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What is a Hitchhiker?

10/02/2002
by Silent Doug

A hitchhiker (sometimes known as a "parasite") is a letterbox with no permanent home. Instead, a hitchhiker travels from letterbox to letterbox, "hitching a ride" with whomever happens to find it.

Hitchhikers are fun to find.A hitchhiker includes the same basic components as a letterbox: a rubber stamp (usually created just for that hitchhiker) and a journal in some kind of a container, either a small watertight plastic box with lid or a heavy duty ziplock bag. Hitchhikers in plastic bags are meant to be placed inside a host letterbox, so they're usually very compact, without extra items like a stamp pad or pencil. Hitchhikers in plastic containers are meant to be hidden alongside a letterbox. Sometimes, there's no room inside a letterbox or in a box's hiding place for the hitchhiker, so you'll have to carry the hitcher to your next destination instead.

Each portion of the journey is recorded. Stamp your personal stamp and the stamp of each host letterbox in the hitchhiker's logbook. Stamp the hitcher in your own journal, counting it as a find in your PFX count. Finally, stamp the hitchhiker's stamp into each letterbox where the hitcher makes a stop.

Most letterboxers who create hitchhikers like to live vicariously through reports of their hitchers' progress through the country. If the creator requests updates from finders of the hitchhiker, please take a moment to send an email message when you get home. Some letterboxers track the progress of their hitchhikers on their Web sites (as I do; Wanda and Pete track all hitchhikers in the U.S.). It's considered bad hitchhiker etiquette, however, to publicly reveal the location where you dropped off a hitchhiker, such as on the LBNA message list. You can report where you found the hitchhiker, but please don't tell where you left it.

Hitchhikers are sometimes known as "travelers," but a traveler is an entirely different creature. A traveler is a letterbox on the move, often carried by an individual letterboxer. In order to stamp into the traveler, you have to meet that letterboxer in person. In the summer of 2002, a member of the Connecticut Hurricanes drum & bugle corps created a traveling letterbox that moved with the corps as it competed throughout the Northeast U.S. To "find" the traveler, you needed to attend a competition where the corps was performing. Travelers can even host hitchhikers on their journeys.

As of November 2002, there were approximately 280 hitchhikers in circulation in the United States. At that time, there were more than 2,500 letterboxes in the U.S., you ought to find a hitchhiker in every ten letterboxes you find (on average). But statistics don't always tell the whole story. Many of those hitchhikers are currently in knapsacks or car trunks, waiting to be dropped off at another box. In practice, you might only find one or two hitchhikers in your first 100 letterboxes. There are plenty of hitchhikers out there, so don't lose hope!

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