Hitchhiking 3458 KM through Central America

Wake up, body rushing with excitement, mind full of questions. Roaming through the buzzing city center, to find myself in the middle of the countryside only an hour later and eating a delicious free meal with friendly Mexicans in little cantine in the forest an hour after that. My day continues, countless unbelievable stories, inspiring conversations and beautiful landscapes. I end up in a hammock next to a bright blue lagoon, laughing and sharing a beer with two guys from Belgium, a Chilean girl and a South-African girl till late night hours. I planned nothing. Go to sleep, feel inspired, alive and happy.

This is what my hitchhiking days are like. Filled with doubt and nerves in the beginning only to be turned into inspiring energy and happiness through fun surprises and warm-hearted people. Doing it for 24 days and 3458KM straight through central America definitely left an impact on me.

Check out my 2-minute video recap on youtube to see what it was like.
Like to see more? check the whole vlog of my adventure.
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Nervous kick-off

I started my journey in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I remember that day well. To be honest, my mind was quite unwilling to get going. Excitement had been building up during the days before my departure. On the day itself, however, my mind started playing games with me, “Should I really do this? Mexico is known to be a dangerous country, will I be safe?”, I rambled. I wanted adventure but didn’t want to be stupid or naive. I was just nervous heading out into an unknown territory.

 Give countries and it’s people a chance, believe they’re just good-hearted people like you.

Luckily I was recognizing what was happening, I had had this feeling before when hitchhiking in Europe. So I convinced myself that all would be fine and keep positive, remembering my good times in the last hitchhiking trip. Finally, with half a day of delay, I took off and still made my planned destination, Mazunte, a couple of hours later. The confidence that I got from just breaking through that initial doubt barrier was really the initial push I needed to get the whole adventure rolling. I learned to use this morning nervousness to give me energy for every day during my journey.

The sunset in Mazunte after my first day of hitchhiking definitely energized to keep having days like these.

Whether it’s a travel adventure, giving a performance, a new job, a first date or starting a business, I think doubts and nerves will always be part of the process. Is it bad? Well, I guess that depends on the way you deal with. In my opinion, nerves make the whole process awesome. Imagine, that you feel absolutely indifferent about a presentation you’re about to give. Would you feel excited and happy afterward if it went very well? Probably not if it didn’t matter to you in the first place. Nerves are simply a measure showing us how much we care about something. The trick is to use it to your advantage. In my case, realizing that I care about my adventure and my safety puts these nerves in a positive light. After that, I just get super excited and energized from these nerves.

Getting dangerous

“So talking about safety, it must’ve been dangerous right? You must’ve been lucky that nothing happened to you.” Well, I definitely felt lucky on this trip, no doubt. The number of awesome surprises you have every day make it seem like you’re living in a wonder world. But you kind of start asking questions when you are lucky for 24 days straight, especially after 6 Central-American countries and 3458 KM, especially when I had the same luck on a similar trip through Europe and Balkan countries.

Hitchhiking can be a very safe and easy way of travel, when following a couple of guidelines

My opinion is that hitchhiking can be a very safe and easy way of travel, anywhere in the world, when following a couple of guidelines. During this trip, I spent more than 100 hours on the road, often in very remote places, in suburbs of cities, a couple of times even when it was dark. There has not been one moment that I felt I was in danger or things would go wrong. Even more so, I was amazed by how helpful people were. It was like the whole world was cheering me on and wanted me to get to my destination. Getting rides was easy, most people smiled and helped me find my way. My theory is that many people appreciate it when you expose yourself in this way, asking for some help without prejudice of the people or the country. Nevertheless, I think that following some good guidelines definitely helped me.

My final ride out of Nicaragua, awesome truck, more awesome truck driver and beautiful jungle landscape.

