Liften maakt gelukkiger

For more than two years, one day a week, I went hitchhiking to and from work. A ride that took six kilometers. Hitchhiking changed my view on life totally! This is what I learned from hitchhiking.

Inspiring encounters 

Due to hitchhiking I met friendly strangers every Wednesday, who helped me on my way. I met all kinds of people. From a surgeon to a sewer worker. From a widow to a refugee. From a forestranger to a mother with small children. Each with their own story.

For example, I met a woman on her way to chemotherapy, a man on his way to his son’s birth, and I was even invited to an Arab wedding. All during the short journeys of 15 minutes, just on my way to work. It brought, in a very simple way, more spontaneity into my life. I started to love hitchhiking. I came in contact with people outside of my daily bubble. Hitchhiking made me connect to people and lowered my prejudices.

Outside my comfort zone

Hitchhiking for the first time was quite nerve-wracking. I really had to go out of my comfort zone. You stand at the side of the road and everyone who drives by looks at you. Sometimes I got a smile or a friendly gesture like “I don’t have to go your way.” But many people probably thought I was strange: What is that woman doing there, hitchhiking? 

I believed in what I did and literally stood up for it. Whatever people thought of me; I knew very well what I was doing along the side of the road. In this way, I learned to accept what people think about me. And that is so valuable. Also in other areas of your life. Hitchhiking made me more confident about myself, it gave me more confidence and strength.

I now dare to ask for help

We often find it difficult to ask for help. Me too. I usually wait until my limit is completely reached. With hitchhiking I actually asked for help from a stranger, while I didn’t even need it. I could also go by bus. I even had a car! I learned to ask for help and accept help when it was not very urgent. I learned that there is an abundance of friendly people who just want to help. It has really made my view of the world much more positive. But you must dare to ask!

Gratitude

During the rides I also gave the drivers something in return. I listened to them with my heart wide open. I gave them the opportunity to help someone and therefore feel good about themselves. I gave them a nice story to tell at home, a spontaneous interruption of their daily routine, some fun and a smile on their face. I was often told: “Next time you can come again” or “Are we there already, what a pity”.

Let go of control and trust

When I walked to my lift spot in the morning, I had no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t know who was going to stop for me or if anyone would stop. I didn’t know how long I had to wait and what was going to happen. I really had to let go of control.

Hitchhiking is a very beautiful metaphor for life: make your destination or goal known to the universe and then let it go. Have faith in what comes your way. Let happen what the universe wants to happen. There are a number of spiritual movements that swear by that law. And I actually trained myself in that every week. It has changed my life in a very positive way.

Nowadays, If I notice that I am impatient or in a hurry, or try to force something, I stop myself. I reflect. That gives me time for other ideas. And sometimes I just do nothing at all and wait for what will happen. That gives me peace. In fact, I surrender more to life.

Sometimes you have to give the universe a chance. And believe me, it will surprise you!

Book

I started sharing my adventures in a blog. After 100 encounters I bundled my stories in a book: “Zes minuten wachten op geluk.” That was the average number of minutes that I was waiting for a ride. My moment of happiness.

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Marjan Knippenberg

Marjan Knippenberg (41) lives with her two children in Nijmegen. She works as a scientific researcher at the Radboudumc. She has written a book about her adventures with hitchhiking. She has also set up the foundation NederlandLift to promote hitchhiking as a serious means of transport.

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