When planning the next vacation, a lot of people consider reserving a spot on a cruise ship, heading to the beach, or making plans to explore a new country. A road trip might not always make it to the top of the list. Sure, road trips may be great content for Hollywood movies, but is this a good idea for a formal vacation? Yes and here’s why.
Because road trip travel takes time, you don’t miss the details
During a road trip, it can take longer than usual to get anywhere. In some cases, you can drive for miles without any change of scenery. While that can be monotonous, it is a huge benefit for serious travelers because it gives them the chance to experience details they’d otherwise miss and to find unexpected surprises.
What does this look like? During dinner in Columbia, MO, one road tripper found the best barbeque they’d ever had — a type of BBQ that was a hybrid between what Columbia’s neighbors in Kansas City and St. Louis offered. A different road tripper discovered an abundance of antelope and the smell of roadside sage while driving through Wyoming. Yet another road tripper learned about ways that the wind-power industry was booming in Kansas, and caught one of the most memorable photographs of their trip as they saw rows of white windmills lined out against the dark gray sky of a storm that was building on the Midwestern plains.
As you take more time to get to a destination in the western U.S., for example, you can consider that the area you’re driving in for what may feel like an eternity, is the same area that pioneers traveled when they headed west on the trails. You can also see how the geography, the vegetation, and the cloud cover changes through the miles.
Roadtrips teach you things, and the learning is fun
While you’re on a road trip, you’re going to be learning more than you’d expect and you won’t even realize it. For example, you’ll start to understand geography in an intimate way because you’ll be living it. As you get out of the car for a bathroom break or a meal stop, there’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to new kinds of foods, aspects of the culture of a new place, and regional accents or idioms. As you’re exposed to each of these things, you’re learning and it is likely you won’t even know it (or mind it) because on road trips learning is a blast!
As you have the chance to make longer breaks, learning accelerates further. A lot of road trips can give you access to national landmarks or museums that you otherwise wouldn’t go out of the way for. One group of travelers stopped overnight at a hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota. They gained first-hand experience with what an old-west town was like today. They learned about gunfighting and the lives of western legends like Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane. They also experienced history in the making as they saw how Deadwood grew to embrace modern gambling in order to help the town flourish.
Another family decided to take a detour in the Native American reservation to follow markers indicating the burial location of Lewis and Clarke’s scout, Sacajawea. They had some trouble locating the grave but along the way stopped at souvenir shops and restaurants where everyone learned more about modern attitudes towards the scouts and tourists interested in her life. The kids added this kind of firsthand knowledge to what they had learned in school.
Music is better on a road trip
Partially because they move so much more slowly, road trips can give the chance to enjoy one-of-a-kind musical experiences. One driver accidentally found himself listening to ragtime while driving across flatlands during sunrise while the rest of the passengers slept. The restful experience opened his eyes to how beautiful scenery could be. Another driver was thrilled to find themselves listening to a live Jim Croce recording while driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the singer talked about driving an 18-wheeler through the same stretch of road 40 years ago. These kinds of musical moments can happen if you’re paying attention.
You’ll have chances for some of the best photos of your life
Because you’re moving so slowly across landscapes at various times of day, you’ll have opportunities for some great photography. You may come across region-specific wildlife or geographic locations that strike you. Alternatively, you may find a town or building that you want to capture, or the people or food in an area may be different than what you’d expect. Take advantage of these opportunities. You won’t gain access to them in any other way.
Your road trip may change you
As you experience road trips, you may find that the knowledge and experiences you’ve gained change you in some ways. Some changes are as simple as finding a new kind of food that you like or a new way of cooking that you’ll take home. Other changes are deeper. Such was the experience for the kids who learned about Sacajawea through their experience on the Native American Indian Reservation never thought about the scout in the same way again. Because you’re spending long periods of time with passengers in a confined space, you’re also likely to have deeper conversations that otherwise just might not occur. Embrace all of these differences. They’ll make the trip more memorable and may possibly leave you a slightly different person by the time the trip is over.