THE ROAD TRIP COMMANDMENTS
Rules and Guidelines to ensure that every road trip is epic!
1) It's all about the journey.
Just like in life, a key lesson to remember is that it’s about the journey itself rather than just the destination. Focusing on the destination robs you of living in the present. With the end-point on your mind, how can you relax and enjoy the ride? It can cause anxiety that makes you rush through the trip and miss out on so many key experiences. Have the right mindset.
2) Start with a clean and mechanically sound car (and keep it that way).
According to researchers at Princeton University, disorganization and visual clutter— i.e. trash or random stuff rolling around in your vehicle—distracts and causes stress. Dirt and clutter can elevate one’s levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—resulting in feelings of fatigue, tiredness, and depression. Conversely, people in clean and organized environments report greater feelings of energy and restfulness. An even more important way to eliminate stress is to have a mechanic check out your car before your trip, with time allowed to make necessary tune-ups and repairs so that you begin the journey with peace of mind about your car’s reliability. Have a trashbag and make sure to throw away any trash and keep your car clean.
3) Get plenty of sleep especially the night before.
Always get plenty of sleep the night before a roadtrip. There’s nothing that will take away from enjoying the open road more than feeling exhausted. If you’re tired, you won’t have the desire to stop and explore which takes away from the entire premise. It is also very dangerous to be feeling exhausted while at the wheel. Even if you are not the driver, you also want to be well rested to enjoy the experiences.
4) Keep yourself fueled with healthy snacks and water.
Always pack water and healthy snacks, but avoid eating out of boredom. Keeping yourself fueled is one way you can feel your best—nothing amplifies car sickness more than dehydration and unhealthy food. Healthy food helps restore energy and allows you to enjoy the journey. There are specific drinks and foods I highly recommend bringing which are listed later in chapter 12. For example, dark chocolate and coffee are game changers. Dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more) has high antioxidants, flavonoids, and a compound called theobromine. Each of these components works magic in your body. They reduce inflammation and act as a vasodilator which lowers blood flow, increases circulation, and relaxes airways. Dark chocolate and coffee also boost immunity and increase memory and focus. You also feel great when you drink coffee and eat dark chocolate because it releases several neurotransmitters.
5) Always take a break every two hours to at least stretch your legs.
This may sound crazy to some, but pulling over every two hours will keep you fresh and alert so that you can have a safer and more enjoyable journey. Also, it will prevent blood clots which happen occasionally on long flights and cause pulmonary embolisms, which often are fatal. The beauty of driving over flying is you can stop every couple of hours, so do so! If you have a copilot, switch roles, and no one ends up having to drive more than two straight hours. Make sure you hydrate and drink plenty of water even if you don't feel like it. Often you will be dehydrated and not even know it until you drink water and begin to feel more energized. Stretch your legs and get your circulation going. Keep things interesting by looking around the area, taking a quick hike, or stopping at a historical site or for local food. Make sure when you stop you do the “break ritual” which consists of a couple exercises to get your circulation going and help with mobility. (We’ll discuss this further in commandment #15.)
6) Plan to take your time and enjoy a relaxed trip.
Generally to play it safe you can give an additional hour and a half of extra drive time to your planned trip timeline for every four hours of driving. For example, if you’re driving eight hours to Atlanta and you want to leave at 7am, then in theory you should arrive by 3pm. However, if you add 2.5 hours to your expected trip duration, this extends the arrival time to 5:30pm. Now you can take the suggested breaks, and skip the stress of feeling rushed or like you’re “running late.” Also, this allows you to take time to stop at various attractions along the way and, if you run into delays due to traffic or road construction, you can still arrive at your destination according to plan.
7) Live in the moment!
Practice mindfulness and living in the moment. If you are not present, you will miss what may be right there in front of you.. Making memories is great and it's nice to document them on social media, but do not let technology steal you away from the moment. You can share your experiences with friends and family and reminisce, but there is a time and a place. You can use technology but don’t let it use you.
8) Silence is golden.
Let conversations be organic. When the talking ceases, enjoy the silence. There is no need to force it. Nothing will drain you and others more than always feeling the need to fill the silence or entertain one another. If you initiate a conversation and the other person does not seem to fully engage, there is no reason to be persistent. Maybe they are content on their own train of thought and aren’t ready to be interrupted . There will be plenty of time later on your journey to talk together.
9) Do not drive more than eight hours or 500 miles in a day
(whichever comes first).
