Back in March and April I traveled around Germany for a month and half, using rideshares from Mitfahrgalegenheit. Back in the US, car-less and anxious to visit different folks where Oakland public transit doesn’t go, I was determined to find a similar alternative. If you’ve ever tried to travel around the States, you know that domestic flights are not cheap (no Ryanair?!), long distance trains (Amtrak) and buses (Greyhound) are pricey, indirect and take forever, and hitch-hiking is a bit more frowned upon and often seen as dangerous. Any website I found specifically for ridesharing didn’t seem to have enough popularity and momentum to be efficient. Then someone I suggested I look on craigslist.

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Craiglist is an online classifeds website with  different portals for various cities and counties in the US. I’d used it before to buy a used bike, sell used furniture, and laugh at the online dating ads. But to accept rides off of it? What about all of the CL horror stories about sellers being murdered for the expensive jewelry they advertised or weirdos offering $20 to let them video you popping balloons with your butt? Did I really want to accept a ten hour ride through the wilds of northern CA and Oregon with someone from this website?

Well when I realized how much money I could not spend, and therefore how much farther I could go, the answer was yes. Yes, I did want to. And it worked splendidly! I took 3 different rides, each with people who turned out to be kind, generous, and interesting folks. One offered me a job working in her garden! Another didn’t even charge me, as his company was paying the gas mileage. Lo and behold, another experience with humans turning out to be awesome and generous.

This is why I recommend the craiglist rideshare, with a fair amount of caution of course. Talk to your ride on the phone beforehand. Have a friend drop you off at the driver’s house so they can see where the person lives, the car they drive, etc. Call your buddies and update them on your traveling. Insist to stay on larger highways and stay off back roads. Travel with a friend. For longer rides, break it up into pieces so you can avoid getting stuck with one person for too long. Only offer to share the driving if you really feel comfortable behind the wheel of the other person’s car. Watch out for signs of fatigue and offer to pull over and rest. All ideas for safety and there’s plenty more where that came from. The same with every other “Oh wow I’m trusting a stranger” thing, make sure you’re comfortable, stay safe, and like me, save money so you can travel longer!

post by Jackie Clark