The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

I was listening to this album over the weekend, probably one of my all round favorite albums. I say probably because it is hard to tell.  Music is like emotions, the feelings that come can be triggered in different ways, and what works for you today might be totally different tomorrow.  That said, this is an album of both depth and outstanding musical quality and I have enjoyed listening to it for over 30 years now.

The album for those who don’t know it, was the first solo album of Rogers Waters of Pink Floyd fame.  Recorded before the band split in the early eighties due to a mixture of musical differences and, well ego.  I think Dave Gilmour wanted to go down the road of expansive musical sound, the Dark Side of the Moon Floyd,  whereas Waters seemed to like the powerful lyrics that had been the backstop of albums like the Wall and The Final Cut.  There were many sounds of Floyd over the years, but eventually it seemed to pull the band apart.

So Waters set out on his solo career and came up with three stunning albums, the Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking being for me the best of them.    I love the others, but it is the mix of the powerful lyrics, the stunning blues guitar of Eric Clapton and the flowing storyline that set this apart for me.

The story starts with the central character meeting a woman, a Hitchhiker he has given a ride to, they fall in love and the album, a concept album follows their relationship to its dramatic end, with many twists along the way.

If you have never heard the album I suggest you have a listen.  It makes a great backdrop to a long car journey, and with back up from the likes of Ray Parker and Michael Kamen and a dreamy saxophone that just add up to an overall powerful musical experience.

The album got me thinking though.  Of hitchhiking, and how big a part of my life it once was.  I started back in the late seventies when I was barely a teenager, sticking my thumb out as me and a mate made our way into the local town to go to the movies and the like.  Catching lifts from strangers, totally unaware of the danger we were putting ourselves in.  I still remember the day we were picked up by the wrong kind of guy, but despite his inappropriate conversation, we just got the ride, got where we wanted to be and then had a good laugh about what a dick he was.  It never occurred to us there could be danger.


And I never really stopped hitching for many years.  When I went away to college it was how I got home from Southampton to Wiltshire on the weekends,  And how I got back again.  I remember falling out with my step father and taking off at two in the morning, but still managing to hitch a ride, falling asleep in the car and waking up in Portsmouth.  It was close enough, I just got out on the road and stuck my thumb out again.

And then when I started travelling I used it all the time.  Catching a lift on a motorway in Switzerland where I had been dropped of by a truck, being picked up by some lady who just needed to talk, and took me miles out of her way so she could do just that.

Another time, with a girl I had hooked up with along the way, we hitched across the Peloponnese in Greece from Preveza to Athens, getting stuck in this broken down old car, driven by an old guy on a motorway.  A traffic jam that went on for miles.  He got us to open a barrel of homemade wine in the back and we all got pissed in the car.  Him too!  It was such a funny day.

And I took it everywhere, New Zealand in the late nineties the locals would normally take you home and feed you before setting you on your way.  Malaysia where it seems to be part of the culture to give rides, the easiest place to hitch anywhere, Thailand, stuck on the back of a pickup with crates of chickens.


It was a wonderful way to travel,  guys getting you to open up the glove box and roll them a joint, long conversations about life.  Those times just walking on the side of the road, anywhere in the world, loving the journey, in love with the open road.  That is what it was to hitchhike.

But it’s gone now.  You don’t see hitchhikers anymore really.  We all got to worried about picking up axe murders so it just ceased to be.  Sure, you do see the odd hitcher, but as often as the fabled blue moon, and I think this is a shame.  It was a great way to travel, to meet people, to really get out there on the open road.  If there was one thing I think I miss the most about my younger years it was the total freedom that hitchhiking gave you.

So listen to the album if you get a chance, it really is good, and if you have your own hitchhiking stories to tell, please share.  I really would like to hear.  I can’t be the only person that misses the open road.


29 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking”

  1. I enjoyed your post evoking the end of an era. My friends and I used to hitchhike in the 1970s when we were in high school, but no where exotic, just around our local county in Vermont. My dad was on the road a lot for his ministry, and he used to pick up hitchhikers to have someone to talk to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a good read, Gavin. Yah, too dangerous to go hitchhiking nowadays. At least yours will go down history and more stories to write or tell the younger generation that it existed then. There is a highway of tears here in BC where women went missing. Mind you, last summer, I met a young chic and her dog hitch from Toronto to BC with her dog. She was fine and even help her when she was lost. I picked up a male before just because I have another company in the car.

