Fun and Frugal Holiday Travel – By Thumb!

‘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’

6 Responses to Fun and Frugal Holiday Travel – By Thumb!

  1. Jamie Robe August 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Great and interesting story. I grew up hearing these wonderful stories from my Dad about his similar epic journeys. He hitchhiked from Michigan to California and back as a teen, with a sleeping bag/tent combo and probably like $20. He also drove to Mexico and back with a bunch of high school friends in a 1930’s something car, that had a flat tire every 20 miles.

    I admire people who can just go out there and trust in things working out.
    Cool post!

  2. Sally August 17, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    How wonderful, Jamie, that your Dad related his stories of hitchhiking to you. What you’ve said about going out there and trusting in things working out reminded me of the idea of pilgrimage and in particular Satish Kumar’s book Earth Pilgrim. In it he says: ‘Being on a pilgrimage doesn’t necessarily mean travelling from one place to another – it means a state of mind, a state of consciousness, a state of fearlessness…If we want to tread the pilgrim’s path, we need to go beyond ideas of good and evil, and to be dedicated to our quest – to our natural calling. We need to shed not only our unneccesary material possessions, but also our burden of fear, anxiety, doubt and worry; in this way we can find spiritual renewal and embark on the great adventure into the unknown…’

  3. Jamie August 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Wow, based on that quote you gave I just ordered that book from Amazon :-) Thanks Sally for all you do,

  4. Sally August 18, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    I find it a beautiful book, Jamie, and hope you enjoy it too. Don’t know whether you’re familiar with Satish Kumar and his work? I’ve heard him speak a number of times and have met him and chatted with him briefly. Lovely man and very forthright, which is one of the qualities I respect in him. He’s on Youtube, if you feel like connecting with him and some of his wisdom in that way too.

  5. Rajiv September 14, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Thanks Sally for this great insight,

    I agree with most of what you’ve said. and also for sharing Satish’s book.

    Apart from one view where you mention that we ‘need’ to shed our unnecessary material possessions. I appreciate the spirit behind your comment, though I infer that I won’t be able to carry on to live an enjoyable, fearless life ‘alongwith the material possession’. to me it sounds more like a requirement. I am not sure this is what you meant however this is how I ‘read’ it.

    Be it material possessions or not, be it ‘good health’ or not, be it good partner or not, I believe my sense of well being and enjoyable life is not dependent on external things, both ways, i.e. irrespective of their presence or absence.

  6. Sally September 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Hi Rajiv. Great to hear your beliefs about your personal wellbeing and enjoyment of life. I think I read Satish’s comment about needing to shed material possessions as being a condition for ‘if we want to tread the pilgrim’s path’, as he puts it. Maybe this is part of that exploration i.e. that going on a pilgrimage (literally or metaphorically) is something we might do in order to experience what it’s like to live simply and without that dependence on stuff for our happiness?

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