There are few things more liberating than packing your car and just driving, whether into nowhere in particular or, perhaps, to somewhere specific. But the how, the when, and the why are only as relevant as you make them. That’s the magic of it. You can go wherever you want at your own leisure, directed only by your own whims.
- Be your own pilot. Much like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, you are in the captain’s chair and get to plot a course on your own agenda. You are in full control; there’s no tour guide to report to, no bus to catch, and none of that “trapped behind the glass” feeling you get when you’re on a guided tour, feeling like you’re on a leash while being told to “keep your arms and legs inside at all times” (though I’d recommend it whilst actually driving). Bottom line: You are at the helm.
- Deadlines? Who needs ’em?! Whether you’ve given yourself a month or decided to escape on just a wee weekender for some simple shenanigans, the point is that the only deadlines you’ve got are the ones you decided for yourself. The only “true deadline” you’ll contend with is the gas gage, and making sure you stop periodically to fuel up.
- Everyone loves cartography. This may sound sarcastic, but I really do have a genuine love of maps, and maybe you do too… maybe not. Maybe you prefer GPS. To each their own. The point is: it’s fun to actually sit and look at where you’re going, where you’ve been, how you got there, how you’ll get to where you’re going next, and “ooo I wonder what this place is like!” when you notice a town or park you’ve never heard of. You can actually tangibly trace your steps and shed perspective on the miles covered while (my favourite) lending a visual satisfaction (and priceless guide) to understanding your route and the places you explore.
- Camping in style. Who needs to splurge on a hotel room when you’ve got a perfectly comfortable back seat? Better yet, maybe you’ve got a wagon or decently sized automobile that can accomodate building a bed in the back. Been there, done that. I like to think of my car as my “turtle shell” – a mobile home, if you will. It’s cozy and it fits comfortably into any budget. The trick is finding a good place to park – but it’s not actually that tricky.
- Treat your tastebuds. Road trips are a perfect excuse to try out the privately owned cafes and restaurants that you might not otherwise notice when we tend to “auto-pilot” to the places we already know. If you’ve got space for a cooler, even better. You can store snacks and any leftovers for those wee hours when you’re peckish and nothing is open after 5pm in that small town you’re driving through. Regular eating habits tend to fly out the window, so don’t guilt-trip yourself if you generally have a strict health & fitness regimen. Explore, enjoy, indulge. You won’t get another chance to try that homemade meal from the sweet little lady who picks her own apples in the backyard. And don’t forget to pack snacks. Did I mention snacks?
- Sing-along CDs or playlists. Let’s face it, who hasn’t cranked up the tunes to their favourite songs and belted along whether they know all the words or not? Road-tripping is a perfect opportunity to be a rockstar in the comfort of your own car, to work on your vocal technique, or work on harmonics with your friends. The possibilities are endless.
- Anthropomorphizing your car. We already name them and talk to them like people (er, some of us do… It’s normal right? ), but when you’re out on an adventure (especially on your own), your wheels tend to become a new kind of friend. I think back to my first car, Ursula, and how much our personalities clashed, but our adventures built a sentimental connection. It’s embarrassing how many pictures I have of that seafoam-green escort wagon in slightly different settings. (Ewan McGregor said it best during Long Way Down, joking “I come back from these trips with like 350 pictures of my bike with slightly different backgrounds.” I can relate.)
Case and point.
- Making your own adventure. As opposed to getting on a plane and watching the clouds slip by, reading, napping, or zoning out to the in-flight movie, driving to your desired destination (even if it’s just seeing where the road takes you) gives you the pleasure of the journey, through emergency bathroom breaks in the ditch, a numb bottom, and figuring out which fork in the road you should take. Oftentimes you find things along the way you didn’t even know existed (ie: The World’s Largest Axe in Nackawic, NB. Who knew?). If you see a turn off that looks interesting, you can take it. You can get off the thoroughfares and highways and meander down the country roads less traveled – maybe through gravel or potholes – but you’ll find the less-seen views and the nooks off the beaten path, and maybe even some views that will steal your breath way. You might get lost, but a little perseverance will get you found again with one more tale to tell. Not only do you then have the satisfaction of having been to your destination, you’ve got the bragging rights – and perhaps even some new notches in the belt – of getting there too.
Now, I do have a “green thumb” so it’s painful to consider the gas and carbon footprint, but it’s generally in your best interest to take a fuel-efficient car anyway. And let’s face it: we can either go on a roadtrip or be stuck in rush hour traffic on our way to work.
Frankly, I’d rather be roadtripping.
Planning a roadtrip?
You can see more fun on the road and awesome places to visit right here.