Hitchhiking is one of my favourite ways to get around, especially in North America. Having cut my teeth hitchhiking in the relative safety of Canada, I went on to hitchhike from Canada to Mexico a few years ago (watch the video here). Not only does it save a ton of money on transport, but you also get a chance to meet some amazing people. I've been picked up by a Rodeo Champion, by truck drivers, hillbillies, by a guy who was driving 18 hours to confront his new wife on her infidelity and so many more characters. Hitchhiking is a chance to meet someone you would probably never of otherwise met, but who holds a story that could change your life, inspire you or just put a smile on your face.
Now of course getting into cars with strangers isn't the safest way to get around, on paper. However in the countless times I've done it, I've never felt threatened or endangered. In fact, pretty much every person who has ever given me a lift has been an awesome human being and I've never felt uncomfortable (well apart from the Indian semi driver who didn't speak much English, except to say how much he liked sex). As long as you're not ignorant to the dangers, you'll be fine, although I am aware it can and no doubt will go pear shaped at some point the more often I do it.
Hints and Tips
If you're rich in time but poor on cash, hitchhiking is great fun and I've met some amazing people along the way. I was once treated to a 7 course Basq lunch in Fresno by one guy, to a Subway by someone else, I was loaded up with batteries and cigarettes by a couple of rednecks and I was even given $50 by another guy so I could get a hotel because he thought sleeping out was too dangerous. I've have been inspired no end by each and every person who picked me up to continually make more of an effort to show kindness to strangers. It's what makes the world go round.
Ive been mugged twice, was nearly stabbed in one mugging and the other time I was hospitalized me with multiple broken bones in my face, 8 fractured ribs and a partially collapsed lung. People always ask me why I'm not more scared about things and the answer is simple; I've crossed paths with a few really bad eggs in my life but I've met infinitely more amazing people with hearts of gold that would go out of their way for a stranger, many of them through hitchhiking. Had I never hitchhiked, I expect I would have far more emotional trauma and distrust in people and society. As it stands, the people who picked me up over the years are the ones who help me keep my faith in humanity. When it goes well, like it will 99.9% of the time, each ride is an amazing experience. But please don't be naive about the dangers of getting into a car with a stranger, when it goes wrong it can really go wrong.