Hitching a ride

I had always wondered what spurred people on to get into a strangers car engaging in small talk as you head in the direction of a mutual destination, until it happened to me. I say that it happened to me because I had not planned it & it was a decision made within about 15 minutes.

I was in northern Finland in a small town called Rovaniemi for a winter weekend alone. One of the last attractions I wanted to see before leaving Rovaniemi was the Santa Claus Village and after seeing Santa & all the other attractions they offered, I went back to the information desk to see when the return bus into town would arrive. Having misread the timetable earlier in the day, I realised that the next bus back into town was in 2 hours and I didn’t fancy waiting around. As I was getting my passport stamped (with the official Artic Circle stamp, this was how far north I was) and discussing other transport options back into town (taxi or wait) with the lady at the information desk, a man who appeared to be friends with the lady, offered me a ride back into town. I first declined because this is how all good murder movies begin when all my stranger danger bells started ringing. He told me he & his wife were heading back towards the city and that it wouldn’t be a problem, the offer was there if I wanted to take it. Take the ride or wait for 2 hours with nothing to do?

I decided to take the ride and found out while chatting to them in the car that their daughter married an Australian guy. He must have seen that I was Australian when I was getting my passport stamped and I wasn’t going to get murdered and buried in the snow anymore. They took me sightseeing around town, to visit works of the famous Finnish designer Alvar Aalto and took me to a rooftop that overlooked the town. They dropped me in the city centre after my mini tour around town and bid me farewell. I don’t think we exchanged names at all but for strangers, they really went out of their way for me and it’s things like that that makes the world go round.

The next hitchhiking experience occurred about 3 hours later. I was waiting for the airport shuttle in the lobby & then out in front of another hotel until a cab pulled up. A guy who I had seen waiting in the lobby stuck his head out & asked if that taxi was mine. After telling him that it wasn’t, he went back in & reappeared with 2 older men and all their luggage. As they were loading their luggage in, they asked if I was going to the airport as well (I think my bag gave that away) and offered me the last seat in the taxi for free. Turns out they were on a business trip & the taxi ride was actually free. I got to the airport in one piece & the men were really interested in what I thought about Finland. There were only positive things to say. For a country that really keeps to themselves, the hospitality they show to others would say otherwise.

Would you have taken the rides offered if you were in my position? Would you ever hitchhike at all if the opportunity presented itself?


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