Road trips are the kind of adventure that is truly unlike any other that you will ever experience. When else will you be stuck inside an incredibly small space with your traveling companions for multiple days with only brief reprieves at roadside attractions?.
While each road trip adventure will be unique – everyone has their own favorite sites, routes, and purposes for a journey by car. Like all journeys, road trips come with a set of lessons that will be learned along the way, no matter where your adventure is heading and who is traveling with you.
These lessons are surprisingly not just limited to the next road trip that you will find yourself on, but also apply to everyday life.
1. Things won’t go as planned, and that’s okay
It doesn’t seem to matter how well you plan out your route, meals, finances, and activities. Road closures, delays, and unexpected detours are par for the course when it comes to a road trip. No matter how far off of your original plan you end up, however, chances are that you are still going to make it to your destination eventually!
If you go into your trip with the mindset that no matter what happens everything is going to be alright, you will be much more relaxed and better able to deal with the curveballs that get thrown at you.
Knowing that there is likely to be unexpected situations before you head out gives you the chance to make your plans flexible enough to deal with any changes as they happen.
2. What it means to be “close” to someone
No matter how well you know your traveling companions, being squeezed into a car with them for a long period of time will definitely test your patience at times.
This kind of forced proximity to everyone in your car will teach you how to resolve tensions before they become larger issues and mediate difficult discussions. Being this physically close will also allow you to form emotional bonds with your travel companions.
Road trips offer a chance for connecting with people on a deeper level than is possible in other forms of travel.
3. Tastes differ
Whether it’s music, snacks, or roadside attractions, it is almost guaranteed that every member of your car will not be able to agree on the majority of decisions. There’s no situation like an extended road trip to remind you of the difficulty and beauty of a variety of opinions.
Instead of being frustrated about the compromises you will have to make, road trips teach you to look for the things that are good about different opinions. Finding new favorite songs, food, or activities can be a fantastic bonus to your trip!
4. It’s important to enjoy the silences
Even though the conversations you’ll have on your road trip will be hilarious, enlightening, and thought-provoking, in turn, there will also be moments full of peaceful silence.
Rather than being awkward, this silence can cast a spell over everyone in the car as you soak in the peaceful moments found in the midst of a hectic adventure.
5. Go off the beaten path
Sure, the highways will get you to your destination faster, but you certainly won’t have as much fun along the way! If your schedule allows for it, be sure to take some of your exploring off the main roads and into the local roads (that often follow a very similar route).
If you spend some of your days poking around small towns, soaking in the scenery, or trying authentic regional cuisine, your trip has far richer memories than those of merely traveling from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.
6. Photo opportunities are everywhere
One of the best things about traveling by car is your freedom to pull over whenever and wherever the whim strikes you. This freedom offers you the chance to take some of the most fantastic pictures — whether they be cheesy snaps of you standing in front of local tourist attractions, artistic photographs of beautiful scenery, or candid shots with the interesting people you meet along the way. The photo albums created from road trips have the best stories attached to each page!
7. Packing light
This lesson is, unfortunately, one that can only be learned from experience. No matter how well you think you can pack your stuff, you can never pack it well enough to stay contained over multiple days of travel.
The only solution to keep you and your fellow travelers from becoming buried in half-unpacked suitcases is to bring less stuff with you, and that can be hard to convince yourself of when you are setting off for the unknown! Oh well, you’ll know for next time… right?
8. The best experiences will catch you off-guard
No matter which parts of your trip you are most excited for when you set out, you will be surprised at the stories that you tell most frequently upon your return! Often the most hilarious and poignant moments will take you completely by surprise.
Embrace these moments when they happen, and seek them out along your journey! These experiences are what will make your overall road trip experience a story that you will be telling for years to come.
9. Maps are important
Some of the adventures in a road trip come from the inevitable moment that you realize you’ve lost your way, but the adventure takes a turn to the “really-quite-bad” if you have no way of getting back en route!
Having guidance readily available is important for all of life’s twists and turns, and this is especially true when it comes to making it to your destination.
10. It really is all about the journey
Sure, the destination is the reason that you originally headed out on your road trip. However, over the course of the seemingly endless days, you spend driving, you will find that you aren’t as anxious as you thought that you would be to get there.
When you look back on a road trip, We guarantee that your strongest memories will be of the journey, not your destination — and that is why this form of travel remains one of the best ways to see the world.
Hailey is a writer by day and anthropologist by night. She was born and raised in California and she holds university degrees in English, French and German, studied Spanish and also holds a university degree in political science and sociology. She has traveled to over 60 countries in a variety of ways, such as backpacking, cruises, camping, luxury, solo, spiritual and adventure travel. Aside from traveling, Hailey’s other passions include food, books, music, and dance.