Fresh air whistling through the windows. Open fields as far as you can see. Dramatic, breathtaking landscape.
These are a few of the images that come to mind when we think about a road trip. The real beauty and benefits of making a trip like that, however, run deeper.
I have had the privilege of making a cross-country road trip three times in the past year. It was something I always wanted to do; a “check” off of the proverbial bucket list, I suppose. Two out of the three trips I have made solo, and although you might think that sounds dreadfully boring and monotonous, it’s actually quite cathartic. I enjoy several activities that some might say provide an opportunity for personal reflection and solitude: motorcycle riding, mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, golf. None of them, however, provide the same time, space, and disconnection that a cross-country trip allows.
It is so easy to find excuses. Most of make them on a daily basis: Excuses for why we won’t take those guitar lessons we’ve always wanted, or why we don’t spend more time in the gym, or why we won’t ask out that mysterious stranger on the opposite side of the room. It is very easy to come up with reasons for why we don’t do the things that might potentially make us happy. It is much harder to deviate from our routines and our comfort zones, and take a chance.
Sometimes that’s the only way to grow.
I can’t say that I’ve always lived a Kerouactic (if that’s a word!) life. God knows there are times that I could have, and probably should have, chosen the road less taken. We don’t get any do-overs. Driving across the country, at least for me, is one of those crossroads that I’m glad I took.
Thoreau once said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. The same man also responded to the question of why he lived alone in a shack in the woods by saying, “I wanted to put rout to everything that was not life, and not when I die, discover that I had not truly lived.”
Thoreau was right about that.
I can’t think of anything more sad than having deathbed regrets. I feel this manifests itself differently for everyone, but it rarely comes easily or without taking risks. For me, completing a solo round-trip cross-country road-trip was a big part of my process. For others, the process will be completely different. The important things, I think, are breaking your routine, going out of your comfort zone, and being willing to take a risk.
I enjoy playing computer blackjack and poker. The fun thing about gambling on a computer with fantasy money is that it doesn’t matter whether you lose it all. You’re not afraid to play risky, or even to go all-in, because if you lose, you can just start again and give it another shot.
It’s a shame more of us don’t live life that way. I think some people do, and those are the ones that end up truly happy. It’s something worth striving towards. I know I constantly am, and God willing, I’ll never stop.