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How to have a Good Road Trip

Home > Everywhere > Travel | Family | Escape the City | Day Trips | Cheap
by Linda Moon (subscribe)
... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published May 28th 2013
From bonding to fruit stalls, sunsets & self-reflection
On the road out West
On the road - more to offer than just grainy eyes.


In this age of affordable airfares and instant gratification, the road trip seems to have been relegated to an inferior status. Considered the domain of those too poor to fly, the road trip is associated with the past and almost antiquated ways.

'Why drive, when you can fly for the same price,' seems to be the resounding motto.

Yet, the 'long journey' of the road trip has many bounties to bestow upon those who partake. The destination isn't important. The road trip is all about the journey.

I once met a man who used a lengthy road trip to bond with his daughter. He combined this 'quality' father/daughter time with teaching her to drive. In this sense, the road trip performed as a destination in itself.

Enforced hours trapped together in a vehicle provide precious hours for discussion, debate, building rapport, sharing confidences, or just plain sharing the silence.

Some of the best discussions I've ever had with partners have been conducted behind the wheel. It can be a surprising venue for working out problems, discussing issues, catching up on each others lives and sharing dreams, hopes and aspirations. On the other hand, the road trip gives time to argue.

One of the greatest blessings of the road trip are the absence of the distractions of both home or the resort / hostel / holiday park or tourist facility. In a time when so many seem to lack one on one time for others, this forced time with a significant 'other' is valuable. Unlike the actual 'holiday' destination, there aren't a zillion possible ways to spend one's hard-earned tourist dollar or be distracted from the pressing issues of our lives by the frippery and fun of holidaying with its round of dining out, sight-seeing and tourist activities.

Physically confined within a vehicle, the road-trippers' mind is free to blossom, meditate, reflect and analyse. For the lone road tripper, this is equally true. Though, for those who meet with road-trip disaster or who don't have a clue where they're going and end up lost, the road-trip can instantly sour into a hellish experience.

After his divorce, my father used to drive a lot as a mental refuge from his emotional pain. It didn't seem to matter where. The idea was to escape those four walls.

The road trip provides a temporary 'out' from one's regular life and a sense of newness and exploration. Every scene changes, every bend reveals a new angle, towns slip away, leaving our former lives behind us. Only new possibilities lie ahead. Beyond that horizon waits the future we haven't encountered yet.

Other advantages of the road trip are the flexibility to stop, explore, detour, self-pace, act upon impulse and get up close and personal with our surroundings. The person who drives to their destination is likely to discover delights one would never experience by flying or catching the train. During road excursions I have witnessed snakes sliding across the road, echidnas, wombats and kangaroos, native rats, flights of birds and other signs of the country including sunsets, farm animals, vistas of sea and land, magical creeks, cherries in bloom, orchards and hidden valleys. Other discoveries have included quirky pubs, beautiful old churches and bargain road side fruit and honey stalls. The road trip is far more intimate with the land. It is the voyeur of beauty, but also the ordinary, road kill, accidents, environmental devastation, struggle and survival.

In the sense that it takes one away from our daily schedule and environment, the road trip provides a chance to reflect and assess one's life. Indeed, one can return from a road trip feeling they have gained a greater perspective on their life. The road trip is also a more private and quieter affair than the jammed with passengers air-flight, coach or train – unless of course you are taking your daughter's high-school pals along in the Toyota.

To get the most out of your road trip, plan ahead to make it as pleasant and pain-free as possible. Bring all the paraphernalia: drinking water, cushions, nibblies, sunglasses, layers you can peel off or re-apply, maps, GPS system, directions, panadol (for those occasional headaches induced by glare and grainy eyes), ginger for car sickness, sun-shades for the windows and so on. Make sure your seat is in the correct position and be aware of your posture. Road trips are notoriously bad on the back and neck.

Avoid stodgy snacks that can sit in your belly and promote constipation and discomfort. High-fibre fruit and nuts are a good choice.

Book your accommodation in advance rather than just turn up with the stress of trying to find a bed for the night. A buddy to share the driving helps. Break the journey up with refreshment and leg breaks. Picnic on a river bank, have a drink at a local pub or stretch the legs with a small walk along the coast. Sometimes, these mini-breaks from driving turn out to be the most memorable parts of your voyage.

Know your petrol stops, check the tyres and generally ensure your vehicle is in top-notch condition. Make sure your car insurances and road membership are in good order. The idea is to avoid anything that will cause stress and 'road-trip hell'. That is a place to avoid at all costs. Remember, this isn't Jetstar and if you get a flat, you're going to have to deal with it. Still, those little disasters can be part of the adventure and make a good story one day.

Above all, bring good company knowing it can make or break the experience. I knew of someone who agreed to a six hour road trip with an acquaintance in order to share petrol costs. The acquaintance turned out to be such a pain in the arse that on reflection my friend would have preferred to pay any amount to fly. Still, risk is part of life and the coin of life can land either way on any choice you make.

If you decide to bring up 'issues' with your loved one, do so delicately and in a manner that will promote communication rather than lead to an argument. Just remember, you can't walk out and lock yourself in the shed in this scenario.

To get the most out of your road trip imagine you are Bilbo Baggins setting out on a new frontier. Bring provisions, good friends, a sense of adventure and expect to come back changed.

May all your road trips be blessed and may decent toilet stops find you. Bon voyage.
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Why? It's about the journey not the destination!
When: Anytime you can get the time off.
Where: Any freeway or road of your choice
Cost: Petrol and accommodation
Your Comment
So true, Linda! We recently had a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney and the journey was great for family closeness. The incidental finds along the way made it fun and memorable for us all.
by barbc (score: 1|65) 1519 days ago
Love the road trip article... I learn't to drive with my father on a several long drives up the coast - great memories!
by trish (score: 1|34) 1513 days ago
What a joyous thing is a road trip! Drifting slowly through the world, the creamy sunlight moving about as you wind through the hills, the stops for steamy coffee, the scent of pines, the maps spread across the passenger's knees, the languid snatches of conversation, the pleasant weariness towards evening...And if your companion's boring, you can fling them down a ravine...Nothing matches a road trip in an open touring car...cheerio!
by Max Flynn (score: 1|61) 1229 days ago
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