While road trips are undoubtedly a very popular and very North American pastime, it is also fair to say that they have a bit of a mixed reputation. The road trip, with all its extended periods of confinement, risk of excessive shared time with loved ones, and what might be considered a general lack of desirable stimulus, makes for an easy and popular object of satire. Indeed, there are innumerable popular films which narrate the many ups and downs that are thought to befall the average road trip.
This post hopes to, if possible, persuade readers who are doubtful of the joys of roadtripping that it can be a genuinely worthwhile experience, and provide the sketch of a guide that will help to make the most of your road trip, whether a skeptic or a true believer. When it comes to road trips, there are essentially three aspects of the trip which that deserve consideration: leisure, security, and mindset. Each of these will be treated in the following sections!
The easiest way to end up miserable on a road trip is to fail to recognize that being in the car for hours on end, day in and day out, can quickly get uncomfortable. You shouldn’t treat road trip driving like your daily commute! It is essential to consider how comfortable your ride is as you usually inhabit it, and infer from there how manageable it might be during long rides. More often than not, drivers and passengers will find that whatever comfort their vehicle successfully provided in the short term doesn’t hold up in the long. This is why it is advisable to invest in something like a quality car seat cushion, or any other similar product that will make your car seat more kind to your body. Of course, no matter how comfortable and supportive of a seating situation you establish, sitting will always become uncomfortable eventually. It just isn’t something our bodies are meant to do! As such it is always advisable to stop every few hours or so and stretch or walk around. Do this at a gas station or just (when possible and safe) on the side of a highway while taking in the view!
While your seated comfort is essential to a leisurely trip, there are other factors that must also come into consideration. You want to limit the length of your trip, the number of passengers, and the quantity of luggage all in accord with the size of the vehicle you’ll be travelling in. Overcrowding a tiny vehicle, while perhaps a call to adventure for certain spirits, is not a wise move if you’re trying to better your experience and fend off lasting inconvenience.
Lastly, while certain goods of roadtripping require a level of idleness, it is always nice to have the option for entertainment. Having a well-functioning auxiliary cable on hand, or a collection of your favorite CDs/cassettes handy, be they albums or audiobooks, is sure to speed up the slow moments during your drive. Looking up driving games, or just get-to-know each other ‘icebreakers’ is also a great idea – you can learn surprising new things about those you know well in these moments of extended company!
Figuring out where you’re going, corralling a family (if you have one) and keeping track of your amenities is one of the biggest stressors you are likely to experience during a road trip. There are a few things you can do in advance to lighten your load. If you’re expecting to go a long way, consider planning your trip so that its soon after a routine inspection of your vehicle. This lessens the odds of unexpected problems which have been silently developing since the last checkup. For big trips, especially if they cover long, uninhabited stretches of road, it is worth bringing a stock of the various goods your car needs to run, and ensuring that your spare tire hasn’t gone flat over time spent idle in the bed of the trunk (or wherever it is stored). These considerations become essential specifically in situations where stretches of road go ages without a gas station any other kind of establishment that you might reach out to for assistance.
Given the amount of time spend in publics areas, especially instances where your vehicle is parked outside a motel or similar establishment, it is worth going the extra mile to secure your vehicle and its contents. Fitting your vehicle with a cover when its left alone for extended periods of time, especially a cover that can be locked to the vehicle, is a good solution that renders your ride and its ample contents less conspicuous. A car packed with days if not weeks of supplies is a prime target for a thief – one where the contents entirely out of view, is not!
It might start sound like mysticism or excessively romantic Americana to talk about a ‘spiritual’ component of roadtripping, but there really is something to be said for how one approaches and attends to their road trip. This advice isn’t quite as banal as the ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination!’ rhetoric. Rather, the heart of roadtripping is found in uncovering the new in the old – finding novelty close to home when it is so common to flee to the tropics or Europe when one wants to be in the presence of culture. With the proper mindset and adequate attention, it becomes easier to relish in the small but profound differences between your town and the one over, the lifestyles in one geographic region compared to the next, and the fresh world just a province or state over.
It also helps to try to cherish the change in the tempo of life which comes from being in a car for long hours. A car ride will be just like a home with less freedom if its spent entirely in a phone, seeking distraction. To avoid the feeling of boredom that might become prominent when a road trip isn’t taken for what it is, it helps to remember that a road trip is supposed to be a change of pace. Meditate on the patience of travel, celebrate the quiet hum of the road, the little moments of silence between sides of a record or chapters of a book! Realize that if the kind of stimulation offered by television and internet was what was desired, there’d be no reason to go out on the road!
When approached with preparedness and the right attitude, roadtripping can be an absolutely irreplaceable leisure activity. It’s worth taking the time to properly prepare – to facilitate luxury – and to free oneself from the all too familiar stereotypes of road trip stress and asceticism. Roadtripping is an experience unlike most others offered today, and even once elevated to something more comfortable, it’s best appreciated as what it is!