Excitement, Adventure, and Really Wild Things

How I became a Field Researcher for the Hitchhiker’s Guide

Justin K Prim
Justin K Prim
12 min readMar 23, 2024


Life, The Universe, and Ford Prefect, 2017

This article originally appeared in You and 42, edited by Jessica Burke and Anthony Burdge

My journey into the wild and life altering realms of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started innocently enough when I was 11 years old. I walked into the living room to see what my dad was watching on TV and was somehow sucked into what I was looking at. It was the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the BBC television series, and he had rented it on a double VHS from the video store. I’m not sure if my personal world shook at that moment or if I merely sat down like any curious kid would and tried to make sense of this strange things I was seeing.

Being the son of my father, I was destined to love sci-fi, video games, and all things computers. It’s what I grew up with and there was probably no other path for me. So when I sat down with him and had my first glimpse of Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent getting into all sort of spaceship hopping hijinks, it was destined to leave it’s mark on me.

Within a year, we had purchased our first Macintosh. This was 1993 and the Internet was still a few years away. Software, especially games, were few and far between for the Mac and somehow, we ended up with a box set of text-based adventures called The Lost Treasures of Infocom. I quickly learned the ins and outs of the Infocom game system and the first game I became obsessed with, of course, was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a slow and painful process and I think it took me a year before I could finally flip the switch of the Atomic Vector Plotter in all the right ways to get everything I needed eat a fruit to see the future and beat the game. Bureaucracy, another Douglas Adams adventure, was next and I have to admit that to this day, I never beat that game or even got very far in it.

But, The Guide. The Hitchhiker’s Guide had me. My early memories include going to the video store to reverently read and reread the back of that double VHS set. I remember getting the first book from the library, back when library computers had green writing on a black screen and the menu was burned into the monitor from displaying it for hours on end. After reading the first one, I was hungry for the next installment. I remember repeatedly trying to type in “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” and never being able to find it because I could never remember how to spell “restaurant.” But most importantly, I remember my Holy Grail moment, almost two years after my initial exposure to the television series. My parents took me to the Walden Books in our local mall and bought me my own copy; “The More than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with a black leather bound cover, gilded pages, and a sewn-in bookmark. It included the first four books, a special introduction, plus a short story. This became my bible. I started reading it as soon as I got in the car and twenty years later I still haven’t stopped. I was on my way to becoming the hoopiest frood in the Chicagoland area.

Maybe a year or so later we got the internet. We were the only people that I knew at the time who had it, and no one really seemed to know what to do with it. I remember in those early days you could get an internet version of the Yellow Pages book, where instead of people’s phone numbers, you could look up websites in the directory based on category. There was one website in the listing that was a Hitchhiker’s fan site. This was late ’96 or early ’97, so this might have been the first Hitchhiker’s site ever. I was there and loving it. I was reading my copy of the book and loving it. I was playing the Infocom game and loving it. I was rewatching the BBC series and loving it. Little did I know that my immersion into all things Hitchhiker’s was slowly transforming my pre-teen brain and planting seeds for how I would look at life and the universe when I became an adult.

Just after my 15th birthday, I discovered that Douglas Adams had his own website. It had a forum and I was incredibly excited to read updates from the man himself and discover that there was a whole world of stuff that he was involved with, old and new, that I knew nothing about. At this point, I knew the Hitchhiker’s series back to front and had acquired a copy of Mostly Harmless to go with my leather bound collection to finish the story. I didn’t yet know anything about Dirk Gently or Last Chance to See, but I was quickly discovering everything thanks to the list of works of the Douglas Adams website. Also around this time I discovered in the back of a mail order catalog a videotape called “The Making of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.” I could’t believe my discovery and immediately started saving allowance money to buy it.

I started to regularly check the Douglas Adams site and forum. This was around the time that Starship Titanic was being developed and for the first time I could watch the progress of a Douglas Adams project in real time. I was probably just old enough to be able to appreciate this. In February of 1999, Starship Titanic came out. I already had the novelization but I was excited to see where Douglas had gone with gaming since his Infocom days. Before I could even play it, I read an announcement on the site that overshadowed the game release completely. Douglas Adams, my favorite author in the world, was going on tour, and one of his stops was in Bloomington, Indiana, a mere 4 hour drive from my house.