Going beyond the eight-hour mark will drain you and only takes away from the whole premise of enjoying the journey. Always try to leave early enough in the morning to allow for driving time, plus stopping time, and arrival before dark. The goal is to leave by 8am so you can arrive at your destination for the evening before 6:30pm when there is still generally sunlight. By doing this you will have the evening to unwind and relax, enjoying the city and still getting a full night’s rest before the next day. By following this guideline you will stay well rested and could literally travel countless days without fatigue setting in.
10) Avoid driving at night.
Not too many sights can be seen and appreciated in the dark of night. Driving at night means you will miss a lot. You increase your risk of falling asleep, or being in the unfortunate path of other drowsy drivers. It also means you won’t be rested and fresh during the next day or days, making that part of the journey less enjoyable. Not knowing the roads and surrounding routes, combined with limited visibility, makes it a dangerous choice. You may be forced to stop at a creepy gas station at night and put yourself in unsafe situations. If you don’t already have an overnight place to stay in your plans, there are different mobile apps that make it very easy to find last-minute rooms in the taking advantage of technology section in chapter 6. There is no reason to ever drive at night, so simply avoid it.
11) Choose your battles, and never fight sleep.
Always stop at the nearest rest stop or take the next exit if you doze off even once! Life is too short to gamble with your life. If you doze off once, it’s just a matter of time before you do it again. There are terrible accidents each year because of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel. Coffee can sometimes help, but not always! I recommend bringing some caffeinated beverages with you in your cooler for emergencies; however, you should never get to this point as long as you follow each commandment. Remember to stop every two hours, limit drive time to eight hours in a day, and avoid driving at night.
12) Understand and appreciate the downtime.
There may be periods of time where the cornfields seem like an endless landscape and boredom may try to creep in. This is the only potential downside of roadtrips, but by following my commandments and stopping every two hours and enjoying various viewpoints and attractions, you will stay stimulated and engaged. If there are no real places to stop for diversion, there are many ways to take advantage of the time. In chapter 6, I’ll give you a list of not-your-everyday questions to take turns asking with your fellow roadtrippers, as well as games and many other ways to appreciate downtime. I’ll even provide example time blocks to put it all in perspective.
13) Don’t rush.
Drive in the middle lane or slow lane because many extraordinary experiences are born out of spur-of-the-moment choices. You might see something off to the side and decide to take the next exit to check it out. Also, while interstate highways are terrific for travel, often it is nice to take a few back roads instead. Since you are not in a rush, you can explore the countryside you’ve never seen before. Off the highways, you will almost always find hidden gems. Remember, the point is to enjoy the journey!
14) When you want to turn around, turn around.
Building off of the previous statement, chances are you’ll see something that peaks your interest, but not have time to change lanes or pull over safely, so you pass it by. Statistically 95% percent of people keep going! Alright...I made that statistic up but it is probably accurate! Be the 5% and take the extra 5-10 minutes to do a U-turn safely and go check out what initially sparked your interest. Many times in my travels this has led to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
15) Do the “break ritual” each time you stop.
The break ritual consists of a few exercises that will increase circulation. First, reach your arms over your head and lean (from the waist) to the right and left. Next, rotate left to right 10 times, do 10 repetitions of calf raises, 10 squats, and throw in a hip flexor and calf stretch lastly because sitting for long periods of time can temporarily shorten your hip flexors. The point of stopping every two hours is not only to keep you refreshed or to switch drivers, but it also can prevent blood clots from developing (from sitting too long) that can lead to life threatening pulmonary embolisms! Every year pulmonary embolisms kill thousands of Americans due to blood clots that typically develop in their legs after sitting for long periods of time on a plane. There is a higher risk to older individuals. Typically, the risk of a clot increases after a few hours of inactivity so just follow the commandments! The movement gets the circulation going in your legs. Stopping every two hours is sufficient; however, if for some reason you don’t stop that often, remain aware of moving your legs every hour or two to keep circulation going after long periods.
16) Immerse yourself.
One of the most important aspects of roadtrips is to FULLY immerse yourself in the new environments, experiences, and cultures. Each city and state that you pass through has a unique culture and theme. It’s tempting to stick to what you know by listening to your usual music and eating the same foods throughout the entire trip, but you will miss so much. Check out local stations and it may reveal the area’s unique characteristics. Sample the local food, and appreciate the change of scenery by noticing everything about the area and its people that is different from your usual experience. Don’t miss this chance to experience the culture of each place.
Also, you can create a playlist on Spotify or choose the genre on Pandora that represents the region. Music is a critical component because it sets the tone and mood of the experience. Imagine that you are on a Christmas getaway. The snowflakes are falling and melting on your cheeks as you make your way to get hot chocolate at a nearby café. What is going to make this experience more nostalgic? Listening to old school hip hop or christmas music? Music can add to the trip or take away from the experience. Choose to enhance it with music that perfectly captures the energy of the places you are traveling through.
