Driving with strangers

What hitchhiking tells us about humanity

By Jonathan Purkis

Driving with strangers


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6004-1
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: November 2021
  • BIC Category: Lifestyle, sport & leisure / Travel writing, Sociology, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, TRAVEL / General, Humanities / History, Society & social sciences / Sociology


At a time of climate crisis, isolation and social breakdown, Driving with strangers is a manifesto to alter how we think about our place in the world. A life-long hitchhiker and long-distance traveller, Purkis journeys through the history of hitchhiking to explore the unique opportunities for cooperation, friendship, sustainability and openness that it represents.

Join Purkis on the kerbside, in search of Woody Guthrie as he examines the politics of the travelling song, deep on a Russian hitch-hiking expedition, or considering the politics of travel and risk on the 'Highway of Tears' in British Columbia, Canada. The reader is taken on a panoramic road trip through a century of hitchhiking across different decades, countries and continents.

Purkis, a self-styled 'vagabond sociologist', is the perfect passenger to accompany you on a journey away from isolation, social distancing, closed borders and into a better understanding of why and how strangers can enrich our lives.


Prologue: 'A Romantic, gallant and even brilliant adventure'
1 The intention of a tradition: Definitions of hitchhiking
2 How to think like a hitchhiker: An introduction to vagabond sociology
3 In search of Woody Guthrie: Singing the politics of hitchhiking
4 'Maybe we will meet a nice person': Hitchhiking, conflict, human nature
5 The great European adventure trail: Hitchhiking as a measure of freedom
6 The Alaska Highway hitchhiker's visitor's book: The personality of the 'extreme hitchhiker'
7 The power of the gift without return: Hitchhiking as economic allegory
8 The myth of the great decline: Hitchhiking and the increasing levels of trust in the world
9 Climatic dangers: Hitchhiking and the relative realities of risk
10 Good news from Vilnius: The rich life of hitchhiking in former communist countries
11 A prescription for hitchhiking? Travel and talk in the age of pandemics and extinction
Afterword: The bookcase at the end of the road

Acknowledgments: A hitchhiker's guide to the journey


Jonathan Purkis is an independent writer and academic

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