St Barths on shoe leather and a thumb

Before I left Eden Rock, on St. Barths, in search of the local tobacconist, I was told: “You can’t get lost.” Usually, when I hear that, I wind up making some wrong turn or other directional blunder.

The route from Eden Rock to Village Creole, where I planned to cut and light a cigar at La Casa del Habano, consisted of only one road. I just didn’t notice the sprawling shopping complex as I walked past it. The light drizzle soon became rain and then a downpour as I walked in frustration, searching for a place that was behind me.

At the next available business – a bar – I cobbled together enough French to learn I’d missed the shop. Sighing as I turned, the local took pity on me and called for my attention. Sopping and defeated, I turned around to experience advice so warm it actually took the sting out of the rain. He suggested that I hitchhike back to Village Creole. And, if nobody picked me up by the time he finished his beer, he’d scoop me off the streets and deliver me to La Casa del Habano.

Somewhat uplifted, I ventured back to the sidewalk, wary of the splash threat from passing cars and trucks – I’d already fallen victim several times. It may seem like a dicey proposition, but I was told that hitchhiking is both common and safe on St. Barths. I was still nagged by the concerns of a lifetime of “Don’t talk to strangers” lectures, but I found a way to extend my thumb and arm. The first car passed, but the second picked me up. It took about two minutes to get a ride.

I never got his name, but there was hardly time. I couldn’t have been in the shotgun seat for five minutes before we reached my destination, which wasn’t as far away as I’d thought.

Kindly, the driver – who had the rugged skin, hands and muscles of a laborer but the long, curly blond hair and relaxed demeanor of Hollywood’s interpretation of a surfer – pulled into the parking space closest to the cigar shop. He asked for nothing in return for his time and trouble. Matter-of-factly, he said goodbye, and we went our separate ways.

It can be a tough leap for Americans raised to believe that hitchhiking is akin to inviting a homicide. If you want to try it once in as risk-free an environment as you’ll find, do it on St. Barths – it really is the easiest way to get around.

Disclosure: Eden Rock picked up the tab for this trip, and it would have been impossible to cover this destination otherwise, given the cost. Nonetheless, my opinions are my own – they’re certainly not for sale at any price.