Meet Clarence Lam, the Singaporean Hitchhiker Behind the Instagram Series #everybodyspassing

Meet Clarence Lam, the Singaporean Hitchhiker Behind the Instagram Series #everybodyspassing

Ever kept a photo log on your travelling experiences? Well, Clarence Lam takes it further with an Instagram series of drivers he met on his hitchhiking journeys! Here’s what the Singaporean has to say about his travel photos.

Hitchhiking, challenging stereotypes and presenting it in the form of an intriguing photo series on Instagram – Clarence Lam takes on the quest. This is the Singaporean behind #everybodyspassing, where he photographs various drivers that had picked him up during his hitchhiking exploits. Clarence has hitchhiked extensively across America and Europe, and this series brings forth the interesting faces he met along the way and an accompanying snippet of their life.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Victor & Angie, Romania. A ventilation technician living in London, Victor visits his wife once every three months, where he spends 25 hours driving from London back to his hometown.

Antonis & Argryo, free climbers from Larissa and Athens, Greece. Antonis, who owns a motorcycle repair business, has not experienced much difficulties in his business after the Greek crisis.

Joel, a rancher from Catalonia, Spain. Like many other Catalonians, Joel sees himself as a Catalonian first, and hopes for a Catalonian independence some day.

Christopher, a businessman from the USA. A former national champion pole-vaulter, Christopher was arrested after giving a ride to a mutual friend who hid drugs under his seat. He has since started life from scratch at the age of 27, and currently runs his own surveillance system business.

Agron, a Macedonian of Albanian descent. Agron is trilingual – he speaks Macedonian, Albanian and German fluently – a result of living in Stuttgart, Germany, for over 10 years.

Al, an American. Al once backpacked across Asia and sold drugs on the side, and has since been exiled from Australia for overstaying and selling weed.

Fabien, an umpire for the local soccer team in La Seu D’urgell, Spain. La Seu D’urgell is just 10km away from the Andorran border.

Simon, a canoe instructor in Foix, France. Foix is the last major town from the border of Andorra.

Natan, a surveyor in Israel. Natan grew up in New York, and has spent the last 36 years living in Tel-Aviv. He was raised Jewish, and felt right at home from the very first time he visited the Israeli capital.

Hernando, a truck driver from Mexico. The region that Hernando drives in is infamous for being a frequent route for drug smuggling and the stomping grounds of the Mexican crime syndicate Los Zetas.

Having stumbled across #everybodyspassing, we got in touch with this digital nomad, who currently works in the tech industry.

On the inspiration for #everybodyspassing

Clarence tells us that the main purpose of #everybodyspassing is to debunk stereotypes and show that kind people come from all walks of life, varying backgrounds and worldviews. “I wanted to create stories where people are people, and the ones who picked me up were definitely kind-hearted,” he says. “They have all helped me out equally for nothing in return.”

Despite the sheer amount of posts that #everybodyspassing has now, it took two incidents before the photo series became what it is today! Clarence initially took the project very casually, with sporadic posts during his travels.

Things started to change when he was robbed twice, in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. After surviving an attempted kidnapping in Mexico where he was trying to hitchhike from Guatemala into the US border, he decided to post more consistently. “[It was] due to survival reasons,” he admits. “My smartphone was my only item of value back then.”

The photo series became more focused after a suggestion from Russ, an American creative director whose car Clarence had hitchhiked on during his travels in the US. “From then on, I started taking this project more seriously and structure [it] in a way that was more presentable to the public,” he recalls.

On how he started hitchhiking

Clarence still doesn’t exactly know why he started hitchhiking. “The first time I did it was with my friend from Singapore,” he recalls. “I had actually won a pair of tickets to Istanbul from a Facebook game organised by Changi Airport Group. Since I had a month free in Turkey, we just decided to give hitchhiking and Couchsurfing a try.”

From then on, he found it difficult to travel in a group tour, or adhere to a specific travel schedule. “I think it is the element of surprise and possibility of serendipity that makes it special. We are living in an era where we no longer leave things to chance anymore. We read reviews before going to a restaurant or buying a certain product,” he says. “I do understand the appeal of planning early in order to get the best deals, but I feel that this also becomes a major buzzkill.”

On his best and worst hitchhiking experience

Having hitchhiked all over America, Europe and parts of Asia, Clarence certainly has had his fair share of exciting adventures! He picks an incident near Oaxaca, Mexico as his best hitchhiking experience, and one in Turkey as his worst.

The former was the moment when a local bridge engineer saved Clarence from being kidnapped! This kind-hearted driver went even further to help him. “He had…bought me a bus ticket to the next town when I needed it as the mountainous region made it really hard to hitchhike, and gave me some money to tide over the next couple weeks,” he reminisces.

