Pros and cons of long-distance road trips

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If there is one word that lies deep within the American culture that would be “freedom”. We chase experiences and crave adventures because they make us feel liberated.

Inside us, we have the feeling that no matter how big or small we are, we can always take on the next challenge. So we grab a couple of friends, load up the truck and hit the road. Because that is the American thing to do, right?

The US has quite the history with road trips. Families have them as a group activity, young people take part in them for the adventure. There are even examples of the corporate world adopting them for team building events.

Today we are going to delve a bit into the history of road trips and what makes them so appealing. On the way, we will see whether or not they are even worth it nowadays. And we will learn why moving across the country is not a good excuse for a road trip. Shall we start?

The history of road trips

While we usually associate road trips with America, they have not started here at all. In fact, the first ever road trip was carried out in Germany in 1888. It was done by the wife of the automobile’s inventor Karl Benz, Berta.

However, I have a bit of an issue with that fact. To me, a road trip has to be a leisure activity done for the sake of the trip. Bertha Benz had done nothing of the sort. If anything, her goal was to have a publicity stunt and a test drive – hardly a road trip by today’s standards.

Because of the above, I dare say that the first real road trip was in the US. In 1903 Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson made a bet that he could cross the country with a “horseless carriage”. Nowadays that does not seem impressive, but back then there were no roads, no gas stations, and the car had only 20 horsepower. So if that is not one heck of a hardcore road trip, I do not know what is!

Interestingly enough, that road trip spanned 63 days and was from San Francisco to New York. Six years later Alice Ramsey and her 3 companions took the route in the opposite direction for 59 days. This was also the first road trip carried out by an entirely female crew.

How long should road trips be?

Since today we are focusing on long-distance trips, it makes sense to see whether short ones are even a thing. However, we may have a bit of a problem. Depending on who you ask you will get vastly different opinions.

People disagree on what constitutes a road trip when it comes to distance traveled. For some, you have to at least leave the state. Others would point out that nothing short of a 24-hour trip even counts. Then there are those who would argue that even a shorter trip should make the cut.

If you ask me, it should all be up to you. Do you feel like a 6-hour trip is sufficient? Awesome! I would put that on the shorter side though. Still, when you get the same joy and excitement with a shorter trip, perhaps you do not really need a long one.

Yet most of the road trip culture revolves around long-distance travels. The famous Route 66 takes up to a month for a lot of people and is generally considered the best road trip route by far. Of course, it is not only time-consuming, but it also takes quite the financial toll on you. Plus setting aside a whole month just for travels is not always logistically possible.

We have seen the two extremes when it comes to road trip length. Now let’s consider some reasons why longer trips are awesome!

The pros of long-distance road trips

The major reason most people like road trips is because of the adventure. There is something intrinsically entertaining about hitting the road. And the longer the trip the greater the adventure, right? However, I would argue that there are much more important reasons to consider.

For example, the car is an awesome place to have deep conversations. You are in an unfamiliar setting, you have to sit with the same people for hours on end and you cannot escape. So with the time going by you will inevitably hit those subjects that scratch a bit deeper. With them, you get to know your friends better, but also yourself.

In fact, traveling is good for your mental health in general. Through it, you subconsciously detach from the things that stress you out at home or work. In that sense, it is liberating. However, if you want to reap these benefits, the trip has to be longer indeed. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many people do not even consider shorter road trips as “the real deal”.

I prefer long-distance trips for another reason as well – you just have more time to take it all in. There is nothing more annoying than stumbling upon a breath-taking view just to leave it a couple of minutes later because you are on a short schedule. That pretty much defeats the purpose of the trip.

Lastly, there is something amazing about coming back home after some time away. Somehow you get more appreciation for it. Your room, your bed, your shower – all of them seem better in a way. Everything seems better. And that feeling can last a while, helping you feel good about yourself in a wholly different way.

Sadly though, not everything about long-distance road trips is great. There are some concerns we have to address. Let’s see what these are!

The cons of long-distance road trips

One of the major stumbling blocks is not having the time. For example, a regular road trip can last a week or so. Some people think that is fine, but I know a couple of friends who just cannot stand being on the road that long.

Costs are also an issue. Most people fail to consider how much money they may need to spend. We are talking food, accommodation, gas, and some random expenses. Should we also point out the fact that your car may break down? Avoiding that risk means getting the car through a maintenance check, which can cost you a bit as well.

We also have to mention that a lot of planning goes into it. At least one person from the group has to know where you are all heading. Not only that, but they have to do their research beforehand. Road trips are fun, sure, but only because you get to experience things. And believe me – if you do not plan anything interesting, you may be in for quite the boring ride. Especially if the other people are not talkative.

Additionally, road trips are a bad idea if they are not what you really want. Let’s say you are moving to a different state and you think that this is a good excuse for a road trip. Think twice! Moving is often stressful. It preoccupies your mind with details, dates and other tasks. Unfortunately, it has to, because moving is important and has to be done right. Nevertheless, all that would lead to a rather not-fun experience, even on a road trip.

In such cases, you are much better off booking a car shipping service. With it, you will be free to take care of the moving details without worrying about your car. If you are still up for a road trip afterward, you can always have one. At least then you will not bring all the moving troubles with you.

Are you hitting the road now?

Writing this article has made me consider a road trip of my own. I have not had one for a while now and I am eager to see new places. I am thinking “mountains” this time around. Maybe camping and hiking are also good secondary activities for the trip.

What do you think, are you feeling it too? Will you be calling your friends in a couple of minutes to discuss a trip with them? Perhaps these activities are not your cup of tea. But maybe that is exactly why you should try them. You know, escaping your comfort zone and all that. Whatever you choose, I still hope you have one awesome adventure one way or another.

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About the Author:

Atanas Nikolov is a creative with an affinity for psychology and science. He believes the universe is a wonderful place to explore, and no universe is greater than the one inside ourselves. He enjoys a good debate, and can always bring an alternative viewpoint to the table. He also loves reading fiction and poetry. It is highly likely that he writes some as well, but these rumors have not been proven yet.
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