A road trip can be so much more than just driving from one landmark to the next and taking photos.
When you slow down, connect with people, and with the land, you can open up your trip to so many more experiences that you may have never expected.
From my experience, here are a few simple suggestions I’ve come up with to help you go that little bit further on the road.
Here they are;
Talk to locals
If you’re anything like me, a little introverted and shy, this can be hard sometimes. I used to read internet reviews, instagram posts and google to try and find out about interesting places to visit in whatever area I’m in at the time. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, but often asking a local will allow you to discover places you’d never had dreamed of visiting. And they’re usually the less-crowded-but-just-as-beautiful places, too!
When I was in northern California, I struck up a conversation with the older couple who were camped nearby me, and the gentleman recommended I check out the nearby Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It ended up being really beautiful and I saw wild Elk on the beach when I was hiking there – it’s a place I’d never had known to go to, and somewhere I’ll never forget.
If you’re staying on public land, take a few minutes to pick up any rubbish in the area. Think of it as a donation in return for free camping, as well as a chance to take care of the environment.
Even if you’re just visiting a more populated area and not camping there, adopt the ‘Take 3 for the Sea’ mentality and try to pick up three pieces of rubbish before you leave. The beauty of travelling is discovering new landscapes and environments, but often the intricate ecosystems that make up those environments are overlooked.
Slowing down for a few minutes and looking closely gives you the chance to really observe what makes up that web of life. Look closer and you really never known what you might see.
I was at the picturesque Cannon Beach in Oregon for sunset and stumbled upon a plastic bag buried in the sand – it was so well camouflaged I almost didn’t see it.
Most road trips involve some amount of time spent travelling through or near semi rural areas, which means having access to amazing local produce. Why not skip buying your produce at a supermarket and consider stopping at a roadside market instead? It’s usually super fresh, and a lot cheaper as you’re skipping the whole distribution chain and buying direct from a farmer. I can’t tell you how many pounds of fresh oranges, cherries and strawberries I ate whilst driving through northern California!
Try new things
When faced with a decision, think of what you’d usually do, and then choose to do the opposite or the option you’d usually avoid.
Sound crazy? I promise it can be really fun.
Take the long road instead of the quick road, bathe in the nearest water source rather than driving somewhere that has a shower, strike up a conversation with people when you’d normally only interact just as much as necessary, smile at strangers, wake up slowly, and say yes.
On my second last evening in Washington, I got talking with the host of the state forest campsite I was staying at. I asked him about why he was there and how he spends his days. Before I knew it he was teaching me how to chop firewood and telling me stories of his road trips in his younger years. It was so lovely to be able to get to know a stranger so far from home, and to be able to connect over a mutual love of travel and quiet forests.
Consider cutting back on the number of places or landmarks you want to see on your road trip, and spend more time in less places. It will allow you to really get a feel for the area, its history, people, and overall vibe. When you stop and observe your surroundings, you’ll start to see more – a small creature under a fallen log, a hole in the wall coffee shop, a flower growing in an unlikely place……..When it comes to travelling, it’s too easy to book a flight and travel across a massive distance in a mere few hours – what makes a road trip special is the pace. You’re required to pay attention to your immediate surroundings – the roads, the weather, the towns passing by. You have to physically move yourself across the variety of sights and landscapes. Rather than rely on a pilot, you are the pilot. So make sure you merge into the slow lane, kick back and soak it all up.