Sarah Stuteville (left) hitchhiking with friends in Spain in 2000. (Photo by Eroyn Franklin).

Sarah Stuteville (left) hitchhiking with friends in Spain in 2000. (Photo by Eroyn Franklin).

A week ago a young woman from Whidbey Island, Alec Zimmerman, went missing somewhere between Buenos Aires and Peru. When I read the news release, sent by one of my former students who is close friends with Zimmerman, my heart sank.

Zimmerman, 27, had been intending to hitchhike the almost 2,000 miles alone and was last seen, the release said, by the man she was staying with in Buenos Aires. She’d met him through couchsurfing.org, an online service that helps travelers stay with locals. He said she was headed out to catch a ride with a trucker named Angel.

It was Saturday and Zimmerman had last been seen on Tuesday. The trip was only supposed to have taken about two days.