Thumbing a Ride
Hitchhikers, Hostels, and Counterculture in Canada
In the 1920s, as a national network of roads and youth hostels spread across Canada, so did the practice of hitchhiking. By the 1960s, the Trans-Canada Highway had become the main thoroughfare for thousands of young baby boomers seeking adventure.
Thumbing a Ride examines the rise and fall of hitchhiking in the 1970s, drawing on records from the time. The Trudeau Liberals responded to youth unemployment by subsidizing a network of hostels to make travel an educational adventure, and many equated hitching and hostelling with the freedom to do their own thing. At the same time, a counter-narrative emerged, of girls gone missing and other dangers. Town councillors, community groups, and motorists called for a nationwide clampdown on a transient youth movement that they believed was spreading hippie sensibilities and anti-establishment nomadism.
Hitchhiking is a ritual that requires trust, boundary negotiation, and control. Neither the identity of the hitchhiker nor the motives of the motorist can be determined in advance. Linda Mahood unearths good and bad stories and key biographical moments that formed young travellers’ understandings of personal risk, agency, and national identity. Thumbing a Ride asks new questions about hitchhiking as a rite of passage, and about adult interventions that turned a subculture into a pressing moral and social issue.
This book will appeal to students and scholars of history, sociology, and social policy. It will also find an appreciative audience among baby boomers who recall the transient youth movement.
Thumbing a Ride brings alive a formative period in Canadian history when road trips and explorations of personal and national identities converged ... The book delivers a consistently engaging and rich narrative that will enthrall baby boomers and enlighten readers from subsequent generations.
There is so much more to hitchhiking than standing by the side of a highway with your thumb out. Linda Mahood’s well researched history of hitchhiking covers it all, from the planning to the pickup, the ride, the drop-off, and everything in between. From great experiences to harrowing stories of rape and murder, this book will make you see hitchhiking in a whole new way.
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