Hitchhiking Across America: One Ride At A Time

Hitchhiking the United States

Hitchhiking America: From Coast to Coast

United States

Is hitchhiking still possible in the United States? Is it safe? Follow along for 4-5 weeks as I attempt to hitchhike my way across America from coast to coast.

I’m pretty f*cking excited right now. A bit nervous too…

By the time you read this, I’ll be standing on the side of the road in Oregon — attempting to hitchhike across America from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Soliciting free rides from total strangers. Meeting interesting people from all across the country — and sharing their stories with you.

I’ve explored jungles in the Darien Gap and journeyed through remote canyons in Northern Mexico.

But a long-distance hitchhiking trip in my own country could possibly be the most challenging travel experience yet!

Track My Progress

To make things interesting, I’m letting you track my progress in real-time. With the GPS on my iPhone you can see exactly where I am right this moment!

Check back frequently to see how I’m doing.

Where Am I Now?

Live Updates on Instagram:

Hitchhiking the United States

Hitchhiking Updates on Instagram

Not only can you track where I am, but I’ll be live-streaming photos via my Instagram account. This will let you see what I see on the road while hitchhiking across America!

What’s My Route?

I have no idea. West coast to East coast. I’ll probably stay North to avoid the heat of the summer, but who knows. Some back roads, some long highway rides — I’ll attempt to mix it up a bit.

Where Will I Spend the Night?

Like always, my trusty Hennessy camping hammock will come along with me. So I may do some stealth camping in the woods, or pay to stay in a campground or two. Because showers are nice from time to time.

Cheap motels or hostels won’t be ruled out either, as I’ll still need some occasional WiFi to get a bit of work done.

I’ll also be using CouchSurfing.org quite a bit. Not only to stay in the homes of other people, but to meet locals who want to show me around or give me some advice. Learning about an area from the people who live there is always rewarding.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of the CouchSurfing community!

Isn’t Hitchhiking Illegal?

Yes and no. It’s illegal to stand on the side of a major highway and solicit rides, because it’s a danger to other drivers on the road.

However doing this at the on-ramp entrance before a highway is legal in most states. The laws vary from state to state, as do the interpretations of the law. Occasionally different police officers will interpret the law differently.

There’s a possibility that I’ll get a few warnings, maybe a ticket, but it’s very unlikely that I’ll get arrested for it. Kind of like jay-walking. Technically it’s illegal in some areas, but it’s not something that’s enforced with an iron-fist.

Why Hitchhiking?

Because it’s an adventure. Because it will be challenging. Because I’ll meet interesting people. Because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Because I’d like to inspire you to follow your own dreams, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Follow #HitchUSA

Join the adventure! Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Instagram using the hashtag #HitchUSA.

UPDATE: Mission Accomplished!

My hitchhiking journey is now complete. You can read about it here:

Want To Travel More?

Hi! My name is Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for 3 years. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with entertaining stories, beautiful images, and money saving tips. Please join thousands of others who receive exclusive monthly updates!

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Comments & Questions

  • http://www.bewicked.eu Lindy

    Yay, sounds like a great adventure! Enjoy your trip, I’ll be sure to follow along :-)

  • http://www.jaydaviot.com Jay Daviot

    Epic trip mate! Looking forward to your updates. Good luck!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Jay! I’ll need all the luck I can get.

  • http://www.renefrederiksen.dk René Frederiksen

    Have been waiting for your hitchhike adventure since TBEX in Toronto (we briefly talked about it in the Irish Pub). Looking forward to following you across the US.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Yes! I remember our chat René. Thanks for following. :)

  • susan piacentini

    I did that when I was 18, let me know if you need any tips..

  • http://www.authenticcoppercanyon.com Dave Hensleigh

    So cool–I hitched from Roswell to KC during the Vietnam war
    and will never forget the people- families, drunks, salesmen, cops (pigs back then)- I encountered.
    Best on your journey.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Awesome Dave! That’s what I’m hoping for. A crazy cast of characters to entertain me along the way. :D

  • http://noparticularplacetogo.net Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    I’ve been following your blog for over a year now and am a dedicated fan. I’m in Central America now and your posts for this area are interesting and very helpful. You are a great example of “life’s a journey, not a destination”…Good luck on the road and thanks for inspiring me! Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks for following along Anita. Hope you enjoy reading about my hitchhiking adventure.

