A Broad View is written by different international students each week who wish to share their impressions of their time here or unique experiences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are an international student wanting to tell your tale.
Most Americans would never think to hitchhike. We’ve heard the stories about murders and assaults and countless victims who have gone missing. Most Kiwis, however, don’t seem to think twice about sticking their thumbs out to hitch a ride. This country’s wanderlust nature and lack of inter-city transport have deemed hitchhiking a regular thing.
Personally, I wouldn’t do it. The risks are too obvious. I cringe at the thought of trusting someone I’ve never met before. But, for me, exploring is a necessity, so I shell out the money for rental cars, and over the break my flatmate and I headed to Mt Cook. We were just leaving Timaru when we saw two girls standing on the side of the road, their thumbs raised. We pulled over. “Where are you headed?” I asked. “Mt Cook!” they said together. We helped them load their bags into the trunk and were off.
We swapped stories about mountain peaks, the friendliness of Kiwis and the feeling of never wanting to leave. When the conversation lulled, I turned to my iPod, trying to think of something fun and happy that everyone would know. I put on Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”. The familiar chords evoked smiles from our guests, and we all sang along. The road twisted by crystal clear blue lakes and jagged, barren mountains. Though none of us had ever seen Mt Cook before, we all knew what it was when its unmistakably large, snowy peak breached the horizon.
We were one Brit, two Germans and an American, forgetting our differences, united by our destination. The two girls were no longer hitchhikers but rather friends to whom I was connected. When we finally reached the girls’ hostel, they both gave us hugs and fresh, hand-picked apples as tokens of appreciation. They disappeared inside and I knew they were gone forever. What they made me realise will stick: the road is not full of bad people. In fact, most of the strangers we fear are headed in the exact same direction as we are.