Hitchhiking – what’s in it for me?
As I mentioned before, I came to Iceland with a friend only to discover how very different we are and how very differently we experience travel and, especially, its low budget aspects in a place like Iceland.
Having decided to leave Reykjavik for Akranes, we had the choice of taking a public bus or hitch hiking. Both times I was in Iceland, hitch hiking seemed like the most natural thing to do. There’s one main road circling the whole island, there are many mobile people driving around (both locals and tourists), it’s super safe and the views are amazing – even if you get stuck somewhere by the side of the road, it doesn’t really matter much, as you can very easily enjoy and appreciate your surroundings for longer stretches of time.
So, seeing that it was only 50 km away, I was excited to get on the side of that road and stick my slightly cold thumb out while putting my best smile on for the passing drivers. However, I was to be alone in the excitement because my friend wasn’t enjoying the process at all, rooting for us to take the bus instead. At one point, in-between rides in Mosfellsbær, she asked me: “What’s the value you get from doing this instead of taking the bus?”.
From what we’ve discussed, to her taking the bus meant being comfortable, going straight to our destination, having more time onsite and eating a warm meal faster. All sound reasons and I can easily understand and relate to them. At the same time, to me it meant spending unnecessarily (buses in Iceland are not cheap – nothing is), not meeting any local people and – most of all – making it, well, too easy and unexciting.
For a while now I’ve had this notion that travelling has become too comfortable, too easy, too predictable and too point-A-to-point-B kind of a thing. As we were brooding in snow to get to our hitch spot, I felt awesome. It required me to move my body, to feel the ground beneath my feet, to carry the weight of my pack, to carefully take in the surroundings – it almost felt like more than simply walking alongside a busy road. It was an interlude to an adventure.
To have my cheeks red from the cold and the strain, my nose runny and my shoulders sore, all the while not knowing how it’s going to end is what feels best when exploring another part of the world.
So when we finally reached my Icelandic friend’s oceanfront B&B in Akranes and I was lying in a warm bed and in my cozy room for these past couple of days, the question came back to me: “What’s in it for me?”. Of course, there’s the financial side of the equation but that’s not it, or at least not mainly. It could be, if only I didn’t mind spending the same – or more – on a good meal in a restaurant. So what is the true value I get, apart from saving some bucks?
I realized it’s the uncertainty and the infinite possibilities that open up every kilometer of a winding road somewhere between point A and point B.
I never know whom I’ll get to drive with; I never know how long it’s going to take to reach my destination or how many cars to take me there. Honestly, oftentimes I’m not even sure the destination won’t change along the way – it’s definitely been known to happen!
But it’s also the peak I get to take into someone else’s life, when they tell me the basics of who they are and what they do as they drive. Sometimes, they offer me a job; sometimes they give me a roof over my head; sometimes, they become my personal guides for the day; sometimes they just remain the stranger who gave me a lift on their way. They make me laugh and they educate me. They make me want to trust and let others lead the way, as they show me beauty in the randomness of human connections.
I am so lucky to experience the Icelandic drivers’ hospitality firsthand, time and time again: the super nice person going out of their way to give me a lift to my exact destination; the lady who takes me on a detour to show me a retreat center for cancer patients she built with fellow Icelanders’ donations; the family who ends up showing me around the area for a couple of hours straight; the trusting lady who picks me up in the middle of nowhere and five minutes later offers me a job.
They take me places, far beyond what you could trace on a map. They keep me on my toes and make me think that if only we stopped to help each other more often, we’d all be safely arriving at our intended destinations.
It’s also as if each and every conversation unveils yet another part of the never-ending scroll of human life scenarios and I’m privileged enough to keep on reading it, one car at a time. And that, my friends, is what makes my travelling worthwhile.