Over a span of 13 months, 18,000KM and carrying only RM800 in her pocket, Petrina Thong hitchhiked her way back to Malaysia from Sweden. She estimates having hitched a ride with over 400 vehicles throughout her journey – and these are her takeaways from the experience.
1. When you are hungry, you will eat.
The most frequent question I received was, “What do you eat?” To which I reply, “Food can be found anywhere.” As long as you are not picky about what you consume, food can always be scavenged in trash bins or gotten from leftover meals at restaurants. When the hunger kicks in, I definitely found ways to not starve.
2. When you are tired, you will sleep.
I did not always have a roof over my head, so when I’m knackered, I covered myself with cardboard pieces by the corner of a petrol station or pitched my tent behind some bushes works perfectly well. In winter, I have found myself begging hostels for a store room where I could crash at, or knocking on random doors in hopes that they will take me in for a night.
3. Someone will stop for you… Eventually.
Depending on the countries, sometimes my waiting time is less than 15 minutes, whereas other times it can go up to 6 hours before a car stops and is willing to give me a ride. It is easy to feel discouraged during the long waits and you may feel like getting the bus instead.But do not lose hope, a car will always stop.
4. There’s also a bright side to hitchhiking as a solo female.
People often focus on the dangers of travelling alone if you’re a female, and it’s true that some men will still try their luck. However, it has its advantages – female drivers would stop for me and mothers with children will invite me back to their homes – people are overall more concerned and less hesitant about helping out.
5. Short-term goals are necessary.
If you were to tell me from the very beginning that I would need to hitchhike through all those countries with barely any money, I might have gotten a panic attack and never started it at all. I truly believe that the main reason how I survived was to take it one day at a time. All I need to do is think about now and how to make it through the day. And I will tackle tomorrow, tomorrow.