17) Take a new way home when possible.
When planning your trip, determine a different route back for your way home when possible. By doing this it allows you to look forward to new experiences the entire road trip.
18) Do research and plan fun stops.
As you research the destination and potential routes before you hit the road, look for attractions you can visit along the way. A long and winding drive up the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway can include a stop at “Sliding Rock,” for example. The key is to always have something to look forward to every few hours or more. If you have a co-pilot, they can search online to see what your next stop may have to offer. Other ideas could come from the local people you speak with at a diner, produce stand, or town square.
19) Use your GPS wisely.
Your GPS is interactive meaning you get out what you put in. Use it to take you to new places that you discover along the way! Simply zoom out your map to see your current whereabouts, local restaurants, and hotspots. If you’re on a solo trip, take the opportunity to do a little research on your next break, then check out how far along your route they are with your GPS. This allows excitement and anticipation. Who knows, you may find key spots that were otherwise hidden in your more general research.
20) Switch it up!
A good majority of the trip can be spent enjoying the scenery and change of terrain, and making short stops to take a quick hike, enjoy local food, or see what is offered at a roadside stand—besides picking up some fresh fruit for snacks, you can try local favorites you may never have heard of before, such as mayhaw jelly, boiled peanuts, or zucchini salsa.
Sometimes there will be hours of downtime. A mix of the following always keeps things interesting (choose what suits you based on if you are a solo roadtripper or with one or more companions):
• Google your whereabouts and potential stops
• Set-up a cruising playlist
• Listen to an audiobook or podcast
• Listen to a language teaching program and/or practice with your car buddy
• Tune into your radio and get a sense of the local culture
• Ask quality questions to get to know each other better , see the list from chapter 6
• Play a game from the list in chapter 6.
• Use the quiet time to think and reflect
With a good variety, you’ll have time to strengthen the relationship with your companion(s), learn new things, and be entertained. There are plenty of options to keep things interesting in each two-hour block.
21) Take pictures!
There is alot of value in documenting the journey and being able to look back to relive the memories. You can easily create photo slideshows or albums that will capture your discoveries. Sharing your memories on social media can also bring your experience to your loved ones. Just remember to look up from your screens and enjoy the scenery and the opportunities of the moment. Generally save posting and going through photos till the end of the trip.
22) Take a big step outside your comfort zone.
If you are someone who loves routines, drinks the same mocha latte every morning, sits in the same seat at Starbucks and gets flustered when someone takes “your” seat, it can be difficult to stray from your normal. There is nothing better to get you out of your routine than a roadtrip. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is always where the most growth, and experiences occur.
Your new territory is where you can gain new insights and expand your perspective. Temporary discomfort is required to experience new sights and sensations. You will be uncomfortable when you stop at a tiny one-room restaurant in the middle of Arizona that looks like someone's home, but do it anyway! When you embrace the excitement that goes along with being unsure, this new territory is where wonderful surprises, discoveries, and rewards are found.
23) Walmart is your best friend.
People joke about Walmart, but this business becomes your best friend on a roadtrip. You can find whatever you need at any hour of the night. Running low on snacks? Need a charger for your phone? Walmart has it. Most are open 24/7 and offer a relatively safe parking lot to sleep in your vehicle if you need an emergency nap. There are numerous locations in every single state, except Hawaii. Be sure to plan ahead, as you can find them in nearly every city except: NYC, Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, and Seattle.
24) Be aware and stay safe.
If you simply know what is going on around you and follow the roadtripping commandments, you won't have to worry about anything. Follow the packing list and you’ll have everything that you need. Just pay attention to your environment and follow your intuition. Driving during the day will cut out any sketchy situations that may occur when stopping at gas stations at night in the middle of nowhere. Remember that situations like this are extremely rare.
25) Make new friends.
Locals can be a helpful source of advice and often bring the opportunity for friendship, as long as you are aware and use common sense. If it's obvious that they are on a roadtrip as well, say hello and ask them where they are from and where they are headed. Nothing is better than spontaneous conversations with others.
26) Unplug! Get off your phone.
Give yourself plenty of technology-free time. Nothing will take away from a roadtrip, and defeat the purpose of the venture, more than passengers zoning out on their phones. Only use your phone for a specific reason related to the trip, or to update loved ones on your progress, and then put it away. Choose to talk with your roadtrip partners instead of having long texting sessions with others or being on social media. This is your opportunity to live in the moment, and that includes being present and engaged with where you are and who you are with. Being wrapped up in a cellular device will result in you missing out in a potentially big way. You took this trip for a reason, so get off your phone!