Hitchhiking America: Surfing Couches In Seattle (Part 3)

Hitchhiking the United States
Hitchhiking America: Stuck in Tacoma
Washington, USA

On my way through the state of Washington I hitched a ride on a bicycle, couchsurfed in Seattle, and was invited to a fairy festival in the woods.

Day 8 of my cross-country hitchhiking adventure begins with me rolling out of bed at Motel 6 after hopping a freight train from Portland the night before. My mission was to get to Seattle by nightfall.

I stopped by the Subway shop in Kelso, WA to grab a sandwich as well as some fresh cardboard for a new road sign. The ladies working the counter surprised me by handing over a bag full of the previous day’s cookies — twenty of them in total!

While sitting down to write out “Seattle — good stories” on the cardboard with a Sharpie, a man named George strolled over and offered to buy me a train ticket directly there…

I explained to him that I wasn’t destitute, and was hitchhiking to meet cool people and have an adventure. Just more proof of my theory that most people around the world are kind & generous.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #7: The Hot Tub Men

Ride #7: The Hot Tub Men

Another pleasant surprise interrupted my morning when Bret offered to drive me 47 miles North to Great Mound, WA. Not all the way to Seattle, but better than nothing!

He saw the cardboard sign and overheard my conversation with George, so it wasn’t even necessary to leave Subway to locate my next lift.

Bret was on his way back from a hot-tub delivery in a work truck with 2 other guys, Trevor & Shaun. In their free time the three of them fished, hunted, rode dirt-bikes and wake-boards.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #8: John the Ex-Hippy

Ride #8: John the Ex-Hippy

Now it was time to see how well my Seattle sign would work. Standing in the glaring sun at the side of an on-ramp for I-5, John picked me up after a 30 minute wait. Not bad!

John’s thumbed his share of rides around the United States in the 70’s. He estimates a total of about 8400 miles. Plus a few long-distance road trips in a school bus with a group of hippies.

These days he’s a computer technician working for the small Chehalis Native American tribe. He drove out of his way to leave me at a better exit for hitching my next ride.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #9: Wendy & Christine the Faeries

Ride #9: Wendy & Christine the Faeries

I wasn’t even holding up my sign when Wendy & Christine pulled over in their Honda minivan 15 minutes later. I jumped in back and was attacked (with love) by their little dog Tucker and his hilarious underbite.

They weren’t going far, just up the road to Walmart to pick up a tent for the Faerieworlds Festival that weekend…

Oh, and by the way. Would I like to join them? It’s just a crazy 3 day party in the woods where everyone dresses up as faeries…

Now normally I’m pretty open-minded about stuff like this. But I’d have to commit to 3 days, and I’d just spent 4 days in Portland. My hitchhiking trip thus far was moving a bit slowly, and I was feeling a push to move faster.

So I reluctantly declined their generous offer.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #10: Nan the Gymnastics Coach

Ride #10: Nan the Gymnastics Coach

I walked out to the highway on-ramp in Lacey, WA and threw out my thumb once again until Nan stopped in his pickup truck after about 40 minutes of road-side rejection.

Nan is an ex-Marine who’s working as a gymnastics instructor and personal trainer. He spends his free time training in mixed martial arts. We had a good conversation about false first-impressions and what life in the military is like.

He dropped me off in Tacoma, WA. I soon learned how difficult it can be hitchhiking out of cities when after 2 hours of waiting I received no lifts.

A few different police cars passed me, some more than once. But none of them stopped. Eventually ,the sun fell below the horizon and I walked to the nearest local bus station. No one picks up hitchhikers after dark. So I purchased a $3.50 ticket to Seattle and spent the night at a hostel.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #11: Pam the Tour Guide

Ride #11: Pam the Tour Guide

The next morning I got some work done before meeting up with my friend Pam from Nerd’s Eye View for breakfast. She’s a talented writer and ukulele rockstar.

