First of all, let me catch you up on the logistics of what happened in order for me to become the new expert on hitch hiking.
My room mate Anna and I were stoked to be embarking on a trip to Vancouver Island, one of the top places in British Columbia that I hadn’t visited yet. We drove Anna’s van, Phyllis, through the night of the summer solstice to arrive in Vancouver. Here, we picked up our friends car, Dora the Ford Explorer, because despite the minor timing belt issue (oxymoron?) she ran alright and had the all important auxiliary cord, working windows and a camping set up in the back.
Our road trip itinerary took us from Vancouver across the ferry to Victoria, the provinces capital and then west on the coast to Sombrio Beach. After camping there for 2 nights we were headed north to Ucluelet and Tofino to then head back over to Nanaimo for a Nanaimo Bar and catch the ferry the long way back to Vancouver. An awesome week long holiday after working like mad hatters in the shoulder season.
Long story short, we made it to incredible Sombrio beach and had a wonderful two nights camping and catching up with one of Anna’s old travel friends, Jake.
After showering in waterfalls, napping on the beach and meeting a friendly seal, Dora roared back to life and took us north towards Nanaimo. And then mid conversation Anna looked at me and plainly said
“I think we’re dying”
“Look at the smoke!”
After a tow (thanks BCAA) and a quick look over by a mechanic it was decided that Dora was complete cactus, a write off, fucked in every way possible. So what were we to do? Head back home?
Na, time to get thumbin!
Now this was Anna’s first time hitch hiking. I suppose rides are easy to come by when you grow up in London. I was shocked to think someone had never done it before! I’ve hitch hiked in Australia, Mexico, Canada, Belize… Pretty much every place I’ve ever been. Not to mention it was my sole means of transport getting home from the ski resort this winter after my car died…
So I thought, hey! There is probably a bunch of people that haven’t hitched and have never considered it before. Then one day you’ll be in a situation where you have to and you’ll be such a gaper at it. Luckily for you, I’ve written a guide. You’re welcome!
You kinda just look like a crazy hobo if you stand there with a bunch of camping gear and your thumb out. If you have some kind of direction it’s super easy to be picked up! I grabbed some scrap card board, a marker and got creative. Bonus points for smileys and other cool drawings.
Try and get dropped off at gas stations. They are gold mines for people who are driving long distances. It is also illegal to hitch hike on highways in BC and a lot of places in general.
We were supposed to be staying with some of my good friends in Ucluelet so at this point I called ahead to say we might be a bit late.. But amazingly we got a ride from Lady Smith to Ucluelet in 5 hours, only two behind schedule. Bonus Round! – We got from Port Alberni to Ucluelet with a lady who needed help because she had a brand new puppy in the back. I got a free ride AND puppy cuddles 🙂
Luckily for us we could use Ucluelet as a base camp. If you are doing a hitch holiday, it definitely pays off to plan to be in a few places for consecutive days and hitch to the surrounding sites. This way, all we had was our small day pack each and didn’t seem like a burden to pick up compared to our giant packs of camping gear and endless paraphernalia!
From Ukee we hitched to Tofino and had the infamous Tacofino, went to long beach and watched the boys surf by campfire and spent a day on Half Moon Bay watching bald eagles soar and waves crash on the sand…
If a driver passes you and points weirdly to the side of the road, don’t get confused. It doesn’t mean you’re standing on the wrong side or doing something weird. It means they are turning shortly and probably wouldn’t be able to take you very far! Thanks for the heads up pal, I’ll stop hating you for passing me 🙂
Don’t lose faith in humanity.
Just when you’re ready to think no one is ever going to pick you up and you start to envision yourself as a road side gypsy who sells stories for treasure for the rest of your life, someone pulls over. It’s good to take a break too. You need to be smiling and approachable. No one wants a grumpy hitch hiker.
If you’re really stuck (we struggled leaving Tofino) stare. them. down. I’m not sure if it’s technically guilt tripping, but take off your sun glasses and maintain eye contact. Those cars will be lining up to pick you up!
ALL vehicles are possible
Anna and I got into the habit of not putting our thumb up for expensive cars. Stop glaring at me through your Prada sun glasses lady, your soccer mum SUV isn’t too good for me! No one in a Mercedes is ever going to pick you up. Or so we thought!
Our last hitch was from a random place in Nanaimo back to the mechanic shop to get the rest of our gear before being rescued by our wonderful Sombrio beach friend, Jake. At this point I had begun to count the amount of random substances on my body – mango juice, sun screen, hitch hiker grime, coffee…. We were getting a bit dirty to say the least. Anyway, we were standing just off the highway in the blazing sun, looking exhausted and kind of gross. No one was interested in us.
Is that a Mercedes?
That’s a Mercedes giving us a ride! Are you serious??
Two lovely guys had pulled over in a Merc. After getting to know each other we found out that Kyle, our driver, had been studying in Canada for a few years and was originally from Saudi Arabia. Kyle was so astounded that we had hitch hiked across the entire island. He thought we were so brave and told us that he loves that Canada is a safe enough place for us to be able to do it. The plan was to drop us in down town Nanaimo but he was so impressed with us he said “Fuck it, I’m driving you all the way to Lady Smith. I can’t believe you girls!!”
Some times we don’t realise how lucky we are.
Which bring me to my last point –
Remember the whole “don’t take candy from strangers” chat? Well you kinda need to bend this rule when you hitch. You will be getting in cars with strangers. The great thing about hitch hiking is that you meet lovely strangers that will restore your faith in humanity. But don’t just jump into any car. If someone pulls over and seems like a whack job and your gut is telling you not to get in. DON’T!
We had a guy stop in at a gas station to grab a drink and the legend came back with two iced teas for us! What a nice guy! But yes, I did check that the seal was uncracked before I drank it.
I hope one day you get to experience the joys of hitch hiking. But yes, we did have to get back to Anna’s van in Vancouver. And after dropping off our two packs, yes we did have to carry all our camping gear, all of the belongings left inside Dora, a skate board, all our bedding, badminton racquets.. Basically everything ever across the ferry, on a bus, on the Sky Train and another bus all the way to Kitsalano. It took three hours. It’s hilarious now but it certainly wasn’t at the time! Ha
Until next time…
Thanks to Jake for saving us on several occasions. Coffee, rides to Victoria, food, and a lovely dinner on the ocean over looking the US. And to Amy for letting us celebrate with you and your dad 🙂
Mikey and Connor, without you boys we would have been ultra screwed. Hanging with you guys was awesome!
Ari for taking our packs and several kgs of weight so we didn’t die in Vancouver.
Thanks Moz for finishing my visa application for me while I was off being an adventurous riot.
And Anna, you’re a damn legend, adventure partner and fantastic room mate.