Student shows spirit of hitch-hiking is still alive and well

Morning View
Morning View

A Northern Irish Oxford University medical student has hitch-hiked across Europe and Asia.

Patrick Burke’s journey was a highly original one, and an outstanding achievement. He covered 24,000 miles.
Plenty of people go round the world or take gap years in which they party in Thailand or whatever.

But Burke set out to do something challenging. He travelled through Asian countries in which hitch-hiking has never been part of the culture, and where the concept is not understood.

And he began his journey in Europe, where hitch-hiking is much less common than it was 40 years ago.

It is a pity that the culture of hitch-hiking has largely disappeared from the west. The concept is simple: a traveller who is short of money sticks out a thumb or holds up a sign and a motorist who is heading their way gives them a lift, with no expectation of a contribution to the costs.

Hitch-hiking utilises the incredible freedom of the car, which has revolutionised life around the world since pre-car times, and makes it available to people who are at a point in their life where they cannot afford the considerable costs of a vehicle.

No one is forced to give anyone else a lift, but in the heyday of hitch-hiking plenty of drivers were happy to have company as they travelled towards the same destination as the hitch-hiker they picked up. Other motorists helped out on the principle that it is good to help people when it is easy to do so, because one day you might want someone to help you in a similar fashion.

Hitch-hiking was a highly sociable enterprise.

Sadly now, society seems suspicious of hitch-hikers or even of the people who offer lifts. Are they odd or dangerous or do they have an ulterior motive?

Burke has confounded such suspicion and proved that the spirit of generosity behind hitch-hiking is still alive, even if less visible than before.

And he reminds us that for all the turmoil and tragedy in the world today, most of the planet is stable and open to visitors.