July 19, 2013

10 Tips to Take on Your Next Road Trip. ~ Ben Neal

I love the open road.

A few years back I took an epic trip; fancying myself some sort of modern day Kerouac, I quit my job and set out to see the states and write about the wonders of America the beautiful.

Starting out from Kansas City, I traveled through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, California some more (it’s a big state), Nevada again, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and back home again—I put more than 7,000 miles on my old Chevy in a month’s time. The people I met and the moments we shared will be with me always. It’s an experience I encourage others to try.

I learned many things along the way, some of which I would like to share with you. Whether your next trip is an epic excursion or a weekend fling, here are 10 tips to make your journey more affordable, more memorable and more fun:

1. Don’t plan too much. Some planning is obviously helpful, even necessary—but don’t suffocate yourself with a detailed itinerary. Stay loose, go with the flow, do what you feel in the moment.

2. Unplug. Leave your electronic devices off as much as possible. Cell phone, laptop, tablet; all of it. Put it away. Leave it alone. The more you disconnect from business and technology, the more your vacation will actually be a vacation.

3. Bring a cooler. Keep water, juice and snacks on ice. Having supplies on hand keeps you from surviving on fast food restaurants and gas station crap. It saves you money and it’s better for you.

4. Go out of the way. Take side trips and roundabouts; wander where you will. Avoid the interstates in favor of back roads—a two lane that winds through the countryside is going to be a lot more pleasant drive than a crowded superhighway. It’s about the journey, not the destination!

5. Stop frequently. Take your time. There are all sorts of interesting things to stop and see and do, all along the way. So stop often, stretch your legs, and satisfy your curiosity. No rushing—you’re on vacation, remember?

6. Camp when possible. Camping not only saves you money on hotels, it gets you out in Nature. Nothing refreshes the soul like sleeping out under the stars and waking up to the sound of birdsong. Camping helps to turn your travels into adventures!

7. Talk to the locals. In restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gas stations, convenience stores and quaint little shops everywhere, you’ll find people with a wealth of knowledge you just can’t find in a book. People love to tell stories and share their wisdom, so talk to the locals! You’ll find many amateur travel guides who can give you priceless tips and point out unique and out of the way places most travelers never see.

8. Stay off the beaten path. Avoid tourist traps—they are often over crowded and overpriced. Take the road less traveled. Refer again to tip #7. If you go all the same places that everyone else goes, and do all the same things everyone else does, you’ll have the same generic vacation experience that everyone else has.

9. Don’t take pictures. Unless you are a photographer—that is, someone for whom taking pictures is a joy and an art form—leave your camera alone. I know it’s beautiful. I know you want to remember it forever. I also know that the picture doesn’t even come close to capturing the real thing, and while you’re fussing with your camera trying to capture the moment, you might just miss the moment. This leads right into tip #10, which is…

10. Be present. Whether you are standing in awe of the Grand Canyon or chatting with the waitress at a roadside diner, be there fully. Your attention, your conscious presence is the magic ingredient that makes the ordinary moment transcendent. Wherever you go, there you are. The only beauty you find is your own reflection.

Wherever you are, be here now. That’s the rule of life, and as far as I know there is no vacation from living. So tread lightly, travel mindfully, and enjoy the journey. In the immortal words of the Zen poet Matsuo Basho:

“Each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Happy travels!

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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