It’s probably not going to come as a shock to anyone that I enjoy taking trips in my car. I’m not really too sure if there was a specific point in my life when driving became my preferred method of traveling, but I think it happened right around the time Chewy came along and I decided I didn’t want to take him on planes.
When I was in college at Florida State and Troy was stationed at Fort Riley, I flew out to see him every chance I got. Flying was so convenient. I could spend a weekend with Troy and be back in time for class on Monday. With all those flights while I was in college, I got to the point that I considered myself an air travel pro. I generally travel pretty light, usually with just a backpack, so my trips were never weighed down with a bunch of stuff. I never lost any bags or struggled fitting stuff into overhead bins or under seats. Booking flights, checking in, selecting seats, downloading boarding passes, finding gates, boarding planes, and every other part of air travel became very familiar to me.
And then we got engaged, I graduated, and we got our first pup, Chewy.
After I graduated, the time came for me to move myself, my stuff, and Chewy to Kansas to be with Troy. I knew that my car had to get to Kansas, I had a freshly minted pup with me, and I had way more than just a backpack’s amount of stuff, so flying was definitely out of the question. It was the first time that I ever drove to Kansas; it was probably the first time that I’d ever driven for more than eight hours at a time. The days of those quick, six hour, single layover flights were behind me. Of course, that first time I drove the twenty two hours to Manhattan, Kansas was rough compared to six hours of flying, but, at some point, I stopped caring that the drive took so much longer than flying because I fell in love with the dying art of road tripping.
My first few trips back and forth from Kansas to Florida in my car seemed to drag on forever and all I wanted to do was hurry up and get to where I was going. But somewhere along the way, I realized that there was so much I was missing by just driving straight through. There were hidden barbecue gems I was driving past in Memphis, beautiful waterfalls to be seen in Alabama, rolling Ozark hills in Missouri, quick detours to stunning overlooks in the Smokies all waiting to be discovered along that drive. I started planning little stops and detours along the trips. Chewy and I camped at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park together. We drove along the beautiful Natchez Parkway. We saw leaves change in the Ozarks and fell asleep to rain on the car roof in the Great Smoky Mountains. Each memory I made with my dog in my rad little Corolla cemented my love of road trips more and more.
And then we embarked on the road trip of a lifetime when we lived in our van with the dogs this summer. Sure, there were days that driving was boring. And, yes. Obviously we could’ve gotten to California in less than a day if we had flown. There were those stretches through Southern New Mexico and Texas that seemed like the nothingness went on forever and we’d never find civilization again. But for every moment of boredom on a long, empty stretch, there were a thousand moments of awe as we drove through some of the most amazing places in the U.S. And we would’ve missed a majority of those awesome little out-of-the-way gems had we flown.
To make sure our summer in the van went out with a bang instead of a whimper, we decided that our last extended ride in Betty was to be a trip to Alberta, Canada with some friends of ours. Since Troy and I had been living in the van all summer, the thought of driving to Canada from our friends’ place in Florida didn’t really seem like anything out of the ordinary. We could get all the dogs together, bring them, have all of our camping gear with us – driving seemed so obvious and second nature to us. But when our friends’ coworkers and families found out we were driving, they seemed shocked that anyone in this day and age would want to drive from Florida to Canada.
To people who usually fly, I’m sure driving seems super inefficient. You waste precious vacation days sitting in a car, which is obviously not the reason you’re on vacation. Most people are concerned with the destination – we’ve been conditioned to think, “I have two weeks to spend not working, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend more than two of those ten work-free days on travel.” And I get that. We worked hard for those days off. We want to get to where we’re going, and really make the most of our time there for the short time that we have. But, the way I see it is, vacation doesn’t start when you get off the plane in your destination. It starts waaaaay before that.
Vacation starts the second you walk out of work on the last day before your time off starts, right? So those two days that you’re not working that you spend in a car on your way to wherever your ultimate destination is have the potential to be just as awesome as the days that you spend actually at your destination. On our way to Canada, we camped in some beautiful spots. We saw landmarks, visited states we’d never been through before, hung out in the Colorado Rockies, and got to have our pups right next to us the whole time!
If you only compare the time involved in travel, then flying seems like the clear winner because it’s so fast. But really, comparing traveling by air and road tripping is like comparing apples to oranges. You get so much more out of your vacation when you drive. If we had all flown to Alberta together, I’m sure we still would’ve had a great time. But we only would’ve seen Alberta. Since we drove to Canada, we saw Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, PLUS Alberta. If you think you can cross that many state lines and international borders and NOT see something cool, I’m here to let you know that there’s cool stuff EVERYWHERE. There’s tiny mountain towns you can’t see from the sky that you’ll fall in love with while you drive through them. There’s pronghorns grazing in fields in Wyoming that’ll run right alongside your car and blow your mind with how graceful and fast they are. There are lakes in Montana that are tiny blue dots in in airplane and, from the sky, you’d never know how amazing it feels to wade in the shallows and feel the smoothest, softest pebbles under your feet in those pristine icy blue mountain lakes.
If the goal is ultimately to travel, then TRAVEL. Immerse yourself in every tiny detail of the world on your way to wherever it is you’re going. Even if you fly when you travel for work because the company pays, or you fly because you only have a couple days to travel, or because you need to get somewhere fast in an emergency, just do yourself a favor and at least consider driving when you have the time to spend.
A lot of times we get so caught up in what’s efficient and convenient that we don’t stop to consider what would bring us the most joy. I learned over the span of several road trips that traveling in my car is something that brings me so much joy. I always feel like I get so much more out of those vacation days when I drive even though, technically, I’m spending more time on travel than at my destination. What I feel when I go for a long drive is a happiness that I never got in all of those hours that I spent on planes in college.
When’s the last time you tried driving instead of flying?
Humor me and give it a shot. Maybe we’ll pass each other while we’re out there having the best adventures and reviving the lost art of the road trip.
Anyone go on any sweet road trips recently or have any adventures in the works? I’d love to hear of your harrowing road trip tales in the comments!