purchase the book on Amazon, or purchase the book through Barnes & Noble.
Please note: This is not a sponsored post and the links are not affiliate links. I liked Rajam’s adventure and I wanted only to share it with the world.