For students it is free and it gets you where you need to go. Blogger Angelo Braam is a fan of the Dutch train network. But what he likes even more is to stick out his thumb along the side of the road. ‘Hitch-hiking is fantastic.’
‘It is Monday morning. I'm sitting in the train from Emmen, my home town, to Wageningen. It is truly a privilege: to be able to reach every station in the Netherlands with a train network in good working order, without – as a student – having to pay a penny for it. Yes, our train network works well, so you can all stop moaning. What is less enjoyable about the train is the fact that a journey can be pretty boring. Eye contact meets with a discouraging frown and people are happier conversing over their phones than with those sitting next to them.
The mode of transport I find much more fun is my thumb. Many people would claim that the hitch-hiker is extinct or that hitching in the Netherlands can't be done any more. But hitch-hiking in the Netherlands still works just fine and is fantastic.
I started hitch-hiking while travelling in very communal and hospitable countries, and it always led to wonderful encounters with nutters and enjoyable experiences. I had expected it to be no longer possible in the more individualistic Netherlands, but happily this proved not to be the case. In fact, the average Dutch person proved less individualistic than I had thought. I'd even go so far as to say I'm finding the Netherlands to be one of the better places to hitch-hike in Europe. Over the past three years I have sat next to hundreds of people in their cars, and all kinds of people pick me up. Families, single women, farmers and business people with expensive cars, every type of person imaginable.
A handful of awkward chats aside, every trip produces good conversations and great stories. But what I really love is that little bit of tension and uncertainty, that you have no idea who you are going to meet, how long you'll be travelling and the route you'll take. That gigantic hit of adrenaline when finally, after you've been waiting a half hour, a car stops. So it has only benefits, and travelling together also saves exhaust fumes and traffic jams.
Don't I feel like a freeloader, people sometimes ask me. Well, yes a little. No one is worse off for giving a lift, but I do feel it's about time I did something in return. Hopefully the hitch-hiker won't be extinct by the time I have a car, and then I can finally welcome other people aboard.’
Angelo Braam is a second-year Bachelo's student of International Development Studies..