The latter occurred in Turkey, where Clarence was hitchhiking with his friend. They had suspected that the driver and his fellow passenger were attempting to rob them. “We spontaneously made up a story that we got robbed and needed help to get to the next town,” he remembers. “Fortunately, this worked as they stopped the car and told us to get out.”

On his favourite stories

Clarence loves posts that align with his project’s purpose – to break stereotypes! His favourite stories are of Riyad, Demothi and Albion.

Riyad, a Tunisian living in France.

A Tunisian living in France for more than 20 years, Riyad is a Muslim who was dating an atheist Cuban. “He never had problems as a Muslim growing up in France,” Clarence recalls. “[B]ut things changed since 9/11 and have deteriorated further in the recent years with the growing Islamophobia.”

Demothi, a policeman in Missouri, USA.

Demothi is an American policeman who picked Clarence up in Missouri when he was hitchhiking from Kansas City to St. Louis. “He was really interested in what I was doing and definitely veered away from the bad reputation of policemen in the US,” Clarence states.

Albion, an Albanian diplomat in Montenegro.

Clarence met Albion in Podgorica, Montenegro. This Albanian is actually a diplomat, who was currently serving his first rotation at the overseas mission in Montenegro! Albion had a background in law, and was pursuing his Masters in Belgium before deciding to return home to make it a better place for his countrymen instead. “[His story was] worth taking note,” Clarence mused.

With such colourful and diverse backgrounds, it is no wonder that these individuals are in Clarence’s favourite posts!

On hitchhiking for solo travellers

As an extremely seasoned traveller, Clarence has much advice to give on hitchhiking for solo travellers. For starters, he believes that there is definitely heightened risk when hitchhiking. “To be fair, I have been robbed before when I was travelling on a bus and this was actually from the police who wanted bribes,” he admits.

Clarence also feels that race does matter when travelling in other parts of the world. “Race wasn’t something I thought much of growing in Singapore as a Singaporean Chinese [which is the majority race in Singapore],” he reflects. “[Things changed] when I was travelling in Central America as many have the perception that Asians who can travel this far are rich and they are usually too submissive to fight back. This problem was especially bad for me in Nicaragua…[where] there was definitely local resentment against anyone they deemed as ‘Chinese-looking’.”

However, Clarence insists that solo travellers can still hitchhike! He advises solo travellers be constantly up to date with the news and to know what to expect of their intended destinations from both locals and tourists who had been there.

“To be fair, the moment you have made the decision to travel, you are already willingly exposing yourself to greater risk than from where you come from due to your unfamiliarity with the surroundings,” he says. “I don’t want to dissuade anyone from travelling and I definitely do think the point is not to avoid risks but to manage them and take calculated ones…I think it has to be done progressively according to your personal comfort level.”

Ultimately, Clarence thinks that you have to be fully aware and know what kind of risks you are taking when it comes to spontaneous travelling. “[I]f you don’t think you can deal with the consequences of those risks, [hitchhiking] may not be for you,” he states.

On the future of #everybodyspassing

Clarence admits that sustaining the photo series has become a lot harder with his new job. “I tried paying a few hitchhikers to continue the project but it just didn’t feel the same,” he says.

Clarence posits that the time-consuming nature of this project (hitchhiking can take days), the language barrier and cultural differences are significant obstacles in maintaining #everybodyspassing. “It is absolutely necessary to be fluent in the language they are speaking in order to get a deep enough conversation going,” he explains. “The cultural element is also another factor. Eastern Europeans for example, tend to be more reserved with strangers compared to the Americans.”

Clarence still has plans to expand to China, though. “[U]nlike many travel blogs which tend to be slightly Eurocentric in its approach, I would prefer to break down such bias resulting from language and cultural barriers,” he asserts.

On our last takeaways 

Clarence also has some final advice for more casual travellers: have an open mind but also a greater awareness of everything that is happening around you!

He feels that a good travelling approach is to both have a travel plan and be responsive to unexpected incidents that crop up. “I think it is important to plan in your travels, but also allow for some flexibility in letting spontaneous events occur and react to them accordingly,” he concludes. “Most [people] over- or under-plan, which can both be an equally serious problem.”

Wise words from the man who survived a kidnapping! Clarence has indeed regaled us with tales of his hitchhiking travels, and provided us with valuable guidance on travelling. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and in his Instagram series #everybodyspassing!

About Author

Dominic Low
Dominic Low

Dominic has seen many weird things in his travels, and aspires to see more. He is extremely fascinated by culture, ancient civilisations, and awe-inspiring scenery. When not planning imaginary trips to esoteric parts of the world, he runs obsessively and attempts to capture photos of lightning.