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Meet Juan Villarino: A Man Who Traveled 90 Countries and 100,000 Miles by Hitchhiking

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The New York Times called Juan Villarino “The World’s Best Hitchiker.” His story is unlike any other, traveling more than 100,000 miles in the passenger’s seat of strangers’ cars. Villarino hitchhikes his way around the globe, quite literally, as he has hitchhiked through 90 countries over the 14 months.

His day begins bright and early, up at the crack of dawn and standing on the side of the road by the time morning rush hour is in full swing. But Villarino doesn’t simply wander the streets waiting for a car to pick him up; there’s strategy involved. He says the best place to catch a ride has two features: a safe place for cars to pull over and something unusual about the path that will cause drivers to slow down. This can be anything from a pothole or speed bump to a railroad crossing. But he does have one secret up his sleeve: “You don’t catch a ride with your thumb,” he said. “You catch it with a smile.”

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This wasn’t always Villarino’s plan, though. His family lost everything in 2001, when the Argentine economy lost its footing. Villarino was only 23. “I realized that you could work your whole life for a house, a career, and overnight it all could vanish,” he told Wes Enzinna of The New York Times.

After working in Belfast for a few years, Villarino decided to take a trip, one that would change his life forever. He set a budget of $5 a day with plans to travel from Europe through the Middle East and India. Of course, to travel that distance without spending a fortune, Villarino decided to hitchhike his way there.

Since then, he has been hitchiking around the world alongside his travel partner, Laura Lazzarino. Villarino uses hitchiking as a way to have new conversations, truly hear their stories, and learn more about who we are as people. “We’re writing a book about the kindness of strangers.”

“Hitchiking is a process of reconciliation between the haves and have-nots,” said Villarino. “I like to put myself in a position of powerlessness and see what happens.”

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News Source: The New York Times Magazine