My default attitude towards other people is trust. Unless or until I become aware of a reason to mistrust someone, I will trust anyone whom I meet. Because of this
- I use Couchsurfing when travelling,
- I host Couchsurfers,
- I have hitchhiked in cars, on quads, on pick-up trucks and lorries,
- before I gave up on cars, I always stopped for hitchhikers and gave them a ride,
- I have gotten together with total strangers for hiking in Montenegro, for a trip through the desert in Australia or to share a room in a hostel in Jerusalem,
- I have stayed at strangers’ houses in Las Vegas, Beirut and Mitrovica.
I am still alive, so obviously nothing happened to me. Never have I gotten killed, mugged or kidnapped. Instead, I experienced pleasant surprises and interesting adventures.
Many people find my behavior dangerous or naive. Their default attitude is one of mistrust or fear. They fear the uncertainty, they fear that the hitchhiker turns into a murdering maniac or that the stranger turns into a strangler. If I tell them of my good experiences, they say “you’ve been lucky so far” (which might be right) or “better safe than sorry” (which leads to a boring life).
For these safety-obsessed folks it might come as a surprise that my open and trusting ways of life actually accommodate the principle of “better safe than sorry” more than their timidity because crime statistics show that half of the victims of violent crime know the offender. “Only” 39 % of violent crimes were committed by strangers. For women, the numbers are more striking even: 64 % of female victims of violent crime knew their attacker, most of them were friends or acquaintances.
These recent statistics suggest that it might actually be safer to get into a stranger’s car than to ride home with your friends. It might be safer to pick up a hitchhiker than driving your brother or your boyfriend to campus. It might be safer to sleep on a stranger’s couch than to stay with the in-laws. – Of course staying alone is still the safest option of all, but that’s not for all of us.
So next time you see a hitchhiker, pick him or her up. Don’t be afraid! There is no logical justification for your fear. By overcoming it, you will make the world a better place.
Although, there is one exception. Don’t pick up innocently looking young girls. It will turn out to become a disaster: