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Sensory Drive - Re-discover the Joy of Driving

Updated on June 13, 2010

Pleasure driving... Mmm!

This is the kind of roads I'm talking about. Exciting, narrow and spectacular!
This is the kind of roads I'm talking about. Exciting, narrow and spectacular!

What is a sensory drive?

Sensory driving is driving for pleasure while observing and feeling how your car handles and also looking at the scenery! Driving like that helps you see the ordinary daily activity of driving as a more pleasant experience.

Why try a sensory drive?

Many people drive every day and complain that they don't see anything! Major highways are boring, etc, etc. So many of us drive with a sense of purpose, often speeding just to cut down on the commute. For a while I distracted myself with audiobooks.

There were rare glimpses of insight however - seeing the commute as beautiful.

A sensory drive helps you appreciate and enjoy driving more because it becomes a more complete experience!

Forest road

Spectacular sights,smells and sounds.
Spectacular sights,smells and sounds.

How to have a sensory drive

A sensory drive engages the senses and makes you more alert. Here are the tips on turning your drive into a multi sensory experience.

Drop to 5 miles below speed limit, if there's someone behind you, pull aside or choose less busy streets. Having someone push on you from behind will distract you. There's no rush, especially if you are driving for pleasure.

Open the car windows. At 30-40 mph in warm climates this feels good and lets more sounds and smells in!

Look at the road, but also look at the sides of the roads for views and experiences. "Scenic overlook" signs are a dead giveaway that something cool is close - take them. But there are many other sights that you can enjoy!

Don't focus on where you want to go or how you want to get there. A GPS is a great tool for this, because you are no longer afraid of getting lost!

If you like something - pull over and step out of the car (be sure to park responsibly)! Driving allows you to reach so many different places!

If you are driving on country, forest or mountain roads, feel how your car handles around turns. Adding a GPS map helps you anticipate the turns ahead. Matching the turns on the map to real life experience is very cool.

Engage your senses. Start with sight. Look for spectacular sights to look at. Mountains, hills, forests, lakes, cool houses. There are so many things to see!

Next, focus on the sense of hearing. Listen to the sound of your engine as you accelerate. Hear your brakes as you decelerate. Hear the wind rush and hear how outside sounds can cut through this constant noise if you have your windows open. Bird song, trees rustling, airplanes and other sounds!

Next, feel how you control your car. I bet you are not even thinking about this. See how you gently steer the car as you hit road irregularities. What makes you brake and accelerate? Is that a conscious decision or are you on autopilot? 

Next, feel how your body feels in the car. The seat, and the gentle trembling and vibration of your car as you brake. Feel the inertia as you round the corners - your body leans and adjusts itself!

If you have a window open, feel the air rush past the car with your left hand. Feel the air rush through your fingers. 

Turn on the air conditioner on or off. Feel the temperature of the air. Does it make you feel comfortable? 

There are many other things you can observe, like how condensation forms on the inside or the outside of your windshield and how you can remove it. 

Different times - different results!

Driving at sunset lets you see as the world around you changes colors
Driving at sunset lets you see as the world around you changes colors
Late night drives feature different colors - orange or blue!
Late night drives feature different colors - orange or blue!
Pre-dawn drives help you see the world become full of color again.
Pre-dawn drives help you see the world become full of color again.
Early morning drives are often foggy! The air feels fresh
Early morning drives are often foggy! The air feels fresh

When to have a sensory drive

You can have a sensory drive at any time of the day, even though rush hour on a major highway is going to be difficult!

Some tips regarding the best time:

When you are sober and alert - a sensory drive engages your senses. You have to feel confident regarding your ability to drive!

When the sun is setting down. Not only are sunsets spectacular, but they also color the world around you in different colors (orange/pink). Noticing the hue of the world slowly change as the sun is setting down is pretty cool!

Driving in the evening also has the effect of people being more relaxed, even if there's traffic on the streets.

Night 11PM-3AM. Driving at night is a very cool experience - seeing lights fly by, shadows, lights and reflections play on the passing cars. Plus there are fewer cars on the road! (still plenty of cops). Driving on country roads at night could be amazing - seeing pitch black in your rear view mirror makes the whole experience feel surreal.

Pre-dawn. Yesterday I had my first pre-dawn drive and I was determined to make the best of it! At 4:55 the world was coming alive. The sun was slowly rising and I enjoyed spectacular views of fog covered mountains and eerie lakes. The increase in light levels helped me see colors - the black and white around me slowly changed to hues of blue, then green and finally all the colors became visible!