I had to carefully consider how I could make this trip happen because remember I was only 15 at the time. Luckily, since my dad was also a Douglas Adams fan, it wasn’t too hard to work out. Despite the fact that it was in the middle of a school week, my dad agreed that he would take a day off work and I could take a day off of school to go down and see the talk. My teachers thought it was great too, since it was educational.

It was amazing. It was my first time in central Indiana, a region that I would spend a large portion of my 20’s in. We arrived at the Indiana University Memorial Union on April 12, 1999. With my leather bound edition in hand, we got a program and entered the hall. We sat towards the front of the completely packed room and Douglas came out on stage. Douglas Adams was standing mere feet from me! In real life! I was in love. He told the story of the train station and the packet of biscuits. I remember him reading a bit from a few different books and he must have talked about Starship Titanic and technology in general though I can hardly remember. There was a Q+A session after the talk and then a book signing. I got my leather bound Hitchhiker’s bible signed by Douglas himself and it quickly became my most prized possession. After that, I started collecting anything I could by Douglas. Within a few years, I had amassed a serious collection of all of his works. Thanks to the newly emerged eBay, I was able to obtain some of the more rare and random things such as the coffee table sized “Illustrated” Hitchhiker’s Guide and the multimedia CD-ROM version of Last Chance to See. I was a self styled field researcher on the new h2g2 website. After the interesting adventure that was Starship Titanic, it seemed Douglas’ works would just keep getting better and better.

Then the unthinkable happened. I remember reading it on the Douglas Adams site and I just couldn’t believe it. His death impacted me harder than any other death I have experienced before or since. Only two years after I had met my idol, he was gone. Gone from the world. I couldn’t believe it. I was 17 years old. All the energy that seemed to be building up through his work with The Digital Village and h2g2 and on the forum of his website just stopped. It all stopped and it seemed like there would be no more of his particular brand of humor in the world anymore.

Being 17, the loss of Douglas Adam hurt a very particular and sacred part of my heart, but in my own personal narrative, life was just beginning. It was about time to leave my parents house for college and to learn what the world was about in my own way. It was time to break away from everything that came before so that I could make new ties and open new doors into my future life. I was raised on the stories of Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Zaphod, and I was still too fresh to see how deep of an impact Douglas Adams had left on me.

Fast forward a five years. A lot has changed. I am currently hitchhiking my way across America for the first time. I’ve already dropped out of college, graduated from an audio engineering certification program, become an audio engineer, had a mid life crisis at age 21, sold everything I owned, moved to Connecticut and New York City, further sold everything I owned, and was now entering California for the first time with the entirety of my possessions on my back. My life motto was “Excitement, Adventure, and Really Wild Things!” A lot had changed.

Knowing nothing at all about the geography of California, I got dropped off on the beach in Santa Cruz. At midnight. It was my first time seeing the Pacific ocean, though I could hardly see it. I slept on the beach and then made my way into town the next morning. Almost immediately, a friendly guy stops my on the street and offers to show me around the town. He seems trustworthy so I get into his pickup truck and he proceeds to drive me around Santa Cruz for the next two hours pointing out all the highlights of the city while smoking a joint that he rolled while driving. Half stoned, I get out at the end, thank him, and wonder if this is what life is going to be like now: Infinite opportunities, a barrage of new friends in every city, excitement, adventure, and all the rest. I walk a bit further down the street and discover a cinema. Guess what’s playing? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m not actually that surprised because I knew that the feature film was about to come out. I pay for my ticket and enter the theater. I’m very excited because the BBC series had such a big impact on me as a kid. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on the big screen. Two hours later, I’m back out on the street, feeling elated. Was the movie as good as the TV Show, the Book, the Radio show, or the Infocom game? No. Was it awesome in it’s own way? Yes. I was really excited to see the energy of Douglas’ humor and work still alive and growing. I saw it again in the theater later that week so I could see it again without being half stoned. I still liked it.

I continued my hitchhiking adventure for the rest of the summer. I made my way all the way down to LA and then eventually all the way back across the country to Chicago and then New York and then finally back to Bloomington, Indiana. Would I have been so prepared to leave my world behind by sticking out my thumb and criss crossing the US? It’s hard to say. I think that growing up on stories about thumbing through the galaxy and even just having the word “hitchhiker” in my daily vocabulary made the concept seem normal. Unlike most of the people around me, I thought that hitchhiking was just another way to live. And it was working.

