Hitchhiking seems to have disappeared, except as part of the title of a classic radio/ TV/ movie/ novel comedy - Gone at least in the UK. But in the late 1970s and early 80s it was a big part of my life.
I was a medical student, and certainly not especially wild or adventurous; but hitchhiking soon became simply a normal part of life; if not 'everyday' then at least every few weeks.
That was how I used to travel - especially to the many places which did not have a decent train service (or any train service) - such as the Lake District.
I can recall hitching from Newcastle to Hexham for a morning visit, to look around the place - a mere 20 miles. Also going on holiday to visit friends, diagonally from eastern Scotland to the South West of England - about 500 miles. And much in-between.
It was very normal. It now seems extraordinary to launch-out on such ventures, with no particular route, not carrying any map (which I now find unbelievable), and with no preparation...
Well, sometimes I would make a cardboard sign with the destination written upon it in marker pen - but only when I had got stuck somewhere. A sign did help, but I couldn't usually be bothered.
As with many functional aspects of everyday life, I don't recall very much detail about these years - any more than I recall the train or bus journeys. It was a way of getting from one place to another - although I did realize there was something strangely wonderful about the fact of it being possible; and therefore I was not amazed when it died-out.
I myself never gave a ride to a hitchhiker after I got my own car - which was in the middle eighties. Ungrateful - yes; but there you go: Zeitgeist, I suppose.
And I had a couple of off-putting experiences of getting stuck hitch-hiking, not being able to get a ride - which was probably an early indication that it was dying-out.
The last time I recall hitch-hiking was a complete failure. I was in Ireland, on my own (probably 1982), and trying to get from the west (Waterford, I think) across the middle and back towards Dublin. I got a short ride into the middle of nowhere, in steady drizzling rain next to endless bog land; and could go no further.
Few cars went past, and probably none were crossing the bog.
After a couple of hours of misery, I walked across to the other side of the road, and quickly got a ride back to where I had started - then made my way to Dublin by train. It was a wasted day - a significant loss on a short holiday.
Perhaps - for me - the key was that - after I started work - I had more money and less time; and did not want potentially to 'waste time' on travelling. Also, I began to carry more luggage.
Yet my experiences had been nearly all positive - that 500 mile journey only took about nine hours... At any rate I got to my destination in time for tea; and was in fact delivered almost door-to-door (to within about half a mile) after a single 300 mile plus ride from somewhere in the north of England.
So there really was something magical, life-affirming, about hitching; which I certainly appreciated.
And perhaps the reason it disappeared was simply part of the general disenchantment of life, which indeed began to gather strength from the middle 1980s.
Until then, it did not seem utterly absurd to lie on one's back in a field, stick-out a cheery thumb; and hitch a ride to 'the galaxy' from some passing UFO.
Note added: The disenchantment of life is a fact - and it seems to have begun several centuries ago; but it is also necessary to our spiritual development. The fact is that relying upon external sources of enchantment was not good for us; it just made us spiritually lazy. The enchantment given-us (reliably, and fairly passively given) by particular situations and experiences (such has hitchhiking) was (by the middle 20th century) very partial; and clearly inadequate - because mass apostasy, mass media, fashion, and imposed-abstract peer orientation (as with 'teenage', and its cults and tribes) was proceeding relentlessly. We had to be made to stop relying on external circumstances to supply us with enchantment by withdrawal of its availability and gratifications; and this has by-now substantially happened. Now - we must either work for enchantment consciously and by choice - or else we will have none; and will lapse into chronic and intractable disenchantment, alienation and despair - and will try to 'deal with' these by distraction (including intoxication) and relying-upon being temporarily overpowered by the negative emotions: spite, resentment, disgust, fear, sadism etc - as seen increasingly in our daily discourse. In other words, we refused to learn from kind and easy life-lessons; and therefore must have harsh and tough life-lessons... Yet still most resist learning from them. It seems that almost all life-satisfactions need to be withdrawn before many people can be brought to take the needful eternal and Heavenly perspective - which is all that can save a Man from choosing Hell by default.