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:
- My FAQ about Couchsurfing, which also address the safety concerns.
- The FAQ about my traveling life.
- A guide for an adventurous day.
- Why traveling with little money is better.
- More articles on statistics and on traveling.
- This article was also published on Medium.
Haven’t heard of CouchSurfing, I’ll have to look into that. I’ve gone so far as to share a cabin on a cruise ship with a total stranger; I’ve crashed in hotel rooms of strangers, and let them crash in mine. (Note that these were all at sci-fi cons, so the other people are not TOTAL strangers.)
If you ever find yourself in the US in the great (okay, the rather crummy) state of Ohio, let me know – I’ll get you more than just a couch!
Weird visitor stats, Andreas. Do you have a German language blog running alongside this one? Do you post on a lot of US blogs?
I tend to agree with your argument about trust. Liberal spirits rely on trust more than on contracts or obligation. At the same time, trust your own instincts about personal safety. There are thousands of people in the UK who invite paying guests to stay at their home for a modest fee: they are called bed and breakfasts. Our newspapers rarely report stories about violence towards bed and breakfast owners.
Hitchhiking anecdote: A bloke approached me in the motorway services car park asking for a lift to a slip road a few miles north. He was a very large bloke. When he sat in my Triumph Herald, the car lurched to one side; there was no way that the seat belt would fit around him; and I struggled to wrestle the hand brake from beneath his right thigh. We smiled at one another and agreed that it might be better if he sought another lift.
I trust you :)
Your attitude’s great. Unfortunately, that only works for men :(
Why? I thought I specifically addressed the issue of violence against women in my article.
Although i am all up for embracing the strange, I am not sure I would trust the stranger.
You do not know other people’s intentions, what they think, want, or how they are about to get it.
This does not mean mistrusting everyone; it just means that trust might be something that needs to be earned :)
Thought provoking stuff!
My grandpa used to always say, “Trust everyone, check everything!” :)
Yeah. I figured he was a man. No girl or woman in her right mind would do most of those things, because failing a gun and knowing how to use one, we are at more risk for more nasty things than you guys. Humphhhh … male privilege taken so for granted it’s invisible to the male, strikes again.
You won’t enjoy life with this attitude of fear.
Or as Andreas would put it, if I rape you, just lay back and enjoy it.
That’s a complete misrepresentation of what I wrote. I recommend to enjoy life without fearing every minute that the worst will happen. That does not mean in any way that I recommend to continue enjoying it once the worst does happen.
You really need to study some probability / statistics theory before trolling for hits on sites like marginal revolution. The people that click over here from there are just going to leave comments like this one and never come back.
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So true! I tend to be pretty cautious when travelling (probably being a quite small and young-looking woman doesn’t contribute to my general sense of security in unknown places) but I’m trying very hard to become more trusting. You get so much more out of the journey that way. :)
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its only true if u meet around 39 % or more strangers in your life. If 20 % are strangers and 80 % friends, you’d be better going with your friends.
I don’t have that many friends. :-(
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