  • http://kevinlignell.wordpress.com Kevin

    Good luck. Have met some couchsurfing hitchhikers from Portland that had no problem, so I’m confident you should do great. Enjoy the journey :)

  • http://www.rugbynomad.com Scott

    Let me know when /if you get through Colorado…you have a cold beer and couch to sleep on!

    Cheers Scott

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Cool. Thanks Scott. I may take you up on that.

  • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

    Best of luck. I hitch-hiked in USA in 2004 and although it’s not as easy as Europe, it’s definitely do-able. Have a blast!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Roy! What was your route?

  • http://twotravelingtwits.wordpress.com Terri Smart

    Have a terrific trip!

  • Ambre Campau

    My boyfriend and I did this last year, although not all the way from Ocean to Ocean. We started in Portland, hitched down to LA. Then Flew to MI and hitched back from MI to Las Vegas. Was a great adventure, also something we had always wanted to do, especially after much hitchhiking in Hawaii, and a recent hitching journey i took by myself from Portland to Arkansas.
    Do avoid the heat if you can. Once we got into NV in August it was a bit miserable, which is why we stopped our hitching there and took a bus to CA…well that, and the police kicking us off the Highway. They don’t like hitchhikers much in Vegas we came to find out.
    The best advice I can give you is to stay positive. There were times when it took us hours to get a ride on a very busy Freeway entrance, and there were times when we sat at an entrance for 30 minutes, and not a single car drove by, but then the first car that drove by, picked us up, and went out of his way to drive us exactly to where we needed to go.
    And of course, carry lots of water and food with you. Especially if you don’t want to eat McDonalds and Burger King for the majority of your journey.
    Have fun! You will meet many interesting people and learn a lot about yourself on the way!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Wow! Really appreciate the tips Ambre. I know there’ll probably be some long waits.
      Trying to find healthy food would be nice, but I eat everything. :D

  • Laura McNary

    Sounds like an amazing trip. You shouldn’t have any problem in Oregon. People hitch all the time up there.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      No problems so far! Plenty of friendly and interesting people have picked me up. Longest wait has been 25 minutes. :D

  • Itinerati

    I did a similar thing two years ago, from California to Alaska to Florida and back (with a lot of zig-zagging in between). It was a blast, enjoy your trip!

  • http://memographer.com memographer

    Sounds like fun, Matt! Have a safe trip! I am staying tuned to your channels ;)

  • http://www.tomiastikainen.com Tomi Astikainen

    I’ve traveled three years completely without money, hitchhiking about 200,000 km. However, I’ve noticed there’s always someone who is more hard core than you are. One of the amazing American hitchhikers I’ve met on my travels is Thomas Francine. He is now walking across USA: http://www.gogreatergood.com/

    You guys should get in touch.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks for the recommendation Tomi. I’m always inspired by other travelers doing cool things.

  • Holly

    I’m in tears right now because this is MY dream too. I wish I had the opportunity to do this too, I don’t know if I ever will. I wish I could experience all the fun and exciting things you will come across. I will be keeping tabs on you, living vicariously through you. Maybe I’ll be the one to give you a ride if you come through Illinois.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks so much for sharing Holly.

      If I pass through Illinois I’ll definitely shoot you an email! :D

  • Travis

    I’m doing the same thing, but all 50 states I’m starting from madras Or.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Very cool Travis. How long do you think it will take you?

  • http://www.offtoseetheworld.net Dallas

    That is so exciting! I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures along the way. Best of luck to you!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I’m sure a few crazy stories will come out of this trip.

  • http://inspiringtravellers.com Andrea

    What fun! You’ll have so many great stories – enjoy!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      That’s what I’m hoping for Andrea, lots of stories!

