It used to be commonplace to see people begging for rides by the side of the highway, but safety concerns and legal crackdowns mean that hitchhiking is no longer seen as a normal way to travel across the US.
There are still plenty of travelers who use hitchhiking to get from A to B or to save money on their adventures abroad – and begging for rides is still common in countries like New Zealand and Canada, where there are significant distances between major towns and cities.
It isn’t just hikers that have to worry about safety; drivers too have to be careful about who they pick up, and most motorists would be well advised to avoid some of the strange people on the list below who were snapped begging for rides.
20 Musical Incentive
Showing off your talent may seem like a good way to set yourself apart from other hikers, but not all passing motorists will be enamored at the prospect of being accompanied by a jobbing musician for a few hundred miles. Drivers are definitely taking a risk when they pick up a musical hiker.
19 Treats For Trips
Given the bad press that hitchhiking can get, however, hikers are having to become more creative when it comes to securing a ride. Offering a free treat, like cookies, might work with some drivers, while others may be more encouraged by a sign guaranteeing that the hiker is freshly showered…
18 Rule Breakers
These signs don’t seem to have put off all hitchhikers, however, many of whom like to strike a pose with these signs as an amusing part of their road trip – or even to try their luck at finding a brave motorist who will risk picking up a hitchhiker close to a local prison!
One of the most common clichés of hitchhiking is that most hikers are destined for Hollywood, trying to make their fortune on the big screen. This hiker has given that old story a different spin by apparently traveling in costume. Perhaps he will get as lucky as the Hollywood-bound hiker who was picked up by Chris Hemsworth in his helicopter.
16 Show Some Leg
Hollywood itself has furthered some hitchhiking clichés through its movies, especially the trick of putting a pretty girl front and center, usually showing a little leg, to encourage motorists to stop – at which point her male traveling campaign will emerge from his hiding place in the bushes and gladly accept the offered lift.
A Canadian company created an innovative hitchhiking robot, in an experiment to see how people would react to traveling with automatons. After making it across Canada and Europe unharmed, it only lasted two weeks on its cross-country American journey, before ending up destroyed beyond repair in a ditch in Philadelphia.
14 Ambitious Hiker
Hitchhiking in costume is one way to stand out from the crowd but dressing up as a spaceman with a destination of Mars might just be taking the novelty aspect a step too far! No motorist is going to pick up someone whose face they can’t see, and drivers at least want some idea of where they are going to be dropping off their passenger.
13 Historical Hiking
Many people think of the 1970s as the zenith of the hitchhiking era, but the truth is that people have been begging for rides for decades. As far back as the 1930s, during the Great Depression, many families had to hitchhike their way from their dirt farms to the promise of jobs and wealth on the west coast of America.
12 Here Comes The Bride
A New Hampshire bride whose car got a flat tire on the way to her wedding decided that there was only one way to make it to the church on time – and that was to beg for a lift to their venue in Milford. Luckily, a passing motorist took pity on the blushing bride, and made sure that she got to walk down the aisle as planned!
11 Stop Please!
Hitchhiking isn’t always an easy way to get around, especially in some parts of the US, and hikers can find themselves walking for miles without anyone stopping to offer them a lift. Perhaps this hiker was taking a rest on a quiet stretch of road – or maybe he was trying to create an innovative way of making sure passing drivers stopped to give him a ride.
10 Animal Lovers
There are lots of ways that hitchhikers can make themselves look like the perfect traveling companion but taking a cute dog on your adventure is a pretty perfect way to appeal to motorists. Who wouldn’t love to have an adorable pooch riding shotgun in their car for a few hundred miles?
9 Hippie Hikers
Hitchhiking may have started in the 1970s, but it reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s when hippies hitchhiked their way across the USA – most heading for San Francisco and the Summer of Love. Some of those hippies seem to have never grown up judging by this bearded musician begging for a ride.
8 Creepy Travels
Most of the safety concerns relating to hitchhiking are associated with the hikers themselves, who are outing themselves in a potentially dangerous situation by getting into a stranger’s car. However, drivers can also be at risk, as they never really know who they are letting into their vehicle, and what their intentions really are.
7 Hip Hitchhikers
It wasn’t just hippies who hitchhiked across American during the 1960s and 1970s. Cool guys like this Jimi Hendrix lookalike also used the network of highways as a free way to travel from city to city. Hitching was a common way for young people to travel cheaply, and to see their own country and the rest of the world.
6 Furry Friends
Appealing to animal lovers, this hitchhiker has gone one step further and is using his pet dog in the same way that men used to use pretty girls to try and hitch a ride – although any driver that pulls over thinking that the dog is hitching by himself probably shouldn’t have a license in the first place!
5 Horror Stories
Hollywood soon realized that hitchhiking provided a perfect opportunity to create a whole new genre of horror movies; the ghostly hiker pursuing the defenseless driver or the serial killer who manages to secure a ride. The decline in hitchhiking can probably be partly blamed on some of these scary films.
4 Illegal Traveling
Hitchhiking isn’t just perceived as a more dangerous activity these days; it is also illegal in many roads in the US and elsewhere. Each state has its own laws on when and where you can stand to hitch a ride and breaking the rules can get you in trouble with the local cops.
3 Saving Santa
It can be cold and miserable trying to hitchhike home for Christmas but dressing up as Santa Claus is one way to maximize your chances of getting a ride. What kind of driver would take the risk of ending up on the naughty list by not stopping to help a stranded Father Christmas in need…
2 Prison Break
Hitchhiking is actually illegal in some parts of the US, especially around prisons where escaping inmates have been known to pose as hikers in order to get further away from their jail – or even to hijack and steal their good Samaritan’s vehicle. Warning signs like these are posted around detention facilities across the States.
1 Anywhere But Here
Most hitchhikers have a rough idea of where they want to go, or at least in which direction they want to travel, but there are some frees spirits who just want to hit the road – and who don’t care where they want to end up. Such hikers may have some interesting stories, but you could be stuck with them for hours!
Sources: Vox, Nomadic Matt, TV Tropes, The Atlantic, LA Times