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An Unhurried Traveler

By Pam Molnar

My husband and I drove from Chicago to Los Angeles – twice. No, we didn’t travel along Route 66 in a fun sports car with the wind whipping through our hair. We drove on the interstate in a minivan while trying to entertain three small kids. Crazy, right? 

For most people, yes. But not for us. We actually like road trips. In all honesty, I am not a comfortable flier. I prefer staying on the ground as much as possible, and road trips are the only way to vacation if you don’t like to fly. Yes, I know the statistics. My non-road trip-loving friends tell me about them all the time. “It’s safer to fly,” they happily boast, but fear of flying is not the only reason we enjoy road trips.

Road trips provide many life lessons, but my favorite one is how to slow down. Many people tell me that if they only have seven days for vacation, they don’t want to waste any of them sitting in the car. Sure, I understand. You want to get to the fun as soon as possible. But don’t discount the joy that comes from taking things a little slower. 

Taking a road trip is like reading a book versus watching a movie. You still know the story, but many details are missing. When you take a road trip to the Smoky Mountains, you can feel your ears popping as the elevation changes. As the road twists and turns, you can see the stream full of rainwater dancing over the rocks. Clusters of wildflowers grow along the roadside, giving a pop of color to the landscape. If you are lucky, you will see the wildlife that is spotlighted by sunlight that shines through the trees. 

If you flew to the Smoky Mountains, you might comment on how beautiful they look as you gaze down on them from the plane. But from that high up, you can’t see the streams, the wildflowers, or the animals.

Road trips allow you to take detours and explore things that might not have been on your itinerary. They give you a little more flexibility in your trip instead of forcing you to stay on someone else’s schedule. If a billboard along the way advertises the best milkshakes in the country, no one is going to stop you from trying them out yourself. Will it really matter if you get to your final destination 30 minutes later?

On a road trip, you have the very thing that families wish for—alone time with your kids without the interruption of the outside world. This is your opportunity to tell your stories and listen to theirs. A simple question-and-answer session about your favorite foods or movies could lead you down the road to conversations you may have never had and laughter you never expected.   

Longer road trips will include some lulls in the conversation. Instead of slipping into our electronic worlds, road trips offer us the chance to recharge ourselves quietly. Letting your mind wander is a lost art crushed by hours of needless scrolling through our devices. Changing your mesmerizing view from your phone screen to the car window provides a place to zero out your thoughts and open your mind to endless possibilities. 

Road trips remind us to look around, enjoy our surroundings, and live in the moment. When you learn to slow down to travel, you can incorporate that into your everyday. Perhaps you will start taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking a block over instead of using the valet. It will be the start of life observed as a local and not as someone who is just passing through.

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