Six years after I saw Douglas speak in Bloomington, I was a resident of the town. Within a year and a half, I was newly married and planning my first trip to the UK. I hadn’t quite realized it yet, but being raised with Hitchhiker’s had made an anglophile out of me. I was getting excited in the months leading up to the trip and I spent one whole month dressed as Arthur Dent, wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants and a bath robe. I made my own Hagro Biscuits and was introducing my new wife to the literary world of Douglas Adams.

Jan 2007 as Arthur Dent with homemade Hagro Biscuits

We spent six weeks backpacking through Ireland, England, Belgium, and The Netherlands. A huge part of the trip was spent in England and I loved every moment. It was my first time out of the States and my first time as an international hitchhiker. I had never realized how much of the what I learned through the various incarnations of the Guide was not merely Douglas’ imagination, but also simply British culture. Spending those weeks in England changed how I saw Arthur and Ford. I had never encountered the culture before, similar, but very different to the culture that I grew up in. I was hooked. I left the US as Arthur Dent, inexperienced, naive, and foolish. When I got home, I was Ford Prefect; street-smart, savvy and stylish. I definitely knew where my towel was.

October 2007, as Ford Prefect

I continued on with a life guided by “Excitement, Adventure, and Really Wild Things.” Over the next nine years, I would return to the UK on four different occasions, visiting for as little as a few weeks and for periods up to six months. I was quickly learning where my heart resided. I wasn’t allowed to stay, but I couldn’t stay away. Each time I would visit, the connection would grow deeper and every time I left, my longing would grow stronger. In 2013, I spent a month in the UK and during that trip, I decided to try and find a real location that was connected to the Guide. I knew from the radio show that Arthur lived in “cruddy Cottington” and through the now amazingly sophisticated Internet, I was able to discover that other Hitchhiker’s fans had figured that the closest real life location to Arthur’s hometown was Cotteylands. With towel in hand, I had to check it out.

Cruddy Cottington

In 2015, I returned again to the UK. This time I was doing field research for my own Guide. I was spending six months writing a book on the myths and legends of the ancient wizard Merlin. It was my first really extended visit to Britain and I was loving every moment of it. To get myself deeply in the mood of wandering, getting lost, and finding adventure, I revisited my old love that was the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I spent months walking, hitching, and bussing between ancient sacred sites, so I put the entire Hitchhiker’s radio series on my iPhone and listened to it while I travelled the landscape. Towards the end of the trip, I decided that after so many visits to Douglas’ home island, the time had come for me to visit Douglas’ home territory; Cambridge. I was lucky enough to be given a personal tour of Douglas Adams’ Cambridge by David Haddock, ex-president of the galaxy, I mean ex-president of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Douglas Adams fan club. It was a wonderful day and David and his wife were incredibly kind and generous with their time and proved to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that Douglas Adams fans are some of the greatest people out there.

David Haddock and I in front of Douglas Adam’s birthplace in 2015.

On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I’ve travelled the globe, lived all over the planet, hitchhiked, couchsurfed, field researched, made friends, fallen in love several times, lain drunk in a field in Innsbruck, endured Vogon poetry and there is still so much more to do. Without Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here today. By here, I mean Bangkok, where I’ve writing this Guide entry from. Without Hitchhiker’s, I’m sure that I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the UK, where I’ve been living for the last six month. Without the works of Douglas Adams, I don’t think I would be the obsessive book nerd that I’ve become. Without Dirk Gently, I probably wouldn’t believe in the interconnectedness of all things (that’s another story). Without Ford Prefect, I probably wouldn’t love Gin and Tonics,jynnan tonyx, gee-N’N-T’N-ix, jinond-o-nicks, or any of the thousand of variations I have encountered in my travels. The Hitchhiker’s Guide planted it’s seed in my soul over 20 years ago and I have never been the same. Thank you Ford. Thank you Arthur. Thank you Douglas.

Ford and Arthur, 2017



Justin K Prim
Justin K Prim

Gentleman Lapidary | Author | Faceting Instructor | Chronicler of Gemcutting History