German trains may be incredibly nice, but they’re also incredibly expensive. Too expensive for most people traveling long distances. So the German people have responded to the situation and created their own system to make long distance public transit more accessible. The answer? Organized hitchhiking.

Finding a ride without sticking out your thumb on the side of the road couldn’t be easier. You simply go the Mitfahrgelegenheit website (only in German), enter your travel plans, and search for a car that leaves when and where you want to leave. You chip in for gas money, but the cost can be as little as 1/10 the cost of trains. You get a ride, and the driver gets company and some extra cash for a trip he/she was already going to take. As long as you don’t get stuck in a sketchy car, it’s win-win.

I’m not here to sell Mitfahrgelegenheit, though. I think the most noteworthy part of this system is why it came to be. No matter how nice and efficient your country’s transit system is, there will always be some deficiencies. In Germany, organized hitchhiking provides an alternative to expensive trains. In Kenya, there’s only one train and major bus companies are few and far between, so private matatus and pikipikis (or motorcycles) access even the most rural areas. In the US, most places outside of cities are inaccessible on public transit without a car so the American people… umm… purchase personal vehicles.

When a government fails to provide for its people, the people have no choice but to adapt. It’s how they adapt that reveals the ability of a culture to handle bumps in the road.

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