After an early Christmas in New Jersey with kids and grands, and three snowy, Christmasy days in the forested village of SunRiver, I took to the road.
Over the Oregon mountains and into northern California, I stopped in dairy country to visit with Gary’s youngest brother and his family. And then joined Gary’s sister and her family in a vacation home overlooking the Pacific.
When I was first widowed, these kinds of excursions were a stark reminder that I no longer had a road trip companion.
But now, pffftt … piece of cake. In fact, I relish long road hours because there are so many benefits.
From my personal experience and with this reminder from author Emma Chase—“The greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination”—here are the Top Ten reasons for taking to the highways and byways:
10. Supports problem solving. A long drive can afford hours of time to ponder and solve world problems, along with the occasional personal problem.
9. Offers photo ops. Think of all the cool photos we can take: With the four presidents at Mt. Rushmore, from the top of one of Colorado’s fourteeners, or driving across Alligator Alley in Florida.
The best way to get to some of the finest photo op locations? Take the scenic route.
8. Provides real-life education. Not only can we learn more about our country by visiting various locations, we can also learn random stuff while listening to podcasts en route.
A few popular podcasts include Spycast, brought to us by the historians at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.; Radio Diaries, featuring the extraordinary stories of ordinary life; and How I Built This, which hosts some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the past half-century.
7. Enhances creativity. I come up with so many brilliant ideas while road-tripping (many of which get tossed when examined in better light, but we won’t delve into that aspect).
And yes, my phone is a faithful GPS system. But it also serves as a reminder system for all that brilliance: Siri, remind me to check into …
6. Delivers adventure. It was a cab driver in Australia who told me he couldn’t understand why Americans visited his country when there’s so much to see and experience in America. A light bulb clicked on somewhere in my brain. Because at that particular moment, I had not yet visited the Grand Canyon, nor cruised New England’s back roads during leaf-peeping season, or hiked in the Tetons above Jenny Lake.
I have since remedied that.
5. Broadens the mind. How often have we judged a region of the country based on a movie, or someone else’s experience? We tend to think Oregonians hug trees, Atlantic northeasterners are academic elitist snobs, southerners are racist, and New Yorkers are rude. But when we actually take road trips through those places and meet some of the people along the way, we’ll discover we’ve been judgy.
4. Stimulates conversation. Gary and I could go long distances on a road trip in companionable silence. But we also had some of our best brainstorming conversations because of the uninterrupted hours (also, maybe because of the captive-audience thing).
3. Reinforces relationships. It follows that when we can enjoy #4 — interesting dialogue in addition to companionable silence — this goes a long way in building strength upon strength in a friendship and marriage.
2. Affords brave-making ventures. When the thought of staying home is much more comfortable than the thought of traveling to a new area, then maybe we can challenge ourselves. I double-dog dare you! And when we meet the challenge, see if we don’t come away from the experience a bit braver, sassier, more audacious.
1. Creates memories. As a result of all the road trips to fun locations these past dozen or so years—during cancer and as a widow—there are reels of burbling, full-color adventures playing through my mind that can’t be taken from me.
A final thought
For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that this piece isn’t so much about road trips as it is about creating memories, and broadening our horizons, and exploring with our people … while they’re still here with us.
And then, if we find ourselves alone, it’s about taking our bereaved selves and continuing to create, and explore, and expand, and learn, and live fully.
This thought from Earl Nightingale:
All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.
Where in America have you not yet driven to (or through)? What’s stopping you?!