Why I Love Road Trips

Hours in the car, open highway, staring out the window at the middle of nowhere.  Sound like torture?  For many it is.  I hear it all the time “I hate road trips! I go crazy in the car like that for so long.”

And I get it – road trips are not the fastest way to travel.

But for me, it’s heaven.

Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time in the car as a child driving to the cottage, or up north to ski.  Maybe I just got used to being in the car.

But I think it’s more than that.  Road trips give me a sense of wonder.

I love watching the geography change as we drive – from farms to hills, evergreen to deciduous forests. 

I wonder what animals are hiding in the trees.  I wonder where the rivers go.  I wonder what hiking trails are hidden in the hills.

But mostly I wonder about the people and the homes we pass.

Road trips give a peek into someone else’s life.  Actually many people’s lives.  

I pass houses that seem to be in the middle of nowhere, and wonder who lives there?  What do they do for a living?  How the hell do they get out of their driveway in the winter?  Where else does their road go?

I pass farms and wonder how many generations have lived on that farm?  Is it thriving?  What crops are they growing?  

I pass through small towns and wonder what is the main industry in this town?  Where is the school?  Is that school really that big?  Where do people go to eat here?

I pass through cities and wonder how many people live there?  What is there to do in this city?  

I pass other cars and wonder where are they going?  Are they on a new adventure?  Are they going to visit family?  Are they going to work?  What song are they singing along to?

Driving gives a sense of the variety of lives lived – that there are so many people in this world and we only know a tiny fraction of the people out there.  

What stories would I learn if I stopped and spoke to the family that live in that house in the middle of nowhere?  Or the farmer working his fields?  Or the woman walking into the bank on main street?  What new perspectives would I hear?  What new ideas or thoughts?  What fears and dreams do they have?  And are they really all that different than mine?

And when we do stop to eat lunch, or get gas, I have always been struck by how friendly most people are.  I have had a security guard open a university building that was closed for the summer to let my children go to the bathroom.  While showing us the way, he gave us a quick history of the university. I have had a man see my children and begin to tell me about his son and newly pregnant daughter-in-law who moved miles away and how much he misses them.  I have had a man in Michigan tell me where to eat in Nashville.

These people could be of any political persuasion – I wouldn’t know.  Nor did they know my politics. But what I do know is that they were kind, and helpful, and human.

Road trips force us to meet people who are different than us.  And this reminds us that no matter where we live – city, small town, middle of nowhere, north, south, mid-west, Canada, United States- we are all people.  We have hopes, we love our children, we all try to make sure there is food on the table for dinner.  In the ways that matter most, we are not really so different from one another.

Road trips force us out of our bubble.  They force us to challenge our assumptions about “the other.”  They make the unknown just a little more known.  And they open up our minds – even just a little bit.

So if you pass us on the road, you will probably see me staring out the window  – just wondering.

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