Journalism / Regular Stuff

Hitchhiking, you know, for journalism

Going to be traveling light this spring break. As in, I won’t have any money to weigh down my pockets. It turns out spending $3,000 in the first month and a half of study abroad is pretty stupid easy in Paris. I came with $6,000, so it looks like it’s free travel from here on out or I have to start burning money that I already owe to the U.S. government.

Wait free travel? Autostopping.

Picture of thumb, maximized drama

Picture of thumb, maximized drama

Whoo! My poverty is finally an excuse to act like my literary heroes. My journalism classes at my Paris school are for children, so I’m throwing my soul this semester into a reporting project on hitchhiking in France. I really believe that if you’re going to write about something, you have to have the authority to write on it, otherwise you’re just someone else’s mouth. Which is why I learned to pole dance for this article. On Monday I’m going south of Paris and riding people’s goodwill for 900 km to Pamplona, where my pal Garrett is waiting apparently without Facebook and he has no idea when I’ll be getting there so I’m not sure how that’s going to work but we’ll see. I’m pretty worried that I don’t know Spanish and hitchhiking is not in Spanish culture but whoop lol whatever ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now I understand your concern and be assured that I have it too. Hitchhiking is a horrible thing in the U.S. and people die all the time wait wait wait hold up aren’t those are all blatant media and Hollywood sensationalizations? Oh yeah yeah I guess they are. Publicity campaigns by the FBI in the ’60s drove the fear of hitchhikers into our American hearts until they found out in 1974 that oh I guess hitchhiking isn’t all that bad. Too late — media was all over it, and every time a hitchhiker got a sunburn it made headlines. Which is cool, I mean good news is not news — “Oklahoman hitchhiker successfully makes it to Iowa” — but if I interpreted the news the way people imagine hitchhiking then I wouldn’t ever live in a house because Jesus Christ those things are constantly burning down.

I saw this really casual guy on Wiki Answers say that more people die of sex than hitchhiking, and I said what. I backed that up by about 15 minutes of shoddy research, using numbers from this American Heart Association study from a year ago and this FBI highway crime report. By my possibly incorrect calculations, you are 1280 times more likely to die this year mid-coitus than to be killed hitchhiking. Which means if you tell me it’s too dangerous to hitchhike then you have to turn down your next one thousand opportunities to get laid.

I’m extremely stoked to get started on the journalism that hides somewhere here, because there’s a great story if I can find the right character. Hitchhiking is a lot more connected now because of networks like HitchWiki and Couch Surfing, iPhone GPS, and better road systems. It’s super big in a lot of Euro countries like Germany and the Balkans and that cementy-feeling Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania region. There are regular hitchhiking races across Europe and yearly meetups, and apparently they even have small organizations dedicated to making hitchhiking more active and safe, according to a guy I talked to. “Local schemes,” he called them. Not sure.


So I’m giving myself two days to get to Pamplona, with a Night 1 stop in Angoulême, where I have a very nice cousin who might/might not have a pink mohawk we’ll see. Night 2 I’m going to worry about later, because that’s pretty far away from now. This French hitchhiking girl lent me a réchaud (tiny butane lighter) so I’m pretty excited for two days of powdered soup and rice.

There’s also the very real possibility that I’m going to fuck up and suck, because hitchhiking out of Paris is a tough thing to do apparently. So I might stand outside all day and not see any kind people and end up riding the RER back into Paris like a goddamn child and taking a 120€ bus to Spain the next day. Or maybe I’ll meet the love of my life and get married, like the parents of the cool guy who founded my university’s hitchhiking club. Hopefully it’ll be a little shittier and grittier than an Old Crow Medicine Show song, because no one’s going to want to read the purple shit I write afterward if it isn’t.

I’ll bring a camera for you guys and and a David Foster Wallace book for me. Ciao dudes.

4 thoughts on “Hitchhiking, you know, for journalism

  1. Pingback: Pass the Manzanilla – sick days and trying to become slow(er) to speak | Day Eight

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