How to Hitchhike in Iceland
January 1, 1970
by Sydney Rosenbaum
#1: Be as unassuming as possible
As a teenage girl with unicorn hair (seriously, it’s pink and purple), a hat that resembles cat ears, and hardly pushing 5ft, 3in makes this task really really easy. Don’t fret! There are ways to appear cute and cuddly. Try wearing yellow, pink, or blue. Just something to catch a driver’s eye and brighten up your look. Anything that makes you happy should make them happy too. Refer to tips two and three as well.
#2: Smile and wave boys, smile and wave
Channel those cartoon penguins folks. Smile politely, try to avoid any Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” vibes. Pray to whatever you believe in that they’ll feel your positive and appreciative energy. Most importantly: wave. Even if the 20th car has passed you and it’s raining sideways. I strongly believe that instant karma exists in our universe, if you keep putting out that good energy it will confidently find its way back to you. That being said; wave that lovely princess wave to all the bored backseat children, grouchy old folks, and Icelandic soccer moms (if such a thing exists here).
#3: Make a sign
Initially, I wasn’t so sure that it would make any difference. But, it actually does. It not only shows that you kind of have your sh*t together but, you can put your artistic skills on display.
Not only does it save a little more time, but it saves some hope. It’s never fun having to tell the lovely individual that stopped for you that you’ll be parting ways sooner than anticipated. Additionally, you’d be shocked how many people pass you while trying to desperately describe where you’re going to a car full of people that don’t speak the same languages that you can. Plus, scary people don’t make signs. Right?
#4: Listen to the “no” vibe
Especially if you are a woman. There’s a difference between the way things that should be, and the way that they are. Regardless, it’s important for all people to be safe and feel safe. So, if you get in the car and you feel like something is off: respect your instincts. Don’t worry about offending someone or being generally abrasive. Your. Safety. Matters. Ask politely if you could stop at a viewpoint, restroom, grocery store, wherever. Most importantly; stay public, and always have a way to get out of a sticky situation. Keys, pepper spray, screamers, rape whistles. Anything. I even moved a butter knife to my pocket one time… it’s essential to stay calm and confident. Show that you’re not scared but aware. Luckily, Iceland is (supposedly) one of the safest places in Europe to hitchhike. Point being, you’re safety is the most important thing while traveling. If you ever have a weird feeling about something please, please, respect it. Better safe than sorry.
#5: Stay bright
Standing on the side of the road, 8:30 at night, no street lights, no reflectors, dressed in all black, 15% phone battery. I’ve been there. It’s terrifying. Personally, I prefer waiting on the side of the road with lots of available sunlight and a good playlist. As reiterated earlier, it’s important to stay safe. Ergo, stay visible. So, get an early start! Have a plan B in case you didn’t make it as far as you wanted to. Or, better yet, keep your next destination within a five hour drive on the Ring Road. Unless you want to run the risk of finding yourself stranded two and a half hours away from your hostel in Vík because you tried to get yourself there from the south end of Lake Myvatn like I did. Trust me, screaming at the reflections in sheep’s eyes is just as embarrassing as it you’d expect it to be.
#6: Be prepared
I’ll admit, this advice wasn’t in the first draft. It totally should have been. As a Seattlite, I thought I could handle Iceland’s October showers…I was so so wrong. Waiting at a gas station in rain so cold I was shocked it wasn’t snowing, for two hours is when I came to and started cursing myself for not looking at the weather. None the less, by the time I arrived in Höfn I was soaked, warmed up, frozen, then reheated, to be frozen and soaked once more. Lesson very quickly learned. Check the weather, dress warmly, have one of those backpack cover things. Be aware of what twists and turns your day might take. Even if you do have a little rerouting to do, always check the bus schedules for a backup plan. Hostels usually won’t mind a cancellation. Better to air on the side of caution than find yourself a mile away from the closest hostel. Or, getting yourself caught in the dark like we had discussed earlier. Not fun.
#7: Have fun//spread the love
You’re traveling after all… This is supposed to be a fun and exciting adventure. A groovy playlist or a light hearted podcast does wonders for your mood while making time slink on a little faster. Get a little creative with your sign, bust a few moves, sing because this time no one is listening. It’s an adventure and it should feel like one, there will be ups and downs and you have to be prepared for that.
Keep spreading the love and don’t let yourself get discouraged: there are plenty of wonderful souls to meet out there. Anything from an enlightening conversation to a new Facebook friend pushes that outward love. Between staying in hostels and hitchhiking, I have made so many friends that have brought so much light into my life, you might even do the same for someone else you meet. It’s easy to see that despite cultural/spiritual/lingual/racial differences everyone you get a ride with is in Iceland is here to see its beauty. Unify with this love, pray for your driver, be whole heartedly greatful that you’ve been able to experience this opportunity.
Look forward for the days when you can give back to the traveler community. Maybe next time you’re in Iceland you’ll rent a car and pick up a cool hitchhiker like yourself.
The pink haired girl dancing on the side of the road