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.