People think it takes gumption to hitchhike; I say it’s a gift. My winter commute is the half-hour ride up Ski Valley Road from the KTAO parking lot at the edge of Taos to my job as a ski instructor. Each morning, I see that white mountain beckon, stick out my thumb and get a cosmic lesson: you always get the ride you were meant to have.
Everyone has a story, from my sons’ 20-something friends who stop for me, to Bob, an 87-year-old ski racer. Sometimes TSV housekeepers, speaking Spanglish, make room for me; a Honduran tells me about life back home. One driver asked, “Wanna know why I haven’t picked up a hitchhiker in 35 years? Cuz I’m still married to the last one I picked up.”
I even got a ride with Santa one Christmas Day. “Jump in,” said the man in the red suit. “I’m late for work.” That line makes me nervous. There’s always some risk, but I’ve only bailed out of three rides in 17 years; one of them was my late-for-work son. Guess I taught him a lesson.
But often it’s a perfect stranger. The door opens and someone lets you into their life. The conversation usually starts with some version of the basic human question: “Where you from?” and from there we learn the lay of the land—everything from local knowledge to the terrain of someone else’s heart.
The ride teaches humility and humanity. Becoming more fully human means the stories we share might help us turn around our own fate and that of the planet, or maybe just appreciate that the earth has been saving us all along. Our fellow humans can be bold, inventive, and funny. So can we. I’ve learned good stories and bad jokes. What was born of necessity one day became grace.
Hitchhiking is good for the soul, the planet, and the pocketbook. I give rides, too. We are learning to trust in life’s wild flow instead of trying to control every inch of the journey. Twice now, folks pulled over (Texas plates) and asked, before they’d let me in the backseat with the kids if I had a gun. “No, do you?” I say. Then we laugh.
One of the best rides ever was from a Taos artist I used to run into in Buenos Aires, a place where everyone walks. One apple-blossomed Taos morning, I watched as shopkeepers swept the sidewalks and Mr. Taos Artist rode up—but not in a car; he was on his horse. Sadly, Taos is short on horse parking these days, and he wanted to duck into a shop. Would I like to ride? I took the reins.
I tried to look cool heading down Doña Luz on that beautiful horse, but a goofy grin kept sliding across my face. See? You always get the ride you were meant to have.