These are two passages from Ally’s travel journal. 

I’ll hitch hike to Christchurch, about 5 hours away. It’s a pretty windy road and will require multiple rides. I might have too much faith in humanity but I’m not scared about the people I will be in the car with but just about timing and weather. I’m glad that I have made it this far in life without being too suspicious of people but not too naive either. I have balanced the finger prints in my life tree rings well.

I also want to hitch hike because I read a quote today in a cafe that said, “I have to be young and stupid before I become old and wise.” I sometimes get too caught up in growing as a person, being stupid is important too and I want to do things like this in my twenties.

I stood at the corner with a simple cardboard sign asking for a lift to Nelson, I got picked up in about 15 minutes. She was an older lady, about 65. She said she picked me up because I looked “tiny and sweet.” It probably helps that my bag is as big as me. It was amazing how smoothly conversation went, once I got used to comfortable silences. I’m starting to learn that you don’t have to talk all the time. She told me about her life; as a nurse, then went back to school at age 50 to become a counselor. She’s madly in love, she didn’t have to come out and say it either. She loved that her husband wore bright clothes and funky shoes, even though other men make fun of him. She loved that he was a great care salesman, selling 30 cars a month. She sounded so proud. And she loved that he tried to make a genuine connection with buyers. I was so happy that she told me so much. About her family and work too. I was talking to Karen about this the other day. It is so generous of people to talk about themselves, not selfish. We are our experiences, it’s really the only meaningful thing we have to give. I hope I was a good listener for that lady and I hope I accurately portrayed her story.

She dropped me off in the Richmond area around 1:30, I was still 6 hours out of Christchurch. I was slightly nervous at this point, I refuse to hitch hike in the dark and nobody seemed interested in stopping. It was emotionally draining, although it wasn’t personal – the rejection takes its toll after 30 minutes. Lots of people and all the kids stare. Some waved and I tried to smile at everyone.

Finally a pickup truck pulled over. Not a good sign considering there’s only two seats. I like pairs. Of course it’s a guy. My inner red flag was up. He was a red-headed bearded man, 30 years old. I shouldn’t have but it was getting late, rainy, and he was going all the way to Christchurch. I think he sensed my hesitation but was patient and not pushy. I threw my stuff in the back with all his work equipment, he was a repairman who re-did housing foundation of old homes/earthquake damage. We kept a good conversation going for the whole ride, I could tell he wasn’t as comfortable with silence as I was. He told me how he always tries to pick up travelers, it helps with the long commutes on the road, about how he enjoys not being tied down to anyone or any place, about his love/hate relationship with technology.

He seemed proud of his work at his previous job at a grocery store. He took on a side project, trying to reduce the amount of trash they produced. He was able to cut down from 8 dumpsters a week to one! Basically by sorting recycling, packaging materials of food, and cardboard. He found a pig farmer to start taking food scraps and fixed machines to better package the trash. He did it all just because he could and should. I thought that was really beautiful. I’m glad that people feel obligated.

During the ride he called his construction friend and found me an extra bed in the house they were working in. And he wanted to get some Chinese food too. Sounds like a hitch hiking date! Ha, that isn’t what it felt like at the time. I couldn’t tell if he was just really friendly and helpful or just lonely and was enjoying the conversation. He even mentioned that he “wouldn’t try anything funny” and I would have a whole room to myself. And I believed him. But I respectfully declined both offers. I don’t want to take help when I don’t need it (Sarah my flat-mate lives here and already offered a couch) and don’t want to put myself in unnecessary risk. Just because I could trust him didn’t mean I could trust the rest of the construction crew. I told him I would pay forward his act of kindness and I will follow through. He also invited me to the house today to help break bricks, a unique invitation indeed. It sounded fun at the time but I am happy to have a day to myself. I am going to text him a ‘thanks anyway’ and extend an offer to meet for lunch or dinner if he’s ever in the Dunedin area. It seems like the right thing to do although it is difficult I try to remain open to the idea of making friends with everyone. Dad would cringe at the thought of me befriending an older construction worker. But that’s part of travel, he treated me with nothing but kindness and I always try to remember everyone can teach you something.

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