Ford Prefect and Beyond: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Minimalist Travel
Effecient Travel Advice from our favorite Intergalactic Hitchhiker
The key to becoming Ford Prefect is all in the attitude. One must have a highly relaxed approach to life. We meet our beloved co-hero early in the story of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He shows up just in time to save a clueless Arthur Dent from death and then continues to lead him around the universe in an ultra-relaxed and experienced way with the help of his trusty digital book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Here, we will explore the finer points of Ford Prefect’s travel wardrobe choices, lifestyle, mentality, and his refined ability to hitchhike the width and breadth of the universe with a minimalist lifestyle ethos.
When we first meet Ford, the narrator describes him as an eccentric, but a harmless one. Ford’s outfit is as eccentric as his personality; part functional and part stylish.
Ford’s outer layer of protection is a striped boating blazer. Not only does this provide him with a stylish sense of camouflage, blending him into any crowd of strags* that he might find himself in, but it also provides him with many pockets to stash his intergalactic goodies in. Ford’s accomplished sense of style has lead him to choose an orangish-yellow pocket square.
Like any seasoned traveler, Ford dresses in layers. The sweater provides Ford with essential warmth, whether he’s hidden in a maintenance hatch for hours on end or cruising the Galaxy in a stolen ship. If he gets too hot, he can take it off and it’s argyle patten further helps to blend him into any crowd of non-hitchhikers he might need to become part of, however temporarily.
Ford has chosen a vivid red tropical collared shirt, letting us know that despite his slightly conservative sweater/blazer/tie combo, that Ford has a wild streak inside of him and is always open to whatever comes his way, whether that be a wild party, a battle with the galactic police, or an intergalactic plot to save the Universe.
Ford wears a navy blue Eton tie with a teal stripe, possibly allowing him to bump elbows with the upper crust of Britain’s social circle if he needs to. Like his towel, Ford’s tie has many practical uses besides it’s obvious menswear function. The tie can be used to strangle an attacker, to dangle down from high places, to tie together pieces of wood to form a makeshift raft, as well as many other practical applications.
Ford seems to be wearing the Betelgeuse equivalent of High Top Converse All-Stars. This is a wise choice for a professional hitchhiker. The flexible soles enable the shoes to be rolled up or pressed flat for small storage. The thinness of the soles keep Ford in constant contact with the ground below him, allowing him to stay aware of subtle changes in surface temperature and vibration, allowing him to anticipate unexpected changes in circumstance. For Earthy readers, I would recommend minimalist shoes from VivoBarefoot if Converse doesn’t satisfy your sense of travel style.
Ford’s leather satchel is probably his most important possession aside from his copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide. The satchel allows Ford to keep all the essentials that an intergalactic hitchhiker needs with him at all time while allowing him to maintain a look of stylish cool. The satchel contains several pockets and storage sections allowing him to hold his copy of The Guide along with his Electronic Thumb and his Sub-Etha Sens-O-matic.
Like any non-Terran traveller, Ford is far beyond the empty allure of a digital watch. Ford wears an analog watch with a black face, black band, and gold trim. The gold trim matches the secondary colors of his jacket and pocket square and the black band keeps the watch timeless and low key.
Ford wears black slacks. Since Ford is a highly accomplished hitchhiker, we can assume that his trousers are made of wool, keeping him warm in the winter and breathable in the summer. The full length of the slacks protect his legs from anything that might whip past him or attempt to latch on to his legs while he’s busy looking elsewhere.
Many things have been said about this wholly remarkable book. Ford is never without his trusty Guide, providing him with solutions to any problems he might be faced with and also providing him with a job as Guide Field Researcher. The Guide also allows Ford to compose new entries for the book which enables him to earn an income.
Besides The Guide, a few other things might be found in Fords satchel, such as a few dog-eared scripts for plays he’s auditioning for, packets of peanuts to replace lost salt and protein, and possibly the sales brochure for a spaceship that he might have hitchhiked his way on to. A few other things that might be randomly found in Fords bag might be Plans for the Destruction of Arthur Dent’s House, Plans for the Destruction of Planet Earth, and maybe even a Hagra Biscuit as a snack.
