Road trips not just wasted time

As the end of the school year approaches, the air begins to smell of summer. The wind whispers promises of warm, sunny days, the crickets chirping in the night weave a tale of cool, comfortable evenings to come, even the rainstorms, occurring with increasing frequency, roll thunderous shouts of summer against the sheltering walls we wait behind. The thought of vacations spins through the heads of restless students and teachers, but with any road trip comes the trip itself; the dreaded car ride awaits.

It seems as if most people consider a car ride as wasted time. Time that must be spent to reach one’s desired location, but also hours of one’s life forever lost to the road. Hours that, over the span of years, stretch into days, weeks, months even. Just think, how many days have you spent locked in a car, hurtling across the earth’s surface? Now, think about how much of this time was spent wishing the hours were over.

See, most people look at road trips in the wrong way; as an ordeal that must be suffered and gets between them and their destination. Having a negative outlook on such an unavoidable part of life does little more than guarantee that one’s car experiences will be negative in the future.

A car ride is one of the only waking moments someone is free of responsibility. The doors are locked, the road lies ahead, there is no way to be anywhere else but in that car and there is nothing to do but enjoy the ride.

Everyone has a slightly different way of undergoing a ride in the car, and in this way it is a very personal experience that is either spent alone, leaving one to their thoughts, or in the company of others.

For those solo drivers who brave the journey behind the wheel, there are many ways to entertain oneself. In a day and age when it can be hard to find uninterrupted time amongst one’s thoughts, a solitary drive offers an excellent opportunity to reflect and get to know oneself as an individual.

I do some of my best thinking while I’m driving; something about the monotony of the road hypnotizes me into a state where, though I react quickly to stimuli essential for safe driving, I do it unconsciously and absentmindedly. It is a moment where one is so focused on the road that they cease to even notice it. It is easiest to achieve on the highway, where the road changes little and the drives are long. Here one’s thoughts wander free amongst the forests of their mind and gaze upon the wild splendors unfurled before them, flowers and plants blooming with ideas. The driving comes with ease and the train of thought runs unimpeded across smooth landscapes of introspection and through long tunnels cut deep into the core of mountainous problems and troubles, the tracks rolling out in front of the train, guiding contemplations into undiscovered territory.

When you are alone in the car, you and you alone are in control. The mechanical behemoth you sit inside responds to your command and does what you want it to. While this means a driver has a good deal of responsibility behind the wheel, it can be refreshing to be completely in control of a situation. Customize it to suit one’s own personal preferences; roll the windows down, hear the roar of the wind as it rushes through sunlit hair, or roll them up, seal the car, blast some music and sit within a bubble of sound and thought.
One can drive quietly and carefully, idly cruising the roads with the destination ahead but a calming lack of urgency surrounding the drive, when there are sights to see and time to see them. Or one can drive, belting out lyrics as loudly as the speakers blare the songs, pressing the pedal to the floor and shredding the road beneath their tires, flying down the highway watching for brake lights and crafty cops.

A car ride with company is a different experience and one should assess their surroundings; if the car is full of talkative friends, replace the hours with jokes and laughter, but if the car is full of people who would prefer to sit amongst the familiar comforts of their minds or wired with headphones, don’t fret, the hours will pass as steadfastly and reliably as ever.

Something that I always enjoy is looking out the window. The views that span outside the glass barrier will offer many interesting sights, strange occurrences, unique urban landscapes, vast sprawling farms, old abandoned buildings (who knows their backstory?), mesmerizing juxtapositions of nature’s glory with the pride of man, a full spectrum of sights that may never be seen elsewhere.

Now we can’t all sit in the front seat and watch the road stretch across the hills, trees framing the asphalt as the sky spreads above and fills the gaps with whatever backdrop Mother Nature decided to display that day, but all seats have their own perks. The driver seat sees the view from the front window but must also devote the majority of their focus to the task of driving. The front seat passenger can let their eyes roam and absorb the sights without being tied to the responsibilities of the driver. The back seat passengers, though they don’t get the panoramic glance of the miles strung before the automobile, they see the details those sitting in the front miss. The small things that are lost in a blur of color as they rush past can easily be discerned by those sitting in the back.

Looking out the windows is something that is stimulating, easy and novel because no matter how many times a road is driven on, the sights seen are never the same.

A car ride is a big chunk of time; don’t waste it wishing it were over. The next time you go for a drive, forget about what you have to do and enjoy the free time. Spend it in a way you enjoy and the hours are sure to pass quickly.