Gregory Baranski

Thoughts :

Autostop Race is not Autostop

In Poland there’s this thing called Auto Stop Race, and in 2024 I have decided to take a part in it.

I had a good feeling about that race, even had thoughts about maybe winning it.

On Saturday April 27th around 9AM over 1000 people started hitchhiking towards Catalonia, Spain.

First problem I have noticed is that a lot of people instead of going by bus, they use the fact that they have friends or family in Wroclaw, and they’re being taken a dozen of kilometers away from the city, where they can easily hitchhike further.

How’s it like in real hitchhiking every experienced hitchhiker knows - you open up, read for a few minutes about different ways of getting out of the city, and then you spend an hour in a bus trying to get to a gas station in the city outskirts.

But anyways, that’s not the biggest thing right, it’s just the easy start that they’re getting. And they’re often 1st time hitchhikers.

We have started our journey on a less-known gas station, and at the beginning we were basically the only ones hitchhiking.

However as we later got to busier places in Germany, such as Nuremburg or Stuttgart, it was full of other hitchhikers.

They all looked like hookers reserving their own zones on a gas station.

But that’s nothing bad right, there’s a lot of people so we have to somehow organize it.

I am totally aware, but that destroys the beauty of hitchhiking, at least for me - usually it was just me, poor guy trying to get to somewhere with a tradition that was common 30 years ago, and now there’s 30 of us?

And that creates a some degree of competition among the participants, even if you don’t want to win, there’s this pressure that each day you spend on trying to get to the destination, the day less you have for the activities on the campsite.

Another thing is that these people were often not suited for hitchhiking, we once drove with another pair of hitchhikers as they were looking for a ride with us - it turns out that English proficiency is not what all participants have. How do you even communicate? Or are you just parasites occupying the back seats.

We arrived as the 35th ones, and it took us roughly 36 hours. I think that’s a really good result - but totally not worth it. We had spend 1.5 day on the highway and gas stations, not being able to see anything, despite going through so many great historical places.

I really think this is not hitchhiking, because all that matters is getting to the destination, where as real hitchhiking doesn’t really look that way, and is mostly about experiences, and enjoying the whole process.

But Western Europe also isn’t the best place to do such race, at least in my opinion. It’s full of people that have never seen such thing, people that are afraid of you, and people that you can be afraid of.

The more developed the countries are, they tend to do worse in terms of hitchhikeability. But now, what means developed? That’s a good question, and is probably very subjective and culture dependant. In Poland we generally assume that anything to the West is more developed than us.

Last thing, price of the whole thing:

  • $60 participation fee,
  • $55 camping fee,

And people who decided to not sleep in a tent, but in an apartment instead - it was $10 each day just for the band that can allow you to go in and out.

What do you get for $115? The worst concert I’ve ever been to, they had a few good parties, but they were not any better than in a free Pol&Rock festival. And with Pol&Rock you wouldn’t need to go 2200km just to enjoy rainy weather.

I wouldn’t blame the organizers, it’s the concept that sucks.

Fortunately when I was coming back I decided to go by myself, which was a really good decision. That one has really prepared me to my next hitchhiking trip to Russia.