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!


Comments & Questions

61 Comments

  1. chinita_s
    August 22, 2014

    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

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Cena
    June 13, 2014

    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?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      June 14, 2014

      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! :-)

      Reply
  3. EdTheLostBrit
    June 10, 2014

    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!

    Reply
  4. Micah
    March 13, 2014

    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?

    Reply
    • Dean C.
      May 17, 2014

      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!

      Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      May 26, 2014

      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.

      Reply
  5. Kelly D
    February 21, 2014

    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!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      May 26, 2014

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

      Reply
  6. Pikje Later
    February 20, 2014

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

    Reply
  7. Max
    January 11, 2014

    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?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      January 11, 2014

      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.

      Reply
  8. Quentin "Beeman" Henderson
    January 1, 2014

    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.

    Reply
    • lovejoy
      January 15, 2014

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

      Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      March 12, 2014

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

      Reply
  9. Andrew Beadle
    October 12, 2013

    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)

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      October 12, 2013

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

      Reply
  10. Dawnell
    August 27, 2013

    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!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      September 4, 2013

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

      Reply
  11. flipnomad
    August 14, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      August 17, 2013

      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.

      Reply
  12. James Flowers
    July 31, 2013

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

    Reply
  13. Laura Mandelkorn
    July 28, 2013

    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.

    Reply
  14. Traveling Ted
    July 27, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      November 4, 2013

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

      Reply
  15. Turtle
    July 24, 2013

    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!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 25, 2013

      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! :)

      Reply
  16. Rob
    July 23, 2013

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

    Reply
  17. Andrea
    July 20, 2013

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

    Reply
  18. Dallas
    July 18, 2013

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

    Reply
  19. Travis
    July 18, 2013

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

    Reply
  20. Holly
    July 18, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 22, 2013

      Thanks so much for sharing Holly.

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

      Reply
  21. Tomi Astikainen
    July 17, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 22, 2013

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

      Reply
  22. memographer
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply
  23. Itinerati
    July 17, 2013

    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!

    Reply
  24. Laura McNary
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 22, 2013

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

      Reply
  25. Ambre Campau
    July 17, 2013

    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!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 22, 2013

      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

      Reply
  26. Terri Smart
    July 17, 2013

    Have a terrific trip!

    Reply
  27. Roy Marvelous
    July 17, 2013

    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!

    Reply
  28. Scott
    July 17, 2013

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

    Cheers Scott

    Reply
  29. Kevin
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply
  30. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    July 17, 2013

    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

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      November 4, 2013

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

      Reply
  31. Dave Hensleigh
    July 17, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 17, 2013

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

      Reply
  32. susan piacentini
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply
  33. René Frederiksen
    July 17, 2013

    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.

    Reply
  34. Jay Daviot
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply
  35. Lindy
    July 17, 2013

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

    Reply

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