The first time I hitchhiked in Ireland I was picked up by a French couple in a woody wagon listening to Ray Charles.
This was during my first trip. I had been on Sherkin Island volunteering as a helper (WWOOF) at a B&B with a garden. The experience didn’t turn out as I’d hoped so I deviated from my plan and made a new one. I decided to Couchsurffor the first time with a man in Schull and go to a Jazz Festival in Ballydehob. And to add to the adventure, I was going to hitchhike there. Mom, if you’re reading this, sorry for any fear I strike into your heart:)
I was so nervous. This entire plan scared me, but I knew I wanted to do it. I felt a strange excitement as I walked out to the edge of the small village of Baltimore, County Cork and stuck my double jointed thumb out. Many cars went by and as they did I was surprised by something. People acknowledged me even though they didn’t stop. They waved or shrugged their shoulders indicating that they weren’t going far or didn’t think we were on the same path.
I only waited 15 minutes (seemed forever) before the woody wagon fuming with cigarette smoke stopped for me. Charlotte and her boyfriend were actually going to my destination, Schull, but first they needed to stop and get some paint in Skibbereen. Hop in they said, music still blaring. Exhilarated, I did.
Since this time I’ve stuck my thumb out many other times and have never been disappointed. See, hitchhiking, while not as common as it once was, is still an acceptable form of transit in Ireland. Before the economic boom of the 90’s it was way more common for people NOT to have a car, everyone hitched. When affluence reached Ireland people started to turn their noses down at it, associating it with poorer times. Since the recession, hitching is on the rise again.
I’ve been picked up by rugby match enthusiasts, a German listening to terrible techno, the son of one of the owners of a pub I frequent, locals whom I know, farmers, bachelors, mothers, and solo women concerned for my safety. All of them have been chatty, oh, except for the German, he was pretty much silent. And the bachelor. He spoke, but his accent was so thick I had a hard time understanding him. There were certain places along our route in which he would make the sign of the holy trinity. One spot was the site of an accident he explained, and the other was by the graveyard in Bantry. Self explanatory I think.
Sometimes relying on others to get you where you’re going leads to some interesting places. I was once dropped off on a country road near a closed pub that was miles from anywhere. And I wasn’t exactly sure where I was. Did I mention the road wasn’t heavily traveled? I waited for awhile and finally an SUV stopped to pick me up. I opened the driver’s side passenger door and asked for a lift to Bantry. My American accent betrayed me. “Oh, you’re a yank,” the man driving said, “get in anyway!” He then let me know that the only reason he’d stopped was because I looked like a local person. Kindly, he drove me all the way into Bantry town. I was pleased by this experience. I enjoyed knowing that I looked Irish:)
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Now, comment below. Have you ever hitchhiked? What sort of adventure did you have?