In February 2015, Matt hitchhiked for 15 days around the United States in search of people who would put their trust in a perfect stranger. In the not-so-distant past, hitchhiking was very common in the US, but today many people say to Matt that "you just can't trust people that way anymore". Matt asks, has humanity become less trustworthy over the past 60 years, or is it only our perception that has changed?
Matt posted in real-time updates on instagram as @americanhitchhiker about the friendly strangers who gave him rides, a place to sleep, or showed him kindness.
He is currently searching for an editor to publish this project's follow up essay. Interested? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for his query letter.
When the homeless man sitting in the corner laughing to himself walked over to talk to me about the rain, I got a little nervous. But after a few minutes, Chad invited me to join him for a cigarette outside and I caught little glimpses of the man trapped deep inside his schizophrenia. When I showed him this picture, he said "Nowadays, I see my picture and it don't look like me". Suddenly I realized that we could both use a shave, so I bought some razors and cream and we both went clean shaven in the gas station restroom. I was even more ashamed of my initial fear of him when he tried to pay me for the shave.
These Alabama locals don't usually pick up hitchhikers, but when they saw me with my thumb out, Sibyl & Tiffany turned the car around to try to give me $5. They were confused when I declined and (to Tiffany's horror) they reluctantly offered me a ride. It didn't take long for us to loosen up and they were texting their families about their funny situation. We talked about why they might be afraid to pick me up and they said that looks can be deceiving, and that you just never know what a stranger might do, but it's important to listen to that little voice in your head. Before I hugged them goodbye, Tiffany said, "We shouldn't live on those what-ifs because those what-ifs may never occur".
This was the first person I saw in Chattanooga. I'd arrived just as Con-Nooga was ending and I was offered a ride by a truck of blacksmiths wearing kilts, but I had other plans in the city. I didn't get a ride from Superguy or anything, but I wanted to say that I feel so much safer knowing that he's out there fighting all the axe-murderers.
Dustin is from Utah and he drove me in his rig from the ice storm in TN to the beautiful weather in Colorado. He is an uncle, a Mormon, a lover of 80's Rock, and a karaoke wizard. So much can be said about this caring and passionate dude, but he says "Keep the shiny side up". This photo was taken while Dustin sang Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues".