All The Things No One Tells You About Indefinite Travel
The one thing I have greatly idealized from my childhood was the road trips that my family went on almost every summer. When we were little, our trips were only a few hours but as we got older, they’d get a little longer and eventually this led me to want to travel for months on end out of my car.
The one thing that held consistent was the stops along the way and the old cliche idea that the journey was the destination. It didn’t matter where we were headed or when we’d get there, it mattered how much we could do along the way. When we were little, it was likely that we were only headed to a cottage a few hours away or to a beach on the nearest lake but we’d stop 2 or 3 times in those few hours. Maybe to see a waterfall, a local museum or to have lunch at some obscure restaurant in the middle of nowhere. You know the type, those restaurants with nothing else worth stopping for 30 minutes in either direction but the food would have people lined up around the block.
I remember my Dad specifically going an hour entirely out of the way on our trip to the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina just so we could cross into Georgia and turn back around. It was more likely 20–30 minutes out of the way but my Mum swears it was hours. That was always the point though, to see things, to go places, in a way it was a sort of personal conquest. We weren’t trying to get to a cottage, we were trying to see and do as much as we could with the time we had. Here I am, 20 years later, planning to piggyback a 3 day vacation in Nevada/Arizona with my girlfriend after she finishes a bachelorette weekend in Vegas. The idea of seeing and doing as much as I possibly can with the time I have is kind of burned into me now and I don’t think it was by any intent of my parents. They just wanted to get as much out of their vacations as possible and as a byproduct, got a son who’s constantly planning his next adventure.
I love my parents for giving me the foundation for what has eventually became a major part of my career but there are some things that they never could have prepared me for when it came to traveling indefinitely. After 5 years of planning, travelling and barely sleeping, I’m hoping I’ll be able to fill in the gaps for someone else and maybe help you be a little more prepared for taking on a journey with no set destination.
Here are my 5 tips for indefinite travel
You are going to smell
This is the one that everyone says “oh I won’t be like that”. Everyone is convinced that they’re the exception. They’ll find somewhere to shower, they’ll change their clothes every day, they’ll make stops to do laundry once a week. You won’t. I promise you, you’re not the exception. I have a beautiful, amazing, fresh-scented wonder of a girlfriend and even she is not an exception to this rule. When we were 4 days into a hurricane on the east coast of Canada, her will to do anything other than eat, sleep and cuddle our dog was thrown out the window. There will be trips that will get the best of you and you might as well accept that now. By all means, pack baby wipes, buy a 3 pack of deodorant, take dry shampoo, do everything you can to stay tolerable and be considerate to your travel companions but don’t think you’re going to keep up the same hygiene routine you do at home and please, please don’t pack everything you would need for that home hygiene routine. The only thing it will provide for you is a good laugh when you’re unpacking the car at the end of the trip and find that bag with all of your shampoos and conditioners that no one ever touched.
Get comfortable sleeping uncomfortably
The one thing I cherish from my regrettable teenage years in a basement punk band (obsessed with playing out of town shows for no pay) is that I learned how to sleep literally anywhere. I can sleep in upright chairs, back seats of cars, cement floors, you name it, I’ll sleep on it. This is the best case scenario for someone who’s travelling indefinitely in a car. Some nights you splurge for a hotel room because you can’t take a 5th night in a row reclining your seat all the way back and awkwardly rolling around all night. Those nights spent in hotels are to be savoured and enjoyed with all of your shower having glory but they will be just that — a treat. You will more than likely be sleeping in, at best, a homemade bed compiled of sleeping pads and thick blankets in the back of your car. In preparation for our road trip across Canada, me and my brother tested our sleeping bags and sleeping pads on a few weekend camping trips. We even camped out in our backyard a few times just so we could get used to our gear. I would strongly recommend spending some money on a good sleep system and trying out how you intend to sleep. Drive out to carpool lot by the highway or a rest stop and spend a night sleeping in your car. Do you need something to cover your windows from the street lights? Does your seat have a weird seam in it that you can feel no matter how you twist around? These are things you’re better off knowing before you head out on your trip.
Gain brand loyalty rivalled only by sports fanatics
What brand is your sleeping bag? If you don’t know then you haven’t been on the road long enough. Your jacket, your boots, your sleeping bag, your sleeping pad, your t-shirts, your underwear, your tires, your car, your batteries, where you buy your batteries, all of it will quickly become the only brand you will use for the rest of your life. If anything breaks or doesn’t work, that brand will become a brand that you will never use ever again and be very vocal about to anyone who is willing to listen. I bought a packable down K-Way jacket in an online sale for $40 and now both my brothers, my girlfriend and a number of my friends all have K-Ways. You can see me wearing that jacket in most of my first youtube videos and you can still see me wearing it on a daily basis (weather depending). If anything were to ever happen to that jacket, I would replace it with the exact same one the very next day because of everything I’ve been through in that jacket. My personal adventures are all associated with the things that got me through them and to go on a new adventure without all of the things that got me through my previous adventures just wouldn’t feel right.
Always be prepared for the worst and pack accordingly
I know, you’re only going to a mountain range in California for a few days in the middle of the summer, there’s no way you’ll need a winter jacket and snow pants. Pack a down jacket that’s packable (perhaps a k-way?), a rain jacket, some splash pants and a pair of thermal tights. In total, you’re looking at a package about the size of a football that will save you when mother nature decides it’s going to snow in Yosemite on July 1st. Have you ever seen video of what happens in Florida when they get an inch of snow once in a decade? The whole state turns into a post apocalyptic Dwayne Johnson movie. They’re practically airlifting people out of their homes and it is entirely because they aren’t prepared. You need to be the only guy in Miami with a snow shovel when it comes to packing your car for a road trip because the last thing you want is to have to get air lifted out of the valley because you’ve got hypothermia in July. It’s okay to pack things you don’t use as long as they’re things that could save your trip in a worst case scenario. For me, this includes a giant jug of water, a camping stove, some instant oatmeal, ramen noodles (shout to Nongshim), plastic bags of all sizes, duct tape, extra socks & underwear and a fire starter kit. Most of this is self explanatory but the bags and duct tape are to tape bags around your feet so when you put your feet in your boots, you can walk through flooding without having to worry about getting your toes cut off when it’s all over.
Let your diet suffer
There are places in this world that are reachable by roads but apparently, not reachable by trucks that carry anything of nutritional value. You will eat fast food. You will have to heat something up in a gas station microwave. You will need to drink a Redbull (or 3) to keep you awake when you’re driving across Texas. Truck stops usually don’t sell apples and I’d recommend not buying anything from the ones that do. Stopping in at places like Wholefoods will become a godsend when you finally get to taste something delicious and healthy but for the most part, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Embrace the situation that you’re in and get that milkshake from Sonic you’ve seen in the commercials since you were a kid. Have a pulled pork sandwich as you’re driving through the south. You’re likely only going to see most of these places once and you can eat all the salads you want after you get home. When times get tough, get something that will fill you up and keep you awake. Truck stop bathrooms are dimly lit for a reason, do your business and get back on the road.
Those are my 5 tips to prepare you for indefinite travel. I could have made a list of 10 but these were the most important ones and to be entirely honest, everyone has their own lessons to learn and their own advice to pass on. The best way to learn is by doing and you can only be so prepared. You will be uncomfortable, you will smell, you will eat something that makes you feel awful and you will have a great time that you will remember for the rest of your life. Get out there and start learning some lessons.