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How I Used Tinder to Hitchhike North America

So you’ve used Tinder to pick up girls, but have girls ever picked you up in their car and driven you 60km South to help you complete a hitchhiking adventure?

In May 2014, I embarked on what turned out to be a 20,000km, 6-month hitchhiking adventure across North America. I started out the old-fashioned way – thumbs up at the side of the road, car after car rejecting me, storm after storm drenching me, can after can of cold beans for dinner. The novelty quickly wore off and I needed to formulate a new plan.

On one very cold early morning, 3 months down and 8,000km into my trip, I was messing around on my phone while waiting for a lift on a quiet country road in Western Canada. I’d installed Tinder a couple of months back but hadn’t really used it. After a bit of playing around on the app, I noticed I was getting quite a few matches. As I tucked into my 27th  can of warm tuna, I put two and two together, made four, and my most creative moment of the trip so far hit me:

Why don’t I use Tinder to get rides (car rides) across America?

That challenge was quickly accepted, and the rest of this article demonstrates how I leveraged a dating technology app, amongst other online platforms including CouchSurfing and Craigslist, to successfully coordinate around 12,000km of my hitchhiking adventure across North America. 

My Tinder Profile

First of all, I had to change my Tinder profile so that people knew that I was an adventurous traveller who was hitchhiking North America. Here’s a breakdown of my profile:

My Bio: Nomadic traveller of 2 years from Britain. Currently hitchhiking 20,000km across North America. Trying to get by through the generosity of wonderful people. Need to reach New York City by early November. Can you help me get there?

Pictures: All smiling, portraying fun and adventure.

Distance: 10km.

Age Range: 18-50 (From my experience hitchhiking there isn’t a certain demographic that picks up hitchhikers).

Tactics: Swipe right to everyone (Since when did dating get so methodical? Come on, everybody deserves a chance!!).

Opening Line: An observation about their profile, but if not usually something blunt and straight to the point – “Can you drive me 60km south?”

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Results

After a hell of a lot of swiping right, I managed to hitchhike around 12,000km to New York City primarily using Tinder, CouchSurfing, travel forums and Craigslist. As a comparison, I covered 8,000km across Canada, hitchhiking from the side of the road 100% of the time. In USA, I covered 12,000km, hitchhiking from the side of the road just 15% of the time.

I was astonished by the response I was getting on Tinder. I was matching with a lot of curious American girls who wanted to know more about my travels. They all seemed to dig the British thing too. Peculiarly, a lot of matches opened up with “OMG do you have an accent?” to which I replied, “Ever heard James Bond speak? I sound like him.”

In just 3-months in America, I matched with 3,766 people. Amusingly, I also recall a very low point in my adventure when I had to email Tinder Support (screenshot below) because my account crashed and deleted all my matches. Oh my, I can only imagine the look on the woman’s face dealing with my request and wondering how desperately deluded my life was.

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I quickly realised that swiping right and playing the law of averages isn’t a load of fun. After 20 days, the excruciating pain in my thumb and potential onset of RSI made me question what the hell I was doing. Yes, in hindsight Tinder, I would’ve really appreciated a “Like Everybody in America” button installed on my account. Next time please?

From my Tinder experiment, I observed that since I’d set my profile up to ask for help, swiping right to everyone worked well as a natural filtering system for matching with people who were willing to help. I also observed that girls really dig adventure. I matched with curious, likeminded, adventurous girls, some of whom had travelled extensively themselves, and others who wanted advice on how to start travelling. An overwhelming number of girls liked the idea of long-term travel but often gave me 101 reasons why they couldn’t. The top five reasons were:

1 – I don’t have enough money to travel.
2 – I need to get a proper a job so I can pay the bills.
3 – I have a mortgage and car to pay for first.
4 – I have to finish university and pay my debt back first.
5 – I’ll get murdered.

My longest single Tinder hitchhike was around 500km down the beautiful Route 101 on the West Coast of USA. My most memorable story came when I matched with a girl from Phoenix, Arizona. It was late at night and I was just about to go to bed when she asked me to go for drinks with her and her mate. It turned out that her friend was a 40-year old guy who was a bit of a wheeler-dealer. He owned marijuana farms, oil companies and property. He was heading in the same direction as me to check out a new marijuana plot.

After a bit of persuasion and a few JD and Cokes later, he agreed to take me. This hitchhike turned out to be one of my most memorable hitches. He was an extremely interesting character and had many fascinating stories about close encounters with the law – Tony Montana sprung to mind. Beneath all the debatable business endeavours, he was a very kind man with a good heart. We met for drinks a couple of times after the hitch and I’m still in touch with him today.

In addition to hitchhiking, I also used Tinder to arrange a tour around Hollywood in Los Angeles, a trip to the Grand Canyon, a weekend adventure climbing in the Rocky Mountains, and a camping trip on the West Coast of USA.

Conclusions

This article gives the impression that this was a one-way street and I was always the one being helped. It wasn’t like that at all. I would cook for girls, adventure with them, make them laugh, and inspire many to change some part of their life, big or small. One girl I met made the decision to quit her job and embark on a solo-backpacking trip across South America – how incredibly gutsy is that!!?

Also, many would pose the question “why didn’t you just use the traditional method of hitchhiking? isn’t that part of the fun?”

