I've hitchhiked a few times in my life when I was younger. But having gotten stranded in weird, isolated villages; soaked in the rain; and scared witless by one particular driver, I decided the bus or train might be a better option.

Not so for travel writer Amanda Nolan, for whom run-of-the-mill hitchhiking seemed a little too easy.

She took to the skies instead.

Documenting her experiences at her website Jet Hiking, Amanda has been traveling almost non-stop for the last year, hitching rides with amateur pilots in an attempt to get to every state in mainland USA. And she only has eight more to go.

She's had to hang around airports for days on end, never knowing when her next ride will show up. But her travels have shown her a side of the country that few of us get to experience, and have introduced her to a passionate community of hobbyist pilots keen to share their world with others:

"After a night of braving thunderstorms, I carted my damp backpack and tent to the airport in squishy wet shoes to meet Kristin, who said she was overdue for a trip in her Grumman and offered to give me a lift. Kristin recalled the days when she had similar adventures and often relied on the kindness of strangers. She bought her plane in 1985 and didn’t tell her parents until six months later when she asked them to 'hold the cat for a while' and became an airplane hobo traveling the U.S. and Canada, sleeping in airports and meeting new friends. We opened the canopy and headed to her home base in Lusby, Maryland, where she forgot to mention that there was often some random wildlife on the runway – like the deer that just stared at the plane while we were landing before it jumped away into the woods."
As someone interested in greener travel, I have to note that the aviation industry in general is responsible for considerable air pollution and carbon emissions. Whether Amanda's prolific ride-sharing with hobbyist pilots is greener than commercial travel is probably something that an egghead could debate for hours. On the one hand, she's hitching a ride with folks who are probably flying anyway. On the other, she's responsible for her share of the emissions in each flight she takes.

Either way, I have to admit that Amanda's journey sounds like an awful lot of fun, so much so that she's considering getting her own pilots license (hey, maybe one day she can fly in a solar-powered plane). In the interests of sharing resources, however, she's also proposed a rather novel idea. Given the countless amateur pilots around the country, why not establish an organized ridesharing scheme for folks who need to get from A to B and would like to experience a different kind of flying? Here's how she described the idea in an interview with the Daily Mail:

"I think an organised ride-share system between pilots and travelers to cut costs on both ends could make this a reasonable option for travelers with a limited amount of time. I definitely recommend visiting a local airport or flying club and seeing what the general aviation side is all about."
Woman 'jet hikes' on private planes for an entire year
This enterprising travel writer has been hitching free rides with amateur pilots across the United States. It's fun, but it's not easy.