When was the last time you drove somewhere new and unfamiliar, just for the experience? I think it is good to go new places, and experience new things. While planes are efficient, the slower pace of road travel allows you to take time to pay attention to the things around you. A road trip will shake up your world view, awaken your curiosity and open the door for personal growth.
We just got back from a road trip to Texas. Though we live five minutes from the airport and could have been to Dallas in two hours, we decided to drive. I have never driven south of St. Louis and I wanted to see the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, rural Oklahoma, and parts of Texas beyond the cities.
Driving from Wisconsin to Texas wasn’t a particularly exciting drive, though we alternated driving on the interstate and state highways. It was also not the prettiest time of year to go exploring. We didn’t see many signs of spring until we spotted green grass in Texas. There were no big revelations, but plenty of observations. Though I wouldn’t rush to drive the 16 hours to Dallas again anytime soon, it was worth it. Here’s why:
Experiencing new things shakes up your world view
Traveling always helps me to see my own life and the lives of others in a new light. On this trip, we drove through many poor rural areas. We saw an abandoned, run down motor home with tin foil and cardboard in the windows. Piles of black plastic garbage bags, the skeletons of several vehicles, and piles of junk metal littered the muddy yard. When I saw a child’s tricycle and a dog tied out front, I gasped. Not only did someone live there, a child lived there. We saw many ramshackle homes, especially on reservation lands. The plight of those living in poverty in cities often gets media coverage, but rural poverty is isolating and desperate. It is easy to forget about poverty in my everyday life while living in my middle class home but I could not escape it here. I become aware that there are many people living many lives and that my world view and experiences are different from others who share our planet.
Experiencing new things awakens your curiosity
Driving through new places provided many opportunities for me to be curious. Where does that river originate? How high are these mountains? What town is next? I spent the better part of four days devouring AAA guidebooks and following our route while reading maps. Often I would read aloud some interesting fact to my husband. In turn, he impressed me with tales of the Hanging Judge when we drove through Fort Smith. He loved driving through the Winding Stair Mountains, the setting of his favorite movie, True Grit. Who knew? He has watched that movie dozens of times, but it never occurred to me to wonder where it took place. I knew it was the old west- that was close enough. In our ordinary lives, we don’t always have time to be curious. New places beg us to pay attention.
Experiencing new things helps you grow
The new experiences and insight you get on a road trip will enrich you. We listened to a lot of music and discovered new bands and new singers. We had time to talk to each other, something that is precious in our hurried daily lives. We also had long conversations with new friends from Canada and Sweden and I learned a lot about their countries. We ate Texas Barbeque and tried some local brews. We ate local fish hours after it was caught. We spent an afternoon sitting on a dock soaking up sunshine and realized we need both more docks and more sunshine in our lives. None of these experiences were monumental, but all of them enrich who we are.
I am not going to abandon air travel any time soon, but a road trip gave us something unexpected. Though it seemingly took more time, in reality it gave us more time to explore. I liked being in control of when and where we drove and not being dependent on other’s schedules. I appreciated the quiet and calmness of the car instead of the harried noise and commotion of the airport. I loved driving with the sun roof open rather than breathing stale cabin air.
I love to travel, and though I don’t know where my next trip will take me, I know that there will be another road trip in my future. What about you? Do you enjoy a good road trip or do you prefer to travel by plane, train or boat?
“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien