hitchhiking, free rides, travel, free travel

The ups and downs of ultimate free-rides

Words: Kitt Doucette
Photography: Wikimedia Commons

Six ways to work (or scam) your way into a comfortable, free-perks travel situation.

Free rides are what dreams are made of…laughing at all the other suckers who actually paid for tickets to travel as you ride blissfully along, perhaps even making money while hitching a ride. For the free-ride faithful, nothing feels better than a complementary lift to some exotic destination.

So come along, punch that ticket and go gratis with these enviable occupations where getting comped is all part of the job. Be warned though, free rides are often come with a price. The piper must get paid one way or another. Here’s the pros and cons of jobs that seemingly let you ride for free.

Flight Attendant

Never pay for an airline ticket again. The world will be in the palm of your hand. So you want to go to Istanbul for the weekend? Just make sure you’re back in London to catch the red-eye home. There’s no other job that come close to the amount of movable freedom that flight attendants have. Chase snow to Colorado, surf to Mexico, SCUBA dive in Bermuda. A motivated flight attendant can get paid to see and explore the world. Sure, most of the time that you’re in the air you’ll be performing basic janitorial duties and bartending skills, listening to whiny passengers, screaming babies and arranging luggage. Airport lounges will be your home. And time zones? Try not to pay attention to them. 

Ship Crew

yacht, ship crew, free ride

Sail the seven seas without spending a nickel. Captains are always looking for crew. Any harbor in the world will have at least one sign looking for adventurous souls willing to trade swabbing the decks and manning the midnight watch for a free ride to the next port of call. Room, board and nautical miles traveled free of charge. Sunsets, sunrises and a pirate’s life for you come included. A word to the wise — get to know your potential captain and always ask to see the boat they’re sailing first. Once you sign on to the journey, the captain rules your life for the duration. A crazy skipper or leaky boat can turn your free ride into a nightmare faster than you can say “ahoy, matey.”

Railroad Hobo

railroad hobo, free ride, train

This one was more popular a couple of generations ago but a hearty few still ride the rails. Best for steam-punkers and other nostalgic culturists, this free ride is perfect for things like paying your dues, writing folk music and practicing graffiti art and hobo tags. Believe it or not, some sort of training and skill is required. Catching those moving trains isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies and territorial hobos aren’t the friendliest vagabonds either. One more thing, it’s illegal. So lawsuits, jail time and job loss are all part of the adventure.

Ski Liftie

ski liftie, free rides, travel

With how expensive lift tickets have gotten, a free ski pass is as good as gold. Riding the lifts for free isn’t the only benefit of working at a ski resort. It’s the skiing or snowboarding for free that’s the real bonus. Laughing at the suckers who paid over 100 bucks a day to ride. The main problem with being a liftie (besides being paid minimum wage and trying to live in expensive ski towns) is that most of your time on the slopes will be spent standing in the cold, watching those same suckers ski and ride as you scan their passes and load them onto the lifts.   

Band Roadie

band roadie, backstage, free ride

Go on tour with your favorite band. Live the rock and roll lifestyle, rolling like a stone from one gig to the next. Jump on the tour bus after the show and do it all over again the next night in a different town. Hit on groupies with lines like, “What city are we in again?” and “I can get you backstage.” Some heavy lifting is required and a cool nickname will definitely give you a leg up in the application process. Being a roadie is the ultimate free ride if you are nocturnal and like being yelled at by egotistical, overly dramatic band members. Permanent hearing damage is another hazard and you should be comfortable wearing the exact same outfit for three months, since there’s not a lot of storage available when you’re sharing a bus with 12 other people.


hitchhiking, free rides, travel, free travel

The original American free ride — stick out your thumb, show some leg and when someone stops and asks where you’re headed reply in a cool, raspy voice, “Wherever you’re going is good with me.” Due to an unfortunate rise in hitchhiker crime, it’s a lot harder to get picked up nowadays, especially if you’re trying to avoid truck stops and truckers, which is generally a good rule. Keep an eye out for vans with Phish and Grateful Dead stickers, they’re you’re best bet. And remember to travel light. There’s nothing worse than picking up a hitchhiker who has a giant duffle bag or a boyfriend hiding in the bushes nearby.     

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