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Published: December 28th 2011
It was two nights before Christmas and I needed to find a way back to Washington DC. I had exhausted my tolerance for the Greyhound and 5AM transfers in Penn Station. Amtrak is just not cheap enough these days. I had learned over the years Craigslist can provide me with most necessities; a new bureau, a room mate, a new friend, a job.
Why not travel?
I had always dreamed of hitchhiking. I dreamed of a world where I could stick my thumb out and a good person would lean their elbow out the window and tell me to get in. They would be adventurous, we would stop at roadside stops. They would be looking for some good conversation and we would discuss a wide variety of topics. I would share the pretzels I brought; they would share the flask of whisky hidden in the glove compartment. We would tell our life stories driving into the horizon.
I never tested whether this dream actually existed for the obvious reasons that despite a tight knit, expanding travel community, experiences like this rarely manifest outside the underground network of backpackers and vagabonds.
As one man thrusting thirty dollars for a cab at me so aptly put it while sitting next to me on a Greyhound down to Georgia; "A little white girl like you with all her stuff roaming the night. Hell no. That is the formula for a never-seen-again situation."
But there on the screen were lists
of potential transport back to the city. Many straight from Boston to the District which is more than I can say for the bus lines. I decided to narrow my scope to ride offers that seemed somewhat reassuring they weren't a Craigslist killer; around my age, descriptive, straight route, preferably female. There was one and it was leaving Christmas day. I replied to the ad and hoped for the best.
Dana answered enthusiastically an hour later. On Christmas morning, I loaded my bags into "Ghost rider" a beat up, navy car with no door handles on the outside (the previous owner for whatever reason decided to shave them off..) and neon green flames spray painted a long the sides. I hesitated. If it were anyone else I would be suspicious. Then I remembered, she didn't know me either. We were off.
The ride share was brilliant! Dana was young and hip from Maine. Her short, spritely blonde hair was braided loosely like the laces on her hiking shoes. She wore no make up and her eyes shined a genuine kindness that reminded me of the friends I left back in my teen years from Vermont. She was on
her way down to Florida for training with the Outward Bound sailing program in Key Largo.
Twelve hours in the car with someone breaks down a lot of barriers. We covered every topic from organically grown food (bottles of her home-made Kombucha rattling at my feet), dumpster diving behind the Odwalla factory for free loot which provided us with granola bars and juices for mid-trip snacking, travel stories and thoughts on current events. We filled the silences with David Bowie, Imogen Heap, Paper Bird.
We agreed that the world, despite its conflicts and its uprisings, was still a place of hope and amazement. The sense of reliance on one another, especially now, being demonstrated through the clustering of groups such as CSA, local meet up groups, food-swaps, and of course, Rideshare.
All over the world people are coming together and it is beautiful. These popular movements based around the idea of sharing with one another is a comforting reminder that we are still human and we need one another. In humbling times, isolation is not only non-productive, it is a luxury.
Another instructor, Sydney, joined us just outside of Baltimore. Exuding the same optimism and energy as Dana. It was refreshing, although I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would not be excited about going sailing for three months. Midnight approaching, I decided to return the favor to Dana who drove until Baltimore and invite them to stay the night in D.C. They accepted. We
grabbed a coffee in the morning before they departed.
I have used the internet to travel previously. Posting my travel plans as my "status" requesting all friends and friends of friends willing to host or provide local insight to "friend me" on Facebook. I have used sites such as Couchsurfing.com to meet more locals, as well as doing my part to offer a futon to anyone in the area. Chatting in forums, doing a little good old fashioned Google searching. App-mapping for routes and destinations.
Some may gripe about the growing reliance on digital media and that the internet is slowly taking over our lives. I say nay, lets not bother fighting it.
The digital age isn't coming, its here and with it comes more opportunities to connect, learn, and experience. It is bringing the world closer together. Traveling or not, you can make it work for you.
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