Published: August 20th 2012August 20th 2012
In October 2009, a guy friend and I hitchhiked from Toronto to Gaspé and back to Montreal. We read that it’s very hard to hitchhike in Ontario and even harder from Toronto to Montreal which turned out to be quite true. We took a TTC bus to Rouge Hill and got off at 401 and Sheppard. We stood at a spot that led onto the ramp of the highway. It took us one day to go from there to Cobourg (85km) which took two rides.
The next day we started again on the highway but it was raining and nobody stopped. We decided to walk to the next exit and take the bus to Montreal. As we were walking, a couple in a minivan stopped and gave us a ride to a rest stop in Kingston. They thought that our car had broken down. From there, we continued and got two more rides, and reached Montreal in the evening when it was still bright.
The next day, we took the ATM train de banlieue to Mont Sainte Hilaire and hitchhiked from there to Quebec City which took four rides. The next day, we took the bus to Pont Pierre Laporte and got a ride to the Trans-Canada Highway and then another to Port Joli St Jean. Then we got lucky. The next ride took us all the way to Bonaventure where we stopped for the night.
The next day, we hitchhiked around Gaspé with four rides and camped at a campground. We wanted to camp at Parc Forillon but it was closed. We didn’t know but we could have camped there, it was just the facilities that were closed. The following day, after another four rides, we got picked up by two guys who were also visiting Gaspé. They were planning to camp at the national park so we went with them. The park was closed for the season so we were the only ones there. It was so awesome and fun to camp with 4 instead of 2.
The next day, they drove us to Trois Pistoles. From there, it took three rides for us to get to Sherbrooke where we visited friends. The next day, our friends drove us to the highway, and we got a ride from the very first car that came by. We got dropped off at Granby and there on the highway, a provincial service truck came by and told us that it’s illegal to hitchhike on the highway and if we don’t leave, they will inform the police who will come and give us a ticket. We went to the ramp leading onto the highway and in no time got a ride all the way to Montreal. We took a rideshare back to Toronto.
In total, we got 26 rides which consisted of 7 women driving alone (one woman had her 5 year-old daughter with her), 14 men driving alone, 3 couples, 1 ride from 2 men, and 1 ride from 3 men. The questions that every driver asked us were what we were doing, where we were going, what our job was in life. I would always ask the same questions back and then added a few of my own. I asked everyone who picked us up these questions: Do you often pick up hitchhikers? Have you ever hitchhiked yourself? I asked these questions because I wanted to know why people pick up hitchhikers.
The general response was that most people have hitchhiked themselves and know what it’s like to hitchhike so they don’t mind picking up hitchhikers. Most people were on their way home or had nothing to do and were therefore, driving slow enough to see us, stop and pick us up. With those who have hitchhiked before, most of them told us their hitchhiking stories which were awesome. Some people also told us their life stories which was also amazing.
One guy said that once he picked up a hitchhiker who ended up threatening to kill him but he managed somehow to trick that guy into getting out of the car and he was able to drive off and get away. He said he was really scared but thank god nothing happened. We were so surprised that he continued to pick up hitchhikers after that, but he said that it was just that one guy who was crazy, everybody else is still normal.
One woman told us that her son hitchhiked for 8 years around the world. Another guy who picked us up would cross himself every time we passed by a church (and there are a lot of churches in Quebec). One guy said that he picks up all hitchhikers he comes across, so while we were in his car, we saw another hitchhiker and he stopped to pick him up as well. One lady who picked us up in Gaspé said that she has never hitchhiked before but because there is no public transportation in Gaspé, everybody hitchhikes around there so people with cars are used to picking up hitchhikers, especially during the summer when there are tons of tourists and backpackers in the area.
Some of the people who picked us up had beat up old cars, some had new clean cars, and some had something in between. Once a couple in a mercedes picked us up which was a real surprise and they said that they pick up hitchhikers whenever they have room in the car but they usually don’t as they are always driving family or friends around.
It is important to check out digihitch and roadjunky and other hitchhiking info about the place you’re about to go hitchhiking in, before you do so. A few basic tips. Always stand at a visible spot where drivers can see you clearly from far away so that they have time to react should they want to pick you up. You must also stand at a spot where there is room for the driver to stop. Holding signs of where you’re headed always helps. Put your backpack visibly in front of you on the ground or somewhere obvious because people travelling without backpacks look a bit suspicious. The most important part is that you must SMILE and look friendly. But if you’re not enjoying hitchhiking, you should be doing something else anyway.
In the summer of 2010, the same friend and I hitchhiked to Nova Scotia and then flew back to Toronto as there was not enough time to hitchhike back. We took the bus to Montreal and hitchhiked from there. After many rides, we got dropped off on the highway near a village. I can’t remember the name of the place, it was somewhere between Quebec City and Rivière-du-Loup. We were there for 4 hours and didn’t get a ride. Night fell so we went into the village to find accommodation. It was really small and people told us that the nearest motel is maybe 50 km away. Since we can’t get to the motel, we asked them what we should do. They said to talk to the people in the church. There was a service going on so we waited at the only bar in town. A few people were curious and came to talk to us. One couple said that we could stay at their place if we cook for them so we did.
The next day, we went back to the highway and easily got rides to New Brunswick. In New Brunswick, we had to wait a long time for each ride and it took us 2 days to go through the whole province which is only 500 km long. However, in NB, we got picked up 3 separate times by drivers who took us much further than where they were going. Super nice people with nothing to do are the best!
In Nova Scotia, a guy who picked us up was on his way home to Cape Breton. He said that we could stay at his place for the night as it was getting late, if his wife agreed. His wife did agree but we thought it was too imposing. Since they had a huge yard, we asked to camp on their lawn. It was freezing cold at night. We had planned to camp in Cape Breton but after that night, we stayed at a B&B the next day. Not only is Cape Breton cold, it is also extremely windy. People told us that it’s dangerous to camp outside because the wind might blow you away or into the ocean. A guy told us that one time when he was driving, the wind was so strong that it turned his pickup truck over.
I found that in general, people out east (NB, NS and NFLD) are so much nicer and down to earth than people in Ontario. The most bizarre driver we met was this guy who picked us up while he was on his way to a job interview!! Imagine that! Some people are amazing!
As a side note, in Halifax, we randomly met a girl on the street and she invited us to a contradance which turned out to be the most fun thing ever!!