The Art of Virtual Hitchhiking
I have done more traveling this summer than I have my entire life, but I haven’t been making a significant amount of more money than I have in the past. It started with the act of relentlessly applying for press passes for festivals across the country– little did I know that I would get approved for every single one. When a person is granted a press pass, they are almost always responsible for their own means of transportation and additional accommodations – this was the case for the majority of my trips this summer.
In order to keep my journalist integrity, I knew that I had to find my own way to all of the festivals that had granted me press passes, regardless of how far the location. I got creative in this quest, and began integrating the age-old techniques of getting around the country, as learned by my personal heroes Jack Keroac and Hunter S. Thompson, with new-age social media tactics.
The word hitchhiking has a lot of connotations, most of which do not include a cell phone or a laptop. Up until this last year, my honest image of hitchhiking consisted of a person on the side of a rough ghost-town road, sitting on a pile of luggage with a thumb pointed west until an 18-wheeler stopped to offer a ride in exchange for a ridiculous request. That idea horrifies me, and is something I wish to never have to do. However, it recently dawned on me that all of my travels on this relentless quest to cover music festivals across the country, have consisted of a new form of hitchhiking.
Social media is the new face of hitchhiking for millennials, and its how I’ve made my way most places this summer. This platform takes a lot of fear and risk out of the traditional form of standing on the side of the road with a thumb in the air. In my experience, Facebook has been a primary outlet when looking for a ride in a new city. All it takes is one short post that names the city I’m in, where I need to go and and what time I need a ride; there are always several people within my extended network either offering rides, or referring me to someone who can provide one. I have been astonished in my success with this method, and the willingness of strangers with a few Internet friends or music festivals in common to help me get to where I need to be. There have been times I’ve arrived in a place far from my home without a plan, but my social network has not failed me yet.
I recently decided to take the art of virtual gypsying to the next level and start a Kickstarter, which is a crowd-funding campaign, after being approved for my first press pass in Canada for Shambhala Music Festival. I knew I couldn’t possibly afford to do it alone, so a good friend and I created the Kickstarter to raise enough money to drive to Canada, and document the trip’s adventures in couch surfing along the way in a Gonzo fashion. I was a little nervous to start the campaign, because I haven’t seen many successful ones for journalism; I also didn’t know what people’s reactions would be, but after the success of virtual hitchhiking all summer, I decided it was worth the risk. We have already raised more than enough gas money for the trip to Canada, and made a new stretch-goal in order to be able to document couch-surfing adventures. We’ve made some pretty ridiculous incentives, so the entire ordeal is one big social experiment that has already started to go well.
Reflecting on this, I know that half of my summer’s adventures and journalism projects would not be possible without the help of my social networks through virtual hitch-hiking, our Kickstarter Campaign and couchsurfing.org. I have been absolutely blown away by the kindness of strangers and people with mutual friends. I’ve also made several unlikely friendships and found much inspiration along the way. Granted, I am very immersed in the festival and bass community; therefore, this style of being a gypsy may be a bit different for other people. All things considered, there are actually rideshare and couch surfing websites, completely dedicated to virtual hitchhiking outside the realm of the festival community.
Even as I began to type this, I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting on someone I had never met to pick me up for a four hour drive to Humbolt County for Northern Nights Music Festival. It was almost two in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised when a full-on boxcar gypsy wagon came to pick me up, complete with a bunk bed over two large and comfortable couches; this was one of my most comfortable and memorable rides with a stranger to date. I have found so many helping hands along this journey that I am constantly questioning if I can ever put back into the universe what has been blessed upon me. I one day wish to give it all back.
I will be writing many blog posts about the art of virtual hitchhiking and couch-surfing along our adventures to Canada. I’m looking forward to sharing the adventures with our Sensible Reason readers.
[SR Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. Hitchhiking can still be dangerous, even in the digital world. We do not condone or recommend the act of hitchhiking to anyone.]