Notes From A Road Trip Solo Traveler
“When you left this town, with your windows down, and the wilderness inside. Let the exits pass, all the tar and glass, ’til the road and sky align” ~ “Angela” by The Lumineers
For as long as I can remember, I have been regularly compelled to have new (solo) road trip adventures near and far. I find them to be the best way to connect with a country, to understand its many nuances, landscape and people. Given our current political upheaval in America, I have also find them to be a form of reconnection, and incredibly freeing. There is something about having open road before you, allowing you to meander as you wish, that awakens the soul and awakens you to new possibilities, and perhaps new conversations with people you may not normally encounter in your hometown day-to-day. All I know is that for me, with every mile that passes below my wheels, for every song I sing along to, for every new town I happen upon, I shed some of the weight I carry from all the small worries accumulated that I really needn’t pay heed to, and instead am reminded of life beyond my routine, and I am renewed. In a sense, road trips are a metaphor for life: They’re arbitrary and wondrous expeditions that don’t always have a clear beginning or ending.
- Revisit our Suitcase Sojourn Podcast episode on Road Tripping America
Now I am always one to “plan for spontaneity”, so I obviously know my start, finish, and allotted days. I plot out where ideally I will spend the nights which is just good for safety, and always tell someone (friend/family) where I will be, and reconfirm my devotion to the map app Waze (never get lost again). I also read forums with other road trippers and note some interesting stops, as well as research my own so I have an opportunity to see a monument, museum or National Park along the way, as well as try a local favorite restaurant or too. But please, whatever happens, allow yourself the opportunity to explore and head off track — it’s not the end of the world, be spontaneous, don’t get discouraged when things don’t go according to plan (like life, literally anything could happen from this moment to the next, go with the flow), and you can see something new through your own little ‘choose your adventure’ scenario. I mean, once on the road, we find the destination doesn’t matter nearly as much as the journey itself, right? The road helps you embrace the unexpected, renews your faith in the world and broadens your mind.
So much of our lives is already planned. Road trips are about saying “goodbye” to all the overwhelming uniformity and organization. The world is chaotic, and sometimes vacations should be too. Flying across the world takes months of planning. Hopping into a vehicle to drive across the country can be a last-minute decision that changes your life (as I have done with my NYC to New Orleans road trip, my LA to Vancouver road trip and most recently, my LA to Denver road trip). I have embraced opportunities to hang out with & photograph cowboys in Texas, speak with local strangers about travel at a diner in Charleston, explore art traditions with Natives on the Navajo Nation, get a last minute (free) history tour with a bored tour guide in California, meet new vendors & learn about their craft (from boots to hats) in New Mexico, hear about a group of female mechanical engineers experience at NASA in Alabama, and more (And that was just in the US, I have plenty more stories like that from around the globe). Talking with someone from another city, state or country, makes me realize how much more we have in common than all of the labels slapped on us. Take a chance, share a laugh and a story.
- Side note: I prefer to road trip one direction, and fly back. I recently tried out the rental car relocation service Transfercar, and it worked like a dream on a recent Los Angeles-Denver route.
Heading out on the road is all about detaching from the taxing monotony of our daily lives that we get so caught up in, and research shows travel can help reduce stress and anxiety. It also throws you into the full scale of a place, as when we travel by air, we don’t get a real feel for the sights and sounds we’re passing over. But it’s a different story when the journey occurs out on the road — you see and hear everything, meet new people, taste new food and encounter vastly disparate landscapes. I also feel road trips breed insight and perspective, and when you’re out on the open road, it allows your mind to wander, and release a lot once in motion (It works wonders for me). Simply put, road trips allow us to unwind and decompress. In the process, we learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
So throw a bag in the car, grab that phone charger, a gallon of water, and rough plan, and go. You won’t regret it.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” ~ Jack Kerouac