Four wheels. Two pups. One young couple. Our beloved Subaru Outback, carrying us down an endless stretch of open road. Our younger dog Kalli lay wrapped up in a ball with her tail brushing the top of her pink nose. The older of the two, Max, stationed in his favorite spot with his eyes steady on the horizon, drool flinging on either side of his mouth that occasionally hits and runs down our sleeves. This is our happy place.
We know all too well that road trips aren’t for everybody. We get asked all the time “how can you stand all that time in the car? Wouldn’t you rather just fly?” But for us, there’s a special kind of magic that comes from seeing the world up close that you just can’t get from a 30,000 foot view.
Many reports are predicting 2020 will be the return of the road trip. For all those looking to hit the road this year, here are a few reminders of the types of beauty, grace, and humility a road trip can bring you; if you allow yourself to fully embrace it in all its winding bends, traffic jams, and blue sky glory.
- Seeing a place for all that it is, not just what’s on Instagram
Driving in a city lets you see what it’s really about. Street by street, mile by mile, you’ll not only see all the shiny and flashy parts overrun with Influencer hopefuls, but also stumble upon other views that may or not be as glamorous. There’s never just one type of neighborhood, or one type of local inhabiting a city. Getting the chance to see more than one neighborhood lets you get a better sense of the full identity of a place instead of just what you’d find on a postcard.
- Grow closer to the person you’re traveling with
No wi-fi, no cell-service. Just the open road ahead of you. From navigating complicated interstates to adapting to unexpected weather outbursts, and just about anything and everything the open road will throw at you, if you make it through a road trip together and still like the person you’re with, I think it’s safe to say they’re a keeper.
Much of the foundation for my marriage derived from my husband and I spending so much time in the car together. Not only in the sense of being a team to overcome obstacles, but also in the sense of finding fun and enjoying moments that could otherwise feel mundane. Road trips bring out someone’s true colors when there’s no gadgets, gizmos, or distractions to hide behind. And if you can enjoy the long boring stretches of road (or life) together, it only gets better from there.
- Learn something new about yourself
It’s not just your relationship with your co-pilot that a road trip reveals. Road trips can equally teach you a lot about yourself and how you handle different curve balls thrown your way. No amount of planning and preparation can completely prepare you for what the open road holds. As a chronic planner, road trips give me a healthy, refreshing reminder that the world doesn’t run on my schedule. All you can do is allow yourself to be humble and flexible in every sense of the word. And if you choose to let yourself be open to it and embrace what comes down the road, things have a tendency of turning out pretty great.
- Disconnecting from the world
I’ve always loved the views of the fluffy, cotton like clouds from an airplane window. The way the light from the sunrise dances across them and stretches out as far as the eye can see. Those views never get old to me. But when life doesn’t hand you a window seat, (or for some, even when they have it) those views are often replaced with relying on devices to pass the time. In-flight entertainment and technology, not all that different from spending hours in front of your computer or TV screen at home, are now commonplace in the air travel experience. But in a car, every seat is a window seat with a million dollar view. You have no choice but to put your window down, breathe in some fresh air, and take in every mile that passes you by.
- Finding beauty in the unexpected
As you find yourself staring out the window, you’ll often be surprised at what you can see (if you’re really paying attention). We’ve driven through some beautiful parts of this country with landscapes that could only be described as handcrafted for movie backdrops or travel posters. But we’ve also seen our fair share of the “fly-over” states and parts of the country that many have long been written off as not worth exploring. But secret’s out – there’s a lot we’ve all been missing by not paying attention to those lesser-known travel destinations.
So much of the travel world is already published on the internet. But there’s something about those in-between moments seen from the road like watching farmers hard at work or seeing locals greeting each other that feel raw, genuine, and custom-made for our eyes only. Road trips remind us to pay attention to the beauty in the little things, even where we might least expect it.
- Not limiting yourself to discovering only one place
Our favorite way to plan a route is to try to incorporate stops and places we want to see, even if it’s not the most direct path to get to our end destination. Even if it’s not the shortest route, it’s often the one worth taking. Getting to experience different places, each with their own unique personalities, attractions, and sights adds more depth and richness to vacation memories than you can even imagine. And don’t get disheartened if your route doesn’t take you through some obvious destinations. I can’t tell you how many times the lesser-known tourist destinations we come across can sometimes steal the show. It’s a constant reminder of all the endless beauty in our country and just how much we still have yet to discover.