How to Appreciate A Roadtrip

I didn’t grow up taking epic road trips with my family.  We did drive from Maryland to Upstate New York to visit family and we occasionally took camping trips to neighboring states, but these “long” drives were not the goal, but something to endure until we reached our destination (I doubt there are many families with seven children who would really appreciate a long road trip…).

In high school my friends and I were not car owners.  If we were, I don’t think any of  us would’ve been the type to entertain the thought of taking off for the sheer joy of exploring. 

My habits didn’t change much after high school.  At least not immediately.

Once again, picking up a camera led to discovering something I hadn’t even considered doing- the Great American Road Trip.  Driving long distances started out as that chore that had to be done to reach the destination, nothing more.  But over the past few years the way I viewed those chores evolved into something more. 

Its an ongoing development- how to best appreciate a road trip- but Rule #1 is probably this: The journey is just as important as the destination.

I may return to my favorite places again and again, but its become my habit to choose new routes each time I go and to research detours along each route.  A drive that could be made in one day along a major highway is almost always more enjoyable as a scenic three-day trip.  I can find new, unplanned locations to photograph, discover interesting towns, drink coffee at unique small town cafes, camp at less developed campgrounds, meet amazing people and enjoy that meandering, experiencing-life-one-moment-at-a-time mentality that is hard to grasp in the fast lane.

Rule # 2: Stop Often -or- Always say yes.  This is a “rule” I came up with when I started to realize a bad habit of mine.  I would notice something  that tempted me to stop and photograph or explore and I’d pass it by in favor of getting to my destination.  I often found myself regretting having not stopped.  So one day I decided that every time I was tempted to stop, every time I wondered what was down some road or in some town I would stop.  I have not once regretted stopping. Sometimes, it was the simple satisfaction of having stopped and gained the knowledge that there was nothing particularly intriguing there…sometimes I found something that enriched my trip in wonderful ways.  And sometimes I just took a snap shot of the road.



All of those are photos from my trip last fall across the US and Canada and back.   I took those photos mostly for my own use, to remember my routes and the experiences, but they’ve taught me another lesson that I plan to remember on my next road trip.  Rule #3 will be to photograph everything.  Not just that which I plan to use for my ‘work’, but also the road, and the people and the places I sleep. 

I plan to return home from my next trip with photographs from every single place I’ve spent the night and more photos of detours and stops along the way.  And hopefully, I’ll learn more about how best to appreciate the journey as much as my destinations.

2 thoughts on “How to Appreciate A Roadtrip

  1. Great post, Jen! You have put into words much of my feelings that I didn’t even realize existed. Because of time restraints I can’t turn a one day trip into a three day trip but I can turn a nine hour trip into a fourteen hour trip and often do. And on a lesser scale I use your principles when riding one of my many bicycle tours. Last week while riding the “Shoreline West Bicycle Tour” (409 miles in seven days) along the Lake Michigan shoreline I would find myself making “unnecessary” morning stops at a local bakery or coffee shop, for a freshly made cinnamon roll and hot beverage, in one of the small towns along the way. Then I may get delayed further by hanging out and making a couple of pictures along the harbor. And in the afternoon I would really get behind when I would spot a little ice cream parlor! But I still made it to camp in time to set-up my tent and eat supper. I must admit the hot water in the showers wasn’t always hot by the time I arrived! But I think I was having more fun than most of the other 360 riders. So, I agree with you. Much on the fun is to be had along the route; not after you get there.


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