I started hitchhiking in Taiwan. Thanks to the hospitable and helpful Taiwanese, everything went well even though I prepared nothing. Yet not everywhere in the world you can have such a blast when hitchhiking. Being a well-protected Hong Kong girl, I have always been cautious when hitchhiking alone.
There is always a possibility of a woman encountering sexual harassment, especially when you are locked in a tight space with a stranger. A female member in the hitchhiking in Europe Facebook group claimed that she was harassed 3 times out of 9 rides in 1 week. Others agreed that this area is not solo women hitchhiking friendly as well.
Though most of the people who pick up hitchhikers come with a kind heart, it costs no harm to take safety precautions. After all, better safe than sorry. Here in this post I aim at sharing some safety measures to avoid unpleasant hitchhiking experience that could ruin your trip.
This is about give and take. Don’t give wrong signals if you don’t mean it. Don’t accept “favours” or flirty speech that crosses your personal boundaries. You don’t ask a person you just meet to clean dirt on your chest right? If a person touches your shoulder or thigh and makes you feel uncomfortable, make sure you say NO in a way that the guy understands. If someone masturbates in front of you and you don’t want to join, leave the car! This is common sense. Don’t wait until it is too late to escape. Most of the time, the driver will stop and let you go after you say NO.
BYOB when hitchhiking
No, this is not the ‘bring your own bag’ slogan in the supermarket. Here the second ‘B’ refers to bottle. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t feel comfortable refusing drinks from someone who helps and invites you, thinking that it may be a bit rude, you can show a bottle and say “Thank you, I’ve already have my drink.” You may think I overthought, but there was a moment when a driver looked at me very seriously and told me that I look like his ex-wife. The conversation was a bit weird. At some point he invited me for a drink in the next service area, but I just refused by showing my bottle. Follow your instinct and make decisions with confidence.
I wouldn’t recommend any skirts or dresses on a hitchhiking day. They are just not inconvenient. I don’t want to struggle with a dress waving in the air on the side of the road. In case something bad happens, it is more convenient to run with a pair of pants. The same applies to trainers, but never high heels. That’s common sense, again. Leave you deep-U shape T-shirt or vest for other days in order not to trigger any fantasy. In some countries, inappropriate clothing can mean sexual indications. For your own safety, better wear normal clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. I always wear pants with at least one front pocket so that I can keep my phone close to me. I can take it out for a quick look of the map or even call the police in secret.
Best time to hitchhike
Avoid hitchhiking at night or under the rain. It is not easy for people in other cars to see that you are seeking for help in case something goes wrong inside the car.
Preparation for hitchhiking
Research about the route that you are going to take. This not only saves you from leaving the right track and arriving in a remote area where the driver intend to send you to, but also save you time. Make sure you are familiar with at least city names along your route so that you know where the driver is going and see if he is doing too much for you by giving a ride in the opposite direction of his own destination.
Keep your belongings with you
Not only valuables, but every belonging if possible. Avoid putting belongings in the backseat or trunk of the car. You may need to use your them as a block or sandbag. In case you need to get off the car, you don’t need to ask for your belongings in the trunk.
You can probably find tons of physical self-defense moves on Youtube. Another self-defense techniques I am trying to draw your attention to is about what you speak and how you speak. Imagine you are asked to have sex by someone whom you just met, instead of giving a firm ‘No’, you just keep smiling embarrassingly. What impression is given to that person? He may think it is fun to continue speaking in this field and keep looking at your shy and embarrassing face. Remember, say NO if you don’t feel comfortable with anything related to the driver’s speech or movement. Don’t hesitate to give warnings for disrespectful behaviors like touching your hand or hair in a creepy way.
Another technique that I used before is pretending “I don’t know what you are talking about.” After a few times shaking the head showing it, the guy is likely to stop.
Imaginary family members
Pregnant women are usually safe when hitchhiking alone. You can imply you are pregnant. While others put rings to pretend that they have a husband, I always pretend someone is waiting for me. Send a fake message, make a fake phone call to an imaginary family member or friend will make the driver more concerned about their behaviors.
Pepper spray or knife?
I have never brought any of these with me just because I am not sure if I would be threatened with my own tools. Also, it is not easy to get pepper spray in many countries. And it is possible to get into troubles when this ‘weapon’ is found in your backpack. Hence I would suggest the antiperspirant spray or hair spray as alternatives. Put one of them in your pocket if necessary. They are milder than pepper spray but still serve the same function: give yourself more time to escape from an unpleasant situation.
Follow your instinct
One serious sexual assault can ruin one life. If you feel that day is a “no luck day” or you are tired of being mentally attacked by a series of sexual harassment when hitchhiking in certain areas, feel free to take a break from hitchhiking. There is nothing wrong for a hitchhiker to take public transport, even when you have set a hitchhiking-only trip as a challenge to yourself, especially when your safety is involved. Trust your instinct and make the right decision.
Are you a solo female hitchhiker? What kind of safety measures do you adopt to avoid unpleasant experience? Comment below and share!
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