Early morning. This is particularly spectacular in urban areas and urban areas on weekends. Travelling through empty streets, seeing cities and towns come alive is pretty cool. Plus you get some cool urban views of sunrise! Leave at 20 minutes before traffic starts around 6:30 AM.

Where to have a sensory drive.

Driving on a major highway is not quite that exciting. Here the primary mode is speed, and it is difficult to feel it. This is due to the size of the highway. 

If you want to feel speed, travel on a tight forest road. A narrow road can make even 30 MPH feel like a lot! 

A twisty road makes you do more turns and helps you feel inertia more. Be sure to stay alert for blind turns! I first had a drive like that a few months ago because my GPS tried to avoid traffic. That was most fun I had driving in years!

If you want sights, sounds and smells, travel on a road in a natural setting. Some roads cut through park and are quite pleasant to drive on!

Major highways can be boring if all you care about is speed. But there are other things you can enjoy here. For example, see New Jersey Turnpike below

Routine driving made fun!

Even a major highway can be made fun
Even a major highway can be made fun

New Jersey Turnpike - a major highway example

New Jersey turnpike cuts through New Jersey all the way from the Hudson river and NYC down to the south. The road is a grind for most people who use it for daily commute to and from NYC and south Jersey. It can have brutal traffic! Driving on the turnpike can be boring if you are not playing the sensory game.

Some examples

Construction sites - quite a lot of them. But seeing them come and go over time gives you an appreciation of time. They can last for months and then disappear!

Cut rock face. Close to exit 16E turnpike cuts through a hill causing you to move between 2 sides of a cut hill. First time I saw something like that, i thought it was very cool! The rock face is covered with some graffiti which can be seen throughout Jersey!

Marshland. Following a rockface is a bridge which spawns over grassy marshland. This is nothing to look at, but driving here in the morning offers a spectacular images of sunrise over NYC skyline and a sense of space. This is not quite a skyway, but it is pretty close!

Next, Newark and Pulaski skyway come to view. Here you can see reflections of a rising sun in the morning or a sea of lights at night!

NJ used to have a lot of industry and shortly after Newark you can see a large railroad and container hub. Sometimes planes fly just hundreds of feet over that to land at Newark airport.

Planes, planes and more planes! On a clear day in the morning, it is possible to see up to 4 planes line up parallel to turnpike in order to land. Their lights are visible miles ahead and it's pretty cool to see a plane get closer and closer. Sometimes planes fly right over the highway and land. This is a spectacular sight if you are paying attention!

At night, the area around the airport becomes another sea of light. This is a startling contrast to some of the country roads I travel on! I appreciate country roads, but the sea of light is also spectacular!

Next come the industrial and power generation plants of Linden. Here the man's ingenuity becomes obvious. Seeing a man made plant of this size is impressive! Flare towers and smoke stacks litter the landscape. It is impressive! Just as you pass the plant there's a small area which always smells the same. It's funny, because for a long time this was the only smell I would notice on a highway, because it is synthetic and so sudden!

The sights slowly decrease, but if you are observant, you would notice a military depot next to country road 514. This has woodland and tan colored humvees and military trucks. A pretty cool sight and once in a while you can spot a humvee on a turnpike.

Next, the turnpike goes on and on! Even here, the little bumps and irregularities in the road surface make the drive a bit more fun! Because the visual sights are usually over at this point, I used to play a game of name what you see. There are a lot of objects! Bridges, radio towers, water towers, tops of buildings. Observing other cars, trees, street signs and so on. Make your own game!

Tips and tricks

Because you are driving for pleasure, you have to stay alert and follow the driving regulations.

  • Drive within the speed limit and observe traffic signs
  • On turning mountain roads a GPS is helpful. Modern GPS devices also tell you the speed limit.
  • During blind turns, be prepared to brake or steer if you encounter wild animals, pedestrians, cars, etc. 
  • Following another car 300 feet ahead of you makes blind turns more manageable - you can anticipate trouble ahead. 
  • A sensory drive is best performed alone, else you would be distracted
  • Avoid traffic and busy streets. 
  • Have your driver's licence with you


Thank you for reading my hub! I'm in no way an expert at sensory driving - I'm just learning it. Some things are so easy to take for granted that people only feel their importance when the things are lost. Driving is one of these! 

Think of yourself and a teenager again. Except this time you have the skills and experience needed for safe driving. Now you can enjoy the experience, instead of letting your worries and concerns turn your drive into a chore!


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