Road Kids of America: Rediscovering Unconventional Travel

When I was twenty years old, I left the security of home to backpack aimlessly across the United States, and quickly discovered a subculture of people participating in the same unconventional activity. This group, who I refer to as “road kids,” are young people in their late teens and twenties who choose to wander across the country via hitchhiking and/or train hopping. Unlike other homeless wanderers, road kids do not adopt a completely transient existence, but instead opt for a temporary nomadic lifestyle. The history of road kids is a vast and varied one that has roots in America’s complex history of transient populations, as well as generations of societal resistance. This thesis argues that the road kid phenomenon of the 21st century, like the transient communities that came before it, was caused by larger cultural and economic forces. It also explores the motives for nomadic travel through hitchhiking and/or train hopping, as well as typical demographics of the travelers who partake in it. An examination of this group provides a unique opportunity to analyze an American subculture with practices that mimic a bygone era of our nation’s history. By building upon the foundational research of my fellow scholars, as well as personal experience, my examination of this cultural practice allows an important glimpse into a counterculture of modern-day individuals who have gone largely undetected by mainstream society.


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Work Title Road Kids of America: Rediscovering Unconventional Travel
Open Access
  1. Felicia Wolf
  1. transient culture
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Masters Thesis
Publication Date 2022
Deposited June 28, 2022




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