Why Road Tripping is the Best Way to see the World

Let’s start with an obvious question: why should I go on a road trip? Why not take a relaxing beach holiday instead? Why not get a direct flight to where I want to go, with pre-booked transfers from the airport to my well-reviewed hotel. Why not enjoy the peace and comfort of my accommodation, and savour a Tequila Sunrise or three by the poolside bar? Why not splash out on a meal at a nearby gourmet restaurant, safe in the knowledge that my plush hotel bed will welcome me with open arms once I’ve eaten myself into a steak coma. That actually sounds quite tempting, but let me suggest why road tripping offers so you much more than a simple two weeks of ‘fun-in-the-sun’.

Freedom & Spontaneity. In the words of William Wallace: “Going on a road trip gives you a sense of freedom that is impossible to experience in your everyday life”. I believe that’s what he said anyway. When you have your own vehicle, you are in charge of where you go, where you stay, and what you spend. Basically, you can plan as much or as little of your trip as you want. I cannot count the number of times when I have been taken to somewhere beautiful, or seen something random or incredible, just by bumping into a welcoming person on the road. When you’re stuck in a hotel, or on a resort, these sorts of chance encounters and spontaneous trips are far less likely to occur.

Mobility. Leading on from freedom, some countries/regions around the world are so vast that unless you plan on taking countless flights (or often unreliable or non-existent public transport), then having your own car or van is the only option. Take the United States for example, if you wanted to see the National Parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches and the Everglades in one go, you would have to spend a small fortune on internal flights in order to visit them all. OR, you buy or rent a vehicle, and drive on epic roads from one to the other – which sounds more appealing to you? Even if you’re based in a city, having your own mode of transport can be incredibly useful if you want to see anything outside of the city centre or tourist hotspots.

Money. A week-long visit to New York City for a couple staying in a reasonably priced hotel, including all expenses, may cost around £2,000. My usual budget when undertaking a road-trip of any length is £1,000… for a whole month. That includes petrol, food, accommodation (when we smell too bad to sleep in the car), and all other day-trips and activities. The savings made when not forking out for a hotel every night are considerable, and easily mitigate the expense of purchasing the car or van in the first place (money which you may recoup when it comes to selling your vehicle at the end of the trip). Again, using New York as an example, I camped in a Walmart car park in New Jersey, free of charge, and caught a short bus to Manhattan everyday, instead of spending a small fortune on staying in the city centre itself.

Culture. When undertaking a road trip, it is impossible to plan every last detail of the route – why would you want to anyway? This often means taking the road less travelled through towns or villages you never knew existed, and this is when you get to see the places that aren’t in any brochure – places that present a truer reflection of the ‘real’ country and culture. I believe that witnessing and experiencing what life is like for the local population, wherever you may go, is an important part of any journey. Visiting underprivileged parts of a city or country also provides some perspective on life in general, as well as the opportunity to support the local economy. These are often the places where you’ll be able to feed yourself with some of the best, and most affordable, food in the area, too.

Safety. A lot of people I speak to are put off by road tripping as they don’t think it’s safe, particularly the ‘sleeping in the van’ part. I can only take from my own experience, but this is simply something that becomes easier over time. I have spent over six months of my life living in the back of a car on one trip or another, and not once has anybody done anything harmful to me or my wheels. This includes ninety days in America (staying in some fairly downtrodden areas), and shorter stays in countries including Iran, Tajikistan and Russia. There will always be an element of risk involved, but as long as you use common sense when deciding where to set up camp, you will be fine. You’re far more likely to be moved on for parking in the wrong place, than being broken into by a machete-wielding maniac.

Challenge. Should a holiday create a challenge? I absolutely think so! Anytime you go on an adventure abroad, that is exactly what it should be. Struggling and surviving with the language, sourcing local currency, trying alien food, getting lost – just some of the elements that make travelling all the more interesting. Package holidays and even city breaks can be all too predictable, with tourists going to the same places and doing the same things – you can almost picture your entire trip before you’ve even begun. On a road trip, especially in a far-flung land, nothing is certain and everything is a challenge! I can think of no better feeling than being dropped in the middle of a city I know nothing about, and attempting to thrive. Once you’ve found your feet, established a place to stay, and made some friends, the fulfilment is all the greater – for that is what holidays should be about, in my humble opinion.

The Journey not the Destination. Whilst I despise the saying, its sentiment is true enough. When visiting a well known tourist attraction that you have been longing to see for years, how often are you slightly underwhelmed or even disappointed by what has greeted you? This happens to all tourists at some point during their travels. However, it is very unlikely you will ever be underwhelmed or disappointed when undertaking a road trip, as the destination at the end is of very little significance to the overall journey – quite the opposite. I think that the drive between cities, states, and countries is the most interesting and exciting part of any trip. This is where all the challenges and improvisations take place, and where you meet the most helpful and wonderful strangers you could ever wish to come across. This is the part of the trip you will remember, not your third Tequila Sunrise by the pool, and why road tripping is, without doubt, the best way to see the world.

J

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