I’d like to think I’m nothing like the frightening desperado we’ve stamped as the hitchhiking stereotype, a dirty and possibly dangerous man, but I’ve thumbed across the USA twice this year. In February I went Vermont to California (video), and this month I went Florida to Washington (video), both times in under a week, in complete secrecy, and spending less than $60 end-to-end.
I grew up in Orange County, CA, until I left for boarding school and college in Vermont. I graduated with a BA in Economics and, if the careers of my peers are any indication, could probably be employed as a corporate consultant or investment banker. It’s an understatement to say I grew up comfortably.
Blessed with this upbringing, I graduated in May 2014 with two legs up: being debt free and with savings I got to sock away from odd jobs instead of having to commit to tuition and living expenses. Since then, I’ve dedicated this extraordinary freedom to studying this vast country that we call home, first and foremost by experiencing it firsthand.
I’m 23 and I have seen all 50 states by car, plane, train, bus, etc. These have all been terrific ways of seeing the country, but there’s an aspect of these conventional modes of transport that’s very curated. There are timetables and customer service desks and AAA roadside assistance. I wanted to push the limit.
I wanted to prove that the best aspect of traveling—the people I meet—are more than just props, fleeting interactions that quickly fade when I make my next connection. I wanted to prove that there are wonderful, generous people everywhere who could be more than festive garnish to my adventure and in fact integral ingredients to the journey itself. I wanted to test myself as a traveler and to prove that, if I showed some guts and good spirit, people would respond in kind.
Somewhere between the movies and media, hitchhiking in America has fallen out of fashion, but I wanted to prove that it’s still possible. So, I packed a bag and set two rules: 1, don’t tell anyone in my life I’m going and 2, limit myself to a $100 budget. My rationale was that everyone would advise me against going and would needlessly worry about a situation they couldn’t affect. Secondly, I wanted to show that exploration doesn’t need to be expensive and that, after a point, our greatest obstacles are often our own inhibitions. Freedom is largely a matter of mind.
After I successfully traveled 3,100 miles, Vermont to California, in under six days, I wanted to prove that it wasn’t pure luck—that there’s something inherent about the greatness of people everywhere that enables this kind of journey—so I did the other diagonal. I intend to expand on these highlight reels with two more videos, the full story and a how-to. For now, though, I hope you can enjoy these short clips as evidence that the United States of America is still home to the good, the brave and the free, and that hitchhiking across this vast land is definitely still possible.
1. Vermont to California
2. Florida to Washington