I’ve had so many friends tell me about their lessons from the people you meet while hitchhiking. There’s been a lot of horror stories, touching stories, and weird stories. I myself have gotten my fair share of lovely stories while hitching around New Zealand. The people here are so friendly and helpful. At least they were in a Pre-COVID world. Now the rampant distrust, especially towards foreigners has me concerned to try my hand at it again, but that’s a rambling thought for another night.
The lessons I want to talk about tonight is the words of encouragement and hope a farmer, and marijuana entrepreneur shared with me while driving me back to Tofino from Lake Cowichan.
This took place the first time I gave living in British Columbia a-go. When I was homeless and living in a van. I had just graduated from University, and had the whole world ahead of me.
Why Is This Person Special
The people you meet while hitchhiking tend to be the same. Friendly, local, and on their way somewhere. Their lessons are usually about the surrounding area, maybe the local gossip if something spicey has happened recently, or they’ll give you some must see’s if you’re in the area for a few nights. Sometimes they tell you about their travels, or passions, or work.
You can learn a great deal from listening to the bored commuter ramble on about their occupation or passion. Sometimes you can score yourself a free tour of the town, or local sights as they brag about how cool their slice of the world is.
Yes the people you meet while hitch-hiking are by and large a friendly sort, with free rides, advice, and stories to share.
Maybe it was the circumstance or the fact that I was so low, and he was so optimistic. Whatever the case his words struck a chord with me, and I’ve been carrying them through every struggle in the three years that have passed since that day.
So What Happened
I was homeless for three weeks. My mom loaned me 800$ to get myself an apartment, food, clean clothes, and too support myself while I found work in Tofino. Heritage Reforestation Inc still hadn’t paid me for my tree-planting season with them but was happy to drop me off in Banff, assuring me I’d get paid within a week.
Four weeks went by and I still hand’t been paid; the companies managment hid from my calls. I was staying in a tent in Poolesland, and my Mom desperetly wanted to help me.
So she gave me loan.
But I met a woman at a Tim Hortons while hitchhiking in Kelowna who drove me to Vancouver and let me sleep on her couch for three nights. She had an edible business, and her product was tasty, and potent. She was going to be a vendor at a music festival; Legends Valley. She was overwhelmed and I offered to help her.
And Here’s The Mistake
I agreed to pay for my ticket upfront, and she would pay me back at the end of the festival out of our earnings. The 300$ ticket quickly turned into a 450$ expense as getting there, feeding myself, and staying hydrated became hidden costs.
She never paid me back. She was completely disorganized upon arrival.And me crying four times, saying she wasn’t able to come. I had to talk her into it each time. In our agreement, I was supposed to be a Brand Ambassador, Salesman, and Marketer. She wanted me labeling products; bagging products; and working the till. Nothing I agreed to during our initial talks of me helping her.
To make matters worse, and what ultimately caused me to storm off; when I generated a lot of interest in our product (weed cotton candy, 65% THC, 35% Sugar, even better than what you’re imagining) and by interest I mean models from High Times and major Vancouver Retailers were following me excitedly back to the booth. I was the popular kid all over again, only my popularity was going to make me money, not drain it.
Jordana, the owner of Twice As Twisted, SNAPPED.
I’ll Paraphrase Because It’s Ridiculous
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? THIS IS MY COMPANY! YOU CAN’T JUST COME IN HERE AS A WHITE MAN AND TAKE CONTROL! I BUILT THIS COMPANY AND WHILE I’VE BEEN HERE DOING ALL THE WORK YOU’VE BEEN OFF HAVING FUN!” Then she started crying, because she wanted to be enjoying the festival, and have me on the product labeling…
Everyone backed away, completely uncomfortable by this sudden outburst. I was completely blindsided. We were having such low traffic and now several important people in The Canadian Cannabis scene were at our booth interested in our product and Jordana’s story. Not to mention the beautiful women, in the skimpiest of clothes, turning heads, and attracting even more attention to my cotton candy and announcements of changing the edible game.
And she fucking blew it.
