‘It was the time of the terrible storms that, much later, I heard had felled trees all over northern France and southern England. I had two weeks off, £60 in my pocket, and no special reason to stay in Bristol. So in spite of the howling winds and severe weather warnings, I packed my sleeping bag and tiny tent, put on as many clothes as possible, and headed off to see Morocco…’
So begins Kath Kelly’s amazing new book Thumbing Through: Hitch-Hiking Tales From my Diaries.
Since going carless, I’ve gradually become more accustomed to finding my way frugally around the public transport system and more open to asking to share lifts with others. What I wasn’t prepared to consider, I’ve realised, is the idea of hitch-hiking. However, having read a sample of Kath Kelly’s new book, Thumbing Through, my curiosity is now aroused and my eyes have been opened to travelling by thumb, as Kath calls it. She seems well aware of the fears surrounding hitch-hiking, especially for women travelling alone, and the bad press that hitch-hiking has attracted, not least because of films such as Monster, Into the Wild and The Hitcher where the consequences for the hitch-hiker or for those offering the lift are not pretty.
Kath stresses that hitch-hiking is very much about the journey as well as the destination and while it’s clear that this is not a form of transport to favour for travelling to a time-bound business appointment, for example, she does describe in detail and with humour her personal experiences of taking more flexible, fun, frugal and adventurous holidays this way. Most of her trips were enjoyed when she was younger and seem to have provided time for self-reflection and rich learning experiences around understanding other people and cultures.
She writes: ‘With hitching comes the recognition that taking a steady job to earn a living is only one of the ways to live your life: you meet people with so many alternative modes of operation, quietly getting on with what they do while most of us wait for the next pay-cheque. I learned from those people not to judge or to condemn. I saw paths for myself, other than the one my parents expected me to take. It hit me like a slap in the face that maybe my teachers hadn’t got all the answers after all. And most of all, I saw that I could be rich and successful. I could be both of those things… without having any money!’
As well as many tales from her diaries, Thumbing Through contains practical tips on how to hitch safely and effectively and, as an antidote to the bad press, some book and film recommendations too that she hopes will inspire others to take to the road.
The book is currently available in Kindle format on Amazon:
Kath Kelly is also the author of ‘How I lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day’