“You’re crazy!” That was the reaction everybody gave me when I told them of our (my brother’s and my) very ambitious plan to take a 1,233-mile trip from Denver to Toledo, Ohio, and back. In one weekend. That’s 1,233 miles there AND 1,233 miles back. Sure, it is a little crazy. These days, with how easy and accessible flying, is, it almost seems silly to drive through some *boring* parts of the US to get to your final destination. Naturally, it was a little surprising that, when my brother and I started discussing our options on how we were going to make it to our friends’ wedding, driving there came up.
Although I personally don’t have a lot of experience driving very long distances, some of my fondest memories are in the car. I cherish the memories of my first road trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, to stay at my middle school friend’s grandparent’s house for the week of spring break. It was just the three of us; my friend Katie, her mom, and I. They introduced my very sheltered self to ABBA and the Beatles, and we went through audiobooks of the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings (we were HUGE fans). Snacks were aplenty. I still associate eating Cheez-Its and Twizzlers with that trip, and I won’t quickly forget singing the song Fernando at the top of our lungs with the views of Arches National Park as our backdrop. This was a time before smartphones and tablets, and so the only way to entertain ourselves was to engage with one another.
Besides the obvious nostalgia and the excitement of an awaiting adventure, there were many other wonderful benefits of going on this trip that I have been reflecting on…
- It saved us some money. Now, it wasn’t a DRASTIC amount saved, but it was less than what 2 flights would have cost us.
- Our society spends more and more time staring at things within a very short distance from our line of sight (phones, laptops, gaming consoles). Not surprisingly, stress levels are skyrocketing. Our brains are designed to calm down by using our eyes to look at far distances. We don’t look outside ourselves and our immediate periphery enough. There is scientific evidence that indicates looking at the horizon helps your mental health, particularly to lower stress. Road trips provide excellent access to endless hours of viewing the horizon, and in turn, can lower your stress too.
- Spending time enclosed in a car for hours forces you to either sit in awkward silence or engage with your car mates in conversation. My brother and I already spend a lot of time together and talk a lot, but this was a wonderful experience where we were both able to explore, more deeply, some of the topics that have been on our minds.
- While a good portion of the trip is relaxing or even boring, problems can (and did) arise. We had to navigate and problem-solve through some car issues, requiring us to think ahead and make decisions that could help avoid them.
- We got to see parts of the country we would never normally visit. I am not going to lie and say that long stretches of Nebraska are exciting, but I gained a deep appreciation for the farmers and the rural US, making life for city folks like me even possible. Some parts of the country were not what I expected! I was pleasantly surprised by Indiana and thought it was actually quite pretty.
- It quenched a primal need within me for adventure and exploration. I truly believe every person has this innate desire to explore. Some people have done an excellent job at suppressing it, and have grown too comfortable. I don’t necessarily mean that they need to find the next ship and sail to some faraway continent, however, I think we all have a need to push our boundaries. It’s what makes us human. I, more than most, feel the “itch” when I’ve been in one place for too long. The adventure opens up so many incredible experiences and sights, however usually, it reminds me that home is also wonderful.
Next time you have the opportunity to go someplace far, I encourage you to explore the possibility of driving there. The saying goes “It’s not the destination but the journey”. There are many incredible destinations, but I think we, members of this fast-paced society, lose sight of savoring the journey. Sure, the destination can be pretty great, but often it’s the journey that leaves a lasting impression…