So perhaps I have become too lacidasical from my time in Latin America. I was once a type-A crazy planner and now I just kind of go with the flow. This means I don’t plan anything. I double check nothing.
Oops. I didn’t have a shuttle in Munich.
I messed up the dates and didn’t confirm and there was no shuttle space for me and Innsbruck was nearly 200km away.
But I was in luck as a fellow traveler also screwed up. Dylan had just returned to the UK after hitchhiking across Canada and had previously hitchhiked through France.
He proposed we hitchhike. I figured what the hell, it’s an experience.
Dylan is 23.
I had some hesitations. Did I mention I was 34? Am I too old to be a vagrant hobo?
But I figured even if it all went to hell hitchhiking would make an interesting blog post so I took Dylan’s black marker, made myself an Innsbruck sign and we left for the edge of the autobahn.
Oh yeah did I mention the autobahn?
So hitch hiking is different in Europe. You don’t stand on the side of the highway but the entrance to it. I stood with my Innsbruck sign with Dylan, 25 feet behind me with the sign of a half way point.
Within five minutes we were picked up.
He was a Nokia-Siemens engineer heading home but he could only take us 20km. He wondered why we were hitching, why didn’t we just take the train? Good question.
We were dropped off at a gas station where I learned the next part was tricky.
Dylan explained that at a gas station you actually need to go and approach people to ask where they were going and if they could take you.
Seriously? I have to be one of those sketchy people that approaches random people?
This is far outside my comfort zone.
But then I realized it was a bit different in Europe. I met two German girls who were also hitching for the first time as part of Tramprennen – which is kind of like an Amazing Race hitch hiking race across Europe.
It made me feel less like a societal leech but it is really difficult mustering the courage to ask people if they would pretty please take you somehere.
What I also hadn’t thought about was that not everyone would speak English so half the time I would just say “Innsbruck?” only to be rejected.
Things turned around when I found the girls a ride to Salzberg. I was happy for them but a bit of loneliness set in when Dylan and I wereleft alone to ask every person who passed where they were going.
It sucks having to approach people at the pump with a friendly but not crazy smile, hoping they have room in the back. They are either a) not going to Innsbruck b) have kids in the back or c) just don’t want to take you.
Actually no one rejected me outright, I assume they just lied and said they weren’t going toward Innsbruck.
At the hour mark I was sliding into hitchhiker depression. What was wrong with me? Should I put on nicer clothes?
But experienced Dylan came to the rescue and found a truck driver who could take us the remaining 90 minutes to Innsbruck.
Steve was from Holland and drives 9 months of the year and travels the remaining time. His next trip was to motorbike through India although Colombia was also on his list. We talked about traveling and couchsurfing and eventually I fell asleep as I hadn’t been able to sleep at the airport the night before.
We cheerfully left Steve at a gas station at the outer limits of Innsbruck and I felt great.
I didn’t realize there was a huge problem.
No one who was going to this gas station was going into Innsbruck, they were leaving it. It was dusk and practically vacant aside for some tour buses and we were 5km outside the city centre.
I was ready to walk it but Dylan wisely recommended we stay as he didn’t want to get lost in the dark.
After half an hour of sitting Dylan convinced a woman who had stopped to talk to her cell phone that she should take us. She had never picked up hitch hikers and was a bit wary but decided to take a chance.
We ended up at our hostel door only 5 hours later. It took 3 hours longer than the shuttle but I met some great people.
I don’t know if I will do it again but I am happy I did it.