Arguably one of the most iconic adventures, it’s hard not to love a road trip. Whether you’re the retired British couple setting off across the Channel in your crisp white camper for a summer in France or the group of adventurous millennials in a beat up VW van plotting your way across America’s vastness, there’s a charm that everyone can find appealing. With a thrill synonymous of an era when the lands were covered with unexplored frontiers, road trips have managed to remain spontaneous in a way that is hard to come across in our modern world. So as you sit with Google Maps open in the other tab – or a good ‘old fashioned’ map sprawled out in front of you, extra points for authenticity – planning your grand tour, here are some top tips from a girl who has spent her fair share of holidays peering out the backseat window.
1. DON’T BOOK EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE
We’re creatures of habit; we like familiarity and security, knowing where we will be sleeping tonight, and not booking everything is the most counterintuitive step one can take when planning their trip. As challenging as it might be to break the habit of organizing every last detail, try not to book every night in advance or, at least always book options with a free cancellation policy that lets you change your mind a few days before arrival. Whilst this means you might have to spend some nights in less than enjoyable accommodation along the road, you have ample space to change plans, the chance to veer off your scheduled route and see things you may not have known existed before your conversation with a privy local over coffee one morning. After all, what’s an adventure without adventuring beyond your comfort zone?
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
This seems pretty obvious, but you often don’t realize how many things you may have forgotten to check off your pre-departure list until you need exactly that one thing you don’t have. I know I just told you not to plan too much in advance, but having some general knowledge never hurts; keeping yourself up to date and educated doesn’t equal definite commitment. It’s never bad to have a rough idea of where you want to go and what you want to see. There’s nothing worse than coming home feeling like you’ve missed out on that one thing… Aside from that, sorting out the logistics is important. Crossing borders? Check ahead to find out whether or not you’ll to apply for a visa ahead of time. Driving through South America? Complacency isn’t the best course of action; there are definitely places you want to avoid and that you should know about before arriving at 6pm with no accommodation planned for the night. Tackling Australia’s Outback? You could spend days driving without passing any signs of other humans, so stocking up on supplies – both food and equipment – before parting with civilization is advised.
3. PACK A GOOD PLAYLIST
It sounds sounds pretty trivial, but depending on where you’re going, you can’t always rely on the radio or other music streaming services 100% of the time… Especially when going cross country. If you haven’t invested in Spotify Premium yet, now’s the time to splash out and upgrade your subscription for access to your favorite road trip songs offline. There’s nothing quite as painful as endless silence, unless that’s what your going for – each to his own. Otherwise, scoop out some of your old but still gold historic CDs and pack them in; after all, who doesn’t love a good throwback and some nostalgia?
4. STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES
Yes, I’m sure your destination is definitely worth arriving at, but the cliché is pretty damn right; the journey is 95% of it all and you ought to appreciate the experience. Wish it away and you’ll look back and see everything you didn’t do. Sitting in a car day in, day out can be mind numbingly boring – I speak from personal experience -, but you have to step back and see the bigger picture at times. Don’t hope for the drive to be over; if you pass a sign advertising the world’s tastiest pizza at right about lunch time, I hope you stop and enjoy every single slice. Not sure whether to take the 10km detour to the mountaintop viewpoint? Yes, you might still have multiple mountain passes ahead of you further down the road, but it could be raining and clouded over next time the opportunity arises. Stop and witness the view, take it all in.
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving – Lao Tzu
5. BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE
Whether you’ve been on 15 road trips together or if this is your first rodeo, it’s inevitable that you won’t always see eye to eye with your buddy sitting next to you in the passenger seat… That’s ok; accept it and move on, because tomorrow holds a new day and a new stretch of road to cover, a different horizon to see. Have your arguments but make up afterwards. As frustrating as it may be t0 always have to choose the time efficient highways over the smaller scenic country roads, or to drive through every quaint town passed because “it looks just like the last one we stopped in”, remember that the good days always outweigh the bad. Would you be having as much fun driving alone?
It goes without speaking that the most important thing about your road trip, like with any other vacation, is your safety. Don’t force yourself to drive 12 hours for days on end just to cover kilometers, at the risk of exhaustion and possible accidents. Road trips are the quintessential adventure and embarking on this escapade triggers excitement in some, fear in others. Whether you’re buying old motorbikes and backpacking from Northern to Southern Vietnam, completing a cross-continental cycle over America or camping in the back of your van across Europe, kilometers of exploration lie asphalted – or dirt paved – out in front of you. Immerse yourself in the journey and let your inner nomad shine.