INSIDE FORD PREFECT
For those that wish to go further than just and outfit and adopt Ford’s rambling, free-wheeling approach to life as your own we must carefully consider what is required of a lifestyle hitchhiker.
Since we have already spoken of outerwear let’s go a little deeper into what is required for long days of intergalactic hitchhiking. As we have seen, Ford travels light with only a satchel and one set of clothes. This means that everything Ford wears needs to be versatile and useful in all types of weather. Wool is an absolute requirement for his sweater and blazer. Wool's ability to wick away sweat and not absorb smells will enable Ford to wear the same outfit for weeks on end without smelling like a skunk or needing to wash them too many times. Merino wool would be an even better choice if available. I would presume that Ford’s socks, underwear, and sweater are all Merino wool.
For the trousers, 21st century technology has given us better alternatives to wool for legwear. Soft-shell pants are the obvious recommendation here. Light weight, stretchy, breathable, fast drying, and still able to maintain the clean look of dress pants. For Ford’s particular needs and cut I think Outlier pants would the best choice on Earth.
As for his shirt, cotton is the classic staple though modern technology has enabled him to have some pretty sharp and durable Merino wool button-ups. I’m not sure if Ford could find his particular funky red pattern in wool, so let’s stick with 100% pure cotton for durability and breathability.
His satchel can’t hold very much so aside from the above, Ford needs at least one extra pair of socks and underwear, a toothbrush, a (microfiber) towel, intergalactic identification, a wallet with various types of currency and credit cards, and probably a good pair of headphones. Like a rubber duck, with music you are never truly alone, not matter how far from home you get.
Ford has honed his craft of writing. Like so many before him, Ford knows that a job that can provide an income while traveling and also not require him to carry around any extra stuff is the most efficient and fun way to move. Writing is the most obvious thing to do. It requires nothing but your input device (the Guide in Ford’s case, but for Earth residents, maybe an iPhone would be a better choice) and time. It’s also provides an excuse to travel and, in-turn, provides money for beer, hostels, and bribing local officials when necessary.
If you haven’t yet done this, master your craft. Whether you write for blogs, magazines, ad copy, educational purposes or some other place, hone your skills. Find an employer that will pay you enough to stay alive and reduce your possessions to the above suggestions. Then stick your thumb out and hit the road.
FOOD AND SHELTER
Having taken care of bodily needs, in terms of clothes and income, lets turn to other basic needs. Ford seems to have realized that Food and Shelter end up taking care of themselves as you ride the wild waves of improbability. Food is always around whether in restaurants, gas stations, local markets, or the hotel buffet that you snuck into. There is no need to carry more than a bottle of water around if you have money. In emergencies, you might pull out that packet of peanuts at the bottom of your satchel or suck some nutrients from the corner of your towel.
Shelter is wherever you find yourself. Maybe that’s the back of a car, a hotel, the sleeping quarters of a passing spaceship, or worst case, in a cave on a prehistoric planet. Ford’s minimalist approach to travelling leads us to believe that he isn’t sleeping outside too much because he doesn’t have any outdoor sleeping gear. Maybe he has a silk sleeping liner and a waterproof bivy sack that we just never noticed.
Once all your physical needs are taken care of, food, clothes, shelter, and money, the final thing one needs to carefully prepare is mentality. As we have previously noted, Ford is one seriously relaxed hoopy frood*. He is confident that no matter what happens, things are going to work out. This kind of outlook is crucial to surviving the rigors of long-term travel. Your mindset must be unshakable. For those moments of temporary weakness, we have gin and tonics.
Before you set out, deep in your heart and mind you must know that you possess the ability to overcome any obstacle that the universe throws at you. You must know that everything is going to work in the way it’s supposed to and you must be able accept the outcome even if they don’t match your expectations. In fact, the best thing to do is leave your expectations at home. The galaxy is a wild place so having a flexible mind and no expectations will make everything a lot more fun and make it easier for you to cope with everything.
Let your guiding motto be “Excitement, Adventure, and Really Wild Things.” Always seek the pub, the party, or the opportunity to dance with girls. Above all, you must always know where your towel is. Good Luck.
Strag — Non Hitchhiker
Hoopy — A really together guy.
Frood — A really amazingly together guy
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