Guest Post by Ananya Mody: “Thoughts From Travel- Why I need You”

Written by  //  July 26, 2015  //  Reflections  //  Comments Off

We are what deep, driving desire is. Hypothetically, if I were to be granted unlimited means, I’d use the opportunity to fund a dream which might be mostly clichéd but extremely desirable nevertheless- to travel the world. It’s quite hard to explain why I enjoy traveling the amount I do. I find my love for travel in the interesting food I sample, the artful streets I walk down, the way it creates a portal to world history and the new people I meet and stories I hear. Travel leads to all kinds of encounters and experiences. And you never return the same person. I’ve had my fair share of them which have been quite entertaining and insightful at the same time. I’ve always come home with the ability to look at life from a different perspective. However, there was one such incident in particular, during my travels, which really got me thinking.

If you were to see a hitchhiker on the side of the road, would you stop your car for them? Would you give them a second thought or just drive by? I’ve asked this question to a number of people and received wildly innovative but essentially similar responses- it’s dangerous. They could be murderers. They could have guns. They might steal your car. They could kidnap you. The possibilities are endless and Murphy’s Law will not fail to prove itself. Yet we hear countless stories about successful hitchhikers and their memorable journeys- and I would like to add mine to the list.

A couple of months ago, I was volunteering at a farm in Sebastopol, Sonoma County- about 55 miles from San Francisco when I had my first ever hitchhiking experience. On the weekend following my arrival, my fellow volunteers and I decided to make a trip to San Francisco. And we unanimously agreed to hitchhike for the sake of experience despite being advised against it quite severely. Being five people, we split into teams of two and three and turned it into a race to the city. The first team had three different people take them on at various points until they were forced to take the bus by the San Rafael police. Hitchhiking on the highway isn’t legal. We, on the other hand, took an hour and a half to get a ride but when we did, we were dropped off past the Golden Gate, straight into the city. Oh and we won the race. The lady who gave us a ride said, “You guys are crazy to be doing this, that’s why I’m going to take you.” She made us some space in her crowded car and spoke to us throughout the ride. She spoke about her job, where she was headed, her family, her ex-husband, her boyfriend and everything else you’d share with someone who you’re probably never going to meet again.

So why did a sole lady driver stop to give three strangers a ride? The probability of three girls being a threat is as high as in any other gender group. But as most hitchhikers will tell you, people do so because of their need for companionship. Their desire to talk and share. Their need to be acknowledged. Sometimes, the thirst for companionship is too strong to be quenched by a radio. Man is a social animal, after all.

Psychological needs are as demanding as physiological ones- they just happen to be severely underrated. Even the most introverted person requires human interaction to survive and thrive. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly states the importance of social groups in civilized society which has fulfilled its physiological survival needs. We grow through external stimulation which is more often than not, provided by other individuals. Our life is incomplete if we do not have other people to share our achievements with and fall back on in dire circumstances. And after the acquisition of a strong social group, people will tell you that they have found it much easier to cope with the loss of needs lying in the lower rungs of the pyramid. There are two reasons I attribute this to. The first is emotional support which one is more privy to once they have acquired companionship. The other is that the loss of needs is temporarily compensated for by pooling and sharing the resources of other members in the social group. We need company to prevent us from losing our sanity. History has proven that groups have a higher chance of survival than individuals do. Our need for company can be so intense that it overpowers our common sense. In those moments, we like to put our faith in humanity and take a few risks to fulfil our emotional needs.

This need for company is what enables a solo traveler to travel alone. Because in truth, a solo traveler never travels alone. He just travels with a little more personal space. It is also an effective cure of introverted-ness. People who find it hard to talk to new people, simply have to be left in an unfamiliar environment. You could keep quiet for a while but eventually, your inner need for companionship will present itself in one form or the other and you’ll be out there talking to new people. It’s a survival strategy nature has blessed us with. And it is this very same survival strategy which gives us the power to build a network of individuals from across the globe. It is what take businesses and people forward. It is what makes communities develop. It is what makes us go out and enjoy ourselves on a Friday night. It is what enables us to love and have and preserve meaningful relationships. The need for companionship may run deep and be quite thought provoking but it presents itself to us in various forms every day.

So for the next time you wonder why somebody picked up a hitchhiker on a deserted stretch of the highway, why somebody put themselves at risk for people they hardly know, why they hoped the universe will prove to be a kinder place- you have your answer.

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