Author: Bernd Wechner
Published on: December 1, 1996
One of the things that strikes me when browsing the web for hitch-hiking sites is that there is sometimes a serious discrepancy between what I call hitch-hiking and what others choose to call hitch-hiking. It causes some confusion, that I have experienced, when two people converse, both using the one word, and attaching different meanings to it. It leads to some interesting misunderstandings, needless to say.
I'd like here to explore the different meanings we attach to the idea, and they will lie ultimately in what motivations we associate with hitch-hiking.
There are four reasons that I can identify, that drive people to hitch. I would welcome any additions if I've overlooked something. But for the moment they are:
1) Economy - Hitching is a cheap way of getting around. It costs essentially nothing.
2) Environment - By sharing our cars, we save petrol, and do less damage to the environment. This is ultimately related to economy. Cheap transport is generally shared transport and hence more friendly to our environment.
3) Company - Hitching is an inherently social form of transport for those that otherwise travel alone. It brings one into contact and almost compulsory conversation with strangers. This is also closely related to Economy, as cheap transport is often shared and/or crowded transport and not generally lonely.
4) Adventure - Hitching is inherently unpredictable and leads to some very interesting stories, and embodies a definite degree of risk as well. This oddly enough is also related to Economy, as money generally buys us safety, and predictability.
In summary, the four motivating factors are: Economy, Environment, Company, and Adventure.
It is no coincidence that I describe them in that order. In my experience it is a common perception, and a likely reality that if we asked people to rank these four motivating factors in terms of significance to them, we would on the average find them in that order.
Now a great many people that carry these priorities, identify hitching very closely with ride sharing or car pooling. When I speak to people such as these and I talk of hitching, the point of focus will be Economy an/or Environment. These are precisely the things that Ride-sharing offers.
But there are those of us whose priorities are better described as such: Adventure, Company, Environment and Economy.
To those people hitch-hiking offers something very important, that Ride-sharing and Car-pooling do not. When they use the word hitch-hiking they will often use it to deliberately distinguish what they have in mind from Ride-sharing and Car-pooling.
Now there is nothing I or anyone can do to change the way in which we en masse choose to use English words and what meanings we associate with them. But it is interesting to note the differences, and I am keen to stress that this page is about Hitch-hiking, not Ride-sharing or Car-pooling.
I should hasten to add that I mean that comment only to put a bounds to the theme behind the resources I choose to present. I mean in no way to disparage Ride-sharing, indeed I partake of it, and support it (or try to) with another page of my own. But the business of Ride-sharing is explosive, there are at this moment already dozens of on-line services in that direction, and they are easy to find with search engines. However, they are not the topic of this page, which I dedicate to a phenomenon on the whole under-represented in modern culture and media.