Keep an open mind

I’d really like to emphasize the point of prejudice. On my trip, I also hitchhiked straight through Nicaragua, which was (and at the moment of writing still is) in a civil war. Everybody, except some Nicaraguans I contacted beforehand, strongly disadvised me to enter the country. I was however sure that I would be fine if I just kept my positive and peaceful mindset. Long story short, people in Nicaragua were just as helpful, friendly and calm as the other countries, maybe even more. My experience was totally safe and awesome. Look, I’m definitely not saying there was nothing happening in Nicaragua or that the situation is a joke. What happened is very real and cruel, and my heart is with all the good people that suffered heavily during this crisis. You should however know that things are happening in specific places and at specific times.  On top of that, tourists were always kept safe, their not part of the fight. When you read or see news, they like to blow up things as if the whole country is on fire, from borderline to borderline. That is, however, not at all the case. The vast majority of the country was still very calm and laid-back. You should always keep yourself as safe as possible and inform yourself with unbiased local sources. Know that most news sources will blow up things, however, because drama sells, and making news is business, in most cases.

Without getting to negative, I just want to share this message: Give countries and it’s people a chance, believe they’re just good-hearted people like you. You will be amazed by the awesome experiences and conversations you’ll have. The vast majority of people in this world really do not have bad intentions. On the contrary, they love to help and share their culture with foreigners. If you really want to focus and worry about the tiny group of troublemakers, know that there’s a vastly bigger group always nearby to make sure you don’t run into that trouble. Choosing your mindset is up to you.

Endless surprises

If it wouldn’t be clear to you yet, I absolutely LOVE hitchhiking. You can always check out some of my vlogs if you wouldn’t be convinced of that 😉. The main reason for loving it this much is the element of the surprise. You’re putting yourself out there and just hope to get lucky. Sure you can plan where you would like to get on a certain, which roads you want to take, options where you could stay, etc. In the end though, you have no clue what will happen that day. Will you get there? How and when? Who will you meet? Where will you be dropped of? Especially that last one is very interesting. You might find yourself having to hitchhike in the middle of roadworks, on a long dirt road where 1 car passes every 30 minutes, in the thrashing rain with no nearby shelter, right on the highway with cars flying by, on a beautiful viewpoint high in the mountains, the list keeps going.

The best moments are the ones you didn’t expect

I, personally, love this however. Why? It’s quite simple in my opinion. The best moments are the ones you didn’t expect. Think about it. If someone organized a surprise birthday party for you’d be amazed and super happy right? And I don’t think you’ll forget that surprise so fast. Now, say you have the same birthday party, but you planned it a month ahead, already knew who would be coming, where it is, what music would be played etc. Of course, it’ll still be a great party, but not as memorable nor unique as the surprise party. Well, imagine having tens of cool surprises every day while traveling a foreign country. Mexicans taking you for a delicious tlayuda in the towns best restaurant, rides in the back of a truck together with cows and chickens, urban myths of forest spirits told by a local during a 4-hour jungle ride, speeding 200km/h in a fancy BMW with an executive of an oil firm, cruising past volcanos in Nicaragua on the back of chopper motorcycle, sleeping in a beautiful wooden house on the top of a mountain with a warm and welcoming Austrian family, a local Slovenian guy guiding you around whole Ljubljana in 3 hours while buying you drinks and food, all just happening without any expectations.

Meet the most warm-hearted Mexican family I’ve ever met. They took me for lunch at this traditional restaurant in San Cristobal after a fun 40-minute ride from Tuxtla.

I’m not saying hitchhiking is for everyone, I totally understand people that like to have more comfort or want more certainty while traveling. You should definitely not do it if you don’t feel like it. Never just follow anyone into doing it, your mindset is important if you want this to be an enjoyable and inspiring experience. However, if you’re a little curious to try it out after reading this be sure to give it a try! You will not regret it.

There’s a great site called hitchwiki.org where you can find valuable general and country-specific information on hitchhiking.

Disclaimer: My stories and insights are merely written from my personal perspective and experience. They are in no way absolute truths. I’m sure that there will be perspectives that differ starkly from mine. I believe every perspective has it’s own value. Hope you keep an open mind and enjoy listening to mine. I also strongly encourage you to go explore and get inspired yourself, sharing your perspectives along the way. Be welcome to engage in the comments section.

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