Summer is the best time to hit the road and discover Denmark off the traditional tourist routes. Hitchhiking can be a good option if you want to save time and money, and it can be a great experience too. Here, Thales Camargo shares his experience hitchhiking from Aarhus to Ribe.
By Thales Camargo
One of my favourite professors in Journalism school once said that we could do a great deed with what we had in our hands. “You don’t need the best equipment to make TV, you just have to be creative,” he used to remind us. He always tried to encourage his students to get things done, no matter what the circumstances were.
Some weeks ago, a friend and I decided to visit Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town. This was an old plan we had, but never really made it happen due to many issues. As our time as students in Aarhus was about to end, we decided to hit the road. Following my professor’s sage advice, we did what we had to do to travel. And we chose a very interesting way do it: by hitchhiking!
Hitchhiking was a common practice in Denmark during the 70s, and some people would even take long distance rides to places such as Italy. Nowadays, the art of hitting the road seems quite exotic for Danes. So, don’t get frustrated if drivers simply wave back to you or give you a smile as they drive by; they are just not used to it anymore. Nevertheless, it can be very easy to get a ride in Denmark, trust me!
Some good research on WikiHiki – the hitchhikers’ universal bible – and other forums could be crucial for preparing for your adventure. You may find tips and advice on good places to hitchhike. Also consider that you have more chances of getting a ride quickly if you are standing in a place where the driver can easily pull over; otherwise they won’t stop for you. Therefore, make sure to find the street, avenue or roundabout that leads to the highway that leads to your destination. The more accurate you are, the better your chances of getting a ride.
The ride to Ribe
It took us only 15 minutes before we met our first driver in Aarhus. After parking our bikes in Marsellis Boulevard, each of us held a handmade sign indicating that we wanted to go to Ribe. Once our driver pulled over, he told us that he was driving to Fredericia, a city located in the Triangle Region of Jutland – an industrial and communications hub where the highways that go to the west coast, Southern Jutland and Funen meet. We wanted to get on the road, so we took the ride with him.
We didn’t ask the name of our driver; he also did not ask ours. But for one hour, we engaged in a very multicultural conversation. Son of Afghans, born in Russia and raised in Denmark, our driver told us a bit of the story of his life. It was interesting to realise that we barely knew him and yet somehow felt connected, otherwise it would have been much harder to keep up a long conversation. Besides the good talk, he was kind enough to Google a crossroads where we could easily get our next ride. He told us that the closer you are to your destination, the easier it is to find someone going in that direction. Therefore, to increase our chances of moving faster, we decided to hitchhike to Esbjerg, as the flow of cars going there was higher and the city was only 30km away.
And there we were again, standing on a corner, entertaining the cars that drove by. After finishing my cheese and carrot sandwich, I held up the Ribe sign we made out of an old cardboard box that once contained mashed potatoes. My friend barely had time to finish her meal, as while making our sign to Esbjerg a car stopped and asked if we wanted to go there instead of Ribe. Well, that was our idea, so we gladly accepted his invitation.
This time, our driver was extremely excited about a job interview that he had just had. He told us about what he did and how proud he was of his son, an ice hockey referee in Denmark. Once again, a smooth and nice drive. He also made sure to leave us in a place where we could easily get our next ride.
Surprisingly, while we were still talking about how nice the ride was, an orange truck pulled over. We didn’t even wait for five minutes! The driver jumped out of the truck, threw some stuff in the back and made space for us to finally sit down. On the ride we tested our language skills, chatting only in Danish. Despite the difficulties, we were able to learn a bit about his life as well, and also about the windmills that we saw in the landscape. He even gave us tips for enjoying the nightlife in Ribe, and left us right in front of the cathedral.
In total, it took us four hours to arrive at our destination. The travelling time from Aarhus was a bit longer than by train, but the experience was much more fun. Hitchhiking is about sharing experiences and learning to listen the others. Each of our drives had something interesting to share with us, and I guess, our presence also made their rides more enjoyable.
It is incredible how sometimes we have brilliant ideas, but our own filters make us kill them right away. We thought about hitchhiking before, but never really made the effort to do it. I sure can tell you, if the idea ever comes to your mind, take it and have a ride to remember!