  • Rob

    Good to meet ya Matt. I’ll have my thumb out with you

  • http://www.timetravelturtle.com/ Turtle

    I’m loving the updates and it’s great to see you’re making some progress… although it seems you’re still pretty close to the coast!
    Oh, and the live map is just incredible. What an awesome way to track you!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Yeah, I’ve been taking my time. But I really wanted to hop a train, and I’d heard it was pretty easy around Portland.

      After I get out of Seattle I’ll be speeding things up a bit! :)

  • http://travelingted.com Traveling Ted

    My car broke down on the way to a Tennessee vs. Notre Dame football game in South Bend. I was in Lebanon, Indiana, which is about 3 hours south.

    I decided to hitchhike to the game. Your interesting photos on instagram remind me of my trip because I was given rides by normal, everyday, but interesting and kind people. Your photos are like a slice of Americana.

    Look forward to hearing more about the adventure.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      That’s the big takeaway. The majority of people who pick you up are pretty normal.

  • http://www.GoCustomTravel.com Laura Mandelkorn

    Just saw you are here in North Bend… Can’t believe it! Small world. Trying to find you to give you a warm, comfortable place to stay and catch up. Please contact us before you leave town if you get his message.

  • http://www.belizehub.com James Flowers

    Good luck! This sounds like a real f*** adventure indeed!

  • http://flipnomad.com flipnomad

    Stay safe man! Have heard a lot of “not so good news” about hitchhiking in the US but I guess that you know better since you’re actually doing it now.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Will do! So far everyone has been super friendly & pretty normal. I think the negative media and bad movies has convinced everyone that it can’t be done in the US these days. After my experience, I completely disagree! Hitchhiking rocks! Just a bit tiring.

  • Dawnell

    Just found your blog and dammit all! I’m a NW girl and currently live on the farthest NW point of the northern western us coastline on the border of canada (border patrol frequents my area on the coastline searchin for drug runners and outlaws). Damn, how did I miss you! The San Juan Islands would surely have been a tasty treat for wayward travelers. The warm musky smell of Madrona trees, salt air and sweetness of fresh caught and cooked Dungeness (cracked assuredly with your bare hands ((crackers and pliers are for pussies- no offense captain’)). The mercury in the water lighs your way in the dark like 4th of July fireworks gone bad exploding underwater…and sleep finds you easily with the gentle kisses of waves on the shore. Dammit. Our best season of the year- we live for this!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Beautifully written Dawnell! Wish I could have explored the area for longer.

  • Andrew Beadle

    Have you finished your trek across USA. I hope to do it someday. I hitched across Europe in the early 90s but would love to go from New York to California one day. All the best.
    Contact me on Facebook – Andrew beadle (David Andrew Beadle, Coedpoeth)

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Hi Andrew! Yes, the hitchhiking trip is over. Still have a few more updates to post about it though.

  • http://www.beeman-walks.org Quentin “Beeman” Henderson

    I have been regularly hitch hiking world wide for 55 years,
    ( from aged 16 to 61) and have met some fascinating amazing kind people in my travels.
    The longest journey I have ever hitch hiked was from Aylmer PQ to Grimshaw AB ( Canada) , and also long sections of the Alaska Highway, the length of New Zealand, across Venezuela, and in my native UK between East Kent & various destinations in the Highlands of Scotland many many times.

    I wish you well with the knowledge that you WILL be just fine…..good luck….Quentin on Nevis, West Indies.

    • lovejoy

      Aha – so Beeman has found a young blackbird on his doorstep to feed – please spill the beanz, Q, and tell us more….

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Nice! Thanks for sharing Beeman. I hope to do more of it in other countries too.

  • Max

    I’m looking to do this in the summer! Trying to learn and research as much as possible! How much did you budget/end up spending for this trip?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I stayed in a few cheap hotels, but most was camping. I think it came to about $600 for 5 weeks. Food was from grocery stores (apples, bananas, breakfast sandwiches, potato salad) or McDonalds (dollar menu) for the most part. A lot of rides bought me lunch or dinner too. You can do it on $20 a day with camping/couchsurfing.

