i don't want to let on, but i'm nervous as hell. the cold has claimed my fingers, and is starting on my toes, as i look up at the next car coming along. the driver shoots one glance at me, surveying my shivering body which feebly props up a cardboard “portland” sign before he turns away. speeding up allows him to simultaneously ignore me and california stop the sign beside me.
“five,” i mutter. according to my calculations, five out of ten people run the stop sign that I'm standing next to. i wait, and wait. and wait. after ninety minutes, i get picked by a guy who turns out to be a homosexual escort. he takes me as far as wilsonville, where I have a conference to attend.
but standing there at the northernmost albany exit, i realized that a lot of people don't have the knowledge that they need to navigate the perils of hitch hiking and couch surfing. and this article was conceived.
hit the road!
hitchhiking is a sport for all seasons, although it is considerably more enjoyable in warm weather. to be successful, you need to focus primarily on the location which you are hitching from. are the cars generally headed in the right direction? are they traveling at a speed which allows them to see you and slow down in time? these are valid questions that generally need to be addressed by the hitch-hiker.
once the driver slows down or stops, you have only seconds to figure out whether or not they are a safe person to drive with. a couple years back I convinced a guy in a suit to give me a ride to work after my car broke down. halfway there he started freaking out and talking about how he was off his meds and wanted to stab me! it turned out to be some sort of sick joke on his part, but needless to say, i keep an eye out for the crazies now.
as far as couchsurfing goes, the method is more madness in my experience. to be safe, i always try to find friends to stay with in the town i'm crashing in each night. alternatively, if the weather's good and i have a sleping bag, sometimes i'll just sleep in my car if i have it or under a tree. this can be good, but it really depends on the area of town that you choose. cities like ashland are relatively easy to do this in, but for locations like downtown portland, you're gonna want a real place to stay.
to couchsurf is to hit up a house (or apartment) and sleep on one of its couches, preferably with the consent and knowledge of one or more of the legal occupants of that house. You can couchsurf with people you know, but if all else fails, couchsurfing with strangers can be fun as well.
once I had been playing music late in downtown eugene, and came back to find that the apartment which I was supposed to stay at was locked and no one was awake. i kept walking in the campus district until I found some drunk kids trying to take a couch that someone had ditched upon moving out of a house up the street. i talked to them a bit and they said i could in that stay on that couch, soon as they got it in the door. i scored some free pizza and caught some sleep, before heading out in the morning while they were all still hung-over.
one thing that's really important to know is that if you're female you shouldn't couchsurf, hitchike, or pick up hitchhikers alone. it's way too dangerous! lots of girls who have picked me up while i was hitchhiking have heard this bit, only usually after i got out of the car. so have some adventures... but be careful out there!