Three years ago, rising college sophomore Fil Corbitt hitchhiked across America.
As the University of Nevada – Reno (UNR) student explains, “There was a lot leading to this decision. But mainly, I hated school. I was an undecided major drowning in useless credits and without any direction whatsoever. So, I thought a good old-fashioned adventure would shake up my life.”
In October, Corbitt wrote a three-part story about the adventure in The Nevada Sagebrush, UNR’s student newspaper. Headlined “Hitchin’ Across the USA,” it is one of the more interesting student press series published in 2012.
As he recalls, just before setting foot upon the unknown, open road, the expectations of Corbitt and those around him ranged from his hitchin’ being “a romantic trek across the heartland of America” to “a death wish … [involving being] kidnapped, run over, gutted or killed in some roadside murder shack.”
The experience ended up veering from both of those predictions. Here are five hitchhiking truths he stumbled across on his trek.
1. Most of the drivers who picked him up were, well, normal — and nice. In his words, “The people were generally friendly, helpful, interested and just the right amount of distrusting (a reasonable level — not treating me like a criminal, but not necessarily letting me hold their wallet while they went into a gas station). A couple of college girls in Boulder even let me sleep on their couch.”
2. Believe it or not, there is a routine to the post-pick-up chatter. As Corbitt writes, “When you’re hitchhiking, every ride begins with small talk. It breaks the ice. And the first question after you say you’re a student is always, ‘What do you study?’ Since I wasn’t studying anything in particular, I wasn’t sure what to say.”
3. The experience was also an education he considers on par with a full course-load. “I’ve come to include the hitchhiking trip as just another semester,” Corbitt recalls in part two of his series. “I realized the importance of a formal education, but similarly, realized the importance of education in general. The trip was incredibly educational, both practically and philosophically. I learned to load those semi-trucks that carry smaller cars while in Columbus, Ohio. I learned how to make a killer vegetable stew and got quite the briefing on Ukraine’s history by a Ukrainian truck driver in Gary, Ind.”
4. America may be diverse, but American highways are not. According to Corbitt, “I really noticed the homogeny. After this trip (and confirmed by many cross-country trips since), I was left disenchanted. I expected a country vivid with local color and quaint main streets. You don’t get that on the freeways. You get a thousand truck stops, identical in layout. You get malls and fast food and the same stretch of road with a different name. The landscapes present themselves like a fake background in an old movie.”
5. The death wish, at least for Corbitt, was not fulfilled. As he ultimately reflects about the experience, “[M]ost of all, I learned that I could do it. I spent two months alone on the road and a little more than $200. I kept my head on and made it home in one piece.”
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