Updated: 2013-01-18 07:35
By Zhu Beijing (朱蓓静) (China Daily)
Hitchhiking can be a free and fun way to travel with the right phrases to back it up. Zhang Kaixin / For China Daily
You are just a 'male paper' looking for a lift. Here's how to do it the adventurous way
'If you don't travel, seek out adventure, enter into a relationship or try living a life you have never lived before, but instead you idly play on the Internet all day doing things that an 80-year-old man can do, what the heck are you wasting your youth for?"
This was a recent post on the "Donkey Friends" forum (驴友吧 Lǘyǒu ba) on Baidu's online community platform Tieba (贴吧). "Donkey Friends" are a network of hikers and backpackers seeking compatible companions for life or for travel, who share personal stories and useful tips and strive to gather enough "positive energy" to make a desperately wanted change in lifestyle.
One model many of these likeminded people aspire to is taken from a recent Chinese TV drama called Beijing Youth (北京青年 Běijīng Qīngnián). The drama follows four Beijing cousins who decide to "retake the road of youth" (重走一回青春 chóng zǒu yīhuí qīngchūn). The eldest cousin, frustrated by his mundane life, controlled in every aspect by his parents, makes a bold and sudden decision by breaking off his engagement with his fiancee and quitting his job as a civil servant. At the top of his agenda is the ambition to recover the dream of an independent life through traveling.
Though the plot is criticized by some for being "overly idealistic", the idea of "reliving youth" has nevertheless rekindled the enthusiasm in many young minds for exploring remote and sacred places.
If you are one of those dream catchers, but afraid of traveling alone, you can simply post on an online travel forum to seek a travel buddy who is planning a similar route. A typical post goes like this:
A piece of male paper born in the late 1980s, planning to go to Lijiang and Shangri-la at the end of this month, looking for a companion.
Bāshí mò nánzhǐ yī méi, dǎsuàn yuèdǐ qù Lìjiāng hé Xiānggélǐlā, qiú jiébàn.
The way of referring to themselves as male or female paper (男纸 nánzhǐ, 女纸 nǚzhǐ) is very popular among young Chinese people today. The term originates from male
(男子nánzǐ) and female (女子 nǚzǐ), with
"纸" pronounced in a similar way to the additive particle "子".
When you have found your travel companion, strap on that backpack and set out on the road. To many, the most appealing element of travel is the uncertainty, especially if you're backpacking or hitchhiking.
Inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road, two Chinese hitchhikers named Gu Yue
(谷岳) and Liu Chang (刘畅) "thumbed", or hitchhiked, their way from Beijing to Berlin, where Gu's German girlfriend was living, on a 16,000-kilometer journey through 13 countries in the summer of 2009. They recorded their three-and-a-half month journey on video and turned their adventure into a documentary entitled To Berlin by Thumb (《搭车去柏林》Dāchē Qù Bólín), which became a big hit on the Internet.
"As long as you have the ambition to do something, the whole world will help you," (一个人想做一件事，全世界都会帮助你。Yī gè rén xiǎng zuò yī jiàn shì, quán shìjiè dūhuì bāngzhù nǐ.) Liu Chang says.
Romantic as the story sounds, hitchhiking requires both ambition and strategy. Here are some tips that will increase your chances of getting a lift.
Tip 1: Hitchhike, leg by leg
Familiarize yourself with the names of towns you will pass through along your way, as it is almost impossible to get a lift directly to your destination. In most cases, the driver will drop you off at the next town and you have to move toward your destination, leg by leg. Suppose you set out from Chengdu and head for Tibet - rather than stopping a car in Chengdu and asking the driver for a lift to Lhasa (which is certain to earn you an unrelenting "No!"), it is wiser to mention the nearest town or city on your way:
Hello, I'm heading for Ya'an (a small city on the intersection of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway). Could I get a lift? / Could you give me a lift?
Wǒ qù yǎ'ān fāngxiàng, néng dāge chē ma? / Néng dài wǒ yíduànr ma?
我去雅安方向，能搭个车吗? / 能带我一段儿吗?
Or you can ask the driver which direction he's heading:
Hi there, are you heading for Ya'an?
Nǐ hǎo, sījī dàgē, qǐngwèn nǐ wǎng yǎ'ān qù ma?
Excuse me, which direction are you guys heading?
Nǐ hǎo, sījī dàgē, dǎrǎo yīxià, qǐngwèn nǐmen wǎng nǎge fāngxiàng zǒu ne?
You can expect three common reactions from the driver: a response to your inquiry, an expression of indifference by turning a deaf ear your way or curiosity. As long as the driver strikes up a conversation with you, it's already half the battle won.
Tip 2: Be a "thick-skinned"
(厚脸皮 hòu liǎnpí) hitchhiker
There is no need to feel discouraged if your request for a lift is immediately declined. Try asking a second time, especially when the driver is hesitant about providing a lift. Some hitchhikers jokingly refer to themselves as "plasters" (膏药 gāoyào), those who will stick to their "target" once it's spotted. Below you will meet a typical "sticky" hitchhiker:
Driver, are you headed for Ge'ermu?
Shīfu dào Gé'ěrmù ma?
Are you passing by Ge'ermu?
Shīfu jīngguò Gé'ěrmù ma?
Are you driving straight ahead?
Shīfu wǎngqián zǒu ma?
Are you driving along 318 National Highway?
Shīfu yánzhe 318 Guódào yìzhí zǒu ma?
Could you give us a free lift?
Néng miǎnfèidā wǒmen yíduàn ma?
Drivers will be most concerned about the hitchhikers' identity and intention:
What do you guys do?
Nǐmen shì gànma de?
Why don't you take a regular bus?
Wèishéme bù zuò bānchē?
Will you pay me?
Bù gěi qián ma?
To win the trust of the driver, you can introduce yourself briefly and explain your intention of hitchhiking and, if necessary, show your ID card to dispel any remaining doubts the driver may have.
Courtesy of The World of Chinese, www.theworldofchinese.com
The World of Chinese
(China Daily 01/18/2013 page19)