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  3. Excellent, Gavin. Right now the title song has come up and of course I realised I know it without knowing I do. Even though I love Pink Floyd, and went to hear Roger Waters do his The Wall show in Zagreb, I don’t know their solo work.

    Pros, for me it was only pros all the way. I haven’t hitched rides all over the world as you have, only in Slovenia and Croatia along the Adriatic coast, with some attempts to do it in Austria which failed miserably and we had to take the train back home from Vienna, which is probably the last time I attempted it. Austrians broke my hitchhiking heart and I will never forgive them that.

    Back in Yugoslavia I came up with this hitchhiking axiom: if you were speeding in a tight car, the driver complained all the time about hard life but then bought you dinner and cigarettes, the driver was from Kosovo and the car was a Yugo.

    I never had any bad things happen except one time there was a bad aftertaste: a gang of Montenegro truckers adopted me and my friend, promised us to take us to Montenegro with them, fed us and sped with us and we learned why they are the kings of the road, but when night fell, in the middle of nowhere, they expected a certain payback. We split. Luckily nobody followed.

    Ohh, you threw me back with this post. The feeling of standing by the road with my rucksack with sneakers hanging off it by the laces, willing the cars to stop with my mind, sitting in the back, enjoying the ride, while my chatty friend chatted up the driver, letting the driver play our tape if s/he agreed, Janis, The Doors, Joan Baez, Clapton, Bowie, Hendrix… Exchanging tapes with people we met. Continuing where the driver was going just because the drive was so fine. The driver taking us where we wanted. Hitching a couple of brand new Golfs on a test drive. And the Porsche that one time. Ahhh. The need for speed and for just never arriving.

    Those certainly were the days, and we caught them. Just.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. (listening – for the first time – to the album now)… Where I live in France, hitch hiking and carpooling is a very common thing. But I am not from here, so it always seem a bit alien to me! But you know what they say about when in Rome… So last year, I took my very first hitch hiker on board!
    It still feels alien to me but I ticked one more things-to-try box!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I travelled that way quite a lot when I was young and (mostly) single and also mainly broke to poor. I found it getting harder and harder to get lifts. I suspect drivers were becoming more wary about picking up dodgy characters rather than the other way round. Also the Thatcher years saw a shift from the “hippie/post-hippie” love and peace attitude to one revolving round self-self-self and being fearful of other people. Also I had more money coming in from full-time employment and I had a lot more time deadlines, places to be at specific times. And then there’s living with a lady who had a car and then marriage. But yes, the fun and freedom, the adventures meeting interesting and kindly strangers … Happy days. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, i know what you mean about it changing. I remember hitching down the A4 towards Bristol one day and then getting stuck on a junction of the M5 for hours. After that I realised that those days were coming to an end. I had to get a new anthem, ‘Country Road take me home’ just didn’t cut it anymore!

      Liked by 2 people

          1. Given our recent interchanges here I thought it might be an appropriate replacement for “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Also it comes from that time period, while OTOH it’s perhaps even more topical now than it was then. 😦

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  6. I stil see hitchhikers sometimes on NZ roads; though not as many as when I was young and hitching. I think you are right that it’s people’s perceptions which have changed most – including mine probably. I haven’t needed to hitch in a long time, and haven’t picked up others for a while either. Not since the guy with the gun actually …
    Dramatic start, but he was a hunter heading back to Queenstown, and although he did demure about putting the rifle in the boot, it was in a bag on the back seat. He was good company as I remember, and bought me a coffee before we parted company.

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    1. I am half laughing and half thinking ‘really scary movie’. It seems to me it was a better world when you could just stick you thumb out and get anywhere, more sociable, more friendly. There always was risk, but I guess there is risk everyday you walk down the street, Picking up a man with a gun is probably not so unlikely in NZ. Everyone I know there has guns or access to guns, but my family are mostly farming stock.
      Thanks for sharing though, and thanks for following!

      Liked by 2 people

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