Break the Rules and Start Hitchhiking
4 girls, 8 hours, 1 island.
Four girls from opposite ends of the country found themselves in the back of a stranger’s pick-up truck in Hilo, Hawaii.
We were new study abroad friends via Semester at Sea, traveling across the globe on a ship. Hilo was our first destination of the semester, and we were only allotted 8 hours to see as much of the island as possible.
After disembarking the ship, the four of us stood aimlessly on the side of a near-abandoned road. There was a gas station nearby, but any sort of interesting destination was about 5 miles into town. We began our walk to civilization. That lasted about two minutes.
I suggested we hail a cab, the other girls agreed. This would have been a wonderful idea if taxis were plentiful on the island…they were not.
So we continued to stand on the side of the road, staring into the distance hoping our taxi prayers would be answered…they were not.
“We should just hitchhike,” said one of the girls.
“I don’t know, that’s probably dangerous, I can just call the cab company,” I hastily replied.
“No really, I heard hitchhiking is a thing here, we should just do it, why not,” another girl chimed in.
And then before I could try and talk any more mr.safety into them, we ended up in the back of a pick-up truck, unaware we would learn more life lessons from sticking out thumbs than we’ve ever learned from following the rules.
The stranger’s pick-up truck belonged to a local Hilo family. In the backseat of the truck was a girl our age that attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The family insisted to drive us around to their favorite parts of town, taking time out of their day to show four strangers in the back of their truck the beauty and history of their home.
The daughter took us to her favorite local restaurant that night to eat Loco Moco, Cuisine of Hawaii (highly recommended by the way). When we got up to pay, the waitress said the bill was taken care of; the daughter paid for each of our meals. We tried and tried again to repay her, but she just replied “it is the aloha spirit, I am blessed to know you, and it is your job to be that person for someone else.”
Breaking the Rules
Society teaches us to be safe, to avoid strangers, to follow rules. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but I think sometimes we get comfortable with our guidelines, we fall into a pattern and we stick with what we are taught. Hitchhiking in Hawaii and meeting that family showed me some incredibly inspiring people out there, and others alike aren’t hard to find if you break out of your comfort zone.
Although the title of this post is “Break the Rules and Start Hitchhiking,” I am not encouraging you to become an anarchist and use hitchhiking as your newest form of transportation. When traveling abroad, or even at home, do things outside of your normal niche, outside of your normal rules.
The Aloha Spirit
Mainland American culture is generally cold, competitive, and unwelcoming. The Hilo family quickly taught me to become better than that, to meet new people using an “aloha spirit.” A fellow college student used her own money to treat visitors to a meal. The family invited us back to the island, offering us a place to stay if we ever return. When traveling, it is easy to keep your guard up and play it safe, which prevents you from meeting people abroad. If you stop treating people like strangers, they won’t be strangers anymore.