January 11, 2013

The Single Girl’s Guide to Driving Cross Country.

Source: flickr.com via Jacqueline Mart on Pinterest

Part two in the “Single Girl’s Guide to Taking the Long Road Home” series.

I travel a lot.

It’s one of my favorite parts of being a guest presenter for yoga, barre and Pilates.

I just completed a cross country trip and there are definitely a few things I’ve learned being on the road as a single woman.

There are a few practical things I’ve learned about being out on the road to help you prepare for your trip:

1. Vehicle—Get a fabulous car/bike/donkey to travel with that feels like a second skin. I think my hot red Prius Roxy is as in love with me as I am in with her. If I even mention the word “trade-in” anywhere around her something malfunctions (seriously people—if plants can have feelings, then why not cars? Didn’t you read the Stephen King book Christine?).

Anyways, on a long drive the three c’s are important in a car: comfort, compatibility and consistency. Last thing you want is a car that will break down every 100 miles. Also, get AAA. You’re not going to want to change a tire in 90 degree heat, when instead you could have big, burly and handsome with a fancy truck do that. It’s worth the money and the watching…unless he/she has plumber’s crack. In that case…oops, sorry, you should of learned how to change it yourself.

2. Packing—Figure out how to pack easily for transport in and out of a car. Be honest with yourself. Are you actually going to use that Vitamix on the road? Being a raw food enthusiast I had this vision of myself making green goddess smoothies across the country. One attempt at washing out the damn blender under a tiny hotel faucet did me in. The space it took up could have been space for a gorilla costume (see number five). Plan to be portable. When you’re exhausted you’re going to want to get into your hotel room fast. Have a bag ready for quick transport with the essentials. As you pack your ride think about safety too. Are you in a safe area to leave your possessions in your car? Unloading a car full of stuff every time you stop is a major hassle. Pack light.

3. Sleeping accommodations—unless you’re rolling in it, chances are you’re staying at the occasional hotel and couch surfing. Take time before you leave to meditate on old friends, old lovers (or hell, even people you thought were kinda cute) and ask to sleep on their sofas or elsewhere. People rarely say no… and you never know—it might even make your trip spicier. The open road can be lonely… bow-chicka-bow-wow. For more on this see my next article: Where, when and how to sleep comfortably and safely when you travel.

4. Food—do not think yourself better than you are. What I mean by this is pack only that which you will really eat. While on the road I often picture myself as this glorious beacon of yogic health that eats only raw almonds. But you know what? Ice cream cones are tasty. Bad yoga teacher! Bad!!! Last trip—ice cream cones: 10 / Raw almonds: 10 (as in 10 raw almonds out of the bag. Sigh. No one is perfect). Point is: Be real.

5. Entertainment—Plan to self entertain. You’re going to be driving a long time. It can get boring. I entertain myself by wearing ridiculous things while driving: hats, makeup, wigs, glasses. The looks are worth it and make great Facebook or Twatter (hehe) posts later. I always leave a pair of old school aviator goggles attached to my rear view mirror for when I’m bored. Just make sure you don’t obstruct your vision. I was driving with my goggles on a little too close to Burning Man territory this past year and a police car trailed me forever! No fun.

6. Good luck tokens—Bring one or 10. Going cross country is one of the best times to decorate your dashboard like a taxi driver in India. Never hurts to get a bit of mojo on your side. I installed a special hook on my dashboard for my voodoo doll. I also travel with a magic wand, a Turkish evil eye, a giant thing of dope smelling sage, and some ashes from my guru. Because yep—I’m a yuppie Prius driving hippie.

7. Road Warrior—Use this opportunity to conquer your fears. I don’t mean walk through the streets of a conservative area of the country mostly naked. That’s just stupid—entertaining for those of us sober and watching—but still stupid. What I mean is… you have one life to live, you have limited time, you are alone, adventuring on the road with limitless possibilities available to you. What do you want to do with that time?

One of the best and most meaningful things I have ever done for myself happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brace yourself—-I went to a rattlesnake museum. That’s right. I have a paralyzing fear of snakes. My friends call me the snake whisperer because of my uncanny ability to locate a snake within a two mile radius of anywhere I am in the world. I see more snakes in a single year than most people see in a lifetime. They stop me dead in my tracks and raise my blood pressure to a level that is surely heart attack worthy.

So… I took an opportunity of being alone on the road for immersion therapy. Sure it took me a half hour (talking 90 miles per hour and almost in tears) to actually enter a room full of 40 live killer reptiles, but I did it. The comforting zoologist who held my hand through the whole thing actually convinced me to hold a ball python by the end of it. Fear of snakes lowered 70 percent. I consider that success. The experience was one of those moments in life you need to do alone. A friend may have made it easier… or worse. Ask yourself, what are those things in your life you need to do alone to make your life more meaningful? That’s the whole point of a solo road trip.

8. Rest and Safety—Most importantly when you are on the road, is to get adequate rest and to be safe. I’m going to say this again and again, as a single woman traveling alone you are a sitting duck. I’m not trying to scare you or be paranoid, just real and speaking from a place where I have been in some less than ideal situations while traveling (read between the lines—I’m lucky to be here). Do not drive more than eight or nine hours. If you meet people do not tell them where you’re staying and do not invite them back to your room unless you are sure—really sure. It’s just not safe, and you raise your safety risks by being a woman alone after dark.

Be a good girl, get yourself checked into a nice hotel with nice deadbolts, or with friends you trust well before an unreasonable hour. Imagine the danger if you break down in the middle of no man’s land with no cell reception. Your safety is more important than getting to your next destination on time. Remember—there are people who love you who are probably already worried about you traveling alone— don’t make them worry more than they have to, okay?

The open road is an adventure. Traveling alone is one of the most empowering experiences you can have as a woman. The question is: what will you do with this one precious life? Now get driving.

Read part one: What to Pack for 30 Days.

Next Article: Where, when and how to sleep comfortably and safely when you travel.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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