The World's Greatest Hitchhiker and His 'Wandering Princess'

Juan Villarino and Laura Lazzarino wander the world together on $7 a day
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2018 2:20 PM CDT
On the Road With World's Greatest Hitchhiker
The ultimate life, for some.   (Getty Images/palidachan)

It takes more than a durable thumb and the stomach for strangers to be a top-notch vagabond. Take it from Juan Villarino, dubbed the "world's best hitchhiker" by Wes Enzinna for the New York Times, which profiles Villarino and picks his brain for how he's become the "king of the ride." And he's nabbed quite a few: 2,350, by his count, with more than 100,000 miles of hitched rides through 90 or so countries. Villarino describes his penchant for flagging down cars, starting at the crack of dawn, as a way to fend off life's ennui, as well as to protest a more reined-in and capitalistic way of life. "The 12-hour workday is more dangerous than hitchhiking," he once wrote. Villarino has got his "trade" down to a science, and like any decent researcher, he documents in tiny notebooks how long he waits for rides in various locales; he once got stranded two days in Tibet.

Villarino (who's around 40, based on Enzinna's timeline) also has other best practices, including staying away from hats and sunglasses (it may make drivers wary if they can't see your eyes); staking out a post near an obstacle that causes drivers to slow, like a pothole; and to keep smiling, even if the car passes by, as "the driver might notice him in the rearview mirror and, seeing his genial countenance, decide to reconsider." He travels the world with his "wandering princess," Laura Lazzarino, with whom he fell in love and co-authored a 2014 book, the sales of which help fund their travels. They spend about $7 each a day in their nomadic lifestyles, "leading a life almost entirely on the highway, without a fixed address or jobs or bills." Read the full story, including what happened when Enzinna shadowed him on a 1,000-mile journey from Namibia to Cape Town. (More Longform stories.)

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