I forgot my towel. I gues that means I’m an awful hitchhiker. I cried of happiness and of sadness. I’ve tasted the thin line between feeling free an feeling lost, between roaming the world and feeling homeless. I’ve balanced, I’ve crossed both sides. I’m here now, in all my towel-less shower-less glory.
Cold wind on my face, I stick out my thumb straight to the side, until my arm feels tired and longer. My face is stiff with a fading smile. I would like to have some dinner, thinking of the dry biscuits in my bag, but I’m afraid to miss the passing car. ‘I’m nice, I swear, please pick me up’. I wonder how many people are passing by, not realizing that they could stop for me. By the time they figure out what this strange girl is doing on the side of the road and that they are going in the same direction they’re already miles away. ‘Should I have stopped?’ Too late. But don’t worry, the car always comes. Just be patient. Let’s sing, singing works. Jumping up and down, half to keep myself warm, partly to keep myself awake and partly to keep myself happy and smiling. I wonder what my smile looks like to other people. There’s a thin line between a happy expression and a desperate one. I’m bordering the last while trying to portray the first. A car stops. No honk, just a stop. Should I go there? Is it for me or are they just checking the map. With strength gathered from pure adrenaline I hold my guitar straight with one hand, lift my heavy backpack with the other, swing it on my back and run. A peek through the window, a shaking head, friendly but defeating, and I walk back slowly and heavy breathing. I gather up the strength for another stiff smile. Happier or more desperate. How long have I been here? On an average between 15 minutes and 1 hour for this trip. I’m pretty lucky this time. I’m pretty lucky all the time. When does luck turn into habit? Maybe, just maybe, people are very nice, an luck is an average. A car passes, a middle finger. Ok, not All people are nice, just a lot of them. Besides the finger, the shaking index finger and the denigrating look is the worst. Maybe people are disgusting. But not all of them. I like the ‘I don’t know sign. Two hands held up and shoulders lifted, a slight shrug and a compassionate smile. Not a stop, but at least an acknowledgment of my existence. What don’t you know? Where I’m going? It’s on my sign. Space in your car? I see enough. Not going the same way? Everyone is, there is One road. Sorry for not picking me up? I can get that, Hitchhikers are scary. My stiff smile probably looks terrifying. Thanks for the acknowledgement, and I’ll be lucky, I’m sure. A car stops. For me? Yes, this time. Hold. Lift. Swing. Run. ‘Thank you so much!’
My name is Samantha. I’m hitchhiking through Europe. I’m on my way to Romania to study there. Anthropology. I’ve learnt to say this in about 7 languages, including the universal language of facial expressions and finger pointing. I talk with someone. They tell me about their life. Their history, their future, their dreams. ‘What do your parents think about this?’ ‘Have you hitchhiked before?’ ‘Did you hitchhike all the way here?’ ‘It’s because you’re a girl. I wouldn’t pick up if… (Me in virtually any other situation that I’ve hitchhiked in before.) Standard conversation followed by… Wauw. Some people are just really nice. Really amazing. In how many houses have I slept? Just a couple amazing ones. How many people have poured out their heart to me? How many have fed me, gone out of their way to help me and made me believe in humanity again? I quickly forget my stiff desperate smile and exchange it for happiness. Life can be quite nice.