A bulky suitcase under your feet locks your legs into an unnatural angle. Someone turns the air conditioning off and your legs are sliding on your own sweaty seat. Your siblings whine over the static-filled radio, and you’re regretting the last bottle of water you drank as you realize the closest bathroom is 52 miles away. To top it off, your phone rings to tell you it is clinging to two percent of battery life.
If you’re like me, some variation of this image comes to mind when you hear the term “road trip.” Whether it’s a 45-minute drive to a soccer game in Trinity Valley or 18 hours with your family to a beach in Florida, I think it is safe to say most people don’t love being trapped in a car. Something about the lack of foot space and poor internet connection seems to make boredom and cranky passengers inevitable.
Does it have to be this way, though? I recently read a piece by fellow Fourcast staffer Laine Betanzos, encouraging people to reconsider getting stuck in traffic. She points out the opportunity for reflection, relaxation, and the chance to take a minute to slow your thoughts, forget about your to-do lists, and just be. As I reflected on this, I began to wonder, what else do we dread and try to rush through, that we should be savoring as chances to notice and appreciate the little things in life?
Similar to getting caught in traffic, traveling, in particular by way of a “road trip,” could be one of those missed opportunities. In addition to Betanzos’ point of having the chance to relax and reflect, road trips create a unique space that forces people to interact, or at least be in close vicinity with each other for extended periods of time.
This unique opportunity has resulted in some of my favorite memories. Bus rides during school trips, for example, have given me the chance to talk to and get to know people and peers that I don’t get to interact with on a daily basis. In particular, the hours I spent on bus rides during the sixth grade trip to Williamsburg allowed me time to bond with my classmates. Because of those bus rides, I am significantly closer to a number of my classmates, and I now am familiar with the horrors of a toilet overflowing in the back of your bus.
Car trips do not always end with closer friendships and happy campers, though. On a road trip, because you are confined in a space with your fellow passengers and driver, you have three options, all of which will affect your road trip experience differently. The first option is to shun the other members of the car and keep to your electronics. The second, you can go into the trip expecting to be annoyed with the other passengers and allow yourself to pick fights and arguments with them. Finally, the third option is to see the trip as an opportunity to have fun and bond with your fellow road-trippers.
I will argue that this third option is the only one that leads to positive, not just unproblematic, experiences on the road. One way to implement that option is just to engage in simple, random conversation. Beyond that, silly games like sweet or sour, would you rather, M.A.S.H, card games and the alphabet game are a few other ways to relax and have a fun time. The internet also has ideas for what to do with your fellow road-trippers once you exhaust the above activities. Blogs and websites titled “100 things to do on a road trip” are always helpful.
Even with the internet and lists of activities to lean on, I know the idea of enjoying a multi-hour car ride may seem impossible. But as tricky as it may seem, and as tempting as a movie and earphones may be, I think it is possible and worth trying. I’ve had my share of miserable travels as well, but car rides like those of my sixth grade Williamsburg trip continue to remind me that it is possible for good to come out of the battles against boredom during a road trip.
So next time you start to groan as you get into a car or bus for a road trip, remind yourself to appreciate the trip, because, to quote Umang Gupta, an entrepreneur and founder of Gupta Corporation, “Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.”
Story by Anna Gum
Photo provided by https://www.vandenberg.af.mil