The Benefits of Road Trips

Road trips. You know them. Perhaps you’ve watched old road trip movies such as National Lampoon’s Vacation. Perhaps, as a kid, your parents packed you and your siblings into a car to take the seven-hour-long journey across the country to go to Uncle Jimmy’s house for Thanksgiving. Maybe, like me, your parents decided they wanted to go to Yosemite (or another one of the National Parks), and off you went. Whether you have positive or negative associations with them, there are many benefits to taking a road trip which I encourage you to take advantage of. 

1. Escape 

Life can be tiresome, especially as a college student. You have to deal with seemingly endless piles of schoolwork, messy relationships, “adult” day-to-day problems, etc. Life, in general, is just busy. Every once in a while, you need an escape. Road trips provide this escape, allowing you to temporarily leave your problems behind. On the road, it is just you, your vehicle, your friends, and whatever comes your way. 

2. Gain perspective 

Road trips help you maintain perspective and take you away from the little bubble of your life for a while. Driving past new sights, down long highways and roads, you realize just how big the world is, how many people and places and sights and sounds there are. Having lived in Arizona for three years of my life, we road-tripped from Tucson to LA a few times. This is one of my favorite drives because, although it is long (about eight hours), it is spectacular. For much of the ride, we were driving up and down great planes of the desert. Sometimes we would stop and I would get out to take a picture. In every direction, it was just red rocky sand as far as I could see. I realized how vast the world was and how small I was in the grand scheme of things. It was beautiful. 

3. Chance to Explore New Sights

Road trips allow you to discover new sights and even meet new people. Sometimes these discoveries are accidental but still exciting. For example, once, my dad and I were on a road trip from Tucson to Las Vegas when, midway into it, we saw a sign for something called “Arcosanti.” Arcosanti? What was that? A seasoned 21st-Century kid, I whipped out my phone and Googled it. The website called it “an urban laboratory” and stated that they were well known for their “windbells.” We decided to pull off the road and check it out. After driving down a dirt road for a few minutes, we had to stop because there was a group of donkeys in our way. We had to honk to make them move. They looked up, batted their long lashes at us, then slowly moved off the road. We continued down the dirt road to find a cluster of odd, 70s-esque “futuristic” clay buildings. First, we parked, then we left the car and entered a small museum, where a panel on the wall explained that this site was an experiment in urban planning. The founder’s idea was that future cities would be one with nature. The idea was very utopian, and very “of the time.” Arcosanti no longer functions as an experimental city. These days, many artists still live in bungalows, where they make the windchimes that they are famous for. We were given a tour of the bell factory by an old tour guide. As we wandered around odd-looking buildings and through squat clay apartments, I was glad we’d stopped here. I’d never seen anything like it, and I knew I never would again. It was weird but great fun to explore. I discovered a beauty to the complex architecture of the buildings against the plain background of the desert. Again, I encourage you to take risks or road trips, to make detours and stop at places that sound interesting. You never know what you’re going to discover!

4. Quality Time with Friends

Inside your vehicle (whether it be a car, RV, or your mom’s old minivan because that’s all you have) road trips provide the opportunity for you to have both deep and light conversations with the people you’re around. For instance, road trips provide a removed space for people to have deep conversations they could not otherwise have in their daily lives going about their business. Additionally, they allow people to express the lightest parts of themselves, to make jokes and banter. During road trips, personalities, both the deep and light parts, shine through. As such, road trips can be a good way to get to know people. On the flip side, they can be bad if you don’t get along with someone and are stuck in close quarters with them. Because of this, I would recommend being careful about who is in the car, or at least being aware of where people are sitting relative to you in the car. 

Inside the vehicle, there is plenty of time to talk and for people’s personalities to shine through in ways they couldn’t in other situations. Personally, I’ve had many deep conversations in cars. As talking is the only thing you can do and your mind is free of many of its day-to-day life shackles and burdens, your mind is free to wander, to think, and to share.

5. Music In the Car

Listening to music in the car makes any road trip more enjoyable. Everything is more fun when it is soundtracked. It is also fun to sing along with your carmates, sharing your favorite songs and your beautiful singing voice. I recommend listening to the radio so you can discover new songs. Additionally, you can theme your music to your surroundings. For example, driving through Arizona in the Western United States, we used to listen to Old Western ballads. This added to the Western feeling of the road trip. As we listened to the Blazing Saddles soundtrack, I imagined the slapstick cowboys from the movie Blazing Saddles riding on horseback alongside our car. As I looked out at the cracked red sand of the desert while listening to this music, the landscape itself came alive. 

But now, let’s talk about planning. How will you go about making this road trip fantasy into a reality? Where will you go? To plan or not to plan is ultimately the question. If you have a specific destination you want to reach and a limited amount of time to get there, I recommend planning. But if you are feeling spontaneous and are able to be, I recommend being more relaxed about it. Also, road trips do not have to be lengthy. If you simply want to leave your neighborhood one day and drive for half an hour one way and then half an hour back, that counts. I think driving and watching the world pass by outside can have a calming effect on your soul as you can let your mind wander peacefully as you take in the world outside or simply concentrate on the road, letting your problems fall to the wayside. 

Where should you go? Obviously, this is highly dependent on where you live and where you want to go. If you want a list of some of the most scenic places to take a summer road trip in the US, I recommend checking out this website. 

I hope this has been a helpful article, and I hope you’re already planning your next road trip. Whether or not you go on one, I think they provide a moment of escape and a chance for exploration with others, and I encourage you to consider how you can do this via road trips or other outlets in your life.