Don’t Forget Your Bear Spray
During my freshman year of high school, my friends suggested that we go on a road trip out west once we graduated. I was more than willing, but I wasn’t convinced it was going to happen – it always seemed like a far away dream. But all of a sudden, it was senior year, and my friend Avery had essentially planned the whole thing. I was taking two weeks off of work and persuading my parents to let me travel hundreds of miles away before I turned 18. We departed in June after we settled into summer a bit and attended more than enough grad parties. I, who had never traveled anywhere without my parents in my life, had little idea what I was in for. This trip was preceded by months of anticipation and planning, but it truly exceeded all my expectations. It was genuinely one the best experiences of my life and I’m sure my two travel buddies would agree. We’re planning our next adventure for this summer to the Pacific Northwest, and the excitement is definitely helping me get through the semester. So, I’m happy to share some stories from last year’s trip and some random tips along with them!
Tip #1: Pack for multiple climates
I’m from Minnesota, and while the winters there are unbearably cold, the summers are nice and warm, and temperatures don’t vary greatly between May and September. Since the furthest we were going was Colorado, I was planning on just packing shorts and tees for this trip, but I am so grateful my friends and parents convinced me I’d need warm pants, a fleece, a hat and mittens. In Utah, we were sweating in the desert sun, but in Montana we bundled up under several layers as the temperature dropped to the 40s at night.
Tip #2: Make sure you have pepper spray and bear spray within reach always
We packed these things for the “just in case” type of situation, and while we didn’t actually have to use them, I’m so thankful we had them. Our first night camping, I thought I saw something moving outside our tent and convinced myself it was a bear that was about to attack us. Later, in Grand Teton National Park, we really did see a bear cub running across a path and turned right around so we didn’t have to encounter the mother bear. And, in Utah, some creepy guys camping near us had catcalled us during the day and we were sure they were coming back at night for who knows what. I don’t think I slept more than an hour that night. However, having bear/pepper spray by our side definitely provided us with some necessary comfort. Looking back, these experiences are honestly funny, especially the one about me thinking I was seeing a bear that literally just ended up being our tent moving in the wind.
Tip #3: Make friends on the road! (during daylight hours, around lots of people of course)
Yes, stranger danger is real and there are plenty of scary people out there, but there are also so many cool people to meet when traveling. Of course, being teenage girls, we had to be careful about who we interacted with – we pretty much never went anywhere alone, especially at night. But, some of the people we met along the way made the trip even better, and my friends and I still talk about them today. Namely, Louise, who checked us in at our campsite in Montana and gave us free firewood. Likewise, the waitress from our first diner stop, the older couple and their tiny dogs we met camping, the museum tour guide who advised us on what planetarium show to see and others were all so kind and comforting.
If you have been wanting to go on a road trip but just haven’t gotten around to planning it or aren’t sure where to start, this is your sign to go for it. It seems overwhelming at first, but I gained so much from the experience and would highly recommend getting a couple of your friends together and doing it. It’s a cheap way to travel and it’s pretty easy to cater a road trip to your wants, needs and budget. I hope these silly little tips help and/or motivate you to get started on making your road trip happen!