September 15, 2009
How to hitch hike across Canada: 7 tips
Labels: young workers
Rebel Youth is looking for hitchhiking stories, and also experiences with the challenges faced by women, trans people, hitchhickers facing racism, or stories of people with disabilities on the road... If you have a good hitch hiking tale, write a comment below or email us at Rebel Youth (at) ycl-ljc.ca
Most people you ask will tell you hitchhiking is dead, or so dangerous it’ll kill you the moment you get in your first ride. Those who have actually hitchhiked will tell a different story of this age old thrifty transport.
Last summer my girlfriend and I hitchhiked from Toronto, Ontario to Dawson City, Yukon. It took 7 days of travel to arrive at our destination, and 7 days to get back home. We’re both students, and without the dozens of free rides it would have been financially impossible to travel. We were not alone, we saw many other young people traveling like us, to one coast or the other. We also found that in many rural communities’ youth use their thumb to just get to the next town over. It was an unforgettable experience crossing this large country and I suggest it to everyone.
1. Safety. Always try to travel in pairs. Sometimes it is hard to get picked up as a single male, and even harder with double males. It is much safer to be in pairs, and we found it was easy to get picked up if you appear to be a couple. If you feel uneasy about your new chauffeur act as if someone knows exactly where you are. For example say your meeting someone in the next town at a certain time, or that you talked to your friend in the last town. For safety reasons always have each hitchhiker carry a knife.
2. Where to Stand. Though it is sometimes not totally clearly where the best place is to get picked up, the edge of town is generally a good rule. Make sure the car has room to slow down and stop, and has time to see you as well. Other good places are service centers/truck stops or even gas stations. There you can find dozens of trucks fuelling up. On the very busy 400’ highways of southern Ontario you will be stopped by police, but all other highways are fair game.
3. Trucks are perfect for long distance trips, though you have to figure out how far the driver wants to take you. Usually “truckers” appreciate company and will take you long distances. Some trucks have double bunks which they may or may not offer you to sleep in. (these beds are much warmer than sleeping outside).
4. Sign vs. Thumb. Personally I prefer using a cardboard sign with either the general direction of travel (e.g EAST, YUKON, etc), or the name of the next town on the road. Cardboard can be found littered at the side of any highway! Cars travel smaller distances and are more likely to pick you up if they know exactly where you’re going. Using your thumb can be good for inner city travel. If you’ve been dropped off somewhere far away from the edge of town you may need just any ride to get you somewhere better. For short rides the thumb is useful, but once you’re out of town drivers feel better knowing exactly where you’re going before they think of picking you up.
5. Sleeping. It isn’t good to hitchhike after dark unless you’re at a busy truck stop. So finding places to sleep will be necessary. There are campsites in nearly every town, and if you wait for the warden to leave, usually after 9 pm, and leave before 7am, you’re safe. If you didn’t pack a tent you have a number of options. The roof or door ways of schools are useful. Playgrounds with small “towers” with walls to protect from wind are also good. Sleeping in the backyard of Churches can also be relatively safe.
6. Traveling time. As I mentioned it took us 7 days from Toronto to Dawson City. From other travelers we heard that it takes about 5 days from Vancouver to Toronto. The Trans Canada Highway is the easiest way to get across the country, most truckers on this route are going to either Toronto or Vancouver.
7. Packing. It is always best to pack light, but these items are essential.
- Road map of travel area
- Sleeping bags
- Large Black Marker
- Can opener
- Thermos (for saving hot water for Tea)
- Knife* (for cutting and defense)
- Large bottles for water
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