from the world's big
Playing it safe and always taking the easy road can be obstacles to happiness, says professional adventurer Erling Kagge.
- There's a huge misunderstanding that the way to make your life beautiful, and the way to be happy, is to choose the path of least resistance, says polar explorer Erling Kagge.
- Risk makes life meaningful; a small dimension of challenge and danger, combined with well-preparedness, is a way to be present in your life. Novel experiences stop your life from narrowing in around you and going by too fast.
- Remember that Tenzing Norgay didn't die falling off a mountain. He died of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking. Most accidents happen on the road or in the kitchen, says Kagge. Sometimes it's riskier to do nothing.
Here's how to exercise your curiosity and truly experience the world.
- "[T]oday, most people are sitting on their arses in a chair looking at the screen to discover and explore the world," says Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge. "And that's a huge misunderstanding. You're missing out on some of the greatest things in life."
- There is an inner silence to be found through walking, says Kagge. You exercise your curiosity and the movement of your body, which are two ancient and important things for Homo sapiens.
- Some people experience silence through meditation, mindfulness, or yoga. But Kagge emphasizes that you don't need any formal techniques. If you are interested in finding inner silence, you can create it anywhere, just by walking.
Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.
- A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
- However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
- In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
Rated for hitchability<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMzU5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjQ2MTE2MH0.k6suvgjOFPa8xyRAQpjei1S4jZx7gPW_qtj9505UntU/img.jpg?width=980" id="1a380" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="293cb6139aaddfddfafaf06ae297d6eb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
User-based tips and tricks on how to hitch a ride throughout Europe (and the rest of the world).
Image: Hitchwiki<p>If you've never stuck out your thumb to get somewhere, nor picked up someone who did, you're now part of the overwhelming majority. Nevertheless, like vinyl, hitchhiking has survived the predictions of its demise and occupies a small but thriving niche.</p><p>There's an <a href="http://hitchwiki.org/en/Main_Page" target="_blank">entire wiki</a> dedicated to the practice, including a map detailing hitchhiking spots around the world, rating each for 'hitchability' and providing a user-generated average waiting time for each spot.</p><p>Based on that information, Abel Sulyok has produced this map, showing average waiting times across Europe as experienced by hitchhikers themselves. The map provides a curious overview of the continent's hitchhiking landscape, indicating where it's easier to hitch a ride, and where your thumb is going to be sore before you're picked up.</p>
Hitchhiking heat map<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMzU5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTgyNTUxM30.R3u7ilxgyHwhXRd3sCFu5uilFSZQHth_n8IJi-LlwqE/img.jpg?width=980" id="113c1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1dabac68697bdf91c47c7f89521fd528" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Hitchhiking success (or failure) doesn't just depend on your technique or appearance, also on your location.
Image: Abel Sulyok<p>In areas colored darkest green, you're off the street in 10 minutes or less. Lightest green: half an hour. Things turn yellowy in areas where you have to wait up to an hour and then change to red for times up to 90 minutes. If it's more, you're in a deep burgundy. <br></p>A few observations:<ul><li>Some countries seem more hitchhiker-friendly than others. According to this map, you'll have most luck sticking out your thumb in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Albania and Romania – all mainly light green.</li><li>In-between countries include the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey (among others).</li><li>Worst countries to hitchhike, at least according to this map: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Austria, Sweden.</li></ul>And, more specifically:<ul><li>Border areas seem prone to hitchhiking problems, although curiously often just in one direction. Check the Russian-Belarus border, or the ones between Bosnia and Serbia, Greece and Turkey, or Austria and all points south.</li><li>Urban rides can be more difficult to hitch; see the 'hot spots' covering Paris, Athens, Kiev and the Liverpool/Manchester area in northwest England. In big cities, motorists can always soothe their bad conscience thinking the next car will pick up that rain-soaked stranger.</li><li>Red can also mean remote, as it certainly does in Scotland's furthest north, or the interior of northern Sweden and Norway.</li><li>Other red zones are more difficult to explain. Why the generalized aversion to <em>autostopistas</em> in both southern Spain and southern Italy? Why is Germany's Frisian coast so atypically hostile to hitchhikers? And what makes the southern Swedes so unamenable to helping out their non-motorized fellow travelers?</li></ul><p>As this map shows, your hitchhiking success depends not just on your presentability, but also on where you present yourself.</p>
From freighthopping to hitchhiking<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMzU3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTg2NjU1MX0.62nMY3KWzIXbRShweI2WbBq2AS-DvZBLClu6UWSORMA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2df65" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7ce9a34dd63810596384405ae200c826" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A young Ernest Hemingway (17 in 1916), freighthopping to get to Walloon Lake.
