Road Trip: The freedom to travel cross-country

Have you ever just had the urge to get in your car and go on an adventure? Just drive until you find somewhere new to explore, not knowing what you will find? Road trips really are the greatest thing. It’s funny to think that not long ago, road trips were not so common. In the early 1900’s, people didn’t just hop in their cars and drive across the country because many people couldn’t afford cars. Travel was largely done by horse and carriage or train. The accessibility and popularity of cars gave new meaning to the word freedom. Families would gather into their cars and travel from one place to the next, camping along the side of the road. I wonder what it would have been like for those first few people who decided to explore their country by car? They would have absolutely no idea what to expect, and everything would be completely new and foreign. Today, with the help of technology, we can virtually Google any place we are going before we even see it, and know exactly what we’re in store for. It almost removes some of the magic and wonder from exploring a new place when you have seen it on Google hundreds of times. For instance, before I went to Cinque Terre, Italy I had an image in my mind of what it was going to look like from the internet, and it turned out to look quite a bit like what I imagined. Of course the real thing will always be better in person, and this shouldn’t discourage you from getting out into the world and exploring just because you can see it online. Physically being present in a place allows you not only to see it but to feel it as well. An opportunity to explore another culture and another way of life. The desire to explore doesn’t always have to extend to a far away place. Some of us are lucky enough to live in beautiful countries where we have the freedom to explore by car.

Road Trip Scenery

In August 2010, I was feeling the urge to explore somewhere new and take a road trip. I was just about to go back to school after having the summer off. I had served at a restaurant all summer without taking much for vacation and I know I wouldn’t be getting a vacation in the foreseeable future. My friend Chantelle and I often saw eye to eye on the spontaneity of travel. When I lived in Saskatoon, we would often joke that we were going to drive to Regina for the weekend, just for something different. If you have any idea what Regina is like you’ll know why this was funny to us. I knew immediately that she would agree that a west coast road trip from Vancouver, BC to San Diego, California, sleeping in a 2002 Honda Civic was a great idea.

Taking in the views along our road trip

As we set off on our journey, I couldn’t help but feel exhilarated.  There’s nothing better than a full tank of gas and no deadlines to meet. We had some friends down in San Diego, which was our ultimate goal, and rough timeline of 8 days to get there and back. What we chose to do with those days was completely up to us and if we didn’t make it to San Diego, at least it would have been an adventure.

Mountain views in Washington

During the course of our road trip, we discovered that sleeping in a 2002 Honda Civic in a Wal-Mart parking lot wasn’t all it cracked up to be. As starving students, we were reluctant to book a hotel, even the cheapest one in an effort to save money. Every night we would find a quiet parking lot near a department store or Starbucks where we could brush our teeth. We would put the seats down and put blankets on the windows. We were never bothered by anyone and slept better than I expected. That being said, it was far from glamorous. Full of wrong turns, miss-haps and sleepless nights, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for a good nights sleep in a 5 star hotel.

Welcome to California

In my opinion, the best part about road trips is it allows you to see the things you may have missed if you were to fly. The scenery from Vancouver, BC, Canada to San Diego is unparalleled to anything I have ever seen before. From the wet, lush forests and mountain ranges of Washington, to the mesmerizing coastline of Oregon, to the deserts and forests of California. Every state had something new to offer. Sure it would have been faster to fly from Vancouver to San Diego, but we would have missed out on so many amazing places along the way.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The wind in our hair on the Golden Gate Bridge

From Vancouver, to Portland, to Seattle, to San Francisco, to Los Angeles to San Diego, we covered a lot of territory in those 3 days. When we finally arrived in San Diego, our first stop was the ocean where we couldn’t wait to clean ourselves up by going for a swim after not showering for  days. We had made it with good time which gave us a few days in San Diego before doing it all over again.  After a fun few days in San Diego full of shopping, touring, eating, drinking and pool parties we packed the car and began our journey back to Vancouver.

Spending time with friends in San Diego

Some may say that 8 days is entirely too short for a road trip of that length and sleeping in the backseat of your car sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen. I would have to agree. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again. The laughs and experiences we shared in that car will never be forgotten, and I couldn’t imagine doing that trip with anyone else. It really makes you think about how lucky we are  to have the freedom to get in our car and drive from one place to the next, even if just for the weekend.

Looking out into the San Francisco Bay

Road trips give us time for communication with a friend or loved one. They give us time for self-reflection and time to unwind from the daily stresses and constraints of life. They give you the opportunity to see places you would never have an interest in visiting first-hand, and allow you to slow down and explore a different side of travel. Travel is not always easy and sometimes it will break you. Sometimes you will find yourself to be bored and sometimes you will just want to cry when things aren’t always going your way. It’s in those times that we can think back to when people didn’t have as much freedom to travel, and how there are plenty that still don’t. I for one am thankful for the opportunity to explore the world in such a beautiful and liberating way.

Some further road trips I hope to do in the future include:

  1. Across Eastern Canada Since I’ve already driven from the West Coast as far as Winnipeg, I’d love to take a road trip from Central Canada to the East Coast.
  2. Across Central or Eastern U.S. My parents took me on a lot of road trips through the U.S when I was a kid, but I’d love to do it again when I can actually appreciate it.
  3. Alaska or the NW territories.
  4. Churchill – this one I wouldn’t drive, but I’m hoping to take the Via Rail up to Churchill in the near future to see the polar bears, beluga whales and the Northern Lights.

What are some of your favorite parts of a road trip? Are there any road trips you would recommend?


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