  • Pikje Later

    well,i´m planning to start hitching next month from monterey mexico to Utah,can you give me any advises

  • Kelly D

    23 years ago, before cell phones, etc., I was 6 months pregnant and picked up a hitchiker in Freeport, ME who was on his last leg of a journey across country. Took him out to breakfast and years later, he sent me a copy of his book, An Element of Trust, about his adventures on the road. I was looking for it on the Internet and found your site…I may have to try seeing this country that way myself!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Very cool Kelly! Hitchhiking is an interesting, rewarding, and challenging experience.

  • Micah

    Hey Matthew, I’ve been thinking about hitchhiking for a while now and want to do it later on in my 20′s. I am 16 year old guy right now, and kinda anti-social. I really want to explore the U.S.A in a very adventurous way like hitchhiking, but I’m thinking I can’t express myself enough to get in someone’s car I don’t know and travel for miles without freaking out or something. Any tips on this subject?

    • Dean C.

      Hey i just got back from my first hitchhiking trip along the west coast. I just graduated from high school last year and was also anti social throughout high school. Even before my trip, i had trouble just buying something from the a store, i absolutely HATED talking to people. But when you throw yourself into the world and hitchhike, youre basically forcing yourself to have to talk to people. At first its hard and a little scary, but after a while you just end up talking to people with no problem. Now i actually enjoy going to family gatherings and talking to people, because now i can handle it after spending weeks talking to total strangers. Hitchhiking is definitely the funnest and quickest way to overcome shyness. And when you get rides from people, usually theyre the ones doing most of the talking. If you find yourself in awkward silence, ask whoever youre talking to a question. I usually ask them if they usually pick up hitchhikers or if theyve ever gone backpacking. Goodluck and i hope you still have the travel bug by the time you graduate high school!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      As Dean mentioned, throwing yourself into an uncomfortable situation (like hitchhiking) is often the best way to overcome your fears. If you would like a test run though, maybe try using a ride-sharing website first. That way you can get a feel for riding with a complete stranger, in a slightly more structured way.

      And yes, often they will be the ones asking questions or sharing their stories.

  • EdTheLostBrit

    Hey Matthew, after reading your blog I had a go myself and got from San Fran to Portland, up route 101, through the redwoods and up the coast. Awesome experience, very few nutters, really cool camping spots on deserted beaches, and a real sense of independence, especially since I am 19 and was traveling on my own for the first time after 4 months in south america with a friend. Thanks for the extra incentive to go for it, next time I will try the hammock!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Awesome Ed! Glad my story helped inspire your trip.

  • Jennifer Cena

    Hey Matthew I totally agree that the whole idea of hitchhiking itself is exciting. But there are certain questions that always cross my mind… why would an absolute stranger believe another random stranger asking for a lift? Will it be possible for the hitchhiker to actually “enjoy” the ride with a flurry of questions thrown at him by the ones who gave him a lift?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Great question! Hitchhiking is about adventure, travel, and meeting new people. Usually the people who will stop for you already understand that, probably because they’ve done it themselves or have always wanted to.

      If you don’t want to meet and talk to people, you shouldn’t be hitchhiking. So yes, I enjoyed the questions. Sure after 5 weeks it was getting a bit tiring, but you can stop whenever you want to and hop on a bus if you get sick of it! :-)

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  • chinita_s

    I Love this! i’ve been travelling for more than a year now, mostly using CS and backpacker hostels but hitch hiking is something i’ve always wanted to do!! I’ve been travelling round the US for almost 4 months now, but usual, bus, train, rent a car, share rides kinda think. I guess the idea of doing this by myself (im a 20 year old girl) kinda scares me, i’ve seen to many movies haha but theres a concert i really need to get to so i’ll give hitch hiking a try! im so exited!!!
    Question, they give the ride for free, have someone ever try charging you or have yo offer to pay? i like paying with smiles :D