I keep a personal travel journal. I bring it with me any time I embark on an adventure, and I write in it any time I feel it’s appropriate. During these travels I’ve learned that the road offers a lot. It offers so much advice, fun, freedom, and love. In the back of my journal I keep a list of “rules” that is forever growing. So let’s call this part one:
1. Eat Local
Drink local. Shop local. Sleep local.
This seems like a given, but it holds true. I have seen many friends (via social media) check into places like Olive Garden, or Hollister. It disappoints me. When you travel, you need to explore what makes this place special. Find a eatery that’s served family style that only stays open until they run out of food that day. Drink at a dive bar because they have cheap wing-nights. Buy your souvenirs at local shops around town. All these things exist in every town, and they’re not hard to find. The beauty of doing this, is that you also get to meet so many cool people. These people also become super helpful when you start asking them for suggestions for cool spots around the area.
2. Consistently Take Pictures
Some people might disagree with me on this one. Matt & Kim notes that there actually is no time for cameras. While the meaning behind that is true, and you should be more focused on making the memories rather then capturing a picture, I can’t help but disagree on some aspects.
Personally, one of my greatest fears in life is losing my memory. It doesn’t run in the family or anything, so I might not have to worry about it, but I’m still terrified of forgetting. To help with dealing with the fear, I take numerous pictures. Often I look back at the pictures to remind myself of specific events or of people that I probably would’ve forgotten otherwise.
3. Stop at Any and ALL Places That Tickle Your Fancy
When traveling with friends before I realized my bliss was in travel, I noticed a lot of places that we all pointed out that we’d like to go to, be it a small shop, or a show/event. I also noticed, that we never ended up doing those things. We would just keep walking.
I wrote this rule down when I took a trip with a friend to Chicago. I made it a point to stop anywhere and everywhere we wanted, even during the ten hour drive up. If we saw a billboard for somewhere cool, we went. If we thought a small town might hold some hidden treasures, we got off the exit. We found a lot of cool places and things, and the extra three hours it took to get to Chicago were completely worth it.
4. Accept the Possibility of Sleeping in Your Car
I take full advantage of being young. Every road trip I’ve taken in my adult life, I’ve slept in my car. It’s incredibly cheap, and also motivates you to keep going.
When you stay in a hotel/motel, you often wake up a little too late, and you’re so comfortable that it can be hard to get out of bed. Then once you do, you take your time getting ready, you eat your continental breakfast buffet, you go back up to your room, take a shit, then you’re ready.
When you wake up early after an uncomfortable night of sleep in your Mustang, you just want to get out of your car. You step out in the same clothes you were wearing yesterday. You change in the open air with only your car door hiding your shame. You take a sink bath at the nearest open bathroom, and you go exploring for food. (Hostels are also cool.)
5. No Map/GPS on a Highway – Follow the Signs of the Road
Most of my friends hate this rule. In fact all of them do. Not once is anyone thrilled when I’m driving. I think it’s hilarious, because I’ve always been the one who consistently gets us there without hesitation. In fact, my original rule written in this spot just said “No Maps”, but I was persuaded into adding the additional after numerous complaints. I like maps. I really do. I’m even studying geography. I just hate using maps on adventures.
Why? I want to get lost. I want to find new places. I want to that feeling that I’m in control, and that if I want to take a detour, there’s no British robot yelling at me to make a u-turn.
Wander more, and you’ll be lost less.
6. DO NOT Critique the Driver’s Music
He or she is driving. Don’t you dare touch the music.
7. All People in the Car Must Pay for Gas
It’s only fair, and it becomes cheaper for everyone. Only exception is if there are pre-negotiated terms. I buy gas. You buy my dinner/s.
8. Never Be Afraid to Talk to the Locals
While driving in Lemont, IL, I was trying to find something to do. It’s a small town and it was a Sunday. Most things were closed. I ended up driving by a yard sale, and decided it’d be a brilliant idea to stop and ask these people what fun things I could do. It turned out great. They were super nice, and even offered to cook dinner for us.
9. Always Be Willing to (Reasonably) Say Yes to Any Suggestions of “The Road”
(“The Road” means the trip you’re on. Not necessarily the literal road.)
The friend I was with kinda knew someone who lived in the city we were in. After she learned we were in town, she invited us to hang out with her friends. A little hesitant at first we initially declined. However, we thought about it more, and thought it could be super cool to do what they do as locals, so we said yes. The night was probably the most memorable night of the trip, and I met a lot of cool people I still don’t talk to on Facebook.
While in Savannah, GA, we saw a sign for a beach. After reading that sign, we immediately decided to bail on our original plan, and we drove an extra forty minutes to Tybee Island. We spent two out of the three days we were on our trip there, and to this day is still one of my top favorite trips.
10. Enjoy the Adventure
You’re having an adventure, let everything be wonderful.
11. Take Advantage of Bathrooms
12. Travel Light
Often times, people are slugged down by their own over encumbered packing. Bring only what you need, it makes it easier to move around, it makes planning your outfits easier, and it makes getting robbed suck less.
13. Bring Your Passport
Shit can get crazy… You can get into Mexico without a passport, but you can’t get back without one.
14. Bring a friend
I often remember a quote that states, “When you look back at all the best times in your life, were you alone?” The answer for me is no. Most of the time I had people with me. Sharing an experience like a trip can be wonderful. It creates a bond, and it makes bouncing ideas off each other a lot more interesting. He or she may want to do something you were hesitant about, and vice-versa.
Or don’t. These trips can be sort of spiritual. Call it a pilgrimage. The choice is yours.
(This rule is not heavily enforced.)
15. Treat Strangers as if They Are Already Your Friends
In Orlando, FL, I met a couple at an awesome bar. I sat down next to them because it was the only seat available. They seemed like cool people so I asked them what they were drinking, that struck a night long conversation, sharing of beers, video game playing, and friendship. I still talk to them via social media.
There’s an ambivalent feeling when traveling. You meet amazing people, you see extraordinary things, and you have so many experiences. It’s weird that this “feeling” seems reserved for those days you spend on vacation. It’s unparalleled by anything else. If you have yet to take a road trip with your friends, do it. Hell, don’t bring your friends. Don’t use a car. Bike it. Train it. It doesn’t matter how you get to places or where you’re going. All that matters is the journey along the way.