Toby Israel hitchhiked her way through more than 3,700 miles in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France, and Italy, and in the entire three months she spent thumbing, the only negative experience she had was when a male driver asked if she'd ever had sex with two men. And though the idea of hitching, particularly as a woman, initially frightened her—and people she told were quick to warn her to be careful—ultimately, "I met with a veritable sea of humanity in those three months, and an inexhaustible wave of kindness and goodwill carried me across Europe," she writes on Salon.
In fact, she found that many people went out of their way to help her. "Young and female, I seemed to inspire not the worst, but the best in them—their instinctive drive to protect, to assist, to slow down for a moment and care about the fellow human at the edge of the autogrille (rest stop)," she writes. Why did she do it? She was determined to live as freely as a man can—and she's optimistic. "I believe in the goodness of humanity," she writes. "I chose to act not out of fear of the violent, malicious minority, but out of faith in a good-hearted, decent majority." Click for Israel's full column. (Read more hitchhiking stories.)