So, you're at a point in your life where something needs to be different. You decide it's time to check out a new place, to venture out on a road trip, to try something different. How do you approach this process?
- You evaluate if it's truly the right time to take a road trip. Are you smack in the middle of the busy season at work? Is your family situation crazy? Can you afford to prioritize travel financially? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, it doesn't mean you can't travel, but you need to consider a few things. Perhaps you'll have to answer a few emails on the road. Perhaps you simply can't drive as far away as you initially hoped, because you really need take care of your kids. Maybe you realize that there will never really be an ideal time to prioritize this road trip, so it's up to you to make the space in your life to do it. None of these conclusions would be wrong, no matter how much the people around you might holler. At the end of the day, it's your life!
- Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Of course, get your oil changed and rotate your tires, but also get things cleared by your mechanic. You don't want to be in the middle of the desert and lose your water pump or air conditioning.
- Plan your route! When you map out a road trip, you need to know where you're beginning, where you want to end up, and how long you have to get there. With any of these pieces missing, you'd be pretty hard pressed to make measureable progress. Once you know all of this you can accomplish a number of helpful things: You can adjust your timeline or your expectation to ensure they're realistic (it'd be almost impossible to make it from Portland to New York in two days, you could do it with some aggressive focus in four, but if you actually want to relax, enjoy the process, maybe stop to see some stuff along the way, you may need a full week). You can make sure you have enough supplies. You can make a really sweet playlist.
- ....or DON'T plan! Maybe crazy structure makes you feel pressured and stressed, and that's totally fine! You could absolutely reach your destination by simply deciding you're going to drive for a certain number of hours each day, or head in the general direction of your destination and hope for the best. The common ground here is that you still need to pay attention and be consistent, or you'll never get where you want to go.
- Pace yourself appropriately. Drive pedal to the metal constantly and you run the risk of burning out too quickly or doing permanent damage to your car. Likewise, drive too slowly and it'll take you way longer then necessary to get where you want to go.
- Keep your tank filled, literally and figuratively. If you're not stopping to refuel AND taking breaks to stretch your body, you'll get nowhere fast and you won't feel very awesome throughout.
- Don't get thrown by roadblocks! If you hit traffic or construction, don't turn around and go home. Look at your map and find a way to navigate around it.
- Keep your perspective. Road trips are fun and worthwhile, but that doesn't mean every mile will be enjoyable. If you get tired, stressed, or bored, remember where you want to arrive. Remember that, at the end of the day, YOU made the choice to embark on this journey and only you can control your reaction.
- Your vehicle is your own. It might not perform like the cars around you on the highway and sure, it's easy to get frustrated with your dented Camry when Maseratis seem to be passing you constantly. Keep your eyes on the road - comparing your situation to those around you won't help you get where you want to go. What it takes for you to drive a Maserati may or may not be realistic in the context of the rest of your life, and being overly focused on the fact that you're NOT in one means you're missing out, not only on taking care of your own car, but on a lot of awesome scenery along the way.
- Ask for help from someone who knows more than you. Is your engine making a funny noise or running hot? Go to a mechanic (and hey, if you happen to be a mechanic yourself, there's no shame in stopping by a garage for a second opinion! Sometimes it takes an outside pair of eyes to gauge what's wrong.) Feel like you're driving in circles? Pull over and check your map OR ask someone who lives in the area for directions.
- Find a buddy to join you. Car trips are way more enjoyable with a companion! Whether they're manning the playlist to keep you entertained, helping you out when you're tired, or just keeping you accountable to the distance you need to go before you rest for the night, most of us are stronger together than we are apart.
- DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE. Sure, enjoy the views, but if you're not staying focused on the road and mindful of the journey you're headed for disaster.
- Know yourself. A million experts and Google maps may shout at you that the highway is the "correct way" for you to get where you're going, and it's stupid to take the winding back roads, but if you hate traffic and big roads, you'll be miserable every single day of your trip. Do your research and ask for advice but ultimately you need to go your own way.
Finally - know that there's absolutely no rush or obligation to embark on a trip like this. Just because your best friend got back from a cross-country jaunt and can't shut up about it, or you follow a really awesome Instagram account that proclaims that you MUST go on a trip to be fulfilled in life doesn't mean that it's right for you right now.
If you feel super overwhelmed or intimidated by the distance, the first step is to simply get comfortable driving in the first place. Practice foundational skills like accelerating, braking, using your turn signal, changing a tire, until you're totally confident you can manage something more challenging. And above all, you need to find peace with yourself because whether you're here or there or somewhere in betweeen, you are still you. And the you you are is pretty valuable, and awesome, and capable of anything you want to accomplish - whether it's a three thousand mile road trip, or a three hundred pound deadlift, or a thirty year journey to find confidence in the skin you're in*.
*This wasn't really about a road trip. But hopefully you've figured that out already.