The ferry ride over the bay to West Seattle was beautiful. We chowed down in the sun at Ma Kai, a Hawaiian restaurant on the pier. My tasty Korean fish taco and a giant Spam Musubi hit the spot!

Then Pam was kind enough to give me a tour of the area on the back of her bicycle. She even offered to lend me her sweet-looking (literally) watermelon helmet. Safety first…

Ok, so we only traveled about 5 feet before we realized it wasn’t going to work. But hey, when you’re hitchhiking, every mile (foot?) counts.

Couchsurfing in Seattle
Who’s this Stranger in My Bed?

Couchsurfing in Seattle

All the hostels and cheap motels in the area were completely booked up that weekend for the Capitol Hill Block Party. While I’m a big fan of not over-planning your travels, sometimes it backfires.

No worries. Social media to the rescue! I jumped onto Facebook & Twitter to ask for a couch to crash on, as well as throwing up a last-minute couch request on Couchsurfing.org. Soon the offers came rolling in.

I decided to stay with an old friend from my college days in Montana. Justin is a talented breaks music producer and bartender in Seattle.

We spent the evening at a wild underground warehouse party, complete with 12-foot tall scantily-clad women on stilts before I finally crashed out on his couch for the night.

When I awoke, there was a complete stranger named Deja between my legs. I don’t remember exactly how she got there.

She left without giving me her number either… what a b*tch! ★

Have you ever been hitchhiking before? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (28)

  1. I know that warehouse party, how funny.

    I haven’t hitchhiked in years. I would love to do it again, this time being smart enough to realize women shouldn’t really do it alone.

    Do you find that couchsurfers works as an immediate need kind of thing? Or do you generally have to plan at least a few days in advance?

    Loving your blog, I just came across it and am using it to fuel my dreams as a plan my escape. Thank you.

  2. absolutely LOVING your stories! Bring me back to my days hitchhiking solo around Israel and the Middle East. Such an experience!

    And speaking of Seattle & Portland, I’m heading there next month! Any tips on what I should see and do?! I am SO Couchsurfing there, btw. Should be wild eh?!

    -Maria Alexandra

  3. Just found your blog Matt, great.
    What a tremendous way to experience a place and the people that make it what it is. Hitchhiking slowly…love it.
    It’s easy to forget that each person has an amazing story. Google the word ‘sonder’…kind of sums it up.
    Happy travels!

    • Thanks Chris. It’s looking like the trip will take me about 5 weeks total, which is really too fast now that I think about it. There are a lot of places I flew past that could’ve been explored more.

  4. Ahhh you should have went to the faeries festival, I would have loved to of heard about it! The last festival I went to was out in Cali called Lightning in a bottle. It’s 5 days of pure music, meditation & making friends. If you ever get the chance, check it out!

  5. Hey Matt!
    Just wanted to let you know “part 2” isnt working. I’ve tried on all 3 of my computers.
    Anyway have a blast hitching hiking around, I did quite a lot back in the day! It was fun and I never got anyone scary!
    Also, when you make it to the east coast, you are more than welcome to drop by Cape Cod and surf on my couch!

  6. Love the hitchhikign adventure! We just recently started using ride shares in Europe and find it so much more convenient, cheaper and friendly than public transport!

  7. I love random stories like this. And yea, what a bitch! You obviously didn’t have enough banana medicine from Bangkok to hand. Keep going!

  8. Great tease in to your story. Your journey is so interesting…..from strangers to hugs from puppies. An experience many would enjoy being on……. And we can “with” you. Cheers!

  9. Loving this. By which I mean ‘obsessively following along’. You sure are meeting your meet people goal. Love that you are including photos of everyone along the way.

    But I have to say–I’d have gone to the Fairie Festival for sure. Or at least I’d like to think I would have.

    • I was pretty disappointed I had to say no to the fairy festival… but wanted to make sure I had enough time to finish the trip.

  10. Love it!! I think you’re moving at just the right pace. Meeting people, enjoying yourself. Keep writing!

    • At first I wanted to rocket across the country as fast as possible, but taking my time has been much more interesting. :D