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain<p>Hitchhiking has a long tradition in the U.S. Its direct ancestor was <em>freighthopping</em>. After the Civil War, if you were looking for work but without your own means of transportation, you'd hop on freight trains to travel long distances.</p><p>By 1911, the ranks of these hobos (1) had swelled to an estimated 700,000 – or about 0.75% of the entire U.S. population at the time.</p><p>While lots of people kept riding the rails throughout the 20th century (2), the rise of the automobile provided a much safer and more flexible means of hitching rides to faraway destinations.</p>
Popular (and patriotic)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2db411f14fa21511ba57b0b0aca6d391"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ar-hnj5Zsk4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Hitchhiking (3) really took off after 1929, when the Depression both limited people's options to buy their own cars and increased their need to move around to find work. Under the New Deal, the US Government even set up a Transient Bureau that helped both hobos and hitchhikers.<br></p><p>Hitchhiking entered the national consciousness, portrayed in popular books (John Steinbeck's <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Grapes-Wrath-John-Steinbeck/dp/0143039431?imprToken=SJDAdmm5GToZBOLZ3EN0Nw&slotNum=0&SubscriptionId=AKIAJGTABWIBL2VADPUA&tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0143039431" target="_blank">The Grapes of Wrath</a></em>) and films (<em>It Happened One Night</em>, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert).</p><p>By one estimate in 1937, at least one adult American male in 10 had hitched a ride at least once. A Gallup poll conducted during World War II, when fuel-rationing and car shortages were keeping hitching popular (and patriotic), indicated that nearly half of all Americans had picked up a hitchhiker.</p>
Friendly traveler or vicious murderer?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMzU4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDM4NTE0OX0.zmnx7CmTGaqW67Mt7wkKF0FdZgqGGP08uPjd5t3n-sQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="d2b2f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e03f6075aad69fe743dffccab4bf858b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Two FBI posters, signed by America's anti-hitchhiker-in-chief, J. Edgar Hoover.
Image: FBI / Public Domain<p>However, there were problems with hitchhiking almost from the start. Early on, public opinion swung against aggressive hitchhikers, sometimes standing in the middle of the road, practically "demanding a ride". Reports of crimes – real or otherwise – committed by hitchhikers predisposed the public and the authorities against it.</p><p>After WWII, laws and law enforcement further discouraged the practice, as exemplified by these FBI posters, warning drivers against hitchhikers: They could be "a happy vacationer or an escaping criminal – a pleasant companion or a sex maniac – a friendly traveller or a vicious murderer." <br></p><p>In the 1970s and 1980s, a slew of highly publicized crimes involving hitchhikers (to name just one: the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders, 1972-73) – and a few movies playing on the fears they generated (<em>The Texas Chainsaw Massacre</em>, 1974; <em>The Hitcher</em>, 1987) – helped end its heyday.</p>
Unsuited to hitchhiking<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMzU4OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTY0MzEzOX0.8cxbYS4JGxcQF5yx1EG3aO_3n8V_k2xePRGI_Ac1LGw/img.jpg?width=980" id="f36fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="04af09e5a519e7132eb715eae3baecf8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Interstate Highway System in 1976
Image: U.S. Department of Transportation / Public Domain<p>Add to that the generalized sentiment nowadays that 'stranger' equals 'danger', and the demise of hitchhiking seems logical. From the 1920s right up to the 1980s, thumbing a ride was a fairly common way to get around. These days, it's the option of last resort.</p><p>But perhaps the main reasons for hitchhiking's decline have less to do with moral panic, more with fundamental changes in infrastructure. For one, there's the post-war rise of the Interstate Highway System: Bigger, faster roads that are unsuited to hitchhiking. <br></p><p>The biggest underlying factor may be the rise of car ownership. The percentage of US households without a car has steadily declined, from about 50% in 1941 to less than 10% today (4). If you have a car, you don't need to hitch a ride.</p>
In 1654, Blaise Pascal wrote: "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." That's more true today than ever.
- Explorer Erling Kagge is the first person to have completed the Three Poles Challenge on foot: the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest.
- The average American spends 4 hours each day on their phone. Imagine that 20% of it is productive. That still means that at the end of your life you'll have spent a cumulative 4,000 days on what Kagge calls "bullshit".
- Walking is the engine of life – you can do it alone, learning to cultivate your thoughts; you can walk to meet people and learn to respect humanity; and you can walk to experience nature. Don't live through other people or through apps. Get out and explore.
There are places in our solar system where you can fly.
- Both the moon and Mars have a weaker surface gravity than the Earth does. The result? You don't weigh as much on either celestial body as you do here.
- On a moon called Titan that orbits Saturn, the gravity isn't as strong as Earth's, but the atmosphere is much thicker. In this world, it would be possible to strap wings to your arms and fly around.
- On a low-gravity moon called Miranda, just off the space coast of Uranus, there are cliffs that are many miles high. It would be possible to jump off a cliff here and fall very gently to the bottom.