First time hitchhiking/Pandapand
"But isn't that dangerous? I don't think that's a good idea. Especially, not for girls."
I had a few people tell me this before my first solo-hitchhiking experience. This was my first mental block. And you know, the image of a psycho-killer (Qu'est-ce que c'est ?) driver. I planned to hitchhike from Leipzig to Krakow and started the day with a sign, a quick look at this wiki, and some big expectations. But due to a case of the scatter-brains and ego, I got off at the recommended site but walked along trying to find a better spot for myself. I asked for directions on how to get on the A14 highway but got directed toward the A38 highway instead. Increasingly tired, I settled for a place with some sort of proximity to a highway.
My Sign/My Attitude
I had constructed my sign using a cereal box, white paper and clear tape. I think this first sign was too small as some of the drivers squinted to see more clearly. I was also a bit shy standing on the side of the road alone. I made only the vaguest attempt at eye contact. After two hours of waiting and one car headed toward the wrong town, I walked back to the bus stop where I first got off.
Near the bus stop, after munching on some sort of würst, I tried communicating briefly with what little German I knew with the guy working at the gas station. I tried to tell him that I was headed to Dresden and was wondering where I could hitch a ride. He told me the area in front of the station could work. I stood there for about half an hour before losing faith in the process and heading to the train station.
After paying 23 precious euros (not going to food & booze) for the train, I got to Dresden and feeling utterly wiped out crashed at a hostel (another 15 euros not going to f&b) too tired to set up something through Couchsurfing.
The next morning, I got up and checked the Dresden website. This time I copied down the information word-for-word. I still had my size-too-small sign but I overlooked this fact at the time. I got to the hitchspot at noon and waited for the next two and a half hours with no luck. At this point, I was frustrated and a bit confused on what to do next. After wandering around the center of town, I went and bought a A4 notepad and marker. Not wanting to pay for another hostel and feeling defiant, I found a random place in the woods to pitch my tent.
The time in the woods was the turning point of my so-far-failed-experiment. After passing a bunch of verboten signs and unsure exactly what I was doing, I ended up alone in the woods. Once it got dark, all my fears set in. Every sound I heard sounded like a footstep and every flash of light felt like an approaching threat. I managed to will myself unconscious after a few hours of paranoia. When I woke up at 6 in the morning, I was strangely invigorated. What I had imagined to be threatening in pitch-black darkness, turned out to be a bunch of squirrels and birds. Later I found out I had a choice of couches to stay in Dresden, but so it goes.
I tried the same location in Dresden again, and this time 15 minutes in I had a ride halfway to the German/Polish border. A succession of signs led me through Wroclaw, Katowice and Krakow. At the rest stops, I waited no more than 5 minutes for the next ride. Overall, the day was glorious...I was speeding down the autobahn, talking to an owner of a quarry, a trucker, a state attorney, a middle-aged couple and a leftist-magazine editor.
For me, an apt analogy to hitchhiking is fishing...except here, you are the fish. Or something like that. I'm completely enthralled with this experience with its ups-and-downs and will be hitchhiking for the next month hardcore.
Hit the road Jackie!