If you want to be a happier, more fulfilled being- hitchhike.
Azlan Black enthusiastically told me about his metal detecting hobby, and showed me photographs on his cellular phone of 15th century Portuguese coins he discovered. He picked me up on the side of the highway on my way to Ipoh.
“Aren’t you afraid of hitchhiking?” People have often asked me. No, I’m not afraid, and you shouldn’t be either.
It seems to me that life resembles capitalism, in that we vote for which way we wish the world to move with our choices. With every kindness, we make our sphere of influence more loving, and this promotes even more of the same. When we choose fear, and there really are only those two choices, love or fear, we make the world a little colder, more shut in, and paradoxically, more secure. Make no mistake, everything we do influences the world in a massive way.
It is easy and safe to choose fear. But our quality of life suffers as a result.
The hitchhiker stands on the edge of the lane; cars, trucks, and all sorts of vehicles fly by them quicker than the blink of an eye. Some drivers look at their sign, “Kuala Lumpur,” and they ignore it. Some do not acknowledge them, and others express a rage and an anger towards them. Why should so many people deposit this hatred on one individual I may never know. The rare person is one that stops, waves, and inquires, “Where ya’ headed to?”
Now, the men and women that see and do not stop, that is to say the people who do not choose love as a response to the opportunity before them, these people usually justify their actions by recalling some story they once heard of a dangerous stranger. “I do not know this person, perhaps he may want to harm me in some way,” they wonder. And this fear of harm keeps them from lending a helping hand. It could be 40 degrees Celsius outside, it could be below zero, a monsoon could be drenching this person to the bone, and still they allow their fear control over their decisions.
The above is only one-sided however. The fear goes both ways, you see. Many people who wish to travel in this manner avoid it out of fright. I’ve heard everything: Men saying how dangerous hitchhiking is, women making claims that they will be raped and left for dead, and so both sexes use the same category of excuses to feel more comfortable and safe. The familiar latches them to a chain so short they can scarcely see anything beyond it. Listening to News stations has gripped them so tightly they cannot even imagine a world where people are mostly good and generous. They took advice from those who never even trusted others themselves, an insane or mad opinion to suck up, one might say. Fear is powerful like that. It makes everyone suspicious of their neighbors- “Every stranger is trying to rob me, rape me, kill me,” and so on. The sad part is that when we believe this, it has a sort of secluding effect. We don’t feel loved, we don’t feel trusting, and we don’t feel safe. But if you want to hear a secret, here’s one: security is the enemy of happiness.
Now, when one does hitchhike, you’ll notice that many cars demonstrate stickers or symbols on the exterior of their vehicle: fishes, crosses, Islamic writings, and other religious relics. These people profess their love for God, yet upon seeing God, his sign held high and his thumb sticking up, they pass right by without even saying hello, without even glancing at him. What kind of love is this?
There are people, however, in the world who do choose love over fear, and are met 10 yards ahead of you with brake lights glowing red, slowly backing up the road.
“I always take hitchhiker travel with me, always. I see him go my way, I say come with me, I go same-same. Why not?”
The words of a man who not only drove me over 150km, but also bought me a delicious dinner, and delivered me to the door of a cheap hostel.
“My wife, she say ‘you crazy’ but I always take, and they are always good. It take big faith to trust others.”
The coin collector, Azlan told me, “Today, I help you. Tomorrow, someone help me.” I asked how he was so sure. “I know,” as he pointed to the sky.
Whatever that means, but maybe these people do know something. Something beautiful, and they’re all different colors, religions, and sexes. I’ve been picked up by Muslims, Christians, atheists, solo female drivers, groups of men with hobo-beards, and more. I’ve ridden on the back on a motorcycle, in pickup trucks, and other crazy things. These people don’t care how they take me, they just want to take me. I can barely speak English to any of them, and still we accept each other as strangers. There is a love between is, an understanding, that the world feels better when you trust. The world seems brighter and more colorful when you choose to subject yourself to an uncertain outcome in order to help someone else or to be helped.
The insecurity comes and we realize that everything we need is right here, somehow, that all is well with our soul, as you drift to sleep to the soothing hum of an engine. “Everything is well. Everything is so perfectly, damnably well,” and we live this way when we choose love over fear. It is unpredictable, it is not as “safe” as other options, but it is better. Hitchhikers learn this. They learn to trust. Grace Ha Eun knows this, as a solo female hitchhiker, she is the first to tell you how beautiful it really is.
Reflections on hitchhiking Bangkok to Singapore
Other influences: Osho, Brene Brown, Every person that picked me up,