Here’s my answer: Proactive approach > Reactive approach.

A reactive approach entails waiting for the right situation to arise. A proactive approach entails creating the situation you want to arise. It’s all about intention. When hitchhiking, a reactive approach would involve me sitting at the side of the road, aimlessly hoping that the right person would come along, pick me up and take me to my destination. The outcome of this situation is very much out of my control. On the other hand, at the very least, proactively exploring other mediums such as Tinder, CouchSurfing and Craigslist increases potential, possibility and the likelihood of finding the right people that were willing to help.

Finally, this Tinder experiment taught me a very valuable lesson:

If you never ask the answer will always be NO.

I battled with my ego for a very long time and could never find the courage to go beyond myself and ask others for help. Sometimes you need drop that shit, erase the fear of being judged, and let yourself become beautifully vulnerable. Human beings are wired to help each other, and from what I’ve seen in 2 ½ years of travel, no matter where you go in the world, regardless of cultural differences, there are ALWAYS tons of amazing souls who are willing to lend a helping hand.

Follow Podstellife.com for many more articles about travelling in unconventional ways. Also, like Podstel on Facebook and follow our future adventures. 

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27 Comments

  1. Pretty awesome way to use Tinder. I’m from England too, but mostly traveled Asia. Always wanted to hit America some point in the future, how do the visas work there? I always thought it was hard to get a long term visa there.

    • Hello TeachingTravel,

      Nice to hear from you. Go to America, it’s one of my favourite countries. As a Brit, you get up to 90 days on the Visa Waiver Scheme, after which you need to fly out to somewhere further afield than Mexico or Canada, and then fly back to get another 90 days. You can get longer visas if you go through the Embassy in London. Lots of bureaucracy to go to and you tend to be waiting a little while to get it. Providing you have no criminal convictions you’re all good mate 🙂 all the best, Dano 🙂

  2. This was awesome, I’m sire there’ll be a tinder hitchhiking bandwagon, but nevertheless great story to show how kind people can be. Also, I’d love to travel america, looks sick. Well played man.

    • Dan nice to meet you mate.

      That’s the morale of the story – i wanted to demonstrate how wonderful people are regardless of where you are in the world. It’s kind of nice to use an app with such a bad reputation for hooking up with girls in this different way.

      If you’d love to travel America, i can point you forward with a few tips of how to get going. Send me an email on danbeau@podstellife.com

      All the best,

      Dano

  3. Wow sound like a great adventure! Would love to go travelling but have always wondered how to pay for it all? How did you get by for 2 1/2 years?

  4. Awesome story bud! Are you still in America or have you gone back now? Another visa question: So you did may – November. Does that mean you flew out after 90 days and then returned or did you go to the embassy and get a visa? If visa, which one did you apply for / get? Was there a criteria or anything you needed for it? Cheers in advance for the help pal!

    • RU – i’m back in England now until after Christmas

      Visa – i did Aug-Nov in USA – 90 days. I was in Canada from May. You have to fly out you’re right. They don’t let you cross the border to either Canada or Mexico, so you have to go further afield. EU citizens can get a Visa Waiver for 90 days on entry providing you’ve filled in an ESTA and have no criminal records.

      If you need anymore advice then feel free to email me at danbeau@podstellife.com

      All the best,

      Dano

      • Cheers for the response, awesome man! I’ll look into it and keep your email for sure!

        My original plan was very similar, go to Asia and then Australia to travel and work for 1 – 2 years and then use the money to travel some more! However I have to postpone that trip as I’m actually out in America at the moment for two years. I worked at a summer camp this summer in America and one of the kids’ families asked me to live with them and essentially be an older brother / mentor for their kids and so I’m out here as an Au Pair at the moment which is awesome! It doesn’t give me much time to actually travel and experience new things as I’m busy with the boys in the week but I can’t complain living out here for free for a couple years and I have my weekends haha. Plus the family are very relaxed and really cool!

        Great inspiration and story bud, I look forward to reading/hearing about more and maybe seeing you on your travels one day! I shall hopefully be travelling and living abroad for years to come! Ru x

    • Dai,

      I don’t want to discuss that unfortunately. It’s not about boasting, it’s about inspiring people to do good stuff with their life through this kind of content.

      All the best,

      Dano

  5. Awesome read. Sounds like you you had an amazing time. Out of interest did you work along the way or had enough built up to carry you through. Just curious as I’m interested in traveling again. Have done Asia and australiasia, but really fancy north America. Also was it mostly positive using tinder or where there any dark moments?

    Simon

    • Simon,

      I had no money when i started travelling. I was -£5k in OD’s from university. I flew out to Australia on a whim and worked there doing farm work that other Aussies weren’t so keen on. That funded 2 1/2 years of travel. I had no savings or anything prior to doing this.

      Dark moments on Tinder – i matched with 3,700 people so of course a lot of rejection and people that didn’t want to meet me. Luckily the people i did meet were really good.

      Hope you enjoyed the article.

      If you need any advice on travelling, then feel free to email me at danbeau@podstellife.com – always happy to help.

      All the best,

      Dano

      Yep,

  6. Damn interesting! Well done. The USA is great.

    Hope you make it out to southern Africa one day (email me if you do – we can meet for a beer; I’m in Cape Town),

    Patrick

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