On The Road Again: The Many Advantages Of Taking A Solitary Road Trip
I’ve a map of the United States displayed in my apartment, and I often stop and look at this map en route to the living room and kitchen. If my wanderlust is stronger than normal, I’ll find a few roads I have yet to travel and wonder about future road trips. Rarely a week in my life passes when I don’t think about future travels. While these thoughts include dreams of visiting destinations such as Iceland or New Zealand, often I look at this map and think most eagerly about future road trips.
I’ve taken road trips by myself and with company, and I am aware there are perks and drawbacks to both approaches. For this article, however, I wish to discuss the advantages of embracing the open road alone.
The first advantage is you are in complete control of the radio. This can mean various things: No one will complain if you want to listen to Garth Brooks for 300 straights miles; you can listen to books on CD about esoteric topics—such as the mating habits of elephants—without putting to sleep the friend who is currently driving; you can listen to talk radio while you traverse the entire length of Nebraska on I-80; you’re able to appreciate silence during those moments—and minutes and possibly hours—when you are tired of talk radio, your music collection, and books on CD. I’ve learned the art of appreciating occasional periods of silence when I am driving, and I’ve taken road trips with friends and relatives who are aghast at the thought of turning off the radio for even five minutes.
A great song to listen to on a road trip
On a related note, while on a solo road trip you are free to sing at the top of your lungs without bothering anyone. I suppose it’s possible you could annoy someone behind you in town if you are singing at top volume to Top Petty’s “Free Falling” while you have your windows open. Nonetheless, in general this is one of the perks of taking a solo road trip.
I’ve been told I’ve the world’s smallest bladder. This probably isn’t true. However, I seem to require more bathroom breaks than most people. On a road trip, this means I stop at least every ninety minutes, if not more frequently. I’ve learned most individuals do not need to stop as often as I do, and for this reason I’ve irritated those I’m on the road because of how often I need to stop. While traveling alone, however, the only issue with needing frequent bathroom breaks is when there are no obvious bathrooms available.
Which country would you most like to take a road trip in?
The possibility of being spontaneous is another benefit of being alone on a road trip. This can mean anything from driving ten miles out of your way to see a waterfall, eating at a roadside diner in Arkansas because you are craving sweet tea, or completely changing your travel plans after meeting a local who tells you where to go if you want to escape the crowds of tourists and see how the locals live.
Speaking of research, if you are planning to hit the road alone, you are free to look into whatever attractions interest you. Time and fund permitting, you can visit wacky museums or drive down as much of Route 66 as you have time for. If museums aren’t your thing, you can explore all the national parks in California rain or shine. During my solo travels in Washington D.C. I visited the Postal Museum in Washington D.C., a destination which fascinated me.
While traveling alone you may be more motivated to meet fellow travelers. Without someone already there to talk, it’s natural to want to converse with someone in person while you are traveling. On my solo road trips I’ve conversed with travelers from Australia, England, Germany, and from all over the United States. Many of these conversations were relatively brief and superficial. In one instance, however, I had an intense, philosophical conversation with an older woman from New York City while at a hostel in Vermont. Hostels can be excellent places to meet fellow solo travelers, and this is one reason I recommend them.
Traveling alone, especially on a road trip, can be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about yourself. You may learn uncomplimentary things—such as your need to plan for every single contingency when traveling, or your impatience when you encounter road construction—or you may also learn lovely things such as your ability to be content away from the familiar circumstances of your everyday life. During my solo travels I’ve learned I don’t enjoy cramming as many activities as possible into any given day. I’d much rather leisurely explore a new place—whether a city or a natural area—instead of “checking off” the “must do” items many other travelers hope to accomplish. I also love to meet dogs when I travel, and I have learned not all dog owners want to meet me.
Check out these scenic roads...
As a solo traveler it is easier for friends and family to host you. Depending on the size of the home or apartment you are visiting, it may be more plausible to fit one guest compared to two or three. I’ve lived in small enough apartments where the most guests I could comfortably host is one, and this is true for other people. Also, if your hosts are cooking for you, it is easier to accommodate one person’s dietary needs (including any food allergies), preferences, and so forth than two or more individuals. Finally, if you want to visit a good friend who you haven’t seen in years, it’s better to visit this person alone because of the possibility you would ignore the friend you traveled with in order to catch up with the friend you are visiting. At the very least, it is possible the friend you traveled with might feel like a third wheel.
Another benefit of taking a solo road trip is you don’t have to adjust for someone else’s comfort levels or expectations. In other words, you may be perfectly comfortable camping most nights of your road trip, whereas your good friends wouldn’t consider sleeping in a tent. You can also buy food from grocery stores to save money, an approach which others may not appreciate or be willing to do.
Finally, for those of us who like to plan and do research, taking a solo road trip means you can research as much as you want beforehand. You may even want to read a history of the area you plan to visit, or contact the local chamber of commerce for visiting information.
The reverse is also true: If you have little need, inclination, or desire to plan your road trip beforehand, this is also a possible option when you are taking a solo journey. There are people who have no problem throwing a few clothes and toiletries in a bag, grabbing their cell phone and CDs, and hitting the road. If you are one of them, you have more freedom to travel this way when you are solo.
Whether you seek it alone or with company, the open road has much to offer. Now, if you will excuse me, I must go stare at my United States map and start dreaming of where I will travel next.