I grew up going on road trips with my family. At that time I wouldn’t call them road trips though, they were just “trips”, since I hadn’t tried any other way of traveling yet. To me, going on holidays was all about packing up, making a picnic (well, my mom would make it and I’d just help eating it), loading the car, and getting in it to spend -in the most civilized way possible- the time needed to get to our destination —keep in mind we were three sisters sitting on the back of a regular sedan and sometimes things could get out of hand.
Some trips would be short, between half an hour to an hour away from home, and some others destinations could be up to 15 hours away —that’s the furthest I remember traveling to by car.
I’ve loved road trips since I can remember and, for some reason, I didn’t go on road trips for a long time until recent years. While living in Taiwan I just remember going on a couple of short road trips, once around Hualien’s countryside and coastline (by scooter), and later in Bali, Indonesia, where we rented a car to check out the rice fields around Ubud. Neither of these times I was the one driving. It had been many years since the last time I had driven and didn’t feel like taking it up.
But in new Zealand I had to do it. Distances were very long and we agreed with R that we would rent a campervan to go around the South Island and that we would take turns to drive. Shortly before renting the van, a friend lent us his car for a short trip around Rabbit Island, and R gave me a quick driving lesson so that I would be ready for when we rented the van (I already knew how to drive and had my license, just needed to practice a bit and get familiar with automatic cars).
We took a trip for 10-12 days starting from Christchurch, and went all the way down to Stirling Point passing by Lake Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown. On the way back, we visited most of the towns on the east coast. It was one of the best trips we have done so far.
After that, we went on a bunch of road trips in Australia, and now that we are in Europe, we have traveled quite extensively around Spain, Portugal, Sweden and France by car. Now we are just back from our latest road trip around the south of France, and I can’t help it but think about the next one already.
Why do I enjoy road trips so much? In two words: freedom and flexibility. But there are some more specific reasons. Here you have five.
1.- There is no need to plan everything. You can just go with the flow.
Now with GPS and smartphones is extremely easy to discover new places, look for points of interest, book your accommodation while you are traveling, and find gas stations and places to buy groceries. You don’t need to plan every single detail, it’s almost impossible to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, unless you decide to go across Australia by car, which I would NEVER recommend.
2.- You get to enjoy a more local and authentic experience.
When you travel by car, especially when you are camping, you get to MEET A LOT OF PEOPLE, locals and other travelers alike. You interact with locals when you stop to buy fresh produce from a local farmer, or decide to have a picnic at a random place just because you are hungry and you have found a beautiful spot. People normally get curious about the way you are traveling, and they are prone to strike up friendly conversations that will liven up your journey.
3.- You can stay at quiet and comfortable places surrounded by nature.
You have a car, you don’t need to stay right in the center of the city nor to pay more to stay in the middle of everything in a tiny room. Most of the times, it’s rather easy to find GREAT ACCOMMODATION FOR LOWER PRICES when you look in the outer areas of big tourist destinations. We have stayed at amazing Airbnbs and camping sites without having to book in advance. It’s very exciting to discover forests, neighborhoods, lakes and beaches you never imagined to visit.
4.- You can go at your own pace.
You liked the cabin with sea view you are staying at and want to stay longer? Just do it! It’s much easier to improvise and arrange longer stays when you are not at touristy places. Some days you might drive 600 km., but some others you’ll do 0, even when you had planned to get to the next stop, and that’s TOTALLY FINE. You are on holidays after all, so make sure you feel like it. Don’t stress over meeting a previously set schedule just because you have to. Enjoy the journey!
5.- You can bring all you want, even those shorts you are not sure you’ll have the chance to wear.
When flying or traveling on public transport, I meticulously pack and make sure I ONLY take the things I’m sure I’m going to need. I like to travel light and I hate when I carry around stuff I end up not using. When traveling by car, I just relax and do the packing at the last minute before going on the road. It doesn’t matter if I happen to bring some extra shirts or a pair of shoes I don’t get to wear. I also love to be able to bring plenty of HEALTHY FOOD and snacks prepared by myself. I always prefer to eat homemade wholesome food, and the best way of making sure of that is doing it myself.