It wasn’t until that night I realized she had a terrible cocaine addiction. Never get into business with addict folks.
How I Left The Festival
I couldn’t borrow a large sum of cash from my Mom and still be homeless. So I kept working with her through the weekend. She wouldn’t let me take a lunch Sunday, and I was starving. Eventually, I broke down and quit. We had not one, but three more spats over me representing her company when it was her company. I tried to explain that’s what a marketer and brand ambassador does, and she wouldn’t have it (because she was flying on cocaine). The last straw was when two people who left their booth for whatever reason started working with us. Jordana was going on about how she was going to drive them home and hang out with them after the festival. When I asked about my ride, she told me that I was a shit worker and should have been happy to still be allowed behind her booth.
The guy working the booth across from us heard that, and got into the argument. You can imagine how that hurt traffic. I was thankful to have a backer, but I snapped none the less. I knew deep down Jordana wouldn’t pay me, so I shoved as much stock as I could into my backpack while she wasn’t looking.
Before leaving I asked for my reimbursement in cash. She refused, but promised to transfer me the money, with interest when she got home. It was my mistake to believe her. I was so trusting and naive then.
And I So I Walked
Lake Cowichan is in the absolute middle of nowhere on Vancouver Island, and that’s what makes it so beautiful. I walked for hours before a big pick-up truck pulled beside me “HEY! You’re the cotton candy guy! Man, your stuff was so good! what are you doing walking?”
I jumped in his truck and began my story about how much of a nightmare ‘my first business’ became. He laughed, asked me for some more stories. Living in Poolesland gave me plenty. Doing a season with HRI gave me plenty. We drove for an hour, while he howled and laughed at all the shit I got into since finishing University.
“And you’ve lost all your money, but you’re young, fit, and heading back to Poolesland. The best place in the world to be homeless. You’re life’s going to hard for a while. Just stay positive and put trust into the universe that everything will work out. It will. But you have to trust the universe’s plan.” For some reason that sounded incredibly profound, and I agreed. It’s stoners way of saying “God has a plan”.
Then he told me about his business, and how unfortunate my experience with Jordana. He told me about his company. It was splicing the DNA from cannabis plants to create targeted strains for varying levels of recreation. I thought that sounded really damn cool.
So What’s It All About
Well, I stayed optimistic, and while I remained homeless for the next three months, I had a FANTASTIC time in Tofino. I met incredible friends, discovered a passion for hiking, got to be a surf instructor for a stint and even tried my hand at a second business. It also failed but my losses weren’t nearly as devastating.
This guy also made me aware that other’s who grab you while you hitch-hike may have profound knowledge or motivation. After all, every time you cast your thumb you’re giving your trust to the Universe that someone who’s going your way will stop and pick you up. You trust the Universe, and that everything will work out. Experience shows the people you meet hitchhiking will kind, curious to your life and excited about theirs. You may have uncomfortable conversations, but ones you’ll laugh about with your friends once they’re over. The people you meet are a variety, but good by default, as they are going out of their way to help you, even though most will insist it’s no problem.
Just A Quick Note About Staying Safe
Of course there’s weirdos, and sometimes it can be hard to tell as you jog to the car and allow boredum and desperation to clog your judgment. Saying “The people you meet hitchhiking are the best” “It’s an old wives tale that they’re out to murder and rape.” My advice is to sit in the back seat if you’re worried, about the people you’ll meet while hitchhiking. Keep your cell phone charged, and let a local hostel, hotel, or other main tourism spot know what you’re up too. There’s always someone who’s happy to take your number and send you check-in texts.
While many friends who are afraid of the world may suggest carrying a knife or another concealable weapon. I think that’s a terrible idea. The person picking you up is also taking a risk; how menacing and deranged will you look, entering their vehicle with a weapon. How awkward would it be if they found it, or it slipped out of your pocket?
Fight Club helps me rationalize the hitch-hiker world. To paraphrase a Tyler Durden quote “Normal people don’t go looking for fights or violence.” And most people are normal. So statistically, the people you meet hitchhiking will also be normal.
Just